A pervasive image you see on social media is of a young adult by the side of a beach with a laptop on their laps and a glass of wine on their side. They call it the digital nomad lifestyle.
Their story is a proclamation of a life of freedom and traveling while working from anywhere. They claim to be making enough money to sustain their lifestyle, which is only a dream for most people.
But is this really the case for all of them? Or is there something we don’t know?
Digital nomadism is a term that is mentioned whenever you discuss online careers. Yet, most people don’t really understand what it means and what it entails.
The lifestyle and glamour that most people flaunt on social media depict a tiny percentage of these people’s lifestyle.
You see glamour, freedom, happiness, financial stability, and many other things that you desire but behind the curtains is a life of pure hard work, complete confusion, and more struggles that you can ever imagine.
If you have ever desired to be a Digital Nomad, this article is meant for you because it is high time you know precisely what you want to get yourself into.
What is a Digital Nomad?
A digital nomad is a person who relies on the internet to financially sustain a life of traveling. Such a person embraces a location-independent technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to work from anywhere in the world and make a sustainable income.
The internet, arguably the best innovation of the 20th century, has enabled people to work from anywhere and still get their jobs done. On top of that today it has become relatively easy to travel to any part of the world due to the advanced technology in transportation.
Courtesy of this, the digital nomad lifestyle has become a trendy way of life today. People have realized that they can have the life they desire without any career limitations.
Imagine having your dream job, earning your dream income, living in your dream location, and being able to travel anywhere whenever you want? Now that is the life envisioned by Digital Nomads.
This group is mostly composed of people who prefer working for themselves to working under supervision. To them, being bossed around is a no-go zone.
They wish to dictate how much money they want to make and prefer to determine when and how to work.
Various factors have enabled The Rise of the digital nomad trend. They include
- Improvement of internet speeds across the globe
- Advancement in transportation and logistics
- Improved international relationships among countries enabling citizens to travel
- Development of co-working spaces all over the world
- Availability of apps that enable easy travel, such as Airbnb
An MBO Partners research found that 4.8 million people describe themselves as digital Nomads in 2018, which increased to 10.9 million digital nomads as of 2020.
This exponential growth can be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic, which forced most people to work at home due to lockdown laws implemented worldwide.
What does the digital nomad lifestyle entail?
The term digital Nomads consists of two words.
First, the term ‘digital’ refers to the use of computers. A digital lifestyle entails any activities conducted over the internet.
Talk using social media platforms, watching videos on YouTube, sending emails, making online calls, and video conferences, among other things. All these activities represent our digital lives.
On the other hand, a Nomad is a person with no fixed residence and prefers to move from place to place continuously.
A digital nomad lifestyle therefor entails doing remote work while you travel from place to place
While the digital nomad lifestyle seems glamorous, it entails a lot of hard work that rarely pays most people as much as traditional office jobs.
Therefore, it is crucial to understand that a nomadic lifestyle isn’t necessarily more comfortable, especially in the initial years when you have to build an income that will sustain such a life.
For instance, a travel blogger is the finest definition of a digital Nomad that travels around the world while writing about the places they visit and the people they interact with. In most cases, it is a lady.
She must keep a journal of her experiences while traveling and publishing them online through blog posts and images on Instagram to keep her readers and followers entertained.
Using this fan base of followers on social media and visitors on blogs, she can monetize these platforms and earn a living. If the content is no longer entertaining, the traffic to her blogs and social media platforms will reduce, which significantly impacts her income.
In most cases, digital nomads will upload pictures when they are having the best moments of their career; however, behind those glamorous moments, there is intense work that goes on for prolonged hours with little to show for it.
However, if sustained for several years, this hard work opens doors to opportunities to exploit and build a sustainable income stream for themselves in return sustaining their culture of traveling.
While the digital nomad life is synonymous too young people, MBO partners found out that 54% of digital nomads are more than 38 years old. Meanwhile, 31% of digital nomads are women, while 69% are men. Therefore digital nomads represent a wide range of people, and anybody can be one.
Types of digital nomad lifestyle
Corporate remote lifestyle. People employed by a company that allows them to work from home practice corporate remote nomadism, allowing them to travel while having a stable job with a reliable income.
Buffer which provides software application for the web and mobile phones designed to manage accounts in social media networks highest all its employees remotely. This system allows organized employees to have flexible schedules and balance work life with family.
On their annual state of remote work report 2019, the company indicated that 99% of all its 2500 Correspondents said they would like to work at least some of the time remotely for the rest of their careers.
