A nomadic lifestyle is not for everyone. It means living with minimal belongings, within strict limits of what we can actually carry ourselves and being completely comfortable with our own space.
If you are going to spend long periods of time travelling, then having a standard 9 to 5 job just isn’t going to work. So like anything else there are pros and cons to consider about making such a massive lifestyle change.
Being a digital nomad sounds amazing, and when you see the photos on social media it is hard not to be seduced by such inspiring images. But the reality of being a nomad, especially for long periods of time, is not for everyone.
Here are some things you need to consider when deciding if this lifestyle is something you want to aspire to.
How to Decide What Type of Nomad You Want To Be
While traditionally a nomad lived constantly on the road, never staying anywhere too long, today there are as many different types of nomads as there are people. We are fortunate in today’s society to have the flexibility and opportunities to create the life and lifestyles we want.
Even better, with the amount of technology and information that is at our fingertips, we don’t even need to be skilled at technology to be able to make a living online.
While the term “Digital Nomad” is not in the dictionary, it is part of today’s lexicon.
To break it down, they mean:
Digital: Jobs that are completely online with no need for a physical location.
Nomad: Someone who is not tied to one particular physical location.
Someone who is a nomad can take it as far or as little as they want. Some travel constantly, living out of suitcases. Others like to stay months at a time in one ‘base’ and explore the area and culture (that is my preference).
Why Digital Nomad and not Digital Expat?
The reason we don’t use the term expat is because expats tend to move to one country for a specific job, which is usually in a physical location like an office. However, they can be both. An expat after all, has moved to a foreign country to live and work.
What are the Benefits of being a Digital Nomad?
Freedom is the first thing that comes to mind for me. Freedom and travel. Not being locked to a particular job because it is my sole source of income, not having to worry about what happens if I lose my job.
Freedom to create streams of income from multiple sources and to set your own schedule.
Independence to choose jobs and niches that suit your talents and skills, from any location you want. Independence in personality, as it teaches you to become stronger and more resilient as a person.
It can be financially more rewarding. Being a digital entrepreneur means your ability to earn is only limited by your time and imagination.
Cost of living can be cheaper. Usually when we settle somewhere long term, we nest. We buy furniture, appliances, a car. We have fixed costs every month that must be met. But when you move around a lot, you tend to rent places that are fully furnished, all costs included. In fact, the only other fixed costs you should have will be your phone, internet and laptop.
How much it costs you to ‘live’ in a particular place really depends on where you choose to base yourself. Lisbon, Portugal for example is much cheaper to live in then say Paris in France. Bali, Indonesia is significantly cheaper than Singapore. There are countless examples around the world of ‘cheap’ versus ‘expensive’ cities.
What are the Negatives of being a Digital Nomad?
There are a few negatives to this kind of lifestyle, and it is important to keep these in mind when deciding if this lifestyle is for you.
Loneliness. Not being based anywhere permanently makes it hard to establish relationships of any kind. Whether it is friends, work colleagues or dating. The more often you move, the harder it is. There are solutions though, like joining sites that promote expat networking (such as Meet Up, InterNations). I’ve been a member of both sites at different stages, even in my home city of Melbourne, and I can honestly say I have met some amazing people at events organised through them.
Discipline. You are solely and completely responsible for your success and income. Unless you have set up reliable passive income streams, the amount you earn is completely dependent on the work you put in. You need to create strict schedules to endure you meet your deadlines. The less work you do, the less you earn.
Lifestyle. Believe it or not, those incredible photos you see on social media by so-called influencers take hours of work. From planning to set up to execution, then editing, posting and promoting. A single photo can take days of careful work. Most travel influencers will tell you that they spend more time at their laptops, then they do actually enjoying the locations they are supposed to be visiting.
Health & Fitness. Digital work by definition is digital. It is all online which means hours at a laptop, on tables and chairs which will rarely meet ergonomic standards. You need to make sure you take regular breaks to stretch, exercise or simply go for a walk. If you can, try to create make-shift standing desks to mix it up.
All of these combined can lead to something that is worse. Burnout.
Take care of yourself
I’ve personally experienced burn-out from working on projects for different jobs. One on job I worked 16 hour days, 7 days a week for over a year to get a project off the ground. We were short staffed with customers screaming at us. We got the project done, but the cost was complete mental and physical exhaustion. I took a month off before I was ready to even consider another job.
When you combine loneliness and a need to build/increase/maintain a digital business, it can lead to exhaustion. You will work yourself to the bone ignoring your mental, emotional, and physical health to distract yourself. This is not healthy, and it won’t help.
Slow down and take care of yourself. No one else will. You are in an incredibly fortunate position to be wherever in the world you are, enjoy it! Take breaks to explore where you are, refresh your imagination and gain inspiration from your environment. Otherwise, why did you even leave home?
Realistically, being a nomad won’t last our whole lives. Humans have an inherent need to belong somewhere. One of my oldest friends whom I met while travelling once told me that she finally realised why she moved around so much.
She thought she was looking for a place to belong, a place that felt like home. But in reality, her ‘home’ was a person who completely accepted her and who she was as a person.
A place won’t fill that void of loneliness, but meeting someone who makes us happy, can. It may not even be a romantic relationship, instead it could be a community or a group of friends who give us that feeling of belonging.
It may seem that there are more negatives then positives when reading through this guide, but if you truly value independence and freedom then this lifestyle is certainly worth trying.
There is no success without attempt, and just because something doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it was a failure. Instead you can look back and say you tried.
This post was last updated 7th June 2021