Curious about becoming a digital nomad? This mysterious but growing group masters two domains: travel and work. Here’s how.
What’s a Digital Nomad?
Thanks to the advances in technology over the years, digital nomads are those who choose to work remotely, traveling abroad often. Their choice of work allows digital nomads the freedom to not feel confined to a desk.
For example, many digital nomads are writers, tutors, graphic and web designers. They can work wherever they have access to a quality internet connection. A lot of the times, this means that a digital nomad is self-employed. But there are plenty of companies that have an entire team of remote workers too.
Why People Become Digital Nomads
People driven by their desire to travel and explore the world are prime examples of aspiring digital nomads. Their work might not require the need for a regular 9-5 office environment. If they already have freelance writing skills, for example, and they have a large base of clients to work from, the thought, “Why not?” likely crosses their mind.
For example, if someone doesn’t enjoy working in the city they’re at, but all they need is an internet connection to write, they’ll start to imagine places where they would love to work. And thanks to the digital tools available at our disposal today, this can easily become a reality for these people.
They have the burning desire for change, and their desire builds up after days of going to a place they don’t feel unhappy about. Or, they’re content with where they’re at and want to see what it’s like living abroad and working for a few weeks.
After experiencing tropical places in Thailand or Bali, those weeks turn into months. Now, they have a new lifestyle that complements their career nicely.
The Pros and Cons of Being a Digital Nomad
It may seem like the perfect dream job; You get to work in your PJ’s at home, or in a hammock underneath a shady palm tree at the beach. You technically don’t have somewhere you need to be as long as you have your laptop with you. Still, like all things there are some pros and cons.
Freedom: There’s no itinerary telling you where to head next, and you don’t have a return ticket looking straight at you. You plan your own schedule and you get to decide where you’re headed next. If you want to immerse yourself in the Spanish culture of Madrid, and then take a quick flight to London or France, you don’t have to report to a boss and request time off.
Broaden Your Horizons: Because you may be traveling to new places you’ve never been before, you’re exposing yourself to new cultures. You get to see places you’ve dreamed of going, experience foreign cuisine, pick up a new language, and meet some new friends along the way.
You’ve never realized how much of a byproduct you are from your environment until you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone. Soon, you’ll have a rolodex of connections all around the world. You’re no longer restricted by just interacting with the people you see in the office daily.
Since humans are naturally social creatures, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to strike up a conversation with someone in a foreign country. You might feel like you want to learn as much as you can about a new culture, but these people will also want to learn more about you!
Independence: Some digital nomads work remotely from a company they’re based out of. But for most, being a digital nomad means you have no one else to rely on to complete your work other than yourself.
If you feel like you work best later in the day, rather than first thing in the morning, no one is stopping you to change things up. Your responsibilities go into your hands, as you learn how to navigate through a foreign environment. This, in return, can boost your confidence to new heights as you adopt the lifestyle of an entrepreneur.
Financial Flexibility: If you’re a digital nomad, then you’re not tied down to a monthly salary from a regular job. This means you can choose to take on new projects that would exceed your old income. Additionally, you have the financial freedom to cut down your expenses based on how you see fit. Let’s say you choose to move out of the U.S. and travel to a country with low living expenses. That gives you an opportunity to have more flexibility with your spending money.
FOMO- Becoming a digital nomad means you must adapt to a complete revamp of your current lifestyle. Digital nomads combine work with travel, and if you’re doing so much of this, there can be that thought in the back of your head-scratching at you, saying, “I wonder how X is doing?” These questions can fill your head, making you doubt at times whether you’re making the right choice as a nomad.
No Time To Feel Like You’re At “Home”: It’s amazing to think about all of the cool experiences that are out there waiting for you. The food, the people, and the sights you have to see. Unfortunately, since you’re a frequent traveler, it’s possible no single place will feel like home to you.
If you know you’ll only be in a new city for a short time, you might not be motivated to go out and build new friendships with people. This also leads back to FOMO. As you travel to a new city and leave old friends behind, you could find yourself wondering about the life you may be missing back home.
No Safety Net: Quitting your job to travel the world on your own means that you’re leaving the benefits of a normal job behind. Sure, it’s nice to feel like you can make your own income without restrictions. But, without a stable monthly income, and without a robust set of clients to work with, it’s possible you can run short of funds. Not to mention, it can be difficult locking down insurance or basic living necessities if you’re always on a new adventure.
You End Up Where You Started: If you’re the type of person that can’t imagine what it’s like to always be on the go, leaving potential friendships behind, you may become comfortable with staying in one place. But over time, you’ll get used to your surroundings. You’ll become a local. And then guess what? The novelty will wear off with time. Soon, you’ll be living the same life you would be at home, only this time, you don’t have the safety net of a stable income or insurance.
How to Become a Digital Nomad
If you’re still interested in how to become a digital nomad, you can avoid plenty of these drawbacks. All it takes is some good old fashioned planning on your part.
Traveling the world to do what you love isn’t an excuse to ignore all of the bills you must handle! You’ll have to develop an emergency savings fund and a backup plan in case things fall through. There are also absolute must-haves to own, like a steady source for WiFi and cellular service. You’ll also have to prepare for the reality that you’re about to experience new cultures and lifestyles you’ve never had the chance to experience before.
Once you have your bases covered, you can move forward into your new life as a digital nomad with ease.
Coming Down: Acclimating to Life after Digital Nomadism
After several months or even years of living the digital nomad life, it can take some time to get back into the swing of things. You’ll probably be thankful to be working with the same cooking equipment you’re used to, and to have your own room to yourself. (Months or years of sharing hostels and AirBNBs can have this effect.)
On the other hand, you might feel like you’re unable to go back to your old lifestyle. This is understandable — you just traveled the world and experienced new things. In these moments, focus on the old things you thought you would never appreciate, but ended up taking for granted. Things like a reliable job with retirement and health insurance, an efficient workplace with WiFi you can count on, and the stability of knowing that you can develop friendships with people again without the fear of leaving.
You’ll have a whole host of stories to share with your family and friends that stayed back home, too. Not only this, they’ll have stories for you too; stories of marriages, having children, job shifts, and more. In many ways, coming home will be nearly as big of an adventure as the one you just got back from.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have inspired someone else to go out and do what you did. And, you can always pack up and live it all over again.