Earlier this summer Irene Lidia Wang and Luca Mussari were living in Turkey. Currently they are based in a historic Romanian city noted for its architecture and its nightlife, but next month they will call sun-drenched Morocco home.
After that it is Mexico, and then the whole of South America is theirs for the taking.
Two years ago, Lidia Wang and Mussari decided to jump off the nine-to-five treadmill in a decisive way. They gave notice on their Battersea flat, quit their London jobs and rebranded themselves as digital nomads.
“We were climbing the corporate ladder in London, we were living a comfortable life, but life felt kind of stagnant,” said Lidia Wang. “We didn’t travel, we didn’t experience anything new and it felt like it was a trap. Now we explore new places, live like locals and can work, too. It is perfect.”
Irene, now 29, moved to London in 2014 to study history of art at University College London. Mussari, 31, followed a year later and, after a stint as a waiter, took a master’s degree in marketing and communications at the University of Westminster.
After graduating the couple, who are both Italian by birth, settled down to building their careers. Lidia Wang pivoted into designing websites and apps, while Mussari worked for a series of household-name firms, specialising in search engine optimisation.
But while their careers were flying, the couple felt something was missing from their lives and the pandemic gave them time to take stock.
“We were working nine-to-five, and we were going and going without really thinking,” said Mussari. “At weekends we were too tired to go out, so we would just sit and watch Netflix, and we realised that our life was all about work.”
The couple had moved all over London during their time in the capital but by 2021 they were renting a studio flat in Battersea.
They had got, by London standards, a sweet pandemic deal on the property, which cost them £1,600pcm.
“It was still a crazy amount for any other city and when the pandemic ended, our landlord asked us to increase the rent to £2,100pcm, which was obviously not ideal for us,” said Mussari.
During the pandemic Lidia Wang had begun exploring freelance job options, a natural progression in her line of work. Mussari, however, was expecting to be called back to his desk at any moment and the thought of commuting and office-based life did not appeal.
“I was literally having panic attacks, I could not sleep and one night it was so bad that I decided to quit, without any plan at all,” he said.
He posted about his decision to leave his job on LinkedIn, and asked if anyone might be interested in the services of a freelance SEO consultant.
“So many people replied to me, which was such a surprise, but I ended up getting freelance work from the first day,” he said.
In September 2021 the couple booked a flight to Madeira, Portugal, and set off on what has become an epic around-the-world adventure.
During that first year they went to diverse destinations including Budapest, Cape Verde, Albania and Montenegro, targeting relatively inexpensive countries. They tend to find accommodation via Airbnb and Booking.com or stay in inexpensive guest houses and co-living spaces.
“We visited 12 countries in 12 months,” said Mussari.
After they finish their stay in Cluj-Napoca — the unofficial capital of Romania’s Transylvania region, where their one-bedroom flat costs them about £600pcm — they are making a flying visit to their families in Italy, before hitting Morocco.
Their footloose lifestyle does have its downsides. All the travel is tiring, and being in a strange city with no friends can feel very lonely.
But the couple have each other and have met a new network of digital nomad friends online. This inspired them to set up Freaking Nomads, an online community offering advice, inspiration and the chance to connect with like-minded fellow travellers.
The benefits of travel have been huge. Exploring new places has been thrilling, more than enough to tempt them off the sofa at weekends.
“Being outside my comfort zone I have learnt so much about the privileges that I used to take for granted, like a good shower,” said Irene.
For her, a trip highlight was a visit to Penang Island, Malaysia.
“I am half-Chinese and I discovered so much history of Chinese people emigrating to Malaysia, bringing their culture and traditions with them — things that were lost in mainland China during the Cultural Revolution,” she said.
“That, for me, has been an amazing experience.”
Mussari particularly enjoyed a month spent in Sri Lanka.
“We were in a small place on the coast, we worked from a café watching the ocean, it was great weather and we could go surfing before work and take our scooter and go exploring afterwards. For dinner we would buy this really fresh, really cheap, just-caught fish from a stall and cook it for ourselves.”
Irene and Mussari have absolutely no plans to settle down any time soon.
“If it is just the two of us we will probably do this forever,” said Lidia Wang. “And we have met so many nomad families using different online platforms for school and bringing their children with them that we know that is also an option for us.”