The idea of working from a laptop and living abroad is a dream for many. Being a digital nomad is a lifestyle full of adventure, culture, and opportunity. At the same time, it can be a lonely and stressful lifestyle full of compromises and sacrifices. This guide outlines, in an honest and realistic way, the pros and cons of being a digital nomad. We’ll cover work, finance, relationships, bureaucracy, and more. I’ll also try to clear up some misconceptions about digital nomad life. Hopefully, this guide helps you decide whether or not a nomadic lifestyle is right for you.
What is a Digital Nomad?
A digital nomad is a person who works remotely and is location-independent. Digital nomads perform their job using modern technology such as a laptop, smartphone, camera, various software, and the internet. Digital nomads work from hotels, coffee shops, co-working spaces, libraries, and anywhere they can get a WiFi connection or a mobile data connection. This allows digital nomads to work from almost anywhere in the world.
The key difference between a remote worker and a digital nomad is that a digital nomad regularly moves from place to place. They live a nomadic lifestyle. They might move around every couple of weeks or every couple of months. For example, a digital nomad might spend the summer in Portugal and then head to Bali for the winter then spend the spring in Japan.
Digital nomads do not have to be physically present in an office to perform their job. Some digital nomads work for a company and some are self-employed and own their own online business. Some freelance and others do contract-based work.
There are a wide range of jobs that digital nomads can perform. Some start their own content creation business in the form of a blog, vlog, podcast, social media channel, or app. Others do freelance work as photographers, writers, editors, graphic designers, SEO specialists, or programmers. Some work remotely for a company as a programmer, marketer, customer support agent, sales person, accountant, etc. These days, most jobs can be performed online.
There are a number of different types of digital nomads. Some stay in their own country and travel around in a van or RV. Many vandwellers are digital nomads. Other digital nomads travel internationally and stay in short-term accommodation including hotels, hostels, and AirBnbs. Some have a home base and only live the digital nomad lifestyle for part of the year. Some travel constantly and others stay in each new location for several months at a time. Due to time zone restrictions, some digital nomads stick to one region. Others travel all over the world.
Digital nomads tend to stick to parts of the world with a lower cost of living. Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe are all popular digital nomad destinations. A few of the most popular countries and cities for digital nomads include Mexico (specifically Mexico City), Colombia (specifically Medellin), Thailand (Bangkok and Chang Mai), Portugal, Georgia, and Indonesia (specifically Bali).
Digital nomad income varies greatly. Many beginner digital nomads earn $500-$1000 per month and live frugally. The average digital nomad makes around $50,000-$100,000 per year. Most digital nomads spend around $1500-$2500 per month. Digital nomads tend to be older than backpackers. Most are in their 30s and 40s. It takes time to develop the necessary career skills.
Most digital nomads enter each country on a tourist visa. Some apply for work visas. Others apply for visas that are specifically designed for digital nomads. Digital nomad visas are becoming popular these days.
Pros of Being a Digital Nomad
Digital nomad life is a fantasy for many people. In this section, I’ll outline the main advantages of being a digital nomad.
You can work from almost anywhere in the world
For most, this is the biggest motivation for becoming a digital nomad. You can carry your office with you in your backpack or suitcase and work from almost anywhere in the world. All you really need is an internet connection and some basic office equipment. For most digital nomads, that means a laptop and smartphone. These days, you can get a stable internet connection almost anywhere in the world.
You could work in a cafe in Tokyo, at a library in Mexico City, in a co-working space in Bangkok, or in your hotel room or Airbnb anywhere in the world. With a mobile data connection, you could pull out your laptop and get work done while you’re on a bus, ferry, plane, or train. You could even work outdoors by the beach or pool if the weather is nice. You never need to commute into the office. You’re totally location-independent.
These days, most larger cities also offer dedicated co-working spaces designed specifically for digital nomads. For a small fee, you can enjoy a dedicated office environment. Most co-working spaces offer ergonomic desks and chairs, fast WiFi, printers, air conditioning, and tea and coffee. Working at one of these places greatly increases productivity for some. Plus, you know you’ll have a solid internet connection and a comfortable place to work.
You can travel as much or as little as you want
There is nothing tying you to a particular place when you’re a digital nomad. You can travel as much or as little as you like. On average, digital nomads tend to stay 4-6 weeks in each location before moving on. Some only stay for a few days or a week. Others stay for several months. Some settle down for an entire year or more.
For example, maybe you want to celebrate Octoberfest in Munich, Spend the winter in Thailand, then hit Rio de Janeiro for Carnival in February. You can do this when you’re a digital nomad. Maybe you found a cheap last-minute ticket to Japan. You can book it without having to worry about using your vacation time or scheduling your time off with your boss.
Eventually, the constant travel may burn you out. When this happens, you can pick a city you like and settle down for a few months or even a few years. Some digital nomads pick a few cities they like and rotate between them throughout the year.
These days, many countries offer digital nomad visas that make it easy to stay long-term completely legally. Most digital nomad visas allow you to stay for at least one year. Sometimes they are extendable. For some examples, check out this awesome list of digital nomad visas.
You can work whenever you want when you’re a digital nomad
As a digital nomad, you set your own hours. It doesn’t matter if you’re a night owl or an early bird. You can work when you are at your most productive. This is ideal because everyone is different. Some people prefer to work early in the morning. Some prefer to stay up and work all night long.
If you own your own business, you are completely free to set your own schedule. If you work as a freelancer, you will have deadlines to meet. You can do the work whenever you want, as long as it gets done.
This allows you to schedule your work around your sightseeing. You can get up early and get your work done for the day then spend the rest of the day however you want. Alternatively, you can sightsee all day and then work in the evening when you get home. This allows you to spend your days how you want. If you want to spend the morning exploring a museum, you can. If you want to go out in the evening and watch the sunset, you can.
You can also schedule your work around your travel. Maybe you have to catch a red-eye flight. You can get up early and get your work done first. You can also work while you’re in transit. I’ve worked on airplanes, buses, ferries, and trains.
Personally, I like to wake up in the morning and get most of my work done first thing in the morning. After working for a couple of hours, I take a break for breakfast. I usually work for another hour or two after. I then go out for a few hours to go sightseeing or just relax. Then, I come back and get a bit more work done in the evening. Sometimes I stay up late working until the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes I call it a day after lunch.
There are some exceptions. Not all digital nomads have the luxury of working whenever they want. Some digital nomads work for a company as remote workers. In this case, you may have to be online at specific times for meetings. Most companies do allow their remote workers to perform the majority of their work whenever they want. As long as it gets done on time, they don’t care.
If you are an employee of a company, you will have to take time zones into consideration. Depending on your location and the location of your employer, you may have to stay up late or wake up early if you need to be online at a specific time. This depends on your company.
The digital nomad lifestyle allows for absolute freedom. You have the freedom to decide where you work, where you live, the number of hours you work, and the time of day you work. You can eat when you want and sleep when you want. In addition, you have the freedom to take time off whenever you want. You also don’t have a boss ordering you around and micromanaging your every move. Most digital nomads are their own boss.
