So what happens if you trade in your regular every day job for a digital nomad life and find having a computer or cell phone chained to you at the beach was not exactly what you had in mind?
First of all, you are not the only one. You might think being a digital nomad (in my case, doing freelance writing through oDesk in Honduras) is your ticket to freedom, but once you find yourself sitting in a cafe surrounded by tropical plants, so engrossed in your computer or cell phone you are not spending time with real people or enjoying your setting, you might need a reality check. As a freelance writer, it is difficult to make a livable wage in a western country. Several writers often are expected to do free work for the privilege of being published. A recent article in The Guardian highlighted this issue when author, Philip Hensher, brought to the public’s attention that he was asked to write an introduction to a book for free and refused to do so. This is why I do my writing from Honduras where my budget for living expenses, food, and adventures is $300-$400/month. That way, I do not feel I have to be a slave to my work, and I make enough to get by and have some fun while working only part-time. However, my current financial state doesn’t give me much cushion in case of an emergency or if I want to take a spontaneous trip with friends. While I could sit in front of a computer full time and definitely make enough to continue my travel life style and still live in Honduras, the truth is I do not want to be in front of a computer for more than 20 hours. I love writing, but the computer part is torture especially when you take those jobs you really despise just to make a few extra dollars.
So this is where my solution comes in. Be a digital nomad with many hats. Know that being a digital nomad is only a part of your ticket to freedom and having lots of skills that have nothing to do with computers is the other part. In my case, I have a nurse’s license, and I have recently decided to return to the states to work as a travel nurse for three months and fill up my bank account. I can make in one week as a nurse the money I make as a writer working full time for a month. You do the math.
Being a published writer has always been my dream, but now that I am a writer, I am finding I want to start focusing on my own work not on doing freelance work for others. While all my oDesk and other freelance jobs have given me great experience and put a long list of published items in my portfolio, somewhere along the way I stopped writing what I want to write and for less than what I believe my work is worth. So now I am taking a step back and working as a nurse to put a significant chunk of money in my account allowing me the freedom over the next year to only take freelance jobs I want and focus on taking the time to do my own writing, the kind that is not dictated by word count, money, and deadlines.
You don’t have to get lost in the making money part of your digital nomad lifestyle. You can take breaks and find other skills. Sometimes instead of working all year long, a little here, a little there, and trying to be your own boss (which trust me is complex), it is good to work in the system, live cheap, and save for a few months. This way you can dive back into the freelance world, but on your own terms, and to fund fun adventures as needed instead of to make ends meet.
Keep life interesting while adding to your skills. Learn a language if you are in a foreign country. Volunteer where you are at. In my case, I started volunteering with different organizations in Honduras, and before I knew it, I was learning new skills like fundraising, which helped my application jump out to a foundation in the UK I am currently working for. I love yoga, and the next skill on my list is to become a yoga instructor. The more skills you have, the more options you have. One of the best books I ever read to help me gain perspective and see myself as more than just a nurse was The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. This three month book (in my case, it took a year) helps you to release your creative energy and find new hats to wear so that when you talk with people and they ask you what you do, you can reply, “What don’t I do?”
For the nurses and freelancers, be sure to follow my upcoming Remote Control posts on the 10 Alternative Nurse Careers that Allow You to Travel or Work Remotely and The Dos and Don’ts of Freelancing.
Written by: Beth Ann Nyssen