So you think you want to be a digital nomad…until you meet someone who bursts all your bubbles by listing 101 reasons why it’ll be impossible. Let ‘em. Let them finish talking that is, but never let them burst your bubble!
There are countless myths flying about on jut show difficult it is to create a location independent life. Well I’m here to tell you that most of them are complete and utter rubbish, some are somewhat valid and a select few are spot on, but only if you happen to be partial to pessimism.
Want to know the truth? The only thing that will ever stop you from achieving any goal (including that of becoming a digital nomad) is fear. Fear will stop you dead on your tracks and prevent you from taking forward steps to making life-changing choices. Manage to remove the element of fear to your decision making and you’ll be surprised how many problems you’ll be able to solve.
Time to bring in the myth-busters…
Myth #1: Traveling around the world as a digital nomad is expensive
I’ve been traveling for almost 10 years and have been a digital nomad for the last two. In the last 12 months I’ve spent a total of € 6,000 ($8,400 USD). Yes you read that right; less than most people spend on a two week vacation. Granted I am a motorbike overlander: I enjoy camping for most of the year and lead a minimalist travel existence. I do this because I enjoy it very, very much, yet the financial benefits are rather obvious too. No, this does not mean you should follow suit, but it does mean that if you open your eyes you will realize that traveling the world can be as cheap or as expensive as you’d like it to be. Always has been, always will be.
Myth #2: Working whilst traveling ruins your ‘vacation’
One of the hardest myths to bust is that which leads people to believe that digital nomading, and long-term traveling in particular, is just one looooong drawn out vacation. I’m not on a holiday here, this is my life. It includes work, entertainment, cooking, cleaning, food shopping and playing. There’s a perfect time for each and every one of my activities. Does your job ruin your life? As much as I would like you to answer ‘no’ to really drive my point home…if your answer is yes then you should definitely consider becoming a digital nomad!
Myth #3: The life of a digital nomad is a lonely one
I have been lonelier in a room full of people who didn’t share my way of thinking and my philosophies, than I have ever been on the road. I have also been lonelier during week-ends at home (where all my friends were busy with family commitments) then I have ever been as a traveler abroad. Not only can you be in constant contact with people who think like you and live like you (they’ll be sharing your hostel dorm or working as digital nomad themselves in your chosen city), but you will also have the freedom to control your exposure to people. You get to hang out only with people you really like! How’s that for fun?
A recent study has shown that there is an increase in depression among adults in the world’s most developed cities; this is due to the fact that people are working harder and ‘living less’ than ever before. I dare say you will be no more lonely as a digital nomad abroad than you would be working your butt off at home. For someone else.
Myth #4: You’ll get bored with moving around all the time
If there is one thing which absolutely bored me to tears in my previous life (as I like to call my pre-digital nomad period) was the fact of being in the one spot ALL.THE.TIME. Driving to the same office every day, lunching at the same place, doing the same thing every day in and out…SHOOT ME NOW! Is what I wanted to scream by the time I hit 30. So, if the thought of living in a new place sounds utterly boring to you then perhaps no, this choice may not be for you. Most digital nomads rate the extra stimulation of new places as the top perk of their lifestyle choice.
Myth #5: You’ll get homesick and miss your family and friends
This myth introduces an interesting conundrum in the life of a digital nomad. Yes, in fact, you will get homesick but the feeling will be temporary and, besides, there are loads of ways you can combat it. First of all, what digital nomads miss in fact are people, not places per say. Luckily, people you can talk to! Make regular Skype dates with the loved ones in your life and plan for yearly get-togethers. You’ll be surprised just how many of your friends will take advantage of your new found lifestyle and come visit you. YEY!
Myth #6: Changing your lifestyle takes years
From the day I woke up thinking ‘Enough now, it’s time to make a change’ to getting on that plane, only four months had passed. In that time I sold my flat, quit my job, sold off most of my belongings and convinced my mother not to lock me in my room forever. Last one was the most time consuming.
It may take you years to decide to change your life, but if you’re a cunning organizer and multi-tasker you can work down your to-do list in just a few weeks once the decision has been made. Promise.
Myth #7: It’s harder to be a digital nomad with a family in tow
Whoever came up with this myth must have been a real genius. Well of course quitting your routine home-life and moving abroad will be more complicated with family in tow, yet that is only because LIFE is more complicated with family in tow!! This isn’t even a myth, it’s just a simple, logical conclusion; but I can tell you that I have met plenty of young families who have found a way to make it work. Simply because they wanted to. Want to know the truth? Their kids were the most open, experienced, mature and philosophical children I have probably ever met. The sheer amount of extra stimuli and cultural experiences shaped them into incredible human beings indeed. If you want all the extra benefits for your children as well as yourself and your partner then I know you’ll find a way to do it. Very simple really.
Myth #8: Being a digital nomad is not something you can do/be forever
Here’s another myth for the recycle bin! At the risk of sounding a bit too esoteric, I shall state that, at the end of the day, you can be anything you want for as long as you still want it. Other than that, logic also tells us that technological advances mean this kind of life will simply get easier with the passing of time rather than harder. Make the transition for location independent and I dare say you’ll never need, or want, to return to a ‘normal job’ ever again.
