I have on and off been what one calls a “Digital Nomad” for a few years now and it has made me realize quite a lot about myself, the world and personal human potential. Like many others, I first heard of this group of individuals from Tim Ferris’s book “The 4-Hour Work Week”. Although the ideas propounded in this book had long existed before its publication, the book effectively put a magnifying glass on the subculture and brought it to the forefront of counterculture lifestyle. Although the idea of working on a beach everyday sounds amazing to many people (and it is pretty darn awesome), it is important to remember that the romanticized version of this lifestyle does not always talk about the downsides. Like all things, it is ALWAYS important to remember that humans have the natural inclination to want what they can’t have. It’s called the principle of scarcity. In fact, in Professor Robert Cialdini’s fantastic book “Influence”, he says that one of the most ubiquitous ways to influence someone into anything is through the use of the scarcity principle. Even cranking out work on your laptop by the beach will have you asking yourself, would I have it better doing something else? So remember the grass is always greener on the other side.
In this article I will write about the upsides and the downsides of living the digital nomad lifestyle so that the reader will have a better idea as to what to expect if they so choose to take this course in their life.
1) Difficulty first starting: When I first started with this lifestyle, I found it was very difficult to get started. In many respects, I find it difficult to maintain. I was forced to learn new skills that I would have never learned before in order to actually be marketable in the job force. I essentially had to go back to school. I purchased rather pricey courses to learn the ropes and I am still learning every day. First starting feels like you are climbing a mountain of information. It’s a lot to handle. There are many different digital skills you can learn, internet marketing, search engine optimization, e-mail marketing, stock trading, graphic design, website design, coding, content creation etc. On top of this, it might be difficult to first find a job that will hire you. It’s the whole catch 22 of you need experience to get a job and you need a job to get experience. So often times one is required to run their own business which has a host of growing pains in and of itself.
2) Feelings of insecurity: This is one of the biggest ones you will feel a lot of the time. Unless, you have been able to settle with a steady company and income or are well along your way with your own business and have reliable clients, you will likely feel rather insecure about money. For me, feeling secure with money is vital to be in the best state of mind. We seldom feel in control of our lives if we are wondering when/ where our paycheck is going to arrive. This is not a problem when one has a cushy desk job. So it is important to be mindful of this if you so choose to start this lifestyle.
3) Not always feeling like you can put your roots somewhere: There is a reason why they are called digital “nomads”. Nomads are people that don’t have a set home. They are constantly moving around the world. Most digital nomads stay in one location for only around 2-3 months. Although it is enough time to get a good command of the culture and area you are visiting, it is often not enough time to make it feel like “your home”. The place you are staying in will often be some form of a subletting or perhaps low budget places. Not always the most comfortable and inviting places. Although, there are some exceptions to this rule.
4) Inconvenience with expenses: Although this one is not such a biggie, it is still a little bit frustrating. In developed countries such as the U.S., we are used to just swiping credit cards, paying with our phones or just paying in cash. The case is often different in lesser developed countries. Many places don’t take credit cards or mobile payments and I have even found that sometimes mom and pop shops don’t even have enough change to break a 20. So one is often forced to bring around wads of small bills. To make matters more difficult, when you are traveling, especially in more rural areas, it will be difficult to find banks or ATMs to get out cash. So it is always important to plan your financial situations.
5) Being lonely: This is one that many people would not think about. Unless, you are lucky enough to have a partner doing the same work as you, it will be difficult to make strong relationships with other people. The nature of the job has you moving around a lot and it does not necessarily encourage you to go out and socialize all the time. You could very well fall in love with someone you meet only to have to leave the country in a few weeks due to visa restrictions. You must be very comfortable being alone a lot.
1) You’re freakin’ traveling the world, dude: This is arguably the most appealing aspect of this lifestyle. I mean who would not want to be seeing beautiful new places all the time? I think this is pretty self-explanatory.
2) You can learn about the cultural wonders in the country which they originate from: Want to learn Thai massage in Thailand?, salsa dancing in Latin America?, tai chi in Taiwan? Yoga in India? You can go directly to the source and immerse yourself in the atmosphere and culture of where these practices come from.
3) You are introduced to new things all the time: I seldom stop learning about interesting factoids about history, culture, food, language and customs everywhere I travel. You are more likely to be learning these things out in the world because of your likelihood of exposure to it.
4) Awesome way to learn new languages: There is no better way to learn a language than to be immersed in it and listening to it every day. Although, you will find that surprising many people speak English in the world.
5) It is usually really cheap: Many places in the world are quite cheap. Latin American and many South American countries are cheap as well as many Baltic and Southeast Asian countries are as well. You can often get a decent meal in many of these places for under $5. It’s a great way to save money and pay back your student debt (because the cost of living is so cheap).
I hope that this list has been able to give you a birds eye perspective of the digital nomad lifestyle and to encourage you to perhaps try to integrate some of its principles in your life.