When you live the digital nomad lifestyle, you can get your work done wherever you can be the most productive. This could be in a cafe, library, co-working space, or in a hotel room. You’re not stuck in an office or at home. You can work in the morning, afternoon, evening, or late at night. It’s up to you.
You can also live in whatever environment you prefer. This could mean living by a beach, in the mountains, in the desert, or in the jungle. You can choose to live in a hot climate or a cold climate. You can choose to live in a massive city or in a small village.
Also, you can immerse yourself in whatever culture you prefer. For example, if you enjoy European culture, you might move to Italy. If you prefer Latin American culture, you might choose to live in Mexico. You can immerse yourself in any language you choose. Maybe you enjoy a particular cuisine. You can move to the country where that cuisine comes from.
You can move on if you grow tired of living in one place. If you want to go home and visit friends and family, you can. If you want to leave society for a while, you could live off-grid in a van or motorhome and use Starlink to connect to the internet. As a digital nomad, you have the absolute freedom to live your life the way you want.
Startup Costs for Becoming a Digital Nomad Are Low
For most digital nomads, the only equipment you’ll need is a laptop and a smartphone. Most people already own these items. You can start out with the equipment you already have. For example, I started this blog on a 4-year-old low-end laptop. If you need to buy a laptop or a phone, you can buy a decent used one for a few hundred dollars. For most digital nomad jobs, you don’t need a lot of computing power.
In order to become a digital nomad, you also need some skills. This could be programming, graphic design, photography/videography, writing, editing, social media, SEO, marketing, using a specific type of software, etc. You will need one of these skills to either find a remote job, start a business, or start freelancing. All of these skills can be learned online for free if you are willing to put in some time and effort.
In many cases, becoming a digital nomad involves starting a business. This could be a freelance business, a blog, a drop shipping business, a YouTube channel, a podcast, or any number of other online businesses. These internet businesses all have very low startup costs. Oftentimes, they are free to start.
Your only major expense might be a website. A cheap domain name and basic web hosting cost less than $100 per year. Once you start making some money, you might need a business license. This could set you back $20-$150 per year depending on where you live. You may also need insurance.
If you need to buy equipment, you can save money by buying used or financing it over a number of months. You can save money on software by using freeware or by buying a monthly subscription for access instead of buying expensive professional-grade software outright. All in, it shouldn’t cost you more than a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand dollars to start being a digital nomad.
You can also greatly reduce your living expenses when you’re a digital nomad. When you’re first starting out, you could stay in hostels in cheap locations. In many parts of the world, it’s possible to get by on $600-$1000 per month if you’re frugal.
Once you start making some money, you can invest in better equipment and software. For example, if you’re business involves photography or videography, you might need to buy a high-end camera and lenses a powerful laptop for editing, and some professional-grade software. You can also start staying in nicer accommodation.
Being a Digital Nomad Can Improve Your Quality of Life
When you’re a digital nomad, you can move to a location that suits your personal preferences. Living somewhere you like can greatly improve your quality of life.
A number of factors play a role in your quality of life. When choosing where to live, you might want to consider the weather, cuisine, safety, activities, culture, population density, public transportation, language, cost of living, terrain, climate, elevation, and more. Everyone has different preferences.
For example, maybe you love warm and sunny weather but you come from Canada. In this case, you might move to the tropics where it’s warm and sunny year-round. Costa Rica might be a good choice. Maybe you enjoy a particular activity, such as hiking. In this case, you might move to a mountainous region where you can hike all the time. Peru or Nepal might be good choices. Maybe you love Thai food. You can move to Thailand and eat it every day.
Money is usually a factor as well. If you’re just starting out and not earning much, you can improve your quality of life by moving to a low cost of living area. Having some extra savings or spending money greatly reduces stress and improves your quality of life. For example, maybe your expenses in your home country are $3000 per month and you’re just scraping by. If you move to a low cost of living area, you might cut your expenses in half to $1500 per month. This will make life much easier.
In my case, I don’t really like driving so I choose to live in locations that are walkable and have good public transportation when possible. I also like to save and invest for retirement so I choose to live in more affordable areas where my money goes further. Saving money is important to me. I also tend to feel happier while living in mid-size and larger cities. Safety is also a consideration for me. I like being able to walk around without having to worry about getting pickpocketed or robbed. Being close to nature is also important. I enjoy staying in the mountains or by the beach. As far as the weather goes, I prefer a temperate climate.
Your Money Goes Further When You’re a Digital Nomad
Most digital nomads come from developed western countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Northern and Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc. These countries have strong economies and currencies relative to much of the rest of the world. If you’re earning in dollars, pounds, or euros, your money will often go further abroad than it will in your home country.
Earning in a strong currency and living in an area with a weaker currency and weaker economy is commonly known as geographic arbitrage. By moving from a developed country to a developing country, you can greatly lower your cost of living and maintain your quality of life. This allows you to either save more money every month or live a more extravagant lifestyle than you could afford in your home country.
For example, the average American income is around $36,000 per year or $3,000 per month for an individual. If you earn this level of income and live in the U.S, you’ll live a basic middle class or lower middle-class lifestyle depending on the city that you live in. Money will be tight. In parts of the country, you would be living in poverty on that level of income.
On this same level of income, you could live an upper middle class or even upper-class lifestyle in many developing countries around the world. This could include renting a large apartment in the city center, eating out at nice restaurants multiple times per week, going out regularly and attending events, dating, traveling around locally, taking private transportation, etc. In some particularly low cost of living countries, you could afford household help such as a cook, maid, or driver. Your money can go much further abroad.
Having your money go further is nice for digital nomads who are just starting out or those who earn a low income. For example, many beginner digital nomads only earn $800-$1200 per month. There are plenty of places around the world where you can live a decent middle class lifestyle on that level of income. This would include a small apartment near the city center, food, public transportation, and some entertainment. In most developed countries, you could barely survive on that level of income. Your money can go much further in the developing world.
Some examples of low cost of living digital nomad destinations where your money can go further include Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Colombia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Georgia. This is just a short list of some of the more popular affordable digital nomad destinations.
There are dozens of countries where you can live a comfortable middle class lifestyle on $1000-$2000 per month. Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe are particularly popular digital nomad destinations due to the low cost of living and high quality of life that these regions offer. These regions are also easy to travel around.
If your budget is a bit higher, say $1500-$2500 per month, more possibilities open up. You could live in Portugal, Greece, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Panama, Malaysia, etc.
Before I became a digital nomad, I was living in Southern California. Due to the extremely high cost of living in the region, I was spending almost all of the money that I was bringing in. I was barely scraping by. I was not able to save. When I started my digital nomad life, I moved to Mexico. There, I was able to cut my spending in half while maintaining my standard of living. My money went way further. I could live comfortably and have enough left over to invest for retirement.
You Will Learn New Things While Being a Digital Nomad
The digital nomad lifestyle allows you to pursue new hobbies, sports, activities, and interests that you may not be able to pursue in your home country. You’ll also pick up some new skills. You can also learn about language, culture, and society. The digital nomad lifestyle is an educational experience.
For example, maybe you want to learn how to cook Indian, Italian, or Japanese food. You can move to one of those countries, take cooking classes in your free time, and learn from the best. Maybe you want to learn how to Scuba dive, surf, ski, snowboard, or rock climb. You can move to an area where those activities are popular, take lessons, and learn. I wanted to learn how to Scuba dive so I took classes while being a digital nomad in Thailand.
