I’ve been a Digital Nomad for two years. It’s a good lifestyle fit for me because it’s flexible and lets me explore the world while continuing to advance my career. Before I became a digital nomad, I lived in New York City and worked as an event manager for a media company. I enjoyed a lot about my pre-nomadic life. I had a great job, the best friends and family nearby, and I liked living in New York because of the accessibility to new experiences that it offers.
Even though I “had it all” on paper, something was missing. I never felt settled in NYC and I think that’s because I never wanted to be. I wanted to explore more, set my own schedule, and be the boss of my own life—all of which was impossible to do with a corporate gig.
Before I became a Digital Nomad, I read a lot about long-term travelers and people that led this sort of life. For years, I read about the adventures of my favorite travel blogger—Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads, and wanted to live a life just like hers. As the idea of Digital Nomadism grew more popular, I became obsessed with researching the lifestyle. I read articles about remote work groups like Remote Year—which promised a year of glamorous travel without having to quit your job.
For some time, my research on the topic of Digital Nomadism was pure voyeurism. I never actually thought that I’d have the courage to quit my good, stable job and I cared too much about what others thought of me to do so. In time, though, the itch to travel grew more intense and in 2019, I finally decided to give it a try. I was extremely scared when I officially decided to take the leap but deep down, I knew that it was the right decision to make.
Since quitting my corporate job and leaving NYC, I’ve built my freelance business and am a full-time remote Event Producer. I’ve visited 24 countries and currently live for part of the year in Lima, Peru. I’ve met friends that I consider family and have garnered work from clients that encourage my lifestyle.
All this to say, becoming a Digital Nomad was the best decision for me and it could be for you, too. Before deciding the take the leap and live the life of a nomad, it’s important to do your research and consider not just the benefits of the nomadic lifestyle, but the hardships as well.
There are many compromises to consider when deciding whether or not to live life as a nomad.
This picture exhibits the way that Digital Nomadism is advertised but this isn't reality.
Just as with anything, there are many compromises to be made when living the life of a nomad. So often, Influencers, Travel Bloggers and Remote Work Companies advertise the Digital Nomad life as a “cure-all”, and it’s definitely not. You’ll be the same person, with the same set of baggage when you’re nomading around the world—the only big difference will be a change of scenery.
Here is a list of things that are important to consider if you’d like to become a digital nomad. This list isn’t meant to deter anyone from choosing to live life as a nomad—it’s definitely a great lifestyle choice for many, but I want to share some realities about what to expect when you’re on the road.
#1: You'll Sacrifice Moments with "Home" Friends and Family
While you’re traveling around the world, your “home life” will continue to exist without you. Life doesn’t stop because you’ve left. This continues to be a hard thing for me to accept. I’ve missed birthdays, family events, funerals, and all-around big and special moments that my friends and family have had. It’s an odd feeling to come back to your pre-nomadic life after an extended period of time abroad. I liken it to feeling like I’ve been in a coma every time I return home—everything is familiar and yet so much changes all of the time without me being there.
#2: You'll Constantly Say Goodbye When Living a Nomadic Lifestyle
To me, this is the hardest thing about being a Digital Nomad. When you live life as a nomad, you’ll meet people all over the world and develop fast friendships with them. It’s easy to bond quickly with someone when you’re both out of your element and experiencing once-in-a-lifetime things together. Eventually, though. the friendships that you make on the road will come to an end and you’ll have to say goodbye. Usually, the goodbyes are forever—though there will be a few friendships that last beyond the flittering moments abroad.
#3: Romantic Relationships Are Hard
It’s very difficult to cultivate a romantic relationship when living a nomadic lifestyle. The essence of living life as a nomad is that nomads switch their place of living frequently. Sure, it’s easy to meet people abroad—the option to date in the locations that you go to will almost always be available. The hard part is actually nourishing a new relationship in a way that gives it a chance to flourish beyond being something casual, when you’re not physically together. I have friends who have made this work, so it’s not impossible, but it does take a lot of work.
#4: It's Easy to Feel Lonely when living life as a Nomad
While it’s easy to find new travelers to connect within many tourist hot-spots—that’s not always the case. At times, you will find yourself in a city without anyone to talk to. It’s easy to feel bored and discouraged in this situation. You’ll also feel alone with your problems sometimes because many people in your social circle won’t understand what you mean when you express grievances that you have that are related to your nomadic lifestyle. I rely heavily on my circle of fellow nomadic friends for emotional support sometimes, but that option is not always available.
#5: Some People Won't Understand Your Nomadic Lifestyle
Being a digital nomad is not a “normal” or expected way of life. Because the nomadic lifestyle is so unique—you’ll encounter people who don’t understand why you choose to live that way. People will ask you things like, “aren’t you tired of living out of a suitcase?” and “don’t you want to be settled?” As someone who cares a lot about what people think of me, this was hard for me to stomach at first. In time, I’ve learned that it’s ok to be different and if your lifestyle is making you happy then—you go!
#6: You Will Constantly be Researching, Planning and Making Group Decisions
When you don’t have a set place of residency you have to constantly make arrangements to travel to a new place. This involves: researching flights, trains, ground transportation, and accommodation. This might not seem hard to do but when you’re having to do it constantly, it feels like a nuisance. Another thing that comes into play here is that most nomads will, at some point or another, travel with a group of like-minded nomads. So, in addition to all of the research that you’ll have to do… you also have to come to an agreement of what to do with others, which can be difficult to do at times.
#7: Travel Burnout Happens
It’s so easy to feel burnt out when traveling for an extended period of time. After months on the road, everything begins to feel disenchanting and the same. For example: after three months in Europe every European town began to feel the same to me. The saying “too much of anything is a bad thing” is definitely true in this case. I like to take breaks from traveling and “hunker down” somewhere for an extended period of time to revive my excitement about traveling again once in a while.
#8: Working Remotely is a Grind
When you’re first starting out, it might take a while to land your first remote gig. In my experience, searching for remote work is a different beast than working in the corporate world. You’ll likely have to hit re-set and learn how to apply the skills that you already know from working in your corporate gig to the remote work atmosphere. There are different contacts to be made, new skillsets to learn, etc. Remote work also might pay less than a corporate gig at first.
#9: Finding the Ideal Spot to Work Can be Hard
We’ve all seen the pictures of influencers sitting on the beach with their laptops out while working their remote work gig. It is possible to work from really awesome spots while living the life of a nomad—a great part of the lifestyle is that you can spend your work-day wherever you want—be it a neat co-working spaces, a cafe, etc. More often than not, though, you’ll be huddled in your AirBNB bedroom for most of the day because it’s the only place in the city that you’re in that has reliable Wi-Fi.
#10: Everything is Always Changing
Your plans are going to change frequently as a nomad. I’m a planner by nature and I learned on day one of my travels that sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. Being a nomad requires planning as much as you can but also realizing that you’re going to have to roll with the punches and adapt to whatever situation presents itself. This is the case with traveling in general, so when you make it your lifestyle, you have to expect that your plans will unexpectedly change a lot.
If you still want to be a Digital Nomad After Reading This...
If you still want to be a Digital Nomad after reading this then…you go! I highly advocate living life as a nomad to anyone that’s looking to explore the world while continuing to generate some sort of income. There are many resources out there that can help you learn how to take that next step—many of which will be provided on this website in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. If you have any questions about living the life of a nomad that weren’t answered here then please feel free to contact me here.