In the digital age, working from anywhere in the world has become easier than ever. The digital nomad lifestyle turned into a massive trend, forever changing the way hundreds of thousands of people create their income. It sounds like a dream come true, but, in truth, not everyone can hack it. Here is why the #workanywhere life is not sustainable for all.
We see our friends posting jealousy-provoking pictures from Bali and Morocco, while we are freezing our butts off in the Northern Hemisphere. They sit beside the pool in tiny bikinis, MacBook on their lap and a coconut water within reach, while we vegetate in our gray cubicles.
When Sunday comes to an end, we are horrified by the idea of starting another unspectacular workweek, while our nomadic mates spontaneously decide to take a road trip to a nearby waterfall. The term “Monday blues” doesn’t seem to exist in their vocabulary.
The Digital Nomad Lifestyle: All That Glitters Isn’t Gold
There is a thick line between what we see on social media and in reality, which can be especially misleading for aspiring digital nomads looking to quit their suffocating 9-to-5 job. Don’t be fooled by the idea that becoming a digital nomad is the solution to all your problems.
In fact, the digital nomad lifestyle brings with it an array of new challenges. Most desire a life without struggles – working less but making more money. Worry-free days of sunshine and plenty of Instagram-worthy moments to share with the poor fellas left back home. But there are a couple of things that nobody will tell you about, including struggles of a totally different magnitude that every digital nomad comes across sooner or later.
So before you quit your job, pack your bags and set sail for the good life somewhere in the tropics – be aware of the downsides that come with the digital nomad lifestyle. It will save you from disappointment and a lot of heartache in the long run!
1.) You Need To Balance Travel and Work
We all have that romantic idea of digital nomads spending all their time out exploring the world. Unfortunately, that’s only partially true – if at all! You will certainly have many opportunities to spend time exploring new cities, meeting amazing people and working in cool places. But in real life, you’ll most likely spend more of your time sitting in front of your computer, inside a cafe with bad wifi while working the days away.
This is especially frustrating since A) people at home will always believe you’re on a never-ending vacation and B) fellow travelers will have a completely different mindset, seeking new adventures every day.
You’re supposed to be traveling freely, work when and where you’d like without an annoying boss sitting in the back of your neck. Instead, you have to deal with difficult clients in different time zones and other issues or unforeseeable changes in your plans (the wifi is down, different national holidays you weren’t aware of, and many, many more …).
Many people need the rigorous schedule of a typical workday to perform efficiently, and the digital nomad lifestyle often precludes a standard schedule. Often, digital nomads solve this issue by simply having long work days – up to 12 hours or more – and taking longer breaks throughout the day. So are you ready to work from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.?
No worries: Mixing work and play every day, you will be able to maintain a flexible schedule- without actually maintaining a schedule. All it takes is a bit of organization, talent and self-motivation. Because, let’s be honest, who likes to get back to work after a relaxing massage?
Our Tip: Once you’ve finished your work for the day, make sure to unplug immediately. This will help you clear your mind and set boundaries.
2.) Communicating Across Time Zones Is Tough
While the digital nomad lifestyle will allow you to connect with clients from around the world, it implies that you will also have to communicate with people from around the world – in different time zones, with different holidays, working hours and mentalities.
When in different time zones, calls and video chats can be challenging to arrange. Who would like to get up at 4 am and discuss a difficult project? Learning to manage different time zones effectively while not taking on crazy hours and bizarre sleep patterns will be a challenge, to say the least.
To make the digital nomad lifestyle work and accommodate your clients’ time zones, as it takes adequate planning. A tremendous help will be tools such as World Time Buddy and Every Time Zone, that you can keep open all day long as a little reminder.
3.) Finding Reliable Internet Can Be a Pain
If there is one thing a digital nomad can’t live without, it’s internet. End of discussion. Having spent most of your life in the Western world, you might find this hard to believe, but even in 2018 there is no guarantee that you’re going to have a strong internet connection in places like Europe and Australia, let alone any of the other exciting tropical digital nomad destinations.
