The word ‘Nomad’ refers to people who do not have a fixed home. Traditionally, Nomads wandered from place to place, making a living by trading skills and goods. Over the years, the popularity of this lifestyle decreased as people chose to put roots down and build permanent settlements.
Over the last decade, we are witnessing this trend reverse. With the rise of the Digital Nomads, the nomadic lifestyle is, once again, popular.
Digital Nomads are people who make a living by working remotely or freelancing, often while traveling. Modern remote working technology is a significant enabler for the rise of this lifestyle.
These days, all you have to do is log into social media to see another digital nomad working on their laptop by the beach while sipping on a margarita.
Sounds pretty great, right? Well, there are both pros and cons to being a digital nomad. In this blog post, we will explore what it means to be a digital nomad and discuss the pros and cons of this lifestyle. We will also give you six tips for becoming a successful digital nomad and answer some frequently asked questions about this way of life.
What are the pros of being a digital nomad?
- Location independent
- Better work atmosphere
- Improved motivation
- Self-improvement opportunities
- New friends and challenges
- Opportunity to learn new skills/languages
- Opportunity for increased earnings and savings in some cases
Flexibility is probably the number one pro of the digital nomad lifestyle. Digital nomads have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world they please, which means they can travel wherever their heart desires.
Additionally, many digital nomads find that they can make more money as freelancers than working a traditional job.
Finally, remote workers often enjoy a better work-life balance than those who work in an office setting.
For example, let’s assume that you work as a freelance writer or a travel blogger. In that case, you can work from anywhere, set your schedule, use any software or tools to make your work easier, charge the rates you want and keep all the profits. If you worked for a salary in an office setting, all these things would be impossible.
While it may seem that living the nomadic life is a dream come true, there are also some cons to being a digital nomad.
- Feelings of isolation
- Language barriers
- Missing out on special events with family/friends
- No stability or job security
- Traveling can become exhausting
- Costs can add up
- Technology challenges
- Finances and tax implications
One big downside is that it can be hard to make friends when you’re constantly on the move.
Additionally, living out of a suitcase can be tiring, and it’s not always easy to find a good internet connection when traveling, which can make things stressful. Finally, remote work can sometimes be isolating, especially if you’re working alone all day long.
To illustrate the challenges, imagine if you work as a podcaster or freelance consultant to make money while traveling. This month, you decided to rent a villa in the Philippines by the beach and work from there. It sounds ideal, but once you get there, the internet is slow, you can’t upload your podcasts, and video calls with your clients keep freezing. What if you went to Aruba or UAE instead? The internet is fast, but the cost of accommodations is astronomical, blowing your entire budget. You also need a work visa to work from most countries. As you can see, much research is required before you take off on your nomadic journey.
Working while traveling the world can be an enriching and life-changing experience despite all the cons. If you are ready to pack your bags, follow the tips below to prepare for and make the best of your digital nomad life.
Selecting a location for your nomadic lifestyle is the most critical step if you want to start working as a digital nomad. To find the right location, you must consider the various factors listed below.
1.1 Cost of Living
As we mentioned above, you can easily blow your travel budget and profits if you’re not careful. While many consider working while traveling to be a vacation, you need to plan for long-term stays. You will likely not be staying in 5-star hotels or eating out every day. Pay attention to the cost of living, including food, transportation, and accommodation, to stick to your budget. You can also consider Couchsurfing to minimize the cost of living.
1.2 Policies and Costs for Acquiring a Work Visa
If you’re American, Canadian, or from one of the several countries with a powerful passport, you have likely never had to worry about a visitor’s visa. Most countries will let you in for short-term vacations.
You will be surprised at how restrictive some countries are when you decide to work from there. In most cases, you will be required to apply for a work visa or a special digital nomad visa to work out of the country. In some cases, you can get a valid visa for a certain number of days but extending it becomes very complicated if you want to stay longer. Therefore, it is essential to research the policies of every country before you book anything and have an itinerary in mind to avoid any last-minute issues.
1.3 Internet/Mobile Speed and Reliability
As illustrated in our example above, internet reliability is the lifeline of your digital nomad lifestyle. Slow internet or mobile connection can make it quite frustrating for you and the people who work with you. Make sure to use several online resources to research the internet speed and reliability of digital nomad destinations.
1.4 Language Barriers
You can get by in many destinations worldwide by conversing in English. In many more, local languages rule, and it can become a challenge to accomplish daily tasks like ordering food, catching a bus, paying bills, etc. Layer on business and work-related tasks, and you may consider taking the next flight home.