You’ll also have the opportunity to learn a new language while living as a digital nomad. By choosing to live where your desired language is spoken, you can learn much more quickly and easily than you ever could in your home country. In fact, immersing yourself in a language is the only way to become fluent. Many digital nomads choose to live in Latin America so they can pick up Spanish. I learned to speak intermediate Spanish by living in Mexico.
While living as a digital nomad, you’ll also pick up some new skills. For example, if you’re running an online store, blog, YouTube channel, or other online business, you’ll learn about marketing, editing, social media, basic programming, and SEO. You’ll learn how to use different software such as WordPress, photo and video editing software, accounting software, and more. Your general computer and internet skills will also improve. As the economy continues to become more and more digital, these skills gain value. If you want to quit the digital nomad life at some point, you can use these skills in a wide range of jobs.
You’ll also increase your general knowledge while living abroad. For example, I have learned loads of interesting facts about different cultures, geography, and historical events that I would never have learned without traveling. I’ve also learned about different groups of people and their religions, traditions, and beliefs. Most of this knowledge is useless but it’s always fun to learn new things.
You may also grow as a person. As a digital nomad, you will also learn to be self-sufficient. There is nobody around to hold your hand and tell you what to do. You have to learn how to find a place to live, cook food, clean, get around, pay bills, budget, solve various problems, deal with a language barrier, etc. These basic skills make you a well-rounded person.
While living as a digital nomad, you’ll also learn more about how the world works. For example, you’ll learn about the political, economic, and legal systems of the county you’re living in. This can help you understand what works and what doesn’t work in a society. Your beliefs may change as you learn. You can also follow local current events that you would never even know about otherwise.
You Can Save and Invest More Money and Improve your Finances
Digital nomads usually spend less money than they would while living in their home country. This is the case because most digital nomads move to low cost of living areas. There is a reason that Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe are so popular among digital nomads. They are extremely affordable places to live. In these regions, it’s possible to live comfortably on $1000-$1500 per month. The same lifestyle might cost $2500-$4000+ per month in your home country.
Some digital nomads also save money by establishing residency in a low-tax or no-tax country. You may be able to reduce your taxes from 30-50% down to 5-10% or even 0%. You could save thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars per year by establishing tax residency abroad. This is a great strategy if you’re a high-earning digital nomad.
There are a number of countries that don’t tax foreign earned income. Sometimes digital nomad visas come with tax benefits. Some countries give you tax benefits for a certain number of years for moving there. In many countries, income tax is significantly lower than it is in the West.
A few tax-friendly countries for digital nomads include Georgia, the United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Costa Rica, Panama, and more. The best low-tax country for you depends on the nature of your income and how much you earn. For more info, check out this great guide from Nomad Capitalist.
If you’re earning an average western income of around $3000 per month, you could save easily $500-$1000+ per month by becoming a digital nomad. Saving this amount of money and investing each month will allow you to retire at a reasonable age. You can also pay off any debt you may have quickly. if you prefer, you can live frugally and save much more. Some digital nomads save 80-90% of the money they bring in. This is a great way to become financially independent and retire early.
This was my biggest motivation for becoming a digital nomad. In my early to mid 20s, I was living in Southern California. Even though I earned decent money, I wasn’t able to save much because the cost of living was so high.
I wanted to live somewhere cheap so I could save and invest each month. I didn’t want to live paycheck to paycheck. Becoming a digital nomad helped me improve my finances. Even though I currently earn less money than I did when I was living and working in Southern California, I can save and invest more. I’m far better off financially as a result.
There are a number of ways to save money by being a digital nomad. The biggest savings often comes from lower rent. For example, rather than paying $2000 per month to rent an apartment in California, I paid around $600 for a similar quality apartment in Mexico. Depending on where I’m living, I usually spend $500-$800 per month on rent when I stay in an Airbnb. I could save the difference.
Most digital nomads also don’t own a car because they move frequently. It doesn’t make sense to own a vehicle. Not owning a vehicle saves $500-$1000 per month on car payments, insurance, gas, and depreciation expense. Using public transport is far cheaper than owning a vehicle. Before becoming a digital nomad, I sold my car.
Entertainment is significantly cheaper as well. Everything from a movie ticket to a drink at a bar cost less if you live in a low-cost of living area. If you establish tax residency in a low-tax area, you might save $500-$1000+ per month in taxes.
You can also increase your earnings. If you’re a freelancer, you can start charging more for your work once you gain experience. For example, if you’re a freelance writer, you might only be able to charge 10 cents per word when you’re starting out. Once you’re established, you might charge 1 dollar per word. If you’re a web designer, you might charge $500 for a basic website when you’re starting out. When you have a solid portfolio, you might charge $5,000-$10,000. Higher earnings per project would allow you to work less while maintaining the same level of income.
If you’re financially savvy, over time you may be able to invest enough money that you have some passive income that you can rely on. For example, maybe you buy stocks that pay a dividend or real estate that you can rent out. This extra income would allow you to work less and rely on passive income to supplement your loss of earnings. Eventually, you may be able to become financially independent and quit working altogether.
You can choose how much or how little you want to work
If you own your own online business or work as a freelancer, you can choose how many hours per week you want to work. You can choose to work part-time or full-time.
Maybe you don’t care about money and you want to work just enough to get by. In this case, you may be able to work just a few hours per week. If you’re trying to build a business, you can grind 80 hour weeks if you prefer.
Exactly how many hours you need to work depends on your job, income, and how much money you need to live on. If you’re starting a business or working as a freelancer, you’ll probably end up having to work 60 hour weeks when you’re just starting out. Once your business is established, you can cut back a bit. Some digital nomads get by working only 10 hours per week to maintain their business. Some like to maintain a normal 40 hour work week.
If you start feeling burned out, you can scale back and allow yourself more time to relax or travel. If you’re a content creator, this simply means creating less content. Bloggers and Youtubers regularly take several weeks off. If you’re a freelancer, you can accept fewer jobs.
If you’re working as a remote employee, your schedule will be dictated by your employer. You may have to work set hours like any other 9-5. You may have a minimum number of hours that you have to be online. Some employers only care about productivity. As long as you get your work done, they don’t care how long you actually work. A productive person might be able to work just a few hours per day.
You Don’t Have to Deal with Office Politics or Drama When You’re a Digital Nomad
When you work in an office environment, you have to deal with politics. For example, sometimes you may be forced to work overtime because all of your co-workers are doing it. You may be forced to attend office parties or events that you’d rather skip. It is possible that you experience favoritism, nepotism, sexism, ageism, or racism. You could be disciplined for arriving 5 minutes or leaving 5 minutes early. You may have to work with people that you simply don’t like for one reason or another.
In addition, offices have drama. You’ll constantly hear gossip about who’s dating, who’s getting divorced, whose son went to jail, or who got a speeding ticket. People with different personalities, political beliefs, or religions can also clash and create unnecessary drama. There may be an incompetent co-worker or boss that makes your life difficult. An office can be a toxic environment.
