It does seem glamorous – exploring the world, one new country at a time, armed with a rucksack and a laptop. What could possibly be better than having the freedom to be where you want, when you want and actually get paid while you’re doing it? But before making the leap, here are some things to consider:
It takes discipline
I confess, I get more work done when someone tells me what I need to do and I have a deadline. When you set your own hours, nothing is mandatory. And guess what? Your own rules are easy to break! So getting up at 8am can often turn into 10. Or worse, a friend inviting you on a hike to a really secret waterfall can result in half-assing one of your projects for a client. You get the idea… there are a lot of distractions. Setting a quasi-normal schedule is really necessary in order to maintain quality work. So let go of the romantic notion of taking your laptop down to the beach (unless you plan do to it everyday). Research has shown that people with a daily routine are more successful.
Finding a good co-working space like Pun Space in Chiang Mai can really help with organizing your schedule. Having other people around who are doing similar things is motivating and provides a creative (as well as social) environment.
It’s not the same as pure exploration
Many people you meet while traveling have taken months or even a year off work just to go out and see the world. It’s an opportunity to truly connect with the earth and those around you. To find spirituality or meaning. To go technology-free for a while. And you can be as spontaneous as you want. Maybe you meet a couple of nice Canadians in Australia and decide to join them for trekking in Nepal (nice + Canadians is really redundant here; it’s been scientifically proven all Canadians are nice.) Or maybe you decide to do a meditation retreat in Thailand or become a certified scuba diver in Costa Rica.
Being a digital nomad is not as flexible or liberating. For short periods of time it can be (especially if you are lucky enough to condense your work into a few days a week or pause between projects) but typically demands from customers will keep you within certain refines. Refines and spontaneity don’t go well together. So consider what you truly want – Is it a new lifestyle or just a really long vacation?
It will split you in 2, or 3 or 4, or more…
The longer you spend with a place, the more likely you are to get attached. It’s just the nature of travel lovers. You’ll become addicted to things like watching the sunset from your surfboard in Canguu, Bali, or wandering the endless Sunday night market in Chiang Mai. You’ll start to crave mangoes and coconuts and suffer to be without them.
I currently have 3 attachments: Chiang Mai, Thailand, San Francisco and Turin, Italy. All three of these places feel like home when I’m in them. I keep hoping one day it will just come to me – the answer to “Where do I want to spend the rest of my life?” But it doesn’t. I don’t know, maybe this isn’t even a bad thing. There is a beauty in being able to live in different worlds. But consider it. The people you love will be split between continents, too.
Finding good internet connections can be a challenge
Yes, there are places in this world without high speed internet. On my travels, the most difficult country to manage working in was Myanmar. Hotels just don’t offer it in many cases and if they do it’s too slow to run the type of applications needed for consulting work. Of course, I wouldn’t have traded it – Myanmar is a beautiful country and I am grateful I had the opportunity to explore it. But speaking purely from a remote work standpoint, I could have lost my job had there been any major deadlines.
Another time, while visiting the Gili islands in Indonesia, I had a whole other realization — Electricity is just as important as internet! If the lights aren’t on, neither is the Google, baby. These are things that have to be considered when shifting locations while working.
There are moments of loneliness and isolation
Almost every blog I’ve read by other nomads mentions this, as well. Even for the most social and most adaptable people, there are moments when it just doesn’t come together. You find yourself in a place where it’s hard to nest. It could be as simple as not meeting people you connect with, or it could be triggered by an event like falling ill or experiencing romantic rejection. When you aren’t in a place with good friends to turn to, these normal life challenges can seem 10 times as bad. Sometimes it’s as simple as having too much time to think. On the plus side, traveling alone strengthens you and challenges you to be a stronger person on your own. But it can’t be denied that having friends and family around keeps you in a healthy state of mind with little time to dwell. Support is important. (We’re social creatures!)
Try to create a little community everywhere you go. I recommend not spending less than a month anywhere, so you can really experience the place and make a few friends. Once you find towns you really like, stay there longer and enjoy them :).
I hope you found this helpful if you’re thinking of becoming a nomad! Here is another blog post I came across on this subject with a lot of good information: 7 Friendly Communities For Every Traveling Digital Nomad
Digital Nomads, is there anything you’d add to this list? Please share 🙂