We live in interesting times. Interesting being a placeholder word here for… everything that’s happening. But amongst the breakthroughs in AI and conflicts of global superpowers, there is a unique demographic shift taking place. The rise of the Nomad. The digital nomad, that is. Oxford languages defines a digital nomad as “a person who earns a living working online in various locations of their choosing (if you want to dive deeper into what a digital nomad is, check out our article here).
In some ways this archetype is as old as humanity, after all we started as nomads, but in other ways it is as cutting edge as they come. What does it look like when history repeats itself? Is the nomadic lifestyle something that could work for you? Or is it a logistical pain that’s going to leave you drained? Let’s explore the nice and not so nice sides of this new lifestyle.
The Upsides of Being a Digital Nomad
Let’s start with the bright side of the digitally nomadic lifestyle, those aspects of living without an anchor but through your computer that let you spread your wings and be free.
Live and Work from Anywhere with an Internet Connection
How does unparalleled freedom and flexibility of living sound? Choosing the nomadic lifestyle allows individuals to pick their desired location without being tied down to a specific office or city. You can stay for a week or you can stay for a year, it’s in your power to come or go when you please. This newfound autonomy enables digital nomads to explore new cultures, travel to exotic destinations, and experience a diverse range of environments while maintaining their professional commitments.
Prioritize Yourself with Your Own Schedule
With the ability to create their own work hours, nomads can balance and even prioritize personal pursuits over their work. Spend quality time with loved ones, meet new friends, and give yourself that self-care that is so vital to being a healthy and whole individual. Remember, Mazlow believed self actualization came after a well developed self esteem – so spend that newfound time giving yourself what you need to feel good in your own skin! Not to mention on a more practical note, the lack of a commute and not having to deal with a poor workplace environment can be a version of self-care in and of itself.
Lower Cost Living Abroad or in the Country
It’s been long known that working in the city or in a well developed area can be a double edged sword. On one hand, you earn higher wages. On another hand, you have a higher cost of living. If you love the nomadic lifestyle, the reality is as long as you have a connection to the internet you’re free to travel as you please! That means prolonged stays in areas that are less expensive could mean you gain multitudes of buying power, allowing you to save up or simply work less depending on your job.
The digital nomad community is one that, unsurprisingly, is strewn across the globe! That being said, there are a few major cities where nomads tend to gather (check out the article here to see a comprehensive list). This means you can hop from city to city connecting with like minded free spirit nomads. In fact, some digital nomads travel in small groups. So get out there and don’t be afraid to use the internet to find local nomadic communities wherever you’re headed—you may just find your tribe!
The Downsides of Being a Digital Nomad
So, you’ve heard the good, the rose tinted glasses are on and you’re ready to break your lease, sell your house, leave behind all your cares and start trotting the globe! But, let’s bring this thing back down to reality. Here are some of the hardships that are often encountered when living in a nomadic way.
Loneliness and Lack of Community
While there is indeed a wonderful and very active digital nomad community globally, it’s highly concentrated in just a few major cities (check out the article here to see a comprehensive list). Let’s face it, anyone who works from home off of zoom knows that it can be isolating working remotely day in and day out. And traveling from one spot to the next doesn’t exactly lend itself to putting down roots. While there may be moments of intense connection, where new friends seem to be raining down on you, there may also be social droughts where you go it alone, a wanderer on the solo path.
There’s a reason those who work in professions where they travel constantly talk about the strain it places on their family relations and friendships. It doesn’t matter how glamorous seeing the world can be, there are downsides to constantly shifting locations. Think of the actors that travel the globe but don’t get to spend as much time as they want their children or parents.
Balancing Work, Life and Travel
This lifestyle is not for the faint of heart. And by that I mean it’s not for those who shy away from logistics. Have you ever had a string of months where you traveled to and fro for whatever reason? Maybe you have a vacation and then a wedding and then a work trip. Well, there’s a chance by the time you’re done with it all nothing sounds better than to crash in your own bed in your own home. But, as a nomad, this can be an ephemeral thing. The reality is you’ll probably be living plenty of life, but sometimes so much life can be hard to manage and you may eventually yearn for a simpler lifestyle.
You may have the perfect gig for the nomadic lifestyle. Something flexible but consistent, easy to move around and always digital. If so, congratulations, that’s going to make being on the go so much easier. But, if you’re doing something that can vary from gig to gig or is somewhat part time, it may be tough to have a steady stream of income. The reality is there is usually a tradeoff to be made for jobs that offer more freedom, and that is that they either pay less or have less job security… or both. We recommend saving up and having a nest egg before you fully immerse yourself in this lifestyle.
Too Much Time Spent in Airports
Prepare for planes, trains and automobiles—because this lifestyle will have you on the go for better and worse. Some of us are more resistant to shuttle burn out than others. If you opt for the nomadic lifestyle, it may make sense to invest in some luxuries that will make your experience at the airport, on the plane, or in any other transport situation less painful than it would otherwise be.
Overcoming the Challenges of Being a Digital Nomad
Still not scared away? Well, if you think there’s a chance you could take on the challenges of the nomadic lifestyle—frankly we agree! With great challenges can come great rewards. We gathered advice from those who have really lived this lifestyle on how to confront its greatest challenges.
