Meet the Nomads – Greg and Yoko – Nomadesigners in Japan

This week I am proud to introduce you to two beautiful and creative nomads, Greg Moulinet and Yoko Chiba. Owners of Nomadesign, Greg and Yoko are transforming their international lifestyle into a major part of their brand image. As a French/Japanese couple doing business in at least three languages they truly represent a global enterprise. Read on to find out more about who they are and how they live!

What is your business/profession?

Greg:

I am a graphic designer specializing in visual identity (logos). I operate 90% online.

Yoko:

I operate as a branding director, mediating between our clients and graphic designers, and represent our branding & design company, Nomadesign.jp with Greg. We also call ourselves Nomadesigners. In addition, I specialize in fashion design, so I teach fashion design as well as fashion history in Tokyo as a part-time job.

What training/experience did you receive in order to be able to have this business/profession?

Greg:

Coming from 2 art schools, I am suppose to have learned something about aesthetics and technique… but I actually learned nothing of commercial design and I can safely say I taught myself graphic design from a very early age and started to be a professional in this field at 16.

Yoko:

I have lived, studied and worked in the fashion design field in Paris, London, Tbilisi (Rep. of Georgia), Nicosia (Cyprus), Rome and Milan for a total of 7 years. So pretty good aesthetic, trend watching & setting and communication senses were there I think, but the technical knowledge of graphic design was passed on by Greg, since we started to work together 8 months ago.

How long have you been doing this?

Greg:

20 years as a designer, 6~7 years as a designer using internet, working/traveling abroad and I can say 5 years making it a lifestyle.

Yoko:

I’ve been living a nomadic lifestyle for 25 years, have been a linguist for 18 years, in fashion for 10 years, a professional designer for 5 years, teaching for 3 years, and in the new field, branding for 8 months. These are most significant aspects and time that it took to become current ?me?.

How long were you in your business/profession before you began traveling?

Greg:

In my case, just 2 years because I started to travel and work as an artist and designer at age 18. But, as a real nunomad/laptophobo… it took 15 years.

Yoko:

I was a student when I started to travel and it took me a while to become fully professional in design. Taking advantage of internet technology, more than just exchanging e-mail with my acquaintances is quite recent, probably about 3 years since I once set up an online shop of my collection.

What interested you in becoming mobile?

Greg:

I always lived my adult life working/traveling abroad. As a graphic designer, a computer allowed me to bring my atelier with me… forget letraset, forget airbrushing, forget argentic photographs… When the internet came about, I immediately saw the possibility to set up shop online. Internet meant for me that I could find clients online, provide the work online and be paid online. Before, when I was going to a country, I had to generate contacts, promote myself and gain the trust of clients. With the computer and internet, I suddenly had not only my atelier and portfolio with me but also my client list. Deciding to work and live abroad every 3 months, just seemed entertaining while affording me the possibility of seeing my family and friends in various locations more often.

Yoko:

Like Greg, or even longer than he has, I have been mobile most of my life. When I was 9, I started to move around with my family in Japan, stayed a year with an American family in Alabama as a teen, coming back to Japan, moved around Tokyo for a decade while I finished high school and college where I majored in linguistics and cross-cultural communication and started to work in PR and then fashion retail. I was in my mid-20s when I went to Europe to study fashion design, so it is hard to imagine my lifestyle otherwise. But I can say that I always enjoyed having new networks of people, and it is interesting the difference in networks of travelers and non-travelers. Well-travelled people appreciate small encounters, but do not cling on each contact. They simply move on in their life, and very casually and spontaneously, they may come back to the contact somehow somewhere later on. People who don\’t travel do not understand this, so they think we disappeared from their lives. To me, nomadic lifestyle is not about how often one travels, but more to do with the mind set for the lifetime. So if nomadic people decide to stay in one place for a few years or even longer, that doesn?t make them quit being nomadic.

Where do you like to travel and for how much of the year?

