Digital nomadism is, more than anything, the freedom to pursue a lifestyle that allows some individuals to find the right balance between living and working. But does it work for everyone? This not-so-new phenomenon was catapulted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many people are still dreaming about the idea of traveling the world with a backpack while maintaining a work routine.
The job market was profoundly affected by the union of telecommunication and computing, but the way we work is constantly changing not only because new technologies are arriving every single day. These changes are also taking place because we are more than ever decided to change jobs that overwhelm our mental and physical health for jobs that allow us to simply live our lives.
To many of us, there are fundamental questions to be answered, such as: “Do I have to give up my current job and leave everything behind to be a digital nomad?” and “Am I able to reinvent myself and my life this way?” Here, you’ll understand exactly what digital nomadism is and how you can embrace this lifestyle if you want to. Enjoy!
Digital Nomadism 101
According to the Collins Online Dictionary, the definition of a “digital nomad” is “a person who uses digital technology to work remotely while regularly traveling to different places”. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, in its turn, somewhat agrees with it stating that a digital nomad is “someone who performs their occupation entirely over the Internet while traveling”.
In short, digital nomads are professionals who work online while moving from one place to another, whether it’s for short or long periods. These people may freely roam with only a backpack as their company or travel while living in a vehicle. Since there’s no need to be present in physical environments to perform professional duties, they can stay in different cities, states, or countries for as long as they desire.
It’s important to note that while some individuals are perpetual travelers, considering the world itself as their home, others choose to travel for certain periods, such as three or six months, before returning to their original homes.
Free at last: physical boundaries are gone for good
In general, two factors define what it means to be a digital nomad:
- Online work through mobile devices.
- Geographical freedom.
With the advancements in technology, and especially after the pandemic, many professions have adapted to the online world and embraced this new way of working and traveling freely. Essentially, individuals who are location-independent professionals only require a good Internet connection and a mobile device, such as a laptop, to work.
As a result, people who used to work exclusively in physical spaces can now carry out their job-related tasks through the Internet. They can create online courses, write content, provide mentoring and consulting services, or sell e-books, among other possibilities. Nowadays, there are numerous professional options available for embarking on a digital nomadism journey, such as:
- content creation;
- video editing;
- social media management;
- language teaching.
If you are an accountant, for instance, you can offer consulting services to companies in specific countries. Are you a piano enthusiast? It’s possible to give private or group lessons over the Internet, allowing students to enroll in your courses from anywhere in the world. Psychologists can also conduct private consultations according to their own schedules. As you can see, there are various opportunities for individuals with different professional backgrounds.
It’s important to note that digital nomadism is not limited to freelancers and entrepreneurs alone. Nowadays, many companies offer remote work options to their employees, enabling them to maintain an employment relationship with all the associated benefits while enjoying the flexibility and mobility of a digital nomad.
Disadvantages and Advantages of Pursuing This Lifestyle
Digital nomads travel around the world, meet new people, and often have the flexibility to set their own schedules. However, it’s important to dispel the misconception that this lifestyle is solely about leisure and constant vacationing. Although this may be true for some individuals, adopting a nomadic lifestyle demands resilience and hard work, offering a fulfilling yet challenging experience.
In this section, you’ll explore the main disadvantages and advantages of pursuing this lifestyle.
Downsides of digital nomadism
There are some negative aspects that digital nomads may encounter along their journeys, including:
- saying goodbye to people they meet along the way;
- starting over and over again;
- being away from family and friends, particularly on holidays and special occasions;
- facing general difficulties such as food poisoning and mental health issues.
Let’s delve into some of these challenges in more detail.
Feelings of loneliness
While this way of living and working offers countless opportunities for exploration and adventure, it also presents unique challenges that can lead to feelings of loneliness. Based on the “2022 State of Remote Work” survey published by Buffer, one of the main difficulties of working remotely, according to 24% of respondents, is feeling lonely.
A nomadic lifestyle often involves frequent changes of location, resulting in a lack of long-term connections and a sense of rootlessness. For this reason, adjusting to new environments and cultures and overcoming language barriers can be exciting and challenging at the same time.
Being constantly on the move means leaving behind the comfort of familiar surroundings, including the warmth of friends and family, and a sense of isolation can emerge without a stable community or deep-rooted friendships.
Mental health issues
As per the survey mentioned earlier, one of the main challenges of working remotely is not being able to disconnect from work, according to 25% of respondents. Being constantly plugged in results in stress and anxiety, which can lead to mental health issues.
Additionally, the uncertainty and instability that come with a nomadic lifestyle pose significant challenges. Some examples originated from this are:
- constantly adapting to new environments;
- dealing with logistical hurdles;
- facing financial insecurity;
- not having a regular routine.
Dealing with culture shock, communication barriers, and unfamiliar social norms can also be mentally taxing. Besides the feelings of loneliness, all of these factors may take a toll on one’s psychological well-being.
While beautifully-written articles about the digital nomad lifestyle often depict the joys of meandering through unknown streets of foreign cities and working from beachfront coffee houses, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the downsides may be subtly buried between the lines.
Perks of being a digital nomad
Digital nomadism offers a balanced approach to the living-working system, for sure, and it comes with many perks. Below, let’s take a closer look at some of them.
Today, you could be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tomorrow, you could be in Bali, Indonesia. The day after tomorrow, you can go wherever you want.
Geographical freedom is one of the main advantages of being a digital nomad. As long as you have a good Internet connection and a mobile device, you can explore all that the world has to offer, whether it’s working on a remote island in Thailand or in a cozy coffee house in Norway.
This advantage leads to another benefit: there are affordable places with good infrastructure and high quality of life that can serve as a three-month or longer stop for digital nomads. This can help these individuals to manage their monthly expenses and avoid financial difficulties.
