So you want to be a digital nomad.
Awesome. But do you know what you’re getting into? Do you know how you’ll be making the $$? Or balancing work and travel? Just because digital nomading is the new trendy thing does not always mean it’s the right path for you. And I’m being a realist, not a pessimist; the stress and burn out caused by unpreparedness is very painful. So here’s a snazzy post to help you figure it out…
What is a digital nomad?
As you may know already, digital nomads are remote workers who travel to different places while working. They work in coffee shops, co-working spaces, libraries and use laptops and smartphones to work where they please. 💁♀️
That’s the generic definition, but really you can adapt this lifestyle to yourself. In the US, hiring a big caravan, getting a hotspot and travelling the country is also a big thing. But you could also be backpacking the world and working from time to time. Or slow travelling, so moving to one place, staying for a couple of months and then moving on to the next one.
Don’t feel pressured to fit into a certain type of digital nomadism – if you want to do it your way, do it your way. 😎
So really, what are the pros and cons of being a digital nomad? Well you’re just in luck…
Travel: I think we all know that the biggest pro is that you get to travel. If you love discovering new places, meeting new cultures and living a never endless adventure, then digital nomadism is a dream come true. 🌎
Flexibility: The other pro is the amazing flexibility: you get to work when you want, where you want and you can design your day however you want. If you have the discipline to get things done, this is totall for you.
Constant change: You don’t have to go to the same cubicle every single day. You can figure out the best working environment for you and stick to that (no more colleague interruptions 🙄).
Geoarbitrage: In order to maximise the money you’re making, you can choose to live in cheaper countries such as Malaysia or Bolivia – this saves you a lot of money and you get to do more with it. You can also take advantage of this travel to scout for opportunities – why not look to buy real estate in Poland? Or open a high interest savings account in Turkey? Geoarbitrage at its finest.
Maturity: Travelling and working forces you to be self sufficient, to have a schedule, to organise your life properly. This in turn makes you a mature human being. Congrats!
Truth is, a lot of people romanticize digital nomadism. It’s the new trendy thing and many people are taking the leap who aren’t prepared for it. Here’s why:
It can be stressful: Bad internet connection, something needs to be dealt with at home, the money transfers aren’t working, your client wants something done in a different timezone, etc. The usual work stuff but this time from afar.
It can be tiring: If you’re constantly moving around and trying to work at the same time, it gets exhausting. That’s why slow travel does make it a bit easier.
Don’t get to work with people: It’s a lonely job. You’re working by yourself on your computer and this can be isolating. This is why coworking offices exist and why joining the community is awesome. But also, you don’t get to work with the people from the culture you’re visiting. You’re just a constant tourist. Would you be ok with that?
The world isn’t prepared for you: Be ready for a lot of legislation headaches. Where is your tax residence? Where will you put your investments? What postal address will you use? If you don’t have it all sorted out, it can be a big of a nightmare. That’s why countries like Estonia are building programs specifically for digital nomads.
You need to be making a decent income: A lot of freelancers take the leap and try to travel and work. Thing is, if you’re earning like £500/month, you’re not going to get very far. Yes, you can do a bit, but instead of exploring the new cities, you’ll be stuck at your desk trying to get more clients. You also won’t get to try new experiences (e.g. scubadiving) or really give yourself space to breathe and enjoy the culture.
Should I turn nomad?
Honestly, digital nomading is something everyone should do once in a lifetime. It does offer a lot of flexibility, opportunities and experiences that are hard to get if you stay at home. It doesn’t have to be forever, but a 3 month travel-work situation can teach you a lot about yourself and the planet #maturity.
If you’re considering going digital nomad and never turning back, make sure you:
- Learn about flag theory and optimise your tax residence (might as well 😛)
- Sort out the papers and make sure your investments, assets and address are all taken care of.
- Know how you’re going to make money. Is it freelancing? Through your employer? Through a business? Will you have enough freelance clients to support you? Is it sustainable?
- Have Cash Cushion of at least 6 months of expenses. More emergencies happen abroad and you don’t want to be out of money!
- Have an idea of how you’re going to travel. Will it be 3 months in one place and then the next? Or are you just going to wing it and see what happens? Usually it helps to have a schedule when working at the same time 😉.
- Let your clients know that you won’t be available 24/7 and that gigs might take longer than 3 days to complete.
For 3 months I went backpacking round South America. I had a good cash cushion saved up and told myself I would try working at the same time. Yeah right; no work happened. I still submitted university assignments and wrote blog posts, but it was mostly a long holiday. For me, backpacking and work cannot work together – too much movement, too much going on. So it helps to try out different types of digital nomadism and see what works for you.
Being a digital nomad in itself really forces you to build your own identity. Suddenly you’re far away from home and surrounded constantly by strangers. Because it forces you to separate yourself from how others perceive you, you get to face the real you and who you really want to be. It’s pretty life changing, and I would even consider making digital nomadism part of those self-education years.
It forces you to be self sufficient, to improvise, to build skills and most of all, it’s great for exploration of fulfilment. Maybe you discover a startup in another country that’s doing something amazing, and so you decide to join. Maybe you learn about an NGO that’s working for your cause. Maybe you discover a culture you love so much you decide to move there. There is so much out there to explore that finding something interesting comes easily.
Would you like to become a digital nomad one day? Have you really sat down and thought how you could do it? It really is doable. If you build those essential money making skills online or have a working side hustle, working and travelling is possible. Join a digital nomad community, use Meetup and Couchsurfing to make new friends and attend events. Use an online only bank like Revolut so you don’t pay stupid commissions and fees abroad. Have a plan, but also allow spontaneity. And finally, enjoy the taste of pure freedom. Because at the end of the day, it comes down to having the freedom of literally doing what you want. 🌞