Greg:

I travel mostly between New York, Miami, Paris, Grenoble, Tokyo and Kyoto.
The number of times I travel can be very different each year. Last year it was about 8 times, between all the cities mentioned above. When I was working alone I liked to travel non-stop between hotels. I wrote about it in my last post on working and traveling in Japan. This year, we have not moved much… only 1 month in France and will be traveling next June mostly in the west of Japan for a month. We are trying to settle the nomadesign business and hopefully hire like-minded designers to expand it.

Yoko:

I have traveled mostly in European cities, I guess it was coming from my interest in fashion. I was seeking stimulation, excitement that big cities can provide. I have also traveled to Bangkok sometimes, I like their climate, food, genuine people, bright colors. I think I would like their beach even more. I have never been to, but I think I would like Vietnam as well, since I have similar image of it as Thailand. I think we all have cultures that suit us, now I feel more comfortable and drawn to Buddhist or Mediterranean culture. I have traveled less often since I came back to Japan in 2003, and recently, Greg and I started to focus on buying a house. Now, some people might think we decided to be settle in Japan and stop being nomadesigners? It is to the contrary actually. We want to have a secure base and stop paying rent so that we have more financial freedom which allows us to travel whenever and however we want. Actually we look forward to have more than one base abroad in the future, so that we have more reason to travel, and we are ?going home? at the same time.

You and Yoko are traveling together now. Was it always like this or did you meet on the road?

Greg:

In 2004 I contacted Yoko after seeing her profile online, because she had a similar lifestyle. We had a very good exchange of emails in which we were talking about how we were doing in our business and I was giving her advice on how to settle her studio online. A year later during a trip in Japan we met and figured out we were actually a good match for each other. We decided to test out living together and I took a serviced apt in Tokyo for 3 months. After these 3 months and a trip to New York, Miami and Paris, We then decided to move to a real apt. 3 months later we figure out the nomadesign business and made our lifestyle the brand of our design studio. nomadesign.jp was put online by September 2006. It was also at this time that I looked around to see if other people were doing/thinking the same thing… and found you guys.

Yoko:

Greg and I have traveled together for the first time in Dec-Jan to France. When Greg spent 7 long years in Japan, I was mostly in Europe, so it is interesting to think about the time we took to finally travel together, while we traveled most of our adult life individually.

Is there any special equipment or infrastructure you must travel with in order to run your business? (ie laptop, telephony, fax)
If so ? what brand/models do you choose and why?

Greg:

I have a 17′ screen macbook pro, Yoko has a Vaio VGN-FS30b. I have another Vaio I keep as a backup tool… but the screen is dead. I also have 2 portable HD one from Buffalo (150GB.) and the other from Seagate (100GB.). We use a linksys pocket wireless router… very useful to connect in an hotel room or the family/friend apt without making a mess with cables. For telephony I use sipphone with a US number and skype. I also use efax for receiving and sending faxes. I use the Shaun Jackson design laptop luggage, I wear mostly victorinox clothes… I do not use their luggage (expansive and fragile). I have a different mobile phone for each country using pre-paid systems. I have a small garmin GPS to note interesting locations or find my hotel when I am lost… on a geeky note… I am a sound freak, I have the Bose noise cancelling headphone… fantastic in a plane but somehow not so efficient in a TGV. and I also have the amp and speakers of Cambridge Soundworks model twelve… that are suppose to be portable… I do not bring the thing with me all the time… much too heavy… but it is the best sound you can bring with you using the bass box as a suitcase. And to finish up the nomadesigner costume… I have a foldable skateboard and an electric skateboard… the electric skateboard is also too heavy to bring each time, but if I could, it would be a lot of fun to use it for discovering well paved cities.

Yoko:

I have the 15″ screen Vaio laptop which does its work just fine, both for administrative and design work of our company. I have Nokia 3 band phone which I can use pretty much anywhere in the world. I have rarely used the phone to call abroad, but it’s good to have the option just in case, especially when you are in unfamiliar foreign countries. I communicate with our clients mostly via e-mail, so I have not used Skype with them, but it could be very useful when we are away from our base more often. I am not as much of gadget geek as Greg is, so some wrinkle-free clothes and a few pairs of shoes, really few, especially black leather low-heeled pumps from Anatomica (France), all in computer bag from MH Way, travel toiletry bag and suitcase from Muji (both are Japanese international brand) would be enough for a usual trip.

