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Gortahork’s digital nomad enjoying world’s top 100 ‘wonders’

Paul with some holy men in Nepal during a blessing of the dead ceremony.
BY Harry Walsh
YOUNG Donegal graphic designer and online entrepreneur Paul Feeney flew out to Bangkok yesterday, in the next stage of his quest to visit all the world’s top 100 wonders.

Paul (30) from Lower Killult, Gortahork and fellow traveller Tim Petch from Dorset have dispensed with the nine to five, Monday to Friday, grind in favour of life as ‘Digital Nomads’.

The modern day principles of what work entails has changed and Paul is now able to operate his business interests in Cork and Mayo online from any corner of the globe.

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All he needs is a laptop, a reliable internet connection and a steady supply of coffee!

On Wednesday afternoon, the Donegal News met up with the man who is travelling the globe and visiting the greatest wonders of the world.

“My quest is to visit the world’s top 100 wonders, fight fears, chase dreams and travel indefinitely while becoming financially secure and location independent,” he laughed.

A past pupil of Pobal Scoil Chloich Cheann Fhola and Limavady College, Paul completed his degree in Technology and Marketing at De Montfort University in Leicester.

While still at college in England, he set up his first design company before returning home to Donegal, and Letterkenny, where he took up employment as a designer with River Media.

It was while in Letterkenny that he decided that working for someone else wasn’t challenging him anymore.

“I was struggling to fit into conforms of a society that had already planned out the next 30 years of my life. I decided I wanted to start living my life in the present, in the lifestyle I wanted to, and I decided I wanted to do it all over the world,” he explained.

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Before too long he visited Asia for the first time, South Korea, and on his return home he set up corkprinting.com which offers offer graphic design, web design, logo design, online marketing and social media management services, with €1,000 borrowed from older brother Barry.

“Dublin was too expensive and Galway too small, so I chose Cork which was just about the right size for what I wanted to do,” he said when asked why he picked a base so far away from his native Donegal.

“I started in a bedroom and within a few months had moved to the sitting room. From there I located to a small office with no windows in what was probably the coldest winter on record,” he recalled.

“Two years ago I packed up Cork as it was getting harder to make ends meet. I was making plenty yet there never seemed to be any money as there was a new bill coming in the door every month,” he said.

It was at that point that he met fellow graphic designer Tim Petch and they established Virtually Nomadic.
“We came up the idea that we could do what we were doing from abroad. We have a background in marketing and we both wanted to travel.

“Being a digital nomad, travelling and working online changes your attitude in so many ways and also your opinions on what’s important in life.

“With this in mind and as work becomes less of a restraint, we want to continue to better ourselves, learn new skills and push ourselves in every way. Virtually Nomadic is also about inspiring you to face your fears and take on any challenge. If we can do it, so can you,” he said.

Where did the list of ‘100 Wonders of the World’ come from?

“The 100 wonders of the world we are visiting are taken from the long established travel blogger Howard Hillman. His list of 100 wonders is a reputable list and highly regarded within the travel community.

“Do we agree with every wonder? Well no, but honestly hardly anyone ever does, as every traveller has there own take, style and taste. Also like everything, wonders themselves can change as time goes by. I’m sure the Pyramids of Egypt, like many of the wonders on his list, were a lot more impressive when Mr Hillman visited them in 1968, than they are in today’s tourist world,” he said.

The Hillman list does however make Paul and Tim travel to places and countries that perhaps they would have not considered.

In the last 12 months they have lived and worked in over 10 countries across Europe and Asia.
To date, they are a quarter way through the list and Paul has spent in the region of €40,000 although he admits that the costs will ratchet up considerably over the next few years.

“I was back home for a friend’s wedding (Joe Doherty) and I’ll be back home at Christmas. I’m off to Bangkok tomorrow (Thursday) to visit two of the World Wonder sites in Taiwan and Indonesia.

“There are quite a few in South America (15 sites) so that will take up most of 2015. After that it’s Europe when things will get that bit more expensive,” he said.

“From there we’ll move slowly into the Middle East and knock off a few more along the way before we tackle Africa by which stage we hope to have secured some sponsorship,” he said.

Mount Everest (Himalayas), Carnival in Rio (Brazil), Matterhorn (Switzerland) and Machu Picchu (Peru) are just four places yet to be ticked off a bucket list which started with the Great Wall of China and which, hopefully, will finish up with Antarctica cruise.

“That (Antarctica cruise) will cost €10,000 alone so there’s a bit of work to be done between now and then,” he smiled.

Paul’s parents are Tom, who retired as principal of Illistrin NS this year, and Rosaleen Feeney while he has an older brother Barry who works as a bar manager in New York and younger sister Karen who is on her way to Scotland to complete her Masters in Physiotherapy.

“I suppose I’ve come a fair way since I put my last remaining €400 together with Barry’s €1,000 loan to get the business going. He’s yet to get his money back but he knows that I’m good for it,” he laughed.

Meanwhile, it’s back to the airport and the next stage of the master plan – to build his online business and lifestyle of his dream.

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