If you are the kind of person who enjoys learning new languages and can make an effort to learn the basics, you’ll enjoy the challenge. If that’s not your thing, consider going to a country where most speak English.
Another critical consideration while picking your location is the local weather.
If you can’t stand snow and prefer surfing to skiing, you may look at tropical places like Bali over others with cold weather. Keep in mind that even warmer destinations have a period of low season, and that’s for a reason. Digital nomad hotspots like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, etc., are also well-known for their rainy seasons and frequent hurricanes.
Is it easy to get around using public transit, or will you take lots of taxis and rent cars? How safe is it to drive? Do you need an international driver’s license to drive there? All these questions should be answered before you settle on a location. Don’t forget to factor in the cost for your transportation choice, as it can quickly add up to be one of your biggest expense buckets.
1.7 Crime and Safety Ratings
Some places may have a low cost of living, warm weather, and easy work visa policies. They could also be notorious for crime and be generally unsafe for foreigners. Look at travel warnings and crime statistics for each country you are considering.
1.8 Time Zones
South Asia has some of the best countries for digital nomads. If you are from North America, consider the time difference and how it affects your work. For example, if you need to meet with clients and co-workers in New York, your local working hours in Bali will be between 10 pm to 6 am. Is this something you can handle? How much will you enjoy your travels if you sleep during the day and can’t go out at night?
If you have dietary restrictions, read up on local food options. Local cuisines can be entirely different than what you are used to at home. How much it matters is up to whether you consider that a deal-breaker or an opportunity to expand your palate. Many places worldwide do not offer as many food options for those with dietary restrictions as you may find in North America.
If you’re a foodie, pick a place that appeals to your tastes. Good food is important to ensure that you enjoy the area you’re visiting.
1.10 Nightlife, Recreational, and Social Options
You may be there to work, but one of the big pros of being a digital nomad is absorbing the culture and interacting with the locals.
Some digital nomad havens are vibrant cities with lots to do and experience, while others may be sleepy towns where everything shuts down in the evenings. What you prefer is up to you, but it certainly should not be a surprise once you get there. Read some reviews and get an idea of the culture before you go.
Find a supportive community of other digital nomads.
There are many online groups and forums where like-minded people can connect and share advice. Some even organize in-person events to give you a place to meet others in a similar position and seek friendships.
Make sure you have the right tools and equipment for working remotely. You may not find the same brands or quality you use back home. This could include a good laptop, a portable printer or scanner, quality microphones for podcasts, camera equipment, drones, hard drives, etc.
Look into policies for local permits before you leave. For example, if you are a photographer who uses a drone, many countries do not permit those or require permits.
Invest in travel insurance! We’ll repeat it, do not forget to buy travel insurance before taking off on this life-changing adventure.
As a digital nomad, you’ll likely be traveling a lot, and it’s essential to protect yourself in case of an accident or injury while abroad. The costs associated with seeking medical assistance in a foreign country for a minor ailment or major accident can bring your digital nomad career to an abrupt end.
Digital nomads must learn to manage their finances while on the road. This includes learning to do taxes, convert currency, manage bills, keep track of expenses, etc.
Digital nomads often have complicated tax situations because they’re working across multiple countries and jurisdictions, so be sure you know what you need to do when it comes time for filing taxes at home. When you work as a digital nomad, your income may be taxable in several countries. Keep track of any foreign income and file your US tax return on time with the IRS so you don’t get penalized for filing late.
Traveling or working alone for extended periods can cause anxiety and loneliness. You will need to find ways to stay inspired and motivated during long stretches away from friends and family members who might otherwise provide emotional support when times get tough.
Luckily, you can access resources and communities to maintain your mental health while traveling. There are quite a few online therapy sites like TalkSpace and BetterHelp.
You can also meet like-minded people and other digital nomads through online communities like Couchsurfing, Outside Member, Meetup, and Nomad Summit. You can also try co-living and co-working spaces in digital nomad hubs worldwide.
Is the nomadic life right for you? The answer depends on your circumstances and what you’re looking for in a work and travel experience. If you’re prepared to deal with occasionally feeling homesick or lonely and are comfortable learning new skills and navigating different cultural norms, then becoming a digital nomad could be a great way to see the world while still earning an income. If you’re not sure whether this type of lifestyle is right for you, it’s always best to do more research before making any decisions. We hope that this post has provided enough food for thought for you to make an informed decision.
Ash & Pri are the Founders of AshandPri.com where they empower others to make smart money decisions across all aspects of life. They achieved financial freedom in their 30's and have traveled to over 30 countries, thanks to a disciplined approach to money management. Both hold an MBA degree and have 13+ years of experience in financial services, consulting, and telecommunications.