Digital nomads spend the majority of their time working alone. The only exception of the occasional meeting or collaboration over video. Most of your communication will be over email or text. You don’t spend much time with other people.
When you work alone, you don’t have to deal with office politics. There is also no gossip or drama. Nobody is there to annoy you or disrupt your work. Nobody cares what time you start working, how much time you spend in the bathroom, or what you’re eating for lunch. You don’t have to attend office parties or events. Not having to deal with office politics and drama saves time and lets you live a happier and more peaceful life.
You’ll Meet New People and Make New Friends
While living the digital nomad life, you’re constantly meeting new people. This happens because you’re constantly moving around. You’re always putting yourself in new situations where you encounter new people. In other words, you’re more exposed to social situations.
You’ll meet other digital nomads at hostels and co-living and co-working spaces. You’ll meet locals on public transport, on the street, in parks, in shops, in bars, and everywhere you go. Because you’re a foreigner, people automatically find you unique. People may strike up a conversation to practice their English or just to see where you’re from and how you like their country. You can also meet people online on digital nomad groups, dating apps, and meetup apps if you put in a bit of effort.
These are people you would never have had the opportunity to meet living a normal life back home. You’ll make friends with fellow digital nomads as well as locals, travelers, expats, and retirees. Your new friends will come from all different backgrounds, social classes, cultures, ethnicities, age groups, and religions. You never know who you’re going to meet while living as a digital nomad.
Many of the people you form friendships with will be other digital nomads. Digital nomads are a diverse group. They come from different educational and career backgrounds. Everyone’s journey into this lifestyle is different. Digital nomads tend to be in their late 20s to early 40s. Some are poor. Others are well off. They’re always up for new experiences and having a good time.
Some of the people you meet will become lifelong friends. Others will just be random encounters that you remember for years. They all leave some kind of impact. While meeting these new people, you’ll learn about culture, history, politics, art, language, and love.
When you work a regular job, you don’t really have this opportunity. You’re around the same group of people every day. Chances are, they all come from similar backgrounds and live similar lives.
Having said this, it can be a challenge to make friends as a digital nomad. You’re moving around and so are the other nomads you meet. Some destinations are also friendlier than others. For some help, check out my guide to meeting people while traveling.
Opportunities Open Up
When you’re living the digital nomad lifestyle, opportunities seem to open up. I think this happens because you’re constantly moving and meeting new people. You don’t have the chance to get stuck in the same routine for years at a time. You’re also constantly exposed to different situations. Personally, I also feel more open to meeting new people and having new experiences when I’m abroad. I become a bit more extroverted, for whatever reason.
Some opportunities you may encounter when becoming a digital nomad include:
- Residency or citizenship- Many digital nomads apply for a residency permit or digital nomad visa in order to stay in one location long term. These residency permits or visas can often be renewed and eventually converted into permanent residency. There is often a pathway to citizenship as well. Having a second passport is always nice.
- Romantic relationships- Digital nomads often date where they’re living. You very well may end up meeting your future husband or wife while living abroad.
- Investment opportunities- Buying real estate or starting a business in the developed world is incredibly expensive. There is a lot of regulation to deal with as well. Some digital nomads take advantage of lower costs and lower regulation in the developing world to start a business or buy a home or rental property.
- Jobs- You’ll meet people and your network will grow. Maybe you meet someone at a co-working space who helps you advance your career. Maybe you get offered a job. You might go into business with someone.
- Seeing the world- This one is obvious. The digital nomad lifestyle gives you the opportunity to travel. You’ll experience different cultures, see beautiful landscapes, and learn about the history of where you’re living. You don’t have this opportunity when you’re working in your home country.
- Learning a new language- Digital nomad life offers you the perfect opportunity to learn a new language. In fact, in order to become fluent in a language, you really have to immerse yourself in it. Many nomads choose to learn Spanish in Latin America.
- Trying new things- You’ll have the opportunity to taste new foods and participate in new activities that you couldn’t do back home. For example, maybe you come from a landlocked country and decide to settle in a beach town for a few months. You could take up surfing. This opportunity wouldn’t have been available to you at home.
Digital Nomad Life Can Build Character and Make You a Better Person
While living as a digital nomad, you’ll face hardships. You’ll also be exposed to different cultures and new experiences. You may face various setbacks and challenges in your career and personal life. These experiences can help you grow into a better human being. For example, while living as a digital nomad:
- You become more independent- While living as a digital nomad, you have to rely on yourself more. If a problem pops up, you must find the solution by yourself. You don’t have as large of a support network to rely on. You can’t just ask your parents, friends, boss, or colleagues for help. They may be thousands of miles away. This feels scary at first but over time becomes empowering. You learn to solve your own problems so you don’t have to rely on others as much. This makes you feel free and independent.
- You become more adaptable- When you live and work abroad, you must adapt to the local culture. Locals aren’t going to change to accommodate you. When living as a digital nomad, you may have to abide by different laws, change your diet, change the way you dress, learn a new language, etc. Having the ability to adapt can help you greatly throughout your life. The world is changing quickly. If you’re an adaptable person, you can keep up. If you’re not, you will be left behind.
- You become more accepting- While living as a digital nomad, you will meet, live with, and work with people who are completely different from you. They may have different religious beliefs, morals, diets, languages, political beliefs, cultures, ways of life, behaviors, etc. You will learn to accept the local people for who they are and live with them. Chances are this experience will open your mind a bit as well. Some preexisting biases may break down.
- You become more patient- In some countries, things move slowly due to bureaucracy and inefficiencies. For example, you might need to gather a stack of documents and visit two different offices in order to apply for a visa extension or open a bank account. Sometimes your internet might go down or the power might go out. You must learn to be patient and roll with the punches.
- You become more courageous- Many people live in fear. You may fear the unknown. You may fear getting robbed or injured. Some countries are dangerous. Maybe you fear being an outsider in a foreign country. Being a digital nomad forces you to face those fears. you’ll try new things and learn to be comfortable in new situations. This helps you conquer your fears.
- You become more confident- When you’re independent, adaptable, and courageous, you’re ready to handle almost any situation that the world throws at you. Knowing that you can handle yourself makes you feel much more confident in your day-to-day life. If you can carve out a life for yourself while working online in a foreign country where you don’t know anybody, you can handle anything.
- You become more interesting- While living as a digital nomad, you will encounter some awkward, scary, dangerous, funny, and unique situations. These situations turn into stories that you’ll be telling for the rest of your life.
Digital Nomad Life is Inspiring
This is important for creative digital nomads such as writers, graphic designers, bloggers, vloggers, photographers, videographers, marketers, and editors. While living and traveling abroad, you’ll see new sites, experience new cultures, meet new people, and learn new things. Travel is inspiring.
This inspiration will show in your work. For example, maybe you learn about a historic event that you had never heard of. This might inspire you to dig deeper and create a beautiful and unique piece of content about it. Something simple like watching a sunset or tasting a new food can also inspire you. Working in a place with a beautiful view can also inspire you.
You Get to Choose How You Work
When you’re a digital nomad, you can work however makes you most productive. If you want to stay up and work until 4 in the morning, you can. If you want to work in 15-minute intervals, you can. You can work in your pajamas. You can work from a desk, on your bed, or on the floor. As long as you get your work done, you can work however you want.
