What I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Becoming a Digital Nomad
Today’s guest writer is Rebecca Brown, a translator, avid traveler, and bookworm. Her job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives her a chance to try to showcase some of them.
Being a digital nomad sounds like a dream come true to many hard-working, office-bound nine-to-fivers. So you may well be fantasizing about quitting tomorrow, packing your bags, and booking that one-way ticket to a country where you can start afresh as a digital nomad.
If you think it’s that easy (as some influencers might have you believe), boy, are you wrong! I started this lifestyle full of excitement, hope, and expectations — and I’ve had to eat humble pie more times than I can count!
The truth is, you can’t really know what it’s like until you’ve experienced it. However, there are still some things I wish I had known before I became a digital nomad. Here are a few:
Not Everyone Can Become a Digital Nomad in the First Place
The life of a digital nomad comes with many more challenges than you can imagine right now. Even if you’re an avid traveler, the experience can’t compare to what you’ll go through as a nomad.
This sounds ominous, but of course, the lifestyle is absolutely worth it! That is — if you can afford it. When I say “afford” it, I don’t only mean financially. You also need to have a mental and emotional capacity to sustain it, as well as no ties holding you back.
For example, if you have small kids, what will you do? Leave them behind? Drag them around the world with you? What’s more, the thing holding you back doesn’t even have to be as dramatic as having family members you can’t leave. It can be debt, a mortgage, and other financial obligations.
Also, are you the kind of person who can uproot their entire existence and live as a constant foreigner, while having to adjust to new circumstances over and over again?
Relationships Are Hard When You’re Always on the Go
As a digital nomad, your sense of home will shift, your perspective on life will change, and you’ll grow faster than you would have in years of leading a rooted life. You’ll meet so many new people wherever you go and possibly make some lifelong friends along the way.
Unfortunately, your pre-nomad relationships will change drastically too. Maintaining relationships is already hard work (especially for the more independent among us) without making them long-distance. You will find it hard to keep your old friends, not only because of the distance but also due to your diverging life paths.
You probably remember people you were great friends with in high school or college, but once you finished school and started doing different things in life, suddenly you no longer had anything in common.
Of course, if you make an effort, you don’t have to lose your dearest friends, but it will have to be one hell of an effort!
On the bright side, you’ll gain a community of like-minded nomads, with whom you’ll likely have a chance to reunite at various destinations around the world.
Work Is Still Work, Wherever You’re Working From
When you think about digital nomads, the image that comes to mind is probably of a glowingly happy person, a wide smile on their face, sitting at the beach with their computer in their lap and a coconut cocktail in their hand.
Well, guess what? You can’t see a thing when the sun hits your laptop, and stressing over a difficult client under a palm tree is no less stressful than doing it from an office. What’s more, it’s even more stressful, because if the client leaves, you might not even have enough money for a return ticket to your hometown, let alone for sustaining your lifestyle.
The point is — work is work, no matter where you’re doing it. A digital nomad is not a casual traveler. There will probably be times when you won’t be able to explore the place you’ve landed in for weeks, because you’ll be stuck with work. By becoming a digital nomad, you don’t necessarily escape the grind.
You Need a Steady Income Stream
If you’re a remote employee on a contract with a great salary and all the benefits, congratulations! You can plan your digital nomadic existence with ease and not have to worry about money (that much).
However, the truth is, most of us are freelancers or entrepreneurs, who never know when their major clients will decide they no longer need our services.
So even if you’re great at budgeting and you find extremely affordable accommodation, there are always unpredictable expenses, and there’s always a chance you’ll find yourself strapped for cash unexpectedly.
That’s why you shouldn’t embark on this adventure without a somewhat steady income stream. It’s best to create multiple streams of income, so that you always have something to fall back on. For example, it’s always a great idea to rent your home and have a property management company take care of the leasing and management while you’re away.
Think about other passive income ideas or what else you can offer that has value on the market right now (e.g., sell a course in something).
Trust Me — Your Problems Will Follow You to the End of the World
If becoming a digital nomad is some kind of escapist fantasy for you, where all your problems will magically disappear, your traumas will heal, and your skin will clear, stop your plans immediately! By now, it must be clear that digital nomadism is no walk in the park, and it can be challenging even for the most balanced and outgoing among us.
If you think you can escape your problems by leaving them behind and going far away, you’re sorely mistaken. In fact, the mentally strenuous and emotionally demanding life of a nomad will only bring out and highlight any issues you might have. I think most of us have realized this at some point and regretted it dearly.
So it’s important to try and resolve any problems before you embark on the journey of a lifetime. If they catch you while you’re a stranger in a strange land (or you feel like it), it’s essential that you seek help.
Question Your Motives
As you can see, it’s extremely important to question your motives for leaving a traditional job and life for a nomadic lifestyle — and running away from problems is one of the wrong reasons.
There are many others as well. For example, people often fall for “the Instagram trap.” While they may not realize it at the moment, what they want from their extravagant nomadic life is to garner social media approval and praise. They end up pushing themselves to visit more countries, go on more adventures, try more things, etc., than other nomads, which leaves them exhausted and often burnt out. This is a much more common trap than you might think.
So ask yourself why you want to live that kind of lifestyle. Would you be happy to do it and not post anything about it on social media? What else might be a driving force behind your decision?
You Want That YOLO Lifestyle? Have I Got News for You…
It’s strange, but being a digital nomad is both about freedom and the lack of it. When you think about it, true freedom comes from having constants in your life. For example, a steady salary allows you to afford adventures and buy whatever you want. Having an apartment allows you to wander around carefree, knowing you’ll have somewhere to come back to.
When you’re a digital nomad, you have very little stability to hold onto. The sense of freedom you might expect from someone who travels the world is restricted by constant worry over where you’ll sleep, how you’ll manage, whether you’ll have someone to turn to for help, etc.
So the best way to find your freedom is to anchor it in discipline. It might seem paradoxical, but having a routine will help you organize your day much better wherever you are and be able to relax and enjoy things more.
If you still feel like becoming a digital nomad after reading this, you should give it a try — it’s totally worth all the trouble!
Today’s guest writer is Rebecca Brown, a translator, avid traveler, and bookworm. Her job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing Rough Draft gives her a chance to showcase some of them.
Note: We love featuring our travel-loving members. If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, send us an email at info @ thenomadicnetwork . com with the subject line “TNN Blog Guest Post.”