Nomad entrepreneurship. Involves working to grow a business that provides products and services to customers using digital communication tools while traveling from place to place.
Since it involves building real businesses, this lifestyle is demanding compared to the other digital lifestyles. It requires more time and slow traveling to ensure that the company can be sustained.
A lot of emotions are involved, and it carries additional challenges since there is a lack of stability or certainty.
Building a business that can run itself passively gives you the best opportunity to be a successful nomadic entrepreneur.
Meanwhile, building a business with the end goal of selling it once it is successful can be very rewarding, ultimately allowing him to retire and continue traveling.
Freelance lifestyle. Freelancers are Nomads that have online jobs that can be performed remotely, e.g., graphic design, freelance writing, and coding. They provide these services to multiple clients and are paid upon delivery of the services.
Anybody can become a freelancer. All you need are skills in a specific discipline and an account with freelance platforms such as Upwork.
Starting can be a little bit challenging, but with time, you create a reputation that enables you to get a constant supply of jobs and hence, a reliable income source. The highest-paid freelancers usually have work experience that spans many years.
Remote work lifestyle might be considered synonymous with nomad lifestyle; however, the two have a small distinction. Nomad lifestyle involves switching from place to place regularly, while the latter doesn’t necessarily include traveling.
Pros and Cons of Digital Nomad Lifestyle.
Now I am sure you might be wondering what the advantages of the digital nomad lifestyle are over the traditional office system.
First, the most significant benefit is the flexible schedule you can have, which allows you to balance various aspects of your life.
Secondly, you have the freedom to work from any location, which is a highly sought out Adventure in today’s world.
Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at American Institute for behavioral research and technology, advises a change of environment to improve productivity and creativity.
Another significant benefit of remote work is more time to spend with family. Remote workers have the freedom to create time for their family members since they spend most of the time at home.
Over the past decade, the stay-at-home mum’s idea has become very popular among women who seek independence while striving to sustain their families.
The internet is full of mum blogs that give women advice on how they can build sustainable income while at the comfort of their home, which explains why there has been a growth in the number of women in the online careers space.
You can also get the freedom to travel worldwide, which is a significant factor that encourages people to join the digital nomad lifestyle.
On the other hand, digital nomadism is not all sunshine and Rainbows. Nomads go through many challenges in the initial years of their trade, a period where so much is at stake and emotions are high because of lack of stability.
One of the biggest challenges they face is finding a work-life balance. Most people who are used to office environments find switching to whom working environments a challenge because there are no set of actions that they make at the start of the working day from the end.
This pattern results in employee burnout considering the prolonged state of physical and emotional exhaustion, which also involves a reduced sense of accomplishment and productivity and lack of motivation.
56% of FlexJobs research respondents claimed they were more stressed when working from home during the pandemic lockdown.
Besides, there are chores and other activities that have to be done to ensure a stable lifestyle. You will also have so many distractions, which might limit your productivity.
Therefore, it is essential to have a daily ritual and set up a schedule to achieve your work and life goals.
Allocating time for specific tasks and doing your work in an area away from destruction will help a long way.
While you get the advantage of traveling the world, the only way you can sustain this culture is by ensuring your income is stable, and this involves hard work, which can be very tiring and time-consuming.
Typically you will find yourself working hard five days a week and only getting time to travel during the weekends.
Meanwhile, the journey can feel very lonely. When you set out to travel as a digital nomad, you will have to say goodbyes to your friends and families at home, pack your things, and move to a different location where you are a stranger, and everybody is a stranger to you.
Unless you make new friends in this new location, you will have a very lonely adventure. For those who can build new relationships in every new community, in the end, will have to say goodbye to friends who you might never see again.
This roller coaster of building and abandoning relationships will make you desire to stick to one place and eventually have a sense of identity, and East or West home will be best.
Emotional support can also be hard to get. As a digital nomad, you will hit very many bumps on the road, such as sicknesses, accommodation issues, anxiety, lack of finances, and depression.
You cannot solve some of these issues on your own. It would be best to have a network of friends and family that can support you through these challenges. Maintaining a network of people with similar interests is, therefore, necessary to survive and thrive.
It can be more challenging for people with social engagement challenges, preventing them from building relationships with the right people.
Seeking effective online therapies such as those provided in this great read can help besides the support provided by a generous and supportive network.
Digital nomad lifestyle can be rewarding, especially for Adventurers individuals who derive happiness from visiting places and those in need of a more fulfilling life.
The good thing about it is that you can lead this kind of lifestyle for some time and once you have had enough you can settle and enjoy the benefits of having a normal life with a community and a sense of belonging.