This is great for those who don’t perform well in an office environment. Some people can’t work in an open-concept office. It’s too distracting. Others hate cubicles. When you’re a digital nomad, you can choose your own work environment.
Digital Nomad Life is Full of Adventure
Most digital nomads move to a new country several times per year. Every time you move, everything feels fresh and new. You’ll meet new people, see new sites, learn new words in the local language, taste new foods, and pick up new knowledge and skills. You’ll also encounter unusual situations, experience challenges, and maybe even face some danger. It’s an adventure.
Once you’re settled into your new home, you get to explore. After finishing your work for the day, you can walk outside and have an adventure. You could walk to the beach and go surfing or watch the sunset. You could take a stroll through a historic part of the city and do some site seeing. It’s like having a vacation every day.
One of the biggest advantages of having these little adventures is that time seems to move more slowly. Spending a year living as a digital nomad can feel like a significant portion of your life when looking back. When you live in one place, you develop a routine and time seems to fly by. A decade can pass in the blink of an eye. By living an adventurous lifestyle full of new experiences, your life will feel longer and more fulfilling.
You’ll Experience Different Cultures
While living as a digital nomad, you’ll experience different cultures around the world. This will expand your horizons and teach you how others live. You may even decide to integrate some aspects of the local culture into your own life.
Culture is a broad term. Food, art, holidays, clothing, history, architecture, literature, laws, music, religion, traditions, economics, politics, habits, morals, customs, achievements, and values are all considered culture. The best way to experience a country’s culture is to go immerse yourself in it.
Some digital nomads choose which country they want to travel to and live in next based on some aspect of the culture. For example, maybe you love Japanese animation and food and you want to learn to speak Japanese. You might decide to go live in Tokyo for a couple of months. Maybe your family is of Irish descent. You might choose to spend a few months living in Dublin to reconnect with the culture of your ancestors.
Becoming a Digital Nomad Forces you to Simplify your Life
When you’re constantly traveling, it doesn’t make sense to own a bunch of furniture, clothes, knick-knacks, and a vehicle. Rather than storing a bunch of stuff, most digital nomads sell off their valuable items and give the rest away. They may store a couple of boxes at a friend or family member’s house.
Getting rid of a bunch of stuff really simplifies your life. There is no stuff tying you down. It can feel incredibly freeing to get rid of all of the unnecessary junk you’ve hoarded over the years. When you live out of your backpack, you can move at a moment’s notice. You’ll save money too. You won’t have a car payment, storage locker payment, or insurance expense for your stuff. Most stuff is replaceable. If and when you decide to settle down, you can buy new stuff.
Cons of Being a Digital Nomad
The digital nomad lifestyle certainly isn’t for everyone. In fact, it can be a particularly challenging lifestyle. In this section, I’ll outline the main drawbacks of being a digital nomad.
Digital Nomad Life is Lonely
Digital nomads spend most of their time working alone. For 6-8 hours per day, you’ll be sitting in front of your computer writing, editing, coding, or doing some other type of solitary work. You won’t be in an office interacting with others.
As you can imagine, it gets lonely. The only human interaction you may have is sitting in on meetings over video, responding to emails, talking on the phone, and chatting to friends on social media. This type of interaction is not very fulfilling. It feels very impersonal.
While you’re not working, you’ll also spend a great deal of time alone. You will eat alone, sleep alone, and travel alone. Friends tend to come and go when you’re a digital nomad. Your digital nomad friends will be moving around just like you. You will leave your local friends behind every time you move to a different country. When you arrive in a new place, you might not have any friends at all. Your family will be thousands of miles away.
You will experience loneliness at times when you’re a digital nomad. In order to be a happy and successful nomad, it helps to be a solitary person. If you’re the kind of person who needs constant social interaction, you will struggle with loneliness.
There are a few ways digital nomads can reduce the loneliness. You can:
- Join the expat/digital nomad community- If you’re living in a city with a large expat or digital nomad population, you can involve yourself by joining online groups and attending events. You can search for these events online. Most cities have an expat or digital nomad Facebook group that you can join. This is a great way to meet fellow nomads. You can also find groups on websites such as Meetup.com and Couchsurfing.
- Work at a co-working space- These are great places to meet fellow digital nomads. Part of the reason people work at these places is to network and meet other nomads. Some co-working spaces also host parties and events to help nomads meet with one another, mingle, and network.
- Go on a date- One of my favorite things to do when I arrive in a new city is to try my luck at online dating. This is a great way to make local friends. Who knows, you might even meet the love of your life. At the very least, you’ll have an interesting night out and a cultural experience. You might also make a new friend.
- Strike up a conversation with a random person- If you’re an outgoing and friendly person, you can talk to people in cafes, bars, parks, markets, buses, and wherever else you go.
- Stay in a hostel- Hostels are great places to meet people. You can strike up a conversation with your dorm mates or chat with travelers in the common areas. Many hostels also host parties and events. The hostel bar is also a great place to meet people. The drawback to staying in a hostel is that it can be difficult to get your work done. When I arrive in a new city, I like to stay in a social hostel for a few days so I can socialize a bit and make some friends. Later, I move to a longer-term accommodation like an Airbnb or apartment.
- Take a group tour- Sign up for a day trip to a nearby attraction. Join a free walking tour. Chances are, you’ll make friends with someone in the group.
- Take a class- You could sign up for some kind of class such as a cooking class, language class, dance lessons, surfing lessons, etc. You can make friends with the other students.
- Work at a coffee shop- Working alone all day feels isolating. Instead, go somewhere where there will be people around. Even if you don’t interact with anyone, you’ll feel less lonely if there are people around you. If you visit the same coffee shop frequently, you may become friendly with the employees.
- Stay in a co-living space- These are kind of like hostels for digital nomads and remote workers. They offer medium-term to long-term accommodation in dorm rooms. Usually, there is also a co-working space attached. People stay in co-living spaces specifically to meet other nomads.
For some more ideas, check out my guide: How to Meet People While Traveling.
It’s important to note that not all digital nomads are lonely. Some people nomad with their significant other, family, or friends. This isn’t possible for most people but it can work out well for some.
Digital nomads often work long hours
When fantasizing about the digital nomad lifestyle, you may imagine a life of leisure. Maybe you imagine yourself spending a few hours working on your computer in a cozy cafe and then going out to explore the city. Maybe you imagine yourself traveling nonstop, like a backpacker. You might expect to sit around sipping fruity drinks by the beach all day.
In reality, you’ll most likely be spending 6-8+ hours per day working. Chances are, you will work nights and weekends. In fact, most digital nomads spend more time working than they would if they had a regular job back home. This is kind of a secret of digital nomad life. It takes a great deal of time and dedication to build a successful career as a digital nomad. If you own your own business, you’ll work even more.
Most of the time, you won’t be working in a beautiful or cozy location. You’ll be sitting in a small hotel room, at the kitchen table in your Airbnb, or at a small desk in a co-working space. You usually won’t have a view of a pool, beach, or mountain.
