If you’re a freelancer or remote-worker and have been involved in these communities online, it’s more than likely that you’ve come across the term “digital nomad” more than a couple times. Digital nomads are usually people who work online and live anywhere in the world. Sounds like the dream, right?
Well, if you end up joining these Facebook groups and subscribe to these websites that advertise a digital nomad life, it really does look like a dreamy life. Digital nomads aren’t shy about showing off their lifestyle of living in Airbnb’s by the beach and spending their days writing code or writing essays on the beach. If you’re in mainstream digital nomad spaces long enough, it looks like they’re working at the beach all the time. You’ll find images everywhere of people wearing swimsuits sitting on the beach with their laptop. Is that image the reality for many digital nomads? Sure thing. But is it as easy and care-free to start that life as many digital nomads sell it to be?
Before we dive into the cons of the life of a digital nomad or the struggles many go through, let’s first answer this question.
What exactly is a digital nomad?
Digital nomads are people who’s jobs are entirely online and their jobs are not tied to any geographic region in the world. The only thing they require to do their jobs is a solid internet connection. Many digital nomads work as freelancers, entrepreneuers, business owners, or find remote jobs with remote-friendly companies.
You can find many digital nomads living in cities and countries that have a cheaper cost of living to make their money go a longer way than it would in their home country. A popular digital nomad hub today is Chiang Mai, Thailand. Many other popular hubs exist throughout Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe.
However, you can find many people living similar lifestyles who prefer to identify as location-independent or remote workers instead of digital nomad.
Apparently, there is a whole culture that is being associated with “digital nomads” now that are not necessarily all positive. A lot of the culture revolves around digital nomads selling an over-romanticized version of the lifestyle and making a living off of selling their “how to become a digital nomad” courses.
Digital Nomads Selling the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
It’s become a trend for many digital nomads to sell courses on how they became digital nomads and how to become one. The question here is, though I’m sure many of these “experts” know what they’re doing, there are also many who don’t. There are probably many self-proclaimed digital nomads who are only digital nomads because they are selling courses to people on how to become digital nomads.
The digital nomad life is an alluring one and it’s one we all dream of. Who doesn’t want to work on a beach and live anywhere in the world? But the truth is that the lifestyle has its fair amount of challenges too.
Three Realities of being a “Digital Nomad” that Digital Nomads don’t tell you
Life doesn’t get easier all of a sudden just because you start to work from where ever you want. Work is still work at the end of the day and it needs to get done. If you’re a freelancer, you will still need to hustle to find clients, satisfy your clients, and keep the business going. If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, you will still need to maintain the business, work with colleagues in other timezones and make sure processes run smoothly. If you’re a writer, you might still end up spending much of your day indoors finishing that blogpost for the hotel that’s sponsoring you.
1) Always Stressing about Finding Stable Internet
A high stressor of being a digital nomad is the fact that you don’t know if you’ll have secure and fast internet where you’re living and traveling to next. As you probably know, secure, fast, and stable internet is a privilege that only a minority of the world’s population can enjoy.
2) It’s hard to unplug
On top of having to find stable internet, can you ever really unplug? If travel and work become one and the same, it might be hard to know when to stop working. Or the opposite might happen, in which it might be hard to find motivation to start working if you’ve had a wonderful relaxing weekend on the beach.
3) Being on the Road All the Time can get Exhausting
Imagine that not only do you have to stress about getting work done, but you also have to be worried about finding housing for where ever you’re going next. Unless you find long-term housing in one place, always traveling and working at the same time can get tiring.
These three realities of being a digital nomad are not something you’ll often find when you’re being advertised a course or a coaching session on how to become a digital nomad.
At the end of the day, having the ability to work online and from anywhere you want is still an amazing opportunity and is a lifestyle many people should pursue after they’ve weighed the positives and negatives. However, this lifestyle isn’t automatically synonymous with “digital nomad,” but can simply be “location-independent” or “remote.”
This article isn’t meant to discourage you from pursuing a digital nomad lifestyle, but rather to be mindful of this culture that has arisen from the growth of digital nomads in recent years. Be careful not to get sucked into the culture or tricked into an over-romanticized version of this lifestyle. But don’t let that stop you from pursuing it at the same time and recognize that there are pros and cons to all types of lifestyle.