It’s been almost a year to the day since I took the leap into digital nomadry.
Literally crazy how fast time flies.
I have no idea where the last 12 months disappeared to. Is it me or does every passing year seem shorter than the last? It makes me anxious…I turned 27 the other day! That’s basically 30.
Anyway, this one year anniversary of digital nomad living seems as good a time as any to reflect on my new nomadic lifestyle. It’s time to assess the situation:
What do I love about nomad life and what do I hate about it?
My hope is that anybody considering the move into digital nomadry might benefit from the coming insights. If you do, then please let me know in the comments!
For now, though, read on for what’s essentially all the pros and cons of being a digital nomad I’ve come across so far.
What I Love About the Nomad Lifestyle
Want to become a digital nomad? There’s a lot to love about it. Here’s what I value most about the lifestyle…
The Freedom! (My Number 1 Reason for Pursuing Nomadic Lifestyle Jobs)
Freedom comes in at number one for me.
It reigns supreme as my primary incentive for choosing nomad living.
It’s about control and independence.
I wake up each day with full say over how I spend it. There’s no overbearing boss breathing down my neck, no deadlines to meet or targets to hit (other than those I set for myself), and so on.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that being a digital nomad is a liberating experience. You’re in the driver’s seat; your fate is no longer in the hands of a third party.
The Travel (Part & Parcel of the Nomadic Lifestyle)
Travel and nomadry go hand in hand.
I mean, it’s a lifestyle based around the ability (and motivation) to move! Or, at the very least, to not be tied down.
‘Location independence’ is the order of the day.
To be a nomad is to leave your roots behind. The internet becomes office and playground. So long as there’s internet connection, you have the means to put food on the table.
It’s still a novelty for me!
I can be sat on a beach and earn as much money as I would behind a desk in cold dreary England.
I feel at home on the road, enamoured with the lack of ties (not just the ones you wrap around your neck), and determined not to slip back into the 9 to 5 grind.
The Work-Life Balance (a Primary Incentive for living As a Nomad!)
I feel strongly that most people get this part of life wrong.
Work often takes precedence, at the expense of everything else. It’s easy to get sucked into a habit of prioritising work activities; you become so busy that there’s no time left for the things you love.
Then you die.
Or you get to 40 and realize half a lifetime’s drifted by. A crisis ensues and you buy a motorbike or get a new haircut...before heading back to work.
And then you die.
My last 12 months have most definitely been weighted heavily on the ‘life’ side (possibly too much so). I wouldn’t say it’s been particularly balanced to be honest. Life has definitely taken priority…
The Control (the Major Perk of Nomadic Living)
I want to re-emphasise this one as it’s so important to my digital nomad motivations.
My brother’s a pilot. He lives an incredible life, flying long-haul to beautiful parts of the world and have bed and board covered by the airline.
Anyone would envy his position!
And I do too- except for the fact that he still works to someone else’s terms and conditions. He’s told where to go and when, and there’s very little say over it.
As a digital nomad, I love working for myself and the control it gives me over my time.
Sure, it isn’t without its challenges. And, yes, there have been periods of stress and worry.
There’s no way I’d change it though. I’d have to be offered my dream job to consider going back to a location-dependent, rigid existence that puts my time under the control of another.
The Fact I’m Not Behind a Desk
If you can’t already tell, I don’t want to work in an office.
I like being able to work on the beach. Nomad life makes that a possibility.
The Fact No Two Days Are the Same
Working an ‘ordinary’ job isn’t all bad.
To be honest, there are aspects of it I miss (which I’ll talk about in the next section).
However, the routine involved is a double edge sword. It’s nice and comforting knowing what you’re doing every day and having the structure that provides. The steady income is lovely and safe.
Living for the weekend isn’t so bad either- I’ve definitely done it in the past.
But I think it all plays into the whole ‘wake up at 40 and wonder what the hell happened’ scenario.
Time flies faster than ever when you’re in a routine. Days blend into one and weeks become a blur. Before you know it, it’s the Christmas party (you’re sure the last one only happened a few months ago…)
And then bang! 40.
Weirdly, I’m a sucker for security, and naturally find solace in plans and routines. But that whole eventuality I just described doesn’t appeal to me. So, I try and fight it, forgoing the plans and letting the days take their course…until I decide more structure (aka money) is called for…
Digital nomadry means every day is different…if you want it to be.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you establishing your own work routines if you wish.
The Potential (Another Reason to Love Nomadic Life)
This is a big one for me too.
What would your answer be if I asked what you’re going to be doing this time next year?
I’d guess that most people’s November 2020 will look a lot like their November 2019. It’ll be the same old stuff. Work, weekends, parties, maybe a holiday, weddings…and so on.
I have no idea.
And I love it (even if, again, it tickles the part of me that desperately needs a plan to remain sane).
Why? Because possibility is an inherent quality of anything unknown. I could be hiking in the Himalayas, interrailing around Europe, road-tripping around America…Or, maybe, back in England working.
Who knows?! There’s the potential for anything. And, in the pursuit of a well-lived life, that’s good news.
What I Hate About the Nomadic Lifestyle
Okay, but like anything in life, nomad living isn’t always a bed of roses. Here’s the stuff I’ve found tough over the last year…
The Constant Need for Power & Internet
I don’t mean power of the dictatorial kind.
