The digital nomad lifestyle has gained popularity over the last decade but especially in the last couple of years. We’ve all seen the possibilities and benefits of working remotely, being able to collaborate, hold meetings, and earn income from home. What if you go a step further and decide to take it all on the road? Here’s a closer look at some of the pros -and cons- of the digital nomad lifestyle.
One of the biggest draws of the digital nomad lifestyle is being able to pursue your job from any place in the world that you can get a signal to. Whether it’s a lounge in Amsterdam or a coffee shop in Costa Rica, you can be working from anywhere you’d like. Wifi hotspots through a mobile phone or other device eliminate the need for a wired-into-wall connection to handle business, so it really just comes down to how good the signal is. For the more important conference calls and meetings you might be a part of, there’s the option of reliable high-speed internet access (can you say “fiber”?) at co-working spaces! Cropping up all over the world from Berlin to Bali, digital nomad friendly co-working spaces offer a place to sit, network, give presentations, as well as accessing power and wifi.
Since you can work from anywhere, one of the biggest pros of pursuing the digital nomad lifestyle is the potential for travel. While some digital nomads stay in the same place for months at a time, others see themselves changing locations multiple times a week. If you’ve ever wanted to see the world but lack the disposable income, becoming a digital nomad can let you do it all. Your work might be the type where you go from location to location for events, or it might be work you can do anywhere - so you do it from everywhere! One of the more common things heard from digital nomads is how travel has broadened their personal perspectives and horizons, letting them live their best life from a more authentic place.
When someone says “digital nomad” you might picture someone in a gauzy dress waft along a beach with sandals and high-powered laptop in hand, radiating pure cosmic oneness. You might see a person in smart-tac pants and double zipped bullet resistant jacket reading a glowing interface on a wristband. The reality is a more realistic something between the two, but doesn’t have to be! When you’re working as a digital nomad, what you can offer and DO means more than whether or not you’ve shown up to work as a bank teller without your requisite floral-print top and cardigan. That autonomy isn’t just in how you dress, either, it’s in the jobs you take and the work you do - you decide it all. That kind of flexibility is an amazing part of the digital nomad lifestyle, and helps to keep it in mind when you run into the odd challenge or two. Speaking of challenges, there’s the…
Diving into the digital nomad lifestyle tends to require either pre-existing financial stability or already having your work online - but works best with a combination of both. It’s not really a start-from-scratch way to make a living, and is often started on a trial basis. If you don’t have a decent savings built up (6 months of expenses is what’s most often recommended) or already support yourself primarily online, you may find yourself in a dry run of work and out of cash without even a home base to fall back on. That’s another facet of the challenges with a digital nomad lifestyle, not having somewhere stable to go. Let’s say you’ve put in a long, hard week and you’re feeling drained. Not a night where you can just go crash in a hotel, but maybe you’re even coming down with a cold - it can be nice to have your own “safe space” during those down times.
Concerns aren’t all about the tangible and the ready-to-spend, either. Even if you have ALL the good bank numbers, self-motivation and stamina are still required. Whether or not you have work, and therefore income, is always up to you and just you. Not just one gig or two, but over and over to make the digital nomad lifestyle sustainable - and that kind of discipline doesn’t come easy to most people. When you’re your own boss, the line between free time and work time can get blurry. Even someone with good time-management can fall into that trap.
Let’s say at the start of your day you figure Project X will take you two hours to complete. You arrange the rest of your day, deciding that with everything you’d like to do you’ll take care of Project X at night. End of day rolls around, and what looks like two hours in the morning takes closer to three and a half with everything else you’ve done during the day.
They say the devil’s in the details, and the life of a digital nomad is no exception. There’s a tedious amount of bureaucracy involved in being a digital nomad, especially if you travel or intend to travel outside your country of citizenship. Travel documents like passports or visas can have extended wait times as many services are still operating with pandemic protocols in place. Then there’s the idea of taxes. How do you determine your residency to determine your taxes? If they aren’t being automatically withdrawn by a payroll algorithm, how do you report your income and where would you go to pay them? some kind of healthcare in case you get sick or injured - these are all things you need to take into consideration.
There’s a lot to think about when making any kind of large decision, and deciding to try out the life of a digital nomad is no exception. It can be frustrating and is most certainly lots of hard work, but the dedication to persist can pay off in the form of having your own life. One where you’re pursuing your passions, indulging your interests, and exploring the world around you. Whether it’s country by country or conference by conference, the life of a digital nomad comes with its own unique challenges and rewards. It might not be for everyone, but if you can make it work it just might be the change you’ve been needing.