After working, you may not feel like going out sightseeing. You’ll feel too tired. Sometimes you’ll want to go out but you have too much work to do. I’ve spent plenty of Friday nights on my computer when all I wanted to do was go out for a drink. Sometimes I want to go sightseeing after finishing work but I have to do laundry, go grocery shopping, book flight, etc. Some nomads have a hard time staying productive. They need to work more hours to get their work done.
Established digital nomads who own successful online businesses often work much less. There are a number of ways to reduce the number of hours you have to work. If you own some kind of content creation business, you can hire employees to help you out. This can save you a great deal of time without sacrificing your business. You can also charge more for your services as you gain experience. If you’re working for someone else, you can demand a higher salary and fewer hours as you become more experienced. If you properly invest your money, you may be able to become financially independent.
It can take a long time to establish yourself and get started as a digital nomad
Most remote jobs are not entry-level. In most cases, you’ll need to develop some skills before you can score a remote gig. It may take a couple of years to develop the necessary skills to find remote work. In some fields, you’ll need to have several years of experience before you will be considered for a remote position.
If you’re starting an online business, it will take some time for the business to become profitable. Exactly how long this will take depends on what kind of business you’re starting. If you’re starting from scratch, it could take anywhere from a few months to 3 or more years before you start earning enough money to afford to live and travel full time. Some businesses don’t succeed. You may never become profitable. If you fail, you’ll have to try again.
Before becoming a digital nomad, you may have to pick up some relevant skills. You may have to learn how to write, code, take photos and videos, edit, use a new piece of software, or simply work on your own. These skills take time to develop. You may need to spend several months to several years studying before you’re prepared to work as a digital nomad.
For those who are starting a website or YouTube channel, it will take time to gain a following. If you’re starting a freelance business, it will take time to build up a portfolio of work and find clients. If looking for a remote job, it will take time to actually find a job that allows you to work and travel.
For example, I started this blog in October of 2017 with zero knowledge of blogging, websites, WordPress, online advertising, internet marketing, etc. Having to learn everything as I went slowed me down. I also faced some setbacks and made some mistakes along the way.
When I started the blog, I was working another job and blogging in my spare time. When the blog started earning a bit of money, I supplemented my income with some savings. This blog didn’t start earning enough money for me to live and travel on until around mid-2020. That means it took me 2 ½ years to officially become a digital nomad after I first started.
Of course, there are some exceptions. If you already work remotely, you may be able to pack up and start the digital nomad life right away. Maybe you already have the skills and a solid portfolio of work to become a freelance photographer, writer, editor, programmer, etc. In this case, you might be able to build up a solid business in just a couple of months. Sometimes a YouTube channel or blog goes viral and starts bringing in money quickly. Every digital nomad’s journey is different. How long it will take you to get started depends on how you plan to make money.
You Will Miss Your Friends and Family and your Home
While living as a digital nomad, you may only get to visit home once or twice per year due to the high cost of airfare. A round-trip flight to the other side of the world costs $1500-$2000+. Most nomads can’t afford to take multiple intercontinental flights per year.
The travel time is difficult too. Spending 24 or more hours in transit is exhausting and hard on your body. You probably won’t want to fly home every couple of months, even if you can afford it.
As a result, most nomads only go home every year or two. Some nomads go years without returning home. When you’re a digital nomad, you will miss your friends and family and your relationships will suffer. You may also feel homesick at times. There is no avoiding it.
Before you leave home, your friends and family members may talk about coming to visit you someday. This is unlikely to happen. Most people can’t afford to drop everything, take time off work, and fly across the world to visit you. If you want to see your friends and family, you’ll have to fly to them.
If you need to visit home more than once per year, you still can be a digital nomad. You just might need to stay a little closer to home. Consider nomading in a country near your home country. For example, if you’re an American or Canadian digital nomad, you could live in Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean instead of Europe or Asia. If you’re an Australian nomad, you might consider living in Southeast Asia instead of Europe or Latin America. If you’re a European nomad, you could live in Eastern Europe, or parts of the Middle East or Africa. You can visit friends and family more often if you can fly home in 3-6 hours instead of 12-24.
Of course, you can also digital nomad in your home country. This is a great option for nomads that come from a large country like the U.S, Canada, or Australia. These days, van life is a popular option for digital nomads. For more info, check out my guide to the pros and cons of van life.
You will miss major events in your friend’s and family’s lives
When you live a digital nomad lifestyle, you will miss major life events of your friends and family such as weddings, childbirths, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras, graduations, and funerals. You’ll also miss more minor events such as birthdays, holidays, family get-togethers, and random nights out.
You also won’t get to see the children in your life grow up. Your nephew might be a little kid when you leave and a teenager when you see him again. Kids grow up quickly. Elderly family members will pass away while you’re gone.
With the cost of airfare, most digital nomads can only afford to fly home once or twice per year. Sometimes even less frequently. You can’t fly home for every one of these events. It’s just too expensive and time-consuming.
If you have a large family or friend group back home, this can be difficult. People remember and talk about major life events for the rest of their lives. You will miss out on being part of the experience and miss out on making memories with your loved ones. You won’t be in the photos and you won’t be part of their memories.
Years down the road your friends might reminisce about a wedding they all attended and you missed. You’ll feel left out and saddened by missing out on the experience. They will too. Some people might even get upset with you for missing major events in their lives. Missing an important event in someone’s life can put a strain on friendships. For example, if you miss your best friend’s wedding, they may never forgive you.
Of course, this goes both ways. Your friends and families will miss out on major events that happen in your life while you’re living abroad. For example, maybe down the road, you end up getting married and having a child abroad. Some of your friends and family won’t make it for the wedding or the birth.
Your Monthly Expenses and Income May Vary
The cost of living varies greatly by country and region. Accommodation, food, transport, and entertainment costs are different in every country. You may be able to live comfortably on $1000 per month in Turkey. If you decide to cross the border into Greece, your monthly living expenses might increase to $1500. If you catch a flight to France next, your expenses might increase to $2000 per month.
You need to be able to adjust your budget as the cost of living changes from one country to the next. This takes some getting used to. You might feel rich in one country and poor in the next. If you’re unable to adapt to changes in pricing, you’ll struggle to maintain a budget. You can easily run out of money if you can’t budget.
You might also have additional expenses to deal with in some months. For example, in months where you fly from one destination to the next, you might have a $1000 plane ticket on your credit card. You’ll have to absorb this extra expense into your budget. If you travel from a warm climate to a cold climate, you might have to buy a jacket, boots, and gloves. You need to be able to anticipate extra expenses and plan ahead for them. Sometimes you have to be frugal so you can afford a major expense.
If you own your own business, your monthly income may vary as well. A number of factors can change your income. If you’re a freelancer, your income depends on the number of jobs you’re able to accept and complete. If you have an unproductive month, you won’t earn as much money. Some businesses are seasonal. For example, traffic to this website decreases during the winter months so my income declines. An algorithm update could also hurt your business if you make your living from affiliate marketing or advertising with a website or on social media. You might earn $4000 one month then $2500 the next then $6000 the next month. You must be able to budget for changes in income from month to month. Of course, if you work for an employer and receive a salary, you don’t have to worry about this.