Not all freelance or remote work requires a constant internet connection, but at some point, you will have to get in touch with employers or clients and submit your work. Another big pain for anyone attempting the digital nomad lifestyle are location-locked internet services.
In extreme situations such as China, entire websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can be completely blocked. Luckily, there are ways to work around that. The solution can be a simple change of your IP address to that of your home country so as to access the media servicesof your country of origin – or buying a VPN (virtual protocol network) subscription.
Our tip: If you’re relying on a consistent, high-speed internet connection, chose the safe way and sign up to one of the many awesome coworking spaces that are popping up all around the world. Find the best coworking options in your dream destination on Nomad List!
4.) There’s No Guaranteed Income
If you work as a freelancer or run your own company while traveling the world, your income is never guaranteed – and that can become a much bigger problem than you think. Asyou’re starting into your work-anywhere adventure, you might have many clients or customers, but contracts end, clients change their minds, your sales could decline, or you could suddenly face technical or legal issues and sometimes life happens and you get sick, not being able to work for a while.
Suddenly you’re hardly making any money at all and don’t know where the rent for next month’s Airbnb is going to come from. I have good news for you: How things will go for you very much depend on your acquisition and networking skills and a bit on your luck, too.
Play it safe! Before you start your new digital nomad lifestyle, make sure you’ve saved up enough money to get you through the tough months. Make a list of your spending and budget for extra costs such as medical bills, flights, insurance, etc. Calculate how much you need to save or earn each month to be able to write black numbers. Always double-check the contracts you have with your clients. Set a period of notice between two and four weeks, which gives you enough time to find new sources of income.
5.) Social Life and Relationships Can Be Tricky
Moving from one country to the next within a couple of weeks or a few months will make it hard to build lasting relationships, whether we are talking about friendships or romantic entanglements.
Living a digital nomad lifestyle means you constantly have to say goodbye to people, places or routines, and that can be very stressful, to say the least. And your social life on the road isn’t the only thing that will be affected. You’ll also have to live with not being able to see your family and friends for an extended period of time. This includes missing out on some important events, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries.
Of course, you’ll still have monthly catch-up calls and will be able to Facetime or Skype your loved ones. But it’s still not the same as being there and giving them a hug. And just as the time difference will give you a hard time to communicate with your clients, you’ll sometimes have to stay awake at uncomfortable hours to see your mom’s or best friend’s face on your tiny phone screen.
It can help a little to stay organized and ask your family and friends to let you know the dates of important events as early as possible. This might allow you to plan your trip accordingly.
Leading a digital nomad lifestyle can also be very challenging for any kind of romantic relationship. For singles, it becomes hard to build something lasting, as your partner always knows that goodbye is near. Maybe it’s time to finally get on a dating website and find the perfect travel partner in crime.
What if you’re already in a relationship and traveling the world alone? A long-distance relationship can become a nightmare when one partner is leading a “normal life.” If you’re in a long-distance relationship, see how often you can meet each other. Can you make enough quality time, maybe take a holiday together? Schedule regular phone and video calls.
Even if your partner is a digital nomad, too, and you’re able to travel together, your relationship will be tested. Making important decisions every day, experiencing extreme situations all the time, struggling with the new digital nomad lifestyle – all combined, don’t always make the best foundation for a new relationship. So always make sure to talk about where you want to go and what expectations you have.
As you see, the digital nomad lifestyle isn’t for everyone.
We all have different experiences when traveling as a freelancer, remote worker or entrepreneur. Though being a digital nomad sounds quite appealing at first, there are certainly plenty of obstacles that you’ll have to deal with. Having these challenges in mind and preparing yourself accordingly will possibly save you from a lot of disappointment.
However, if you ask any digital nomad if they’d want to trade their work for a steady position in an office, most likely everyone would prefer the unreliable internet, strange schedules and difficult clients.
After all, nothing beats living, working, and traveling on your own terms!
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think you could rock the digital nomad lifestyle forever? Have you tried it and had to give up? Share your experience with us and comment below.