Nope, power of the standard electrical variety is what drives the life of a digital nomad.
That and internet. Your digital existence won’t last long without a WiFi connection.
Obviously, electricity and internet are commonplace almost everything you go. However, both can sometimes be hard to come by in remote areas. Or if you’re camping, hiking, or generally off the beaten track somewhere.
I’m not a massive fan of this reliance on technology.
I know it goes hand in hand with the digital nomad lifestyle, and it’s far from the end of the world.
Yet, alongside the practical implications of finding these vital fuels for nomadry, there’s something I don’t like about the constant need for connectivity.
It’s all too easy to spend all your time connecting, charging, and generally screen-based.
The result is a greater challenge truly connecting (in a more metaphysical sense) to the world around you.
The Distance from Loved Ones (the Main Downfall of Nomad Living)
I’ve gone a whole year without hugging my mum.
I’ve missed a family holiday, my Dad’s 60th birthday, and my brother’s 30th. I’m soon to miss my little niece’s 2nd birthday, and will continue to be absent in her young and rapidly developing life.
I’ve been unable to attend weddings, Christmas and New Year’s parties, get-togethers of family and friends, and so on.
The list of what you miss when you’re away (literally and figuratively speaking) goes on and on.
For me, the distance from home is one of the most challenging aspects of living as a nomad- you sacrifice the proximity to the most important people in your life.
The Constant Stream of Distractions
Working on the road can be hard too.
In the first three weeks of being a nomad I think I did about 5 hours of work…max.
Firstly, there’s nobody telling you to do it; there’s no repercussion (other than a dwindling bank balance) for not doing it either- no disappointed work colleagues, verbal warnings or disciplinary proceedings for you!
Secondly, there’s almost always something you’d rather be doing.
A beach to lay down on. A hike to do. A new friend to talk to. An ice cold beer to sip on in the afternoon sun…the list of distractions is never-ending.
It makes getting anything done a genuine challenge sometimes! And, as your own boss, when you don’t work, you don’t get paid.
The Transient New Friendships
You meet a bunch of new people whenever you travel.
But digital nomadic life is transient by nature- I’m rarely in one place for long. Same goes for the people you meet. Stars align and you cross paths with some beautiful people, who you could imagine becoming great friends with.
…Then you move onto the next destination and (often) lose touch.
I’ve found it hard to feel part of a social group as a digital nomad- especially when you’re as bad at staying in contact with friends back home as I am!
It’s harder to develop meaningful and long lasting relationships.
The Practicalities (a Personal Pet Peeve of Living a Nomadic Life)
Digital nomad life has some practical hurdles to overcome as well.
Things like handling correspondence and anything bureaucratic becomes a nightmare. Take a recent example I had the joy of having to deal with:
Basically, my UK bank card that I have with me on the road expired.
Just order a new one right? Well, yes- except I couldn’t get it delivered straight to me while travelling. So, I got it sent to my parent’s home…
Except the card didn’t arrive.
Oh, and my travel card (Revolut) was linked to that UK bank card. The result? I couldn’t access money from my account.
It took numerous calls with the bank, a second replacement card to be delivered, and further complications to sort it all out.
That’s just one example of the faff involved with handling these kinds of problems as a digital nomad. It’s not fun.
The Struggle for Structure & Routine
Right, so there are definite advantages to not having a set structure and routine to my days.
It leaves ample space for spontaneity and adventure.
But it’s also tiring and unsettling at times.
I think it’s human to desire the certainty and security that comes from routine. You know what you’re doing and when- it’s all safe and neat and laid out for you; there’s no thinking to be done.
Being a nomad puts you in control. Deciding your day is a genuine gift, and the internet makes planning everything a lot easier.
Sometimes, though, I just want someone to hold my hand and tell me where to go and what to do!
More than that, the constant movement makes establishing a routine downright difficult. It becomes harder to find the opportunity to exercise, cook, and get enough work done.
The Chance of Losing Valuables
Finally, I hate worrying about losing my shit.
I mean that in a very practical sense…
Recently, for instance, I was carrying my laptop, wallet (with a fair amount of cash in it), chargers, passport and my phone all in a small day bag as I went through Melbourne.
If I’d lost that bag, or someone had stolen it, I’d have been totally screwed!
I rarely have all my valuables in one place, just to avoid that eventuality. However, even just losing my laptop, or my phone, would have a major impact on my life as a digital nomad.
Even if the object is replaceable, I might lose photos, saved work, easy access to money, my means of navigating a new city, booking accommodation, and so on.
Here’s hoping it never happens.
In the meantime, you can guarantee I’ll be worrying about it.
Time to Try Digital Nomad Living For Yourself!
All told, I’d say the pros of nomad living definitely outweigh the cons.
The last 12 months have been one long adventure as I’ve adapted to digital nomadic life. They’ve been full of highs, lows, new experiences, and masses of learning.
For all the positives I listed above, and in spite of the negatives, I’m now officially hooked on this way of life. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Here’s hoping you’ve been able to work out if digital nomadry is something you’re interested in too!
What sounds like the biggest pro and con from where you’re sitting? Let me know in the comments.
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