In 2020, working online is the new hype. It’s convenient, requires no commute, and allows you to work from anywhere. What makes a digital nomad different? Well, you see those people on instagram who travel to a new country every month taking wildly gorgeous photos and making everybody else jealous? That’s what.
It may seem like a fairy-tale world or something people do while living off daddy’s money, but in reality, most people don’t fully understand what it entails. There tends to be a lot of questions about this topic. You might be wondering: what does it really look like? Is it possible to actually make or save money living a digital nomad lifestyle? Could I do it?
Before getting into all that, let’s talk about what a digital nomad is:
A Little Background
Historically, a nomad is someone who lives a transient lifestyle; back in the day, they used to be shepherds, traders, or groups of people who moved from one place to another. Nomadic tribes were usually hunter-gatherers who followed migrating animals, setting up camps along the way. They don’t call one place home, but rather move continuously.
Now, skip to the modern age. We obviously don’t need to travel in groups to hunt anymore. Long story short, we simply must chase that money. So, take the nomad lifestyle and factory in the ability to sustain yourself anywhere while working online, and there you have it: a digital nomad.
The digital nomad lifestyle was a trend started among young people from predominantly western countries. With the tech boom and rise in social media, it is more and more possible to chase your dreams, build a business online, and explore the world. Those of us with a particular level of privilege have more freedom than ever before to go anywhere and do anything.
Remote vs. Digital Nomad
There is a difference between a remote worker and a digital nomad. Remote work means you can manage all your work from a place of your choice: a cafe, your couch, or a home office. A digital nomad is just one type of remote worker. There are all kinds of statistics about the rise in this career path. According to recent studies conducted in the U.S., 73% of remote workers started in the last four years. And, only 3% of these remote workers are true digital nomads!
A big difference between remote workers and digital nomads:
- Remote workers may live in a single location and may not travel
- Digital nomads may live in a many locations and travel often
I started remote work in 2015. I had a home office, and lived in a little mid-west farm cottage. After getting the hang of setting my own schedule, I was able to work directly from home. Just like anyone else working a typical office job, I only traveled during my vacation time with the exception of answering a few emails in the airport on my way out.
It wasn’t until I decided to quit and start traveling on my savings did I realize that I could be a digital nomad. I didn’t even plan it. Once I realized that I wanted to keep traveling, and that my savings account was quickly going down the drain, I had to start hustling online. I became a freelancer and figured out how to make money while going to all these beautiful places and writing about them.
A Millennial Mindset
To be a digital nomad is not just a lifestyle—it’s a mindset. Many baby boomers scoff at this, complaining that millennials don’t know hard work and all they want to do is have fun and get Insta-famous; they’ve lost their “family values” and don’t care about starting one of their own.
Although there is a bit of truth to this, it’s still pretty incredible that we have gotten to this point in our society. Sure, traveling around to different countries for periods of time—or indefinitely—while working online has its upsides and downsides. But, in my opinion, it is quite beautiful and revolutionary, even if sometimes it is “just a phase.”
A Day in the Life
Now that we’ve covered what it means, let’s discuss what it looks like. Here’s a peek into the life of a digital nomad:
As I said before, the digital nomad lifestyle is a bit of a hustle. It can become a challenge to fund all those travels and set aside some in case of emergencies or for future endeavors. Typically, you won’t have a retirement fund or maternity leave. You won’t find the same stability as those who choose to stay in one place and work.
At the same time, it can give you a sense of creative freedom and agency over your own life that you’ve never felt before. It may consist of running or managing an online business. This could be a blog or any remote business that you utilize your various professional skills to start. Many digital nomads are entrepreneurs, offering consulting or other freelance services.
Creatives also tend to thrive in this field. Many-a digital nomad works as a content writer or creator, a graphic designer, a web builder, or SEO expert. Now that remote work is becoming more popular, it is easier to find gigs like this and continue to fund a digital nomad lifestyle.
On the other hand, it has also become more competitive. With so many people catching on to the benefits and freedom of this lifestyle, it can be hard to get your foot in the door or be noticed. It takes work and dedication to build a portfolio or a following and start making good money. Determination is key.
The day-to-day is what keeps things interesting. It’s exciting to be on the move and exploring new places all the time. Always just a cheap flight away from the next adventure, there is nothing boring about it. You don’t have the same mundane work life that you always thought you would have when you took the SAT before entering college.
With all the excitement and beauty comes times of loneliness or isolation. Digital nomads almost always drift from people, as they are always on the move. They have less in common with those friends who are back home, working full-time and starting a family. Eventually, they might question whether they should continue this lifestyle. Then, they’ll spend a magnificent life-altering month in Bali and remember why they started on this journey in the first place.
In addition, digital nomads need to learn the ways of frugal living in order to live their lifestyle. It’s not all fancy hotels with cushy robes and free slippers. Most of the time, they are staying a few days in a cheap Airbnb, then couchsurfing, then moving to a hostel, and repeating.
That said, most people I know who live as a digital nomad do so for short durations of a few months to a couple years. It can be exhausting to not have a permanent home. To have successful relationships or a thriving family you will eventually probably choose to stay in one spot. In the meantime, adventures await!
A digital nomad is always thinking about where to go next, sometimes before they even step foot into a new country. They tend to experience travel FOMO (the fear of missing out) and will often spend their time looking at cheap ticket search-engines like Google Flights or Skyscanner plotting their next journey. Or else they are scavenging Instagram for the best travel blogger spots and great views to check out next.
Usually, they are subscribed to various travel blogs and getting alerts on cheap flights. They have a plan but are always open to a new plan. They don’t plan too far ahead, because they also want to find joy in the journey (which is supposedly the whole meaning of life, right?).
I joked with a friend of mine that while most people are thinking about their 5 to 10 year plan, we are always thinking about the next 5 to 10 cities to visit. It almost becomes a game to see how many new places you can visit before you die.
Is It For Everyone?
No. Simply put, it is not for everyone. For people who are total homebodies and love to sit at home all weekend and watch movies, probably not. For those that are concerned about climbing up the ladder in their company, have a few kids in grade school, car loans and mortgage payments, absolutely not.
There is a special demographic of people that can thrive in this lifestyle. For those that have limited responsibilities, a love for adventure, and are self-motivated, yes! This is a lifestyle that might suit your fancy.
So, as most digital nomads like myself accept that we probably won’t be living this life forever, it is still a wonderful journey—one where you learn what you are truly capable of and the utter vastness of this world. If you are determined to travel around the world and make this lifestyle work for you, my advice is to try it for a few months and be ready to hustle along the way. Take a risk. See what happens. After all, life is short, and you should live the life that is right for you.