According to the “2022 State of Remote Work” study by Buffer, mentioned earlier, 67% of the surveyed individuals stated that the greatest benefit of remote work is the flexibility to choose how to spend their time, while 62% believe that the greatest advantage of this lifestyle is the flexibility to choose where to work.
Flexibility is the cornerstone of digital nomadism, and this is particularly true for freelancers, who often have the freedom to work during any chosen period of the day as long as they meet deadlines. For example, if you are not fond of a certain location or the accommodation you are staying in, you can simply plan your next destination. In short, this lifestyle allows you to adapt your daily work routine to explore the world as you see fit.
Personal and professional satisfaction
It’s no secret that an increasing number of people are in search of a lifestyle that offers an ideal balance between their personal and professional lives. After all, the lack of harmony between our personal and professional experiences has affected many of us throughout our lives and careers, as evidenced by phenomena such as the Great Resignation, Burnout Syndrome, and Quiet Quitting. Some countries have already implemented the four-day workweek as an attempt to promote healthier lives for professionals, but it’s still not enough for many of us.
The ability to choose when and where to work significantly improves the quality of life for many individuals. It grants them the opportunity to learn about new cultures, mindsets, and ways of living. Consequently, they can develop new skills, increase productivity, foster creative thinking, and pursue their dreams.
As you can see, the benefits of digital nomadism are interconnected.
How to Become a Digital Nomad
Now that you are familiar with the main aspects of digital nomadism, including its perks and downsides, let’s explore how to become a digital nomad. To get started, it’s important to pay attention to some factors that contribute to your overall quality of life on this journey, such as:
- cost of living in different places;
- infrastructure of potential locations, including fast Internet connections and availability of coffee houses or coworking spaces;
Besides, you should focus on developing skills necessary to thrive as a digital nomad, such as effective verbal and written communication, as well as time management. Setting up a digital marketing strategy or even a personal marketing strategy is also a good idea, especially for freelancers. Below, you will find some additional tips to successfully embrace this lifestyle in the long term.
Plan your journey months in advance
Planning is essential for embarking on this journey without worrying or stressing too much. It helps to understand what is needed to survive for months in a row, both financially and mentally, in one or more locations far from home. Let’s explore a few points covered by a good plan:
- Understanding the journey: a perk of having a comprehensive plan in place is that it helps you to learn as much as you can about digital nomadism, which, in turn, prepares you to overcome common and not-so-common obstacles. In short, creating a well-formulated plan in advance helps to cultivate the right mindset, especially when learning from the experiences of different digital nomads.
- Setting your finances straight: financial considerations are a crucial point when planning your journey. Setting a plan helps you to determine whether it’s better to opt for Airbnbs, hostels, or other accommodation options, for instance. During the research phase, you’ll encounter some websites that help you to find the best destinations based on factors such as monthly cost of living, internet speed, fun, safety, power grid, LGBTQIA+ friendliness, healthcare, nightlife, and more. Additionally, a minimalist lifestyle could be a tool for you. If you’re still in the experimental phase and don’t want to suddenly sell all your belongings at once, you can store your furniture and other items in a self-storage facility.
- Deciding the type of remote work that best fits you: perhaps you want to understand if your current job allows remote work before becoming a freelancer. Initiate a conversation with your supervisor to inquire about the possibility of working remotely, even if it’s just for a trial period. If this door is open on your present job and you can maintain the same level of productivity, it could be an opportunity to experience life as a digital nomad while remaining employed by your current company. It’s worth mentioning that, in this specific case, your work schedule will need to be adjusted according to different time zones.
Master self-discipline and organization
The ability to separate your personal life from your work routine is essential for thriving as a digital nomad. To fully enjoy the attractions of the cities you visit while fulfilling your professional duties and meeting deadlines, you must establish schedules and effectively manage your time, which requires strong self-discipline. This will also help you decide whether it’s better to work as a freelancer or as an employee.
Organization also plays a crucial role when it comes to adopting a digital nomadic lifestyle. If you have made the decision to transition from your current career to a brand new one to become a digital nomad, for instance, pursuing professional qualifications becomes important in building a solid foundation for your professional journey.
In general, the better your qualifications, the higher your income potential, but this doesn’t necessarily mean having a college degree or postgraduate education. If you lack extensive experience in your chosen field, it’s worth creating a plan to acquire the skills you need to develop. You may consider enrolling in relevant courses related to your chosen working field and gradually building your portfolio, one step at a time.
Choose your first destination and learn everything about it
Last but not least, choose your first destination and learn all you can about it. Cultural nuances shouldn’t be overlooked or disregarded at all. For example, some places, like Poland, expressly prohibit drinking alcohol in public. In Venice, Italy, feeding pigeons is not allowed. Another curious example comes from Singapore, where chewing gum is generally banned, with a few exceptions.
Learning everything you can about your new destination will help you to avoid fines, penalties, or other consequences.
You can start by gaining experience in your own country, selecting a few states to begin with. This will provide perspective on how to remain productive, meet deadlines, and explore new cities while adapting to slightly different cultures. Whether it’s a national or international adventure you’re about to experience, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself. To get started, consider the following steps:
- gather the necessary documents, such as a work visa;
- open the required accounts;
- find the best travel insurance;
- establish financial plans and save money;
- address any pending matters in your current location, such as paying outstanding bills and canceling services like Internet and TV subscriptions, and gym membership.
As you can see, this lifestyle combines work and travel in an unprecedented way. With the freedom to work remotely and explore the world, individuals can break free from traditional constraints and create enriching experiences while achieving a work-life balance. In truth, embracing digital nomadism seems to open doors to personal and professional growth, providing a unique perspective on life.
This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, for sure, but it might be just perfect for you.