Myth #9: Working on your computer abroad is just like being at home. (What’s the point?)
There are infinite points actually, but I’ll just mention a few here. I may be sitting in front of my computer right now (which is what I would do at ‘home’), but the moment I shut down the PC and walk out the door I will be in the middle of the Caucasus Mountain range…not in the middle of a suburban Sydney street. Yes it’s true, when I am ‘zoned’ into my work I could be anywhere, but the convenience and excitement of knowing I am in a foreign country is not only amazing to know once I stop work, but it also helps me enjoy my work a lot more. I never resent my job because it allows me the freedom to travel where and when I like.
Myth #10: Digital nomads can only enjoy fleeting, superficial friendships
Oh how wrong this is! Some of the deepest and most intense friendships I have ever made have been with fellow travelers I met for just a few days. Let me explain how this is possible.
There is a certain mysterious pull which bonds like-minded travelers together and makes their connection intensely intimate in a very short period of time. I call travel ‘the BS-filter’, if you’ll pardon the expression. Meet people on the road and you’re bound to be sitting down together and philosophizing about the meaning of life within just a single day. This is something which hardly ever happens at home, because people’s lives are decorated with fluff small-talk like ‘gosh I had a tough day in the office today, and do you like my new shoes and how about those Mets uh?’
Once distractions are removed you are free to communicate with a person at a much deeper level, much faster. I must admit that I have had more deep and meaningful conversations with new on-the-road-friends than I have had with some of my best buddies back home.
Myth #11: There is an age limit to this lifestyle
Incorrect: there is absolutely no age limit to this lifestyle. If you can type on a keyboard and (most importantly) you still want to, then by all means feel free to disregards this myth. Does it get harder the older you are? I imagine so, yet mostly because one’s desires can alter the more time passes. My own travels are changing slightly as the years pass yet so are my desires. I no longer want to travel super-fast and prefer to stop in one spot for longer than a few weeks. What hasn’t changed is my happiness-level. You can still do what makes you happy till the last breath you’ll ever take.
Myth #12: You must work in IT, Internet marketing or be a writer to be a digital nomad
At the risk of sounding repetitive; nope…this one’s not true either. The limitations of your online work opportunities are only restricted by your imagination and your ability to think a little laterally. Over the last few years I’ve met freelance teachers, accountants, editors, marketing analysts, graphic designers and quite a few therapists, psychologists and even yoga teachers who conducted their appointments over Skype. Nowadays, there is not much one can’t do remotely and, to be completely honest, you can be an anything– nomad, you are not even bound by the digital part of it at all. If it’s location independent you want to be, then your options are just as numerous offline. I’ve also met plenty of jewellery makers, masseurs, hairdressers, beauty therapists, podiatrists and all sorts of colourful characters who made a perfectly respectable living offering their freelance services wherever they happened to stay awhile.
Myth #13: Digital nomads are not as productive as those who work in an office
This is a really difficult subject to broach because it’s the one which digital nomads feel most passionately about. We don’t like this one at all. Not only have we worked damn hard to establish our reputation as reliable professionals but, if anything, we believe we are more productive than our in-office colleagues simply because we are happier to work. Having a relaxing and friendly workspace has been proven to improve productivity; and what better place than the one you create for yourself? Digital nomads also have extra incentives; not having the protection of an employer who pays into health insurance funds or covers sick leave means we are in complete control of our work output. The less productive we are, the less we earn; if that doesn’t create an environment beneficial to productivity…then I don’t know what will!
Myth #14: You need a large cash injection to become a digital nomad
Just as you don’t need much money to live overseas as a digital nomad, you also don’t need a lot of money to get started. The accepted rule of thumb is that you can feel free to set off as soon as you have secured your yearly minimum income requirement which, if you’re planning to spend the first six months in a cheaper country like Thailand, can be as low as $500 a month. Of course, having a financial buffer is ideal, yet at the end of the day many people leading ‘normal lives’ never have this luxury either; most people live payslip to mouth so, as long as you are apt at finding alternative work (bar-tending on week-ends for example) in case your digital work falls short, then you won’t need much at all to start with.
Myth #15: Being a digital nomad is the ultimate life dream
I was quite adamant that I wanted to add a ‘positive myth’ to my list and I do believe I’ve found the perfect one. No, this is not true: not everyone dreams of being a digital nomad. This is not any sort of utopian existence, but rather just one of many other lifestyles one could choose to lead. Believing this could work for anyone can be a dangerous thing because it may lead people to believe they are missing out if they don’t consider it. Stability and home comforts are extremely important to some people and if there’s one thing I dislike is if someone believes I am critical of them just because they love their 9-5 jobs, big homes and nice cars. Hey, I’m not here to judge anyone! All desires are valid and all dreams worthy…being a digital nomad was simply mine.
If it also happens to be yours, then rest assured nothing could ever stand in your way.
Written by Laura Pattara