Digital nomads are by no stretch of the imagination new. Nomads have existed in the world since the beginning of time. There are countless drifters, vagabonds, van-life, RV full-timers, Bedouin, gypsy, ramblers, and roamers who live their lives traveling without calling one place home. Digital nomads fit into this category perfectly, except they work digitally while on the go.
Digital nomads can be found in national, state, and city parks with laptops and mobile hotspots often enjoying a view many can only dream about. Basically, they can work any where with an internet connection or they work and connect and upload their work later.
Imagine leaving the hustle and bustle of city life behind. Your morning commute is walking to a peaceful location with laptop in hand, only to log in for work and watch the world come alive with the sunrise. Instead of fighting through traffic and then standing in line behind Bob at the coffee pot, you might choose to enjoy your morning coffee with birds in the alpines or gulls at the beach. No offense Bob!
But before you sell your house and buy a plane ticket to Belize, consider the challenges involved in working as a digital nomad. Living on the go is not as easy as one might think. Having spent much of my adult life living out of a bag, I know the challenges and logistics of life on the road can be more than some want to experience. Storage, amenities, creature comforts and work requirements can be challenging. But, for many, the hassle is worth the reward.
One thing I learned over the course of my travels is that simplest approach is often the best.
One vital step anyone needs to take before adopting the life of a digital nomad is preparation. To make it not just an adventure, but a viable way to earn an income, digital nomads need to think several steps ahead.
Having a powerful laptop and a reliable telecommunicatios device and service plan is the foundation of the digital nomad approach. Think about it. If you don’t have the ability to run specific programs, store enough data, or even connect to the internet then you can’t accomplish your work. Power is another consideration, digital nomads often have at a minimum a basic solar set up for charging batteries on the go.
Upgrading your computer with memory and storage is another key component to working abroad. If your laptop can’t store the amount of data needed or can’t run certain programs, your work can suffer.
Portable drives such as the Crucial X8 give you the flexibility to store data and back up files while on the go. And for those van-lifen-Nomads or full-timers where space is a consideration, portable SSDs literally fit in your hand.
Just like anything, being a digital nomad has its pros and cons. Living a life abroad has incredible advantages, but also disadvantages.
Obviously, it probably goes without saying that most of us would love to sit on a beach or alpine lake and paddle board, surfing, fish, or just relax instead of work. But what if you could do both? Would the products you work on be higher quality if you are enjoying life every second of the day? Would your work and personal life merge into a Zen-like experience? Here are just a few advantages of the digital nomad lifestyle.
- Less cost of living. If you live out west, you obviously are seeing or hearing about the housing crisis. Living in a RV, camp trailer, or van on the go is cheaper than purchasing or renting a house or apartment. Factor in little to no furniture and household goods, and the cost of living is way below traditional living.
- Flexibility to explore the world. It goes without saying that many people dream of being able to travel more. Work often is a hold up. As a digital nomad, you literally can up and travel to a new destination without factoring in your work life.
- Travel experiences. Think of all the new places, people, and experiences you could have living a life of travel. When looking back on all my travels throughout the world, my fondest memories center on the people and places I have seen. Working in these places and getting to know people from various cultures will give you a different experience than traditional tourists.
- Set your own schedule. For me, the thought of working 9 to 5 is horrible. I have no issues meeting deadlines, but I prefer working my own schedule. Life can be busy and having the flexibility to set your schedule is a huge benefit to many.
- Minimal office politics and drama. Sometimes people love a job but cannot deal with the stress of office politics and drama associated with a workplace. Eliminating these stressors can be a huge factor in quality of life in terms of working. You might even find you’re more productive.
Like anything, there are always drawbacks and negatives. Digital nomads certainly have their share of disadvantages.
- On the go constantly can be exhausting. If you have spent considerable time traveling, then you know the feeling of returning from a trip and needing a vacation from your vacation. It can be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting to constantly be on the go. If you don’t enjoy living minimally, then this certainly can add to that stress.
- Productivity can suffer. Not everyone has the focus and drive to work from home, let alone at an amazing destination like the beach or in the mountains. The temptation to play instead of work can be too much for those who are not self-disciplined enough to stay focused on their productivity. Finding a work/play balance can be a constant battle of willpower.
- Stability can be difficult. A lot of people love their routine and stability. They crave the same thing repeatedly. Digital nomad’s stability comes in the chaos of constantly being on the go and living a life exploring the world around them. So, if you prefer a stable lifestyle over chaos and travel, it may not be for you.
- Constantly traveling can ruin the lure of travel. I can speak very well to this point. I used to LOVE travel. I craved it. If I was home for six months, I felt like I had an itch needing scratched. Over the course of 10 years, I was home maybe home three to four of them. Constantly living out of a bag traveling the world eventually caught up to me. I lost the love of exploring the world and traveling. Luckily settling down eventually brought the love of travel and exploration back into my life, but it can be a slippery slope to always travel. You must love it to a level it doesn’t make you develop a negative outlook.
Taking the leap into the life of a digital nomad is not for the faint of heart. It can be scary to make such an extreme change but fear not. It can be a worthwhile endeavor. To make the switch here are some tips to help the process.
- Do not quit your day job. If you are working in a job where working from home has become the norm, keep it. Adjust your life and ease into the digital nomad lifestyle. Keep a job you are comfortable with and excel at.
- Have savings to fall back on. Running out of money, especially in a foreign place with little or no access to online banking, is not something you want to do. Carry an emergency supply as a just in case and keep a robust savings for issues that arise. You don’t want to get stranded if you need to get home unexpectedly.
- Choose a reputable online bank. If this lifestyle is for you, then you need to choose a bank used where you want to venture. If you are exploring the world, then choose a bank that is global. This isn’t the time to bank in a city or local credit union or bank. If you find yourself in trouble in Zulu, the last thing you want to do is try to calculate time zones and banking hours back in the States.
- Eliminate your baggage. It goes without saying, if you want to live on the go you have to get rid of your things. Of course, you can store it in a storage unit, but eliminating the bulk of possessions in your life can make becoming a digital nomad much more liberating. Embrace the minimalistic lifestyle early on.
There are literally, there are thousands of people already working as digital nomads. It’s a highly rewarding lifestyle that many people crave, offering variety, excitement, adventure and a chance to expand their horizons. For others who need stability, routine, a large support network of friends and family, and the security of a constant employer, it may not be the right approach to their life. The choice is yours, but there has never been a better time to take the plunge and live a digital nomad life. Your work and life will be an adventure others only read about.