The change in monthly expenses and income can make it difficult to budget. When you move to a new city or country, you don’t know how much you’ll need to get by. You also don’t know exactly how much money you’ll have coming in several months down the road.
The best solution is to have an emergency fund. While living as a digital nomad, you should have enough money in your savings to sustain yourself for at least 3-6 months if your income dries up. You should also have enough money to buy yourself a plane ticket home if the worst comes to worst.
You also need to have a plan if digital nomad life doesn’t work for you for whatever reason. For example, you should have enough money to return home and establish yourself. You’ll have to learn to budget when you’re a digital nomad. If you’re not very good with your finances, you may struggle.
For help budgeting, check out my guide: How to Create a Budget for Long-Term Travel.
Relationships With Your Friends and Family Can Suffer While You’re Away
Most digital nomads can only afford to visit home 1-2 times per year. This means you may only get to spend time with your friends and family members for a few days per year. When you’re not seeing your friends and family regularly, you naturally drift apart. After all, relationships need maintenance. You will lose some friends from this lack of contact. I’ve lost some good friends because I didn’t put in the effort to keep in touch.
You might think that you’ll just keep in contact through text and phone calls and video calls. This works fine for a while but also comes with challenges. The time difference can make it difficult to keep in regular contact with friends and family. If you’re living on opposite sides of the earth, you might just be waking up when they’re getting ready for bed. There are a limited number of hours that you’re both awake and available each day. You can’t just call them up whenever you want.
If you decide to move back home after spending a few years abroad, you may find that you and your friends have grown apart. They might have moved on without you. Their lives went one way and yours went another. You might not have anything in common anymore. For example, maybe you were both single when you left and now your friends are married and have children. Maybe they’ve developed a career that occupies all of their time. Maybe your interests have simply changed. Chances are, you will lose some friends when you become a digital nomad.
You can drift apart from your family as well. If you’re never home, they may stop inviting you to family gatherings and events because they assume you can’t attend. You may simply grow apart from them.
You Won’t Travel as Much as You Think You Will
When you’re a digital nomad, you can’t move around quite as frequently as you can when you’re just backpacking. This is the case because you have to work most days. Moving around throws off your routine. It’s also difficult to work when you’re moving around.
During travel days, you probably can’t complete a full day’s worth of work. These are wasted days. The first few days after you arrive in a new city, you won’t be as productive. You’ll be busy getting yourself established in a new city. You might have to go grocery shopping, get a new sim card, and run some other errands. It also takes time to find a long-term place to stay and settle in. Moving too much greatly reduces your productivity.
You’ll also feel tired after a full day of work. You won’t feel like going out site seeing or packing up and moving. Sometimes, you’ll just want to rest. There are also day-to-day tasks that you have to complete. You might have to cook and do laundry on top of working. You won’t have time for sightseeing after doing your chores.
It also takes a lot of time to plan your moves. You have to book accommodation in each city and figure out transportation to the next destination. You also have to research what you’re going to do. It takes a full day of planning every time you move to a new city.
Many digital nomads end up settling down in one city for a month or more at a time and only move a few times per year. There is nothing wrong with this. It’s just a different type of travel experience. You get to explore each city more deeply when you stay there for months. The drawback is that you don’t get to see quite as much.
Being a Digital Nomad Can Make you Unrelatable to Friends and Family
People back home won’t understand why you live abroad and travel all of the time. They may think you’re weird or that there is something wrong with you. Some people will think that you’re lazy. In their mind, you’re on vacation all of the time. Some people may even think you’re running from something.
Most people live a traditional life. They simply don’t understand those who want to live an alternative lifestyle. Friends and family will comment about your odd lifestyle. They will question your motivations and life choices. Some may even show anger toward you. They’ll ask why you don’t stay in your home country or buy a home or have children. They may even pity you because you don’t have a permanent home or a family.
You won’t be able to change these people’s minds or make them understand. You’ll just have to live with some people thinking you’re strange. If you care what other people think about you, you may find the digital nomad lifestyle to be challenging.
Another issue you’ll face is that people won’t understand how you make a living. Some people simply won’t believe that you make money online without having a traditional job that you go to every day. Some of your friends and family may consider you unemployed. People may assume that you have a trust fund or come from money. Some people won’t take you seriously. They may assume that you’re incompetent, lazy, or incapable of holding down a job.
I have encountered this many times. For example, my dad regularly suggests jobs that I could apply for. My best friend’s parents tried to set me up on an interview when I was in town a couple of years back. A girl I was dating suggested that I go look for a day job and do my ‘online thing’ in the evenings. I find it particularly infuriating because I’ve worked hard to build an online business. Some people simply can’t understand that I earn enough money online that I don’t need to work a traditional day job.
The digital nomad lifestyle can make you unrelatable to your friends and family. Some people simply can’t wrap their heads around it. They can’t imagine living in a foreign country or traveling long term. They can’t imagine not working a traditional job. Your relationships may suffer as a result.
The best thing you can do is respect everyone else’s chosen lifestyle and hope that they respect yours. A Digital nomad lifestyle and a traditional lifestyle are both perfectly valid choices. Both can bring happiness and fulfillment. Everyone has different values, needs, and motivations.
It’s Difficult to Manage Your Time and Remain Productive While Avoiding Getting Burnt Out
This is a problem many new digital nomads face. While starting out, you may want to sightsee every day and go out every night, like you’re on vacation. At the same time, you need to work long hours every day. It’s hard to balance traveling and working.
Many digital nomads end up either neglecting their work or spending all of their time working. Some end up working and traveling too hard burning out. Some digital nomads are not able to stay disciplined and end up slacking off and failing. It’s tempting to spend all of your time enjoying yourself.
When I started working as a digital nomad, all I wanted to do was work all day every day. I felt that I had to. My fear was that my business would fail if I wasn’t constantly working. I rarely took time off to enjoy myself.
By working too much, I was defeating the purpose of being a digital nomad. I might as well have been living in a cave. Over time, I learned how to manage my time better. These days, I give myself a quota of work that I must complete. When I’m done, I’m free to explore or continue working.
In order to be a successful digital nomad, you must learn how to prioritize your time and remain productive. You also have to learn how to take time off to enjoy yourself.
A few tips to help you remain productive and avoid burning out include:
- Make yourself a minimum quota of work that you need to get done every day- This ensures that you remain productive. For example, if you’re a writer you might set a minimum word count per day. I try to write 1000 words per day. Alternatively, you might set yourself a series of tasks that you must complete each day. Once you reach your minimum, you’re free to go enjoy yourself. If you want to keep working, you can.
- Develop a routine- Sticking to a routine helps you manage your time because you always know what you’re supposed to be doing. I like to get most of my work done in the morning take a break then finish up in the afternoon.
- Take breaks- The beauty of being a digital nomad is that you don’t have to work for 8 hours straight. You can divide up your time as you like. This substantially increases productivity. After all, it’s difficult to remain at peak productivity for more than a couple of hours at a time. For example, I work for a couple of hours in the morning and then take a long break for breakfast at around 11 am. After working for a couple more hours, I also take a long break in the late afternoon or early evening. I take small breaks every couple of hours to get a drink or have a snack. I find that I feel refreshed and ready to work after a break. If I try to work through the day, my productivity decreases.