Combating Loneliness and Building Community
As a digital nomad, combating loneliness and building a sense of community can be crucial for overall well-being. Otherwise you may just burn out of the lifestyle altogether. After all, if you’re feeling isolated and having no fun, why continue? Firstly, actively engaging in online communities and social networks specifically designed for digital nomads can provide a supportive network of like-minded individuals who understand the challenges and joys of this lifestyle. Participating in forums, attending virtual meetups or conferences, and joining relevant social media groups can foster connections, offer valuable insights, and create opportunities for collaboration. We recommend sites like Meetups.com and Facebook for this.
Additionally, seeking out co-working spaces or shared offices in the locations you visit can provide a physical community of fellow remote workers. Engaging in coworking events, networking sessions, or even casual conversations over coffee can make all the difference. Immersing yourself in the culture of each destination is also key. Attending local events, joining hobby or interest-based groups, or even volunteering can help forge connections with locals and expatriates alike.
Lastly, don’t forget about your friends back home or around the globe. Maintaining relationships with friends and family back home through regular communication and planning visits or reunions can provide a sense of stability and support. It can be great to travel to areas where you know a few people, even just having one friend in a location can give you a guide to show you the ins and outs of an area and get you connected to new community.
Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout
When you’re living this much life, you have to learn how to manage it all effectively. Like a juggler who’s learned to put multiple balls in the air all at once. Firstly, setting clear boundaries between work and personal life is vital. Establish designated work hours, create a dedicated workspace, and resist the temptation to constantly be available. Prioritizing self-care is crucial, including regular exercise, healthy eating, and sufficient rest. Taking breaks and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation can replenish energy levels. It doesn’t matter if you’re “seeing the globe” if you are constantly on your phone! And lastly, while this can be applied to any lifestyle, practicing mindfulness through meditation, deep breathing, or journaling can help reduce stress and increase mental well-being.
Financial Planning and Strategies to Earn a Living
When it comes to financial planning as a digital nomad, several key strategies can help you effectively manage your funds. Start by creating a budget to track your expenses and set realistic financial goals. Prioritize building an emergency fund to handle unexpected expenses or income fluctuations, after all you never know what might happen when you’re leading such a spontaneous lifestyle. Using online banking tools and apps to track your spending and manage your finances remotely will be crucial to this lifestyle as well. Research cost-effective destinations and aim for a balance between affordability and quality of life. Look for ways to save money, such as cooking meals at home, using public transportation, or negotiating long-term accommodations. Finally, explore options for generating passive income or diversifying your income streams to create a more stable financial foundation. By implementing these practices, you can navigate the financial aspects of the digital nomad lifestyle more effectively and achieve greater financial stability.
Here are a few notable apps and websites that can help you with this process.
- Mint: A popular budgeting app that allows you to track your expenses, create budgets, and get insights into your spending habits.
- Personal Capital: This platform provides comprehensive financial tools, including budgeting, investment tracking, and retirement planning, helping you keep a close eye on your financial health.
- HelloVacay: A wholesale travel platform that will get you discounted rates on all the same hotels and resorts you would usually use, not to mention extra travel benefits like airport lounge access. (We’re not trying to toot our own horn but, what can we say, we’re pretty useful!)
- XE Currency: An app that offers real-time currency exchange rates, helping you stay informed about exchange rates and manage your finances across different currencies.
- Nomad List: A website that provides valuable information about cost of living, quality of life, and digital nomad-friendly destinations worldwide, assisting you in choosing affordable and desirable locations.
- AirBnB: A well-known platform for finding short-term accommodations, which can be cost-effective and provide flexibility for digital nomads.
- TransferWise: A money transfer service that offers low-cost international transfers with competitive exchange rates, enabling you to efficiently send and receive money across borders.
Lounge at the Airport
So, you’re going to be at the airport a lot. Why not be at the airport the way the pros do it? That means taking advantage of an airport lounge. Firstly, check out our article here to get the inside scoop on how airport lounges work and exactly what you can expect from them. But, beyond this, we actually have what is, in our humble opinion, the best solution for most people. Meet VacayDelay, the newest feature for our HelloVacay members which will get them access to free airport lounges.
Simply register your flight and VacayDelay tracks your flight's status for you. In the event of a flight delay, you’ll be alerted by SMS and instantly sent airport lounge vouchers for you and up to 4 traveling companions to use immediately. Learn more.
So, it turns out being a digital nomad is… a lot. A lot of new experiences, a lot of places visited, friends made, a lot of memorable nights out and a lot of beautiful new perspectives. But, it’s also… a lot. A lot of logistics, a lot of being on the road or in the sky or in transit from one place to the next, a lot of being away from most of the people you know on your own in an unfamiliar land. A lot of challenges and a lot of reward.
Digital nomadism offers a range of upsides and downsides that individuals should seriously consider before embarking on this lifestyle. On the positive side, it provides freedom, flexibility, and the opportunity to explore new cultures and experiences. However, there are also potential downsides such as loneliness, unstable income, and the need for self-discipline. It is crucial to weigh the pros and cons carefully, considering personal preferences, financial stability, and the ability to handle the challenges that may arise. Despite the challenges, embracing the digital nomad lifestyle can lead to rewarding experiences, personal growth, and a unique blend of work and life. It is a path that offers adventure, autonomy, and the potential for a more fulfilling and enriching way of living for those willing to navigate its intricacies.
If you feel the call, we recommend taking the plunge. After all, even if you’re in over your head, as long as you’re safe, in our humble opinion it usually is worth it to take the risk and learn the lessons attached. Journey on, Wander free.