Digital Nomad Lifestyle: What to Know When Considering Life as a Nomad

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I’ve been a digital nomad for five years. The digital nomad lifestyle is a fit for me because it allows me to explore the world while advancing my career. Before embarking on this journey, I lived in New York City and worked as an event manager for a media company. I cherished many aspects of my pre-nomadic life, such as having a great job, being close to my friends and family, and enjoying the accessibility to new experiences that living in New York offered.

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.

Nomad life in Colombia

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 now a full-time remote Event Producer. I’ve visited 40 countries and split my time between living in the USA and abroad. I’ve met friends that I consider family and have garnered work from clients that encourage my lifestyle.

All of this to say, becoming a Digital Nomad was the best decision for me, and it could be for you, too. Before deciding to 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.

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    Considering Life as a Nomad: The Compromises You Need to Make

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    This picture exhibits the way that Digital Nomadism is advertised but this isn't reality.

    Living life as a nomad is a dream for many people, but it’s important to be aware of the compromises that come with it. It’s not always the glamorous lifestyle portrayed on social media by influencers, travel bloggers, and remote work companies. While there are many benefits, there are also challenges to consider.

    If you’re thinking about becoming a digital nomad, it’s important to have a realistic understanding of what to expect. This list is not meant to discourage you, but rather to inform you of some important considerations.

    You’ll need to be adaptable, organized, and able to work independently. You’ll also need to be prepared to deal with the practical challenges of life on the road, such as finding reliable Wi-Fi and dealing with time zone differences. By taking the time to think through these factors, you can make a more informed decision about whether the nomadic lifestyle is right for you.

    #1: You'll Sacrifice Moments with "Home" Friends and Family

    As a digital nomad, it can be difficult to accept that life at home doesn’t stop just because you’re traveling the world. Birthdays, family events, and other important moments will happen without you there. Even funerals can take place while you’re on the road.

    Personally, I still struggle with this reality. I’ve missed many significant moments in the lives of my loved ones. It can be tough to reconcile the thrill of adventure with the knowledge that life back home goes on without you.

    Returning home after an extended period of time abroad can be a surreal experience. While everything is still familiar, so much has changed in your absence. It’s almost as if you’ve been in a coma and are just now waking up to a different world.

    Despite the challenges, I wouldn’t trade my nomadic lifestyle for anything. The experience of seeing new places and meeting new people is worth the sacrifices. But it’s important to remember that life back home will continue to move forward, with or without you there.

    #2: You'll Constantly Say Goodbye When Living a Nomadic Lifestyle

    For me, one of the biggest challenges of being a Digital Nomad is saying goodbye to the friends you make on the road. As you travel, you’ll meet people from all over the world and form close bonds with them. Sharing once-in-a-lifetime experiences in unfamiliar surroundings can quickly bring people together. However, as your journey continues, these friendships will inevitably come to an end, and goodbyes can be difficult, knowing that they may be forever. That being said, there are some relationships that can withstand the distance and continue beyond the fleeting moments of travel.

    #3: Romantic Relationships Are Hard

    Maintaining a romantic relationship while living a nomadic lifestyle can be incredibly challenging. The very nature of being a digital nomad involves frequent location changes, making it difficult to build a stable relationship. While it’s possible to meet people while traveling and even start a romantic relationship, nurturing it long-term can be tricky when you’re physically apart. While some have succeeded in making it work, it requires a significant amount of effort and dedication.

    #4: It's Easy to Feel Lonely when living life as a Nomad

    Although many tourist hotspots offer plenty of opportunities to connect with new travelers, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, you may find yourself in a city without any potential social connections. It can be discouraging to feel bored and alone in these situations. Additionally, because the nomadic lifestyle is not always understood by those in your home social circle, you may feel isolated with your problems at times. While I often rely on my fellow nomad friends for emotional support, this option is not always available.

    #5: Not Everyone Will Understand Your Nomadic Lifestyle

    Living life as a digital nomad is an unconventional lifestyle, and not everyone will understand or accept it. You may encounter people who question why you choose to live out of a suitcase and not settle down. For me, this was initially difficult to handle because I cared about what others thought of me. However, with time, I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to be different, and if this lifestyle makes you happy, then you should go for it! Don’t let the opinions of others discourage you from pursuing the life that you want.

    #6: You Will Constantly be Researching, Planning and Making Group Decisions - and It's Exhausting

    As a digital nomad, constantly planning for your next destination can become a time-consuming hassle. From researching transportation options to finding suitable accommodations, it can feel like a never-ending task. And when traveling with a group of like-minded individuals, reaching a consensus on plans can add another layer of complexity. While it may seem like a minor inconvenience, the effort that goes into planning for each move can take a toll on your energy and focus.

    #7: Travel Burnout Happens

    Traveling for an extended period of time can lead to burnout, where everything starts to feel mundane and repetitive. Even beautiful destinations can lose their allure when you’ve been on the road for months. This is where taking breaks and settling down for a while can be crucial for re-energizing your passion for travel. For instance, after three months of backpacking in Europe, I found myself feeling like every town was the same. That’s why I like to take extended breaks from traveling, staying in one place to recharge and reignite my sense of adventure.

    #8: Working Remotely is a Grind

    When starting out as a digital nomad, it can be challenging to secure your first remote job. Searching for remote work is a different process than job hunting in the corporate world, and it may require you to adjust your approach and apply your existing skills to the remote work environment. You may need to make new contacts and learn new skill sets. Additionally, remote work may initially pay less than a traditional corporate job.

    #9: Finding the Ideal Spot to Work Can be Hard

    While it’s true that digital nomads can work from some incredible locations, such as a beach, a cozy café or a trendy co-working space, the reality is that most of the time, we are confined to our AirBNB bedrooms for the majority of the day. The reason for this is because having a stable and reliable Wi-Fi connection is essential to get the job done. So, while there are opportunities to work from amazing places, the practicalities of remote work often mean that we’re stuck in less glamorous locations for most of the day.

    #10: Everything is Always Changing

    As a digital nomad, you’ll have to get comfortable with the fact that your plans are going to change frequently. Even if you’re a planner by nature, you’ll quickly learn that things don’t always go according to plan. While it’s important to plan as much as you can, it’s equally important to be adaptable and ready to roll with the punches when unexpected situations arise. This is true for all types of travel, but as a nomad, you’ll have to expect that your plans will change frequently and be ready to adjust accordingly.

    If you still want to be a Digital Nomad After Reading This...

    If you’re still considering the digital nomad lifestyle after reading this, then go for it! I strongly encourage anyone who wants to explore the world while still earning an income to give it a try. If you have any unanswered questions about the nomadic lifestyle, contact me here.

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