Is being a Digital Nomad really all about working from golden sanded beaches whenever you want and non-stop partying? Well, sort of. But it can’t last forever, and here’s why.The term itself has become something of a parody.
Calling yourself a “Digital Nomad” is enough to spark up fiery conversation wherever you are these days.
There’s the easily impressed who perceive you as living this dream of making money from your laptop in exotic locations every day on autopilot; unperturbed by conservative held views of getting a job, having a mortgage and starting a family. Fuck the system!
Then there are the sceptics who still can’t believe that anybody could do anything unconventional in a world that conditions you to follow the societal rules they’re bound to.
You can call the former dreamers and the latter pragmatists, but the truth is neither is right or wrong. Both decisions involve compromise and have both positives and negative consequences of taking them, like anything in life.
With more and more millennials sold on the concept of living and working remotely due to its adventurous appeal, I figured it was time for a reality check before others embark on this journey.
There’s also a LOT of mistakes I made that I want you to be aware of before you immerse yourself into this lifestyle. I’ve made them so you don’t have to, or can at least avoid some of them.
Here are the Pros & Cons of being a digital nomad.
Pros of Being a Digital Nomad
Cheaper cost of living: I’m from the UK. You know what sucks about the UK? A ridiculously overpriced cost of living.
Extortionate housing prices. Excessive regulation and monstrous taxation encroaching on my personal life from multiple directions.
Why accept these conditions when I can live in Bangkok or Chiang Mai for roughly half the price and increase my standard of living simultaneously? It’s a no-brainer.
It’s nice to start my mornings with a fresh coffee that costs £1 in Bangkok rather than a commercialised, foamy cup of crap that’s three times as expensive in London.
It feels awesome to sunbathe by the pool each day in my gorgeous condo that costs £300 a month in central Bangkok, knowing I’m not hamstrung with a rent that’s more than double and beefier energy bills back in Liverpool. Oh, and council tax too, of course.
And there’s almost a sense of relief that when I come back from a nightclub in the hottest joint in town having bought a bottle, I wake up having spent £50, and not £300 minimum.
Over the course of a month, these expenses add up fast in the developed world.
For a lot of digital nomads, choosing to live in the developing world as opposed to the developed gets you a far greater bang for your buck, which is sensible if you don’t have commitments to stay in your home country.
Travel & Adventure: There’s no denying that living abroad just carries with it a greater sense of adventure than staying at home.
Meeting new faces, learning new languages, and experiencing unique cultures are all fantastic reasons to leave your home country and we’re not the first group of people to become swooned with travel.
The allure of seeing some of the most stunning destinations in the world whilst being paid is just too much of an opportunity to pass up for many, and it’s undeniable how liberating hitting new locations can feel at times.
Self-Development: I’ve often credited my move to Hong Kong at 22 with supercharging my self-development into another stratosphere.
Until I made that move, I was shy, introverted, and completely unwilling to make the bold decisions that life requires from a grown man.
Living and working remotely can be a great character-building exercise if you step outside your comfort zone (and by that I mean genuinely interacting with locals and going beyond the conventional tourist destinations).
And while we can’t deny that travel is a privilege not readily available to everyone, I’d still say it’s the best personal investment most people from the Western world, in particular, will ever make for themselves.
As I’m constantly saying on my blog: rejecting conformity and seeking new experiences is paramount to becoming a better, more enlightened individual.
Climate: Why experience the harsh climates of your homelands Winter when you can spend them on a beach in the Carribean or South East Asia?
Migrating during the colder months is something many species do around the world. Add digital nomads to that growing trend.
I know for me personally, escaping the treacherous weather in the North of England and early nights is something I never miss, except for the Christmas Holidays and New Year.
Cons of Being a Digital Nomad
Instability: Many young people (myself included in the past) have a tendency to scoff at any lifestyles that have stability at its core. They perceive it as unexciting, mundane, and too “safe”.
Want to know what sucks even more? Returning home for a prolonged break when you’re nearly 30 and moving back in with your parents, not having any roots and living with the constant reality that it’s a “rebuilding job” whenever you decide to “settle down”.
Wince all you want – one day you’ll want what your friends and family have, too. It’s probably no fun being in your 50’s without a place to call home or family to spend time with.
Keep in mind that at some stage in your life, biological urges will take over. You’ll feel more tired, you’ll probably want to have children, and you’ll want to be closer to family or at least have somewhere that they know you’re always content in. If you’ve lived remotely for the last 10 years living out of a backpack, all these things become arduous challenges that take up even more time and energy to invest in.
Losing Family: Having friends from all over the world has been a dream come true to me. It’s allowed me to consume ‘shrooms in the desert in Israel, party with filthy-rich hedonists in Hong Kong, and opened up doors in life I’ll forever be thankful for.
But despite all this, not seeing my family has been a massive sacrifice. I missed my nephew’s birth; my sister’s 21st birthday; and my mum’s 50th. Those moments aren’t coming back, and I have to live with that.
You may think family will always be there for you (which is generally true), but just remember that when the chips are down, they’re the one’s that are always there for you know matter what. Trust me, I’ve been in some dark places before and speak from experience.
Loneliness: If you’re the type that doesn’t connect easily then loneliness is something that can quickly consume your travels and ruin your experience.
And while you’re only ever a flight or two away from home these days, even the most social traveler can struggle with the perpetual challenge of constantly having to meet and forge new relationships with strangers. It gets mentally tiring and you’ll crave for somebody you know after a while.
Missed Business Opportunities: While living in exotic locations and uploading pictures from the beach on your Mac to Instagram is impressive to your friends, it’s not really professional to some big corporate clients or other small business owners you could be working with if you’d lived in one location.
Why does this matter? It matters because businesses you attract online generally pay like trash the vast majority of the time. You’re competing with very skilled and competent Indians and Filipinos who can easily undercut you at several corners, and you don’t want to get involved in a race to the bottom with people who have lower standards – and costs – of living than you.
I’ve met some really weird people in the nomad scene who spend their days filling our surveys just to earn enough for a hostel bed and bring their own rice to restaurants. There’s got to be more to life than this, folks.
The fact remains that if you work remotely with clients from one location, you’re going to have to return at some point to reinforce that relationship and ensure them you’re committed to your work. If you don’t, expect it to suffer when you can’t explain why you’re partying every night or always awake at different hours and not on the same timezone.
Their businesses don’t give a fuck about you being a digital nomad, and nor should they.
Unless you’re a big internet sensation or heavily entrenched in serious businesses online in retail, it’s likely that you’re like me and in the services industry and going to have to meet people at some point to strengthen that relationship. Living from one location makes that job a hell of a lot easier and stable. And stable clients are an absolute godsend if you want a consistent income from people who pay on time.
So there you have it. Being a digital nomad is not always the picture that everybody paints on Instagram, but it still is awesome most of the time.
It’s liberating and empowering, and sometimes it really does feel like as close to true freedom as you’ll ever experience if you learn to enjoy the moments.
But the novelty wears off with time, and eventually, the reality of many things will hit you hard as you’re forced to make even tougher decisions.
I want to know in the comments below: what have you found to be the greatest benefits and also challenges of being a digital nomad? Share them with me and let’s talk.