By Travis Bennett, Nomad Stack (http://www.nomadstack.com)
The digital nomad lifestyle is all rather exciting. You just need your laptop and an internet connection and you can work from anywhere in the world. It’s no wonder there’s more and more people taking the leap themselves. Grabbing street food lunches in Ho Chi Minh. Pulling an all-nighter in Berlin. Sipping lattes in Medellin. I can live anywhere in the world, and yet still run my business. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely a lifestyle entrepreneur and I’ll probably never return to a typical corporate job, but the life of a digital nomad isn’t all sunshine and daisies.
Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed the “shine” wearing off. A life on the road can be tough. So I started asking people about it. The nomads who have been on the road for years at a time. To give a glimpse into the reality, as Instagram really only shows you the ideal.
Here’s what you need to know about life as a digital nomad:
It’s going to be lonely
There are very few of your friends who will understand what you’re doing, and the people you do meet are all on a temporary basis. Maybe you’re best friends for a week or a month, but once you move on it’s unlikely you’ll ever see them again. It’s tough to make lasting connections as a nomad.
If you’re not working you’re not making money
Unless you’ve got passive streams of income you can forget sick days. Taking time off means you’re not working, and as a digital nomad that’s going to hit you right in your wallet. Clients don’t care when you’re sick, the work still needs to get done, if it doesn’t you won’t get paid.
Relationships are going to be tough
Without a partner you’re travelling with, the road is no place to meet your soul mate. Especially if your plan is to continue travelling, it’s just going to lead to a lot of hard goodbyes. Living in a constant state of separation and connecting only via Skype is no way to live.
You’ll never properly switch off
Even on your off days you’ll be paranoid. Checking your phone to make sure no clients are trying to reach you, thinking about upcoming projects and always hustling to find new streams of income. It puts a cloud over all the cool events and sights you’ll see on your trip.
You need a bottomless pit of self-motivation
Digital nomads are some of the hardest working people on the planet. They’re essentially business owners who take their entire operation on the road. In addition to client work and side projects, you’ve also got to work at building your business, which requires a huge amount of hours.
You’ll miss the important things back home
You can’t be travelling the world and expect to make it home for every birthday, wedding, baby, or whatever it is that’s calling you home. The longer you spend on the road the more it’ll stretch your friendships, to the point where you may not even feel “at home” once your trip is over.
Travel gets exhausting after a while
Think about the amount of time you put into planning a holiday. Now do that every two or three weeks. Booking flights. Checking visas. Finding accommodation. Figuring out a new city. Being a digital nomad gets tiring, and after a year or two you start staying longer at every new destination.
You won’t be able to find certain things
It may seem trivial, but it wears on you after a while. Not being able to find a particular brand of cookie. Your favorite ice cream. Products that aren’t packed full of “whitening agents.” You’ve got to make compromises of course, but sometimes you’d pay anything to get a suitcase full of vegemite.
You’ve got to be careful of your vices
Without your support network it’s easy for your lifestyle to spiral out of control. From gaining a ton of weight from all the delicious food, to partying every night as a roaring alcoholic, most places in the world will actually encourage you to live large, and you forget what really matters.
All things considered, it takes a particular kind of person to succeed as a digital nomad. If you’re feeling stuck in your job or your hometown, wanting to experience a little bit more of the world, and have an interest in building a career online, perhaps it’s the right choice for you too.
I love it. I can make decisions on a whim, as all I need is my laptop and my passport, and I can work from anywhere. There’s really nothing quite like it. We’re shaping the future of the workplace, and having experiences our parents only ever dreamed of.
About the author
Travis runs Nomad Stack, a set of resources to help aspiring digital nomads make the change, and build a successful business they can run from anywhere in the world. If you need help, advice or even a little inspiration, follow the adventure on Instagram or Facebook.