What is a Digital Nomad?
The term digital nomad is generally understood to describe someone who works remotely while they travel. While the majority of people who refer to themselves as digital nomads travel the world, some stick closer to home travelling instead within their own country.
While digital nomadism has been talked and written about since the 1990’s, global technological advances allows more of us to work as digital nomads. Those who can work online are no longer bound to a single geographical location to carry out their work.
People become digital nomads for a variety of reasons. Some roles have become solely ‘remote working’ no longer requiring staff to be in a particular physical location to do their job.
Others choose digital nomadism to escape the constraints of working set hours in the same location, day after day, year after year. The latter is perhaps the most common type of digital nomad and it’s this entrepreneurial group who are setting themselves up as freelancers or launching their own online businesses.
Their activities range from IT professionals to social media managers, virtual assistants through to online coaches and consultants. Some have multiple income streams to diversify risk and boost their earnings.
The number of digital nomads continues to grow and although it’s impossible to be certain of how many people around the world are working this way, the numbers are likely to be in the millions.
Since the popularity of digital nomadism doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon, I thought it would be a good idea to point out the positives and negatives of being a digital nomad.
Positives of being a digital nomad
Freedom – perhaps the biggest reason why people are attracted to the digital nomad lifestyle is the freedom to choose when, how and with whom you work.
Flexible working – having the ability to design your working day around your lifestyle, to take time off when you need to or work around other. commitments
Less stressful – a digital nomad’s life can be less stressful due to fewer time constraints and no longer needing to commute to an office.
Travel – we all dream of seeing the world and often it’s just not possible or practical when we are tied to traditional ways of working with very restrictive work hours, location and limited vacation time.
Cost – an advantage to earning an income in a higher-value foreign currency is that it can translate into a much lower cost of living. Euros, pounds or dollars spent on accommodation in Thailand or Vietnam represent better value than in Berlin or London for example.
Negatives of being a digital nomad
Self-discipline – if you’re not a naturally self-disciplined person who can get things done then life a digital nomad will be very challenging. You’ll need to be your own boss in terms of managing your workload and making sure things are done to a high standard.
Loneliness – many digital nomads talk about the loneliness they experience due to not being in one place long enough to build deep and meaningful relationships. And when they do manage to build relationships, either they or their new friends are ready to wave goodbye as they head off on their next digital nomad adventure.
Cost – costs can be a double-edged sword for digital nomads as daily living expenses will vary depending on location, type of accommodation as well as day-to-day expenditure. What might have seemed cheap at first glance, can work out to be far more expensive than anticipated once you factor in meals out, tours or other tempting activities. The cost of using co-working spaces can also add up as can all those fancy cocktails on offer.
Less than ideal work space – while the idea of hanging around on a hammock is appealing, it’s not the most ergonomic way to work. Not all locations will have what you need to do your work effectively. You may face unstable electricity supply, slow or patchy internet and noisy surroundings.
Income instability – if you’re new to freelancing or generating your own income it can be really difficult to keep the cash flowing. Even with multiple income streams, many digital nomads can struggle to earn enough money to support their lifestyle.
How do I become a digital nomad?
Deciding to become a digital nomad is a big decision and one that needs to be carefully thought through before you hand in your notice. You’ll need to consider how you will generate enough income to support yourself and achieve your goals. Questions you should ask yourself are:
- What are my key and transferable skills?
- What are my strengths (and weaknesses)?
- What do I want my digital nomad life to look like?
- What steps do I need to take to turn my digital nomad dream into reality?
- Where do I see myself in 1, 3 and 5 years time?
- What’s my back up plan?
Hopefully this exploration of life as a digital nomad has been helpful. If you are considering becoming a digital nomad and would like support in working out if it’s the right thing for you, working with a career coach can ensure you’re going into it with your eyes wide open.
If you do decide to become a digital nomad I wish you every success.