Are there any services you use while you travel in order to run your business? (ie Skype, supportsoft, online appointment services)

Skype, Sipphone, Gizmo, efax, Adium for telephony and IM
paypal.com, 2co.com, citibank, HSBC for online banking, accounting and payments
Apple Dashboard, Stratfor, google news for travel, conversion, translation and info.
Oanda and Invast for trading and investing.

Are your clients/customers located at your home base or scattered?

Greg:

Because we are focusing on establishing our current business in Japan, our customers are mostly Japanese right now. I continue to use my logo design business for some works and clients are worldwide (25 different countries so far) but about 60% are American and 80% fro English speaking countries.

What kind of reaction have you had from your clients/customers about your traveling lifestyle?

Greg:

“I would like so much to be able to do the same as you guys”… that’s usually the main comment. When I started, I was hiding this fact and designed my company like a respectable brick and mortar US company. But now we decided to put that aspect of our way of living and doing business front and center.

Yoko:

I deal mostly with Japanese clients. They somehow find it awesome at a personal level, but soon they become concerned of our professional credibility. So I do not emphasize much of our lifestyle to them, not more than the spirit of active and creative designers. Unfortunately, I get pretty much the same reaction from my Japanese close people, I guess they don\’t know how to react to it, the concept, unless it becomes somehow well-recognized as an option. That is actually one of our dreams.

What would you say are the pros/cons of the nunomadic business and lifestyle?

Greg:

Pros are everything you can expect from a traveling life.
Cons are only cons if you have not chosen this kind of life. For example… I am not covered by a governmental social security. Solution? I buy an international private insurance that costs me $3000 a year. Expensive? Not really if you consider I do not pay income tax in France representing 60% of my income. Almost every con has a solution or a balance… you have to consider yourself a government of your own to prepare safety nets in terms of health, security, finance and comfort. As for other aspects, yes it has been difficult so far to settle a family, have pets, a garden, my collection of books and keep my belongings in one place.

Yoko:

Cons are some inconveniences caused by not having your own base as Greg says. Your professional credibility for your potential clients can be at risk, as well as your old friends or cousins might forget to invite you to their weddings. I think most of the problems can be solved by having at least one good base somewhere in the world you feel comfortable to maintain for long term. Obviously it is easier to have it in your home country, but even if it was not, let it be. You just need to be involved and be patient to let the network grow organically there. Pro is needless to spell out but if I may, FREEDOM!

Do you have any advice for those people wanting to set up their own mobile business?

Greg:

Focusing on being more free and self-sustainable would bring someone to naturally choose to travel and discover the world. It has never been easier to do so as right now especially if you are single or a couple. I admire you Carmen to be doing it with all your family.

Yoko:

Having courage to take the first action and continue making them would be the key, just as any other process of self encouragement. Don?t get caught up too much in what ifs beforehand, you’ll find most of the answers by just doing it. I think freedom is not about being irresponsible, it is to let yourself enjoy your only life in full, so you would do anything to maintain the right. Who can blame you for wanting it? And I agree with Greg, when you can share the joy with your family, create a community or make a big movement, it would be even more meaningful.

If you are a Nu Nomad or know someone who is and would like to be featured in our Meet the Nomads series, email carmen at nunomad.com or post a comment to this blog entry!

2 Comments

  1. Yoko lived with us for one year and we want to get in touch with her. Any help. You can provide would be great. We are much older than when she lived with us, and really want to communicate with her.

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  2. Yoko our address is 1629 Prairie Lane, Montgomery, al 36117 . Please get in touch with us . Phone is 334-279-0118. I know phone would be too expensive . Just send me your email address. Ours is changing on February 24,2016. We are changing companies as of the 24th.

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