- Give yourself a day off- Many digital nomads work 7 days per week. To reduce the likelihood of burnout, it can be helpful to take one day off per week. I sometimes take Saturday or Sunday off.
- Reward yourself- Once you reach a milestone in your work, treat yourself. For example, you could buy yourself a new piece of equipment that makes your job easier after you reach a certain level of income. You could treat yourself to a fancy meal after finishing a particularly challenging project. This reward gives you an incentive to keep working.
When you’re a digital nomad, you can travel slowly. You don’t need to rush through every city you visit. Spend a few weeks or a few months. You have plenty of time to explore your new city.
You may Become a Worse Person While Being a Digital Nomad
Many digital nomads like to claim that living this lifestyle made them a better person or helped them grow. While this can be true, the opposite can also be true. Being a digital nomad makes many people worse.
Some digital nomads become pretentious. Just because they’ve traveled extensively and lived abroad, they act like they’re more cultured and better than others who aren’t as well-traveled. Constantly talking about the places you’ve been gets annoying.
Some digital nomads also like to exaggerate their knowledge of history and current events, their talent, and their income. Some also brag about the number of countries they’ve visited or lived in. These people are the worst.
Some digital nomads simply become eccentric. After living abroad for years, they pick up strange quirks and habits. They may integrate different parts of different cultures into their lives. Other people may find this behavior odd. This can be off-putting.
Some digital nomads completely change themselves. For example, I met an American digital nomad who changed his accent to some sort of bizarre fake European accent while living in Switzerland. He just sounded weird. Other digital nomads change the way they dress or change their diet. It’s good to make an effort to fit in but you don’t have to change yourself completely.
Some digital nomads also become reclusive. This is a common response of those who don’t fit into the local culture. If you don’t attempt to integrate somewhat, you might start only associating with other foreigners. You might just spend all of your time at home.
There are some places where you can’t work as a digital nomad
Digital nomads need a decent internet connection in order to get their work done. In some places, the internet is just too slow or unreliable. The infrastructure isn’t quite up to par.
For example, if you work with large files, you may have trouble downloading or uploading them. If you have a slow connection, it may take days to access or share the files you need. This is unacceptable. If you need to have meetings for your job, you need a stable internet connection so your calls don’t drop all the time. If you’re constantly freezing up and dropping out of video calls, you’ll struggle.
I have a friend who makes travel videos. While traveling from Cairo to Cape Town he often had trouble finding a fast enough internet connection to upload his videos. Sometimes he’d have to wait a couple of weeks until he could find a decent connection. This was an issue for his work.
While I was traveling in Ethiopia a few years back, the internet went out and stayed out for about 3 days. I learned that the government decided to shut the internet down during university finals to prevent students from cheating. Seems like an absurd solution to the problem but that’s what they did. For digital nomad jobs, losing internet for that long is unacceptable. Luckily, I wasn’t a digital nomad at the time. I was just traveling.
These days, the internet is available pretty much everywhere. There are a few places where it can be difficult to get a connection. While working as a digital nomad, you may not be able to travel to these types of places.
For example, some small villages and island communities don’t have 24 hour electricity. This means there may be limited internet or no internet at all. For example, while visiting the Omo Valley of Ethiopia, I went without WiFi for 9 days. In some extremely rural areas, satellite internet is your only option. In some developing countries, WiFi is uncommon. You’ll have to use mobile internet instead. This can be too slow or expensive. This is a common problem in many African cities. Of course, many remote places don’t have internet either. You can’t get any work done while you’re camping or going on a multi-day hike.
In a handful of countries, the internet is blocked or censored. Some websites and applications that you need to use in order to perform your job may not be accessible. For example, the internet is restricted in China, Cuba, and Iran. In most cases, you can get around restrictions by using a VPN (virtual private network). Doing this may be illegal.
Time zones can make scheduling your work difficult
If you work for a company as a remote worker, you may need to be online at specific times to participate in meetings or just to do your job. This can be a challenge if you’re living in a completely different time zone from the company you work for.
For example, if you live as a digital nomad in the Philippines but your company is located in San Francisco, you’ll have to deal with a 15 hour time difference. If you have a meeting at 10 am San Francisco time, you’ll have to be online at 1 am in the Philippines. As you can imagine, this can be a major inconvenience. Particularly if you have daily meetings you must attend. You’ll have to adjust your life around your work. This could mean staying up all night working and sleeping during the day.
You can solve this issue by living and traveling in regions with similar time zones. For example, if your company is located in San Francisco, you may choose to live in Latin America or the Caribbean. Dealing with a 1-3 hour time difference is much easier than a 12-15 hour difference.
Of course, if you work as a freelancer or own your own business, you don’t have to deal with this. You can work whenever you want. Some employers also don’t care when their remote employees work as long as their work gets done. Some employers offer a flexible schedule for remote workers.
You can also use the time difference to your advantage. Maybe you’re not a morning person. You can pick a time zone that suits you. For example, if you have to start work at 9:00 am pacific time, you could move to Buenos Aires and start work at 1:00 pm. Alternatively, you could move to Europe and start work at 5:00 pm and work all night if you’re a night owl.
Not Everyone Can be a Digital Nomad
This lifestyle simply isn’t for everyone. Some people do not have the ability to work on their own. They need the motivation of a team or the direction of a boss in order to get things done. If you are not a good independent worker, you probably will not be a successful digital nomad. Remember, there is no one there to tell you what to do. You have to motivate yourself to get your work done. If you can’t, you’ll fail.
Also, there are a limited number of digital nomad jobs available. Not every job can be done remotely. Society wouldn’t work if everyone wanted to be a digital nomad. Most jobs require you to be on-site in order to perform. For example, you can’t be a digital nomad plumber, electrician, welder, cook, or bartender. If you work a job that requires manual labor but want to become a digital nomad, you’ll have to learn a whole new skill set.
Some people simply don’t enjoy the digital nomad life. Constantly moving around can get exhausting. Not knowing where you’re going to sleep the next month is anxiety-inducing. Some people need more stability in their lives to function.
You’ll Always Be an Outsider When You’re a Digital Nomad
In most countries, it’s impossible to completely integrate into society. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived there or how hard you try. You will always be considered a foreigner and outsider. You will never become fluent in the language. In addition, you will never completely understand the culture. In some places, you may also never look like a local due to your features and the color of your skin. This can feel discouraging.
How much this affects you depends on which country you’re living in. This feeling of being an outsider is worse when you move to a country that is very ethnically homogeneous and different from your own culturally. When you look, talk, or act differently, people treat you differently. Even if they don’t mean to.
There are exceptions to this. When you move to a country that is very diverse and multicultural, you can blend in much more easily because everyone is from a different part of the world. For example, anyone can blend in and become a local in large cities in the U.S, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc. There are people from all over the world living in these cities. Nobody knows who is a local and who is a foreigner.
The same is true if you’re living somewhere that is very similar to your home country. For example, it would be easy for a British digital nomad to blend in and be accepted as a local in Australia because both countries are similar culturally.
Some digital nomads end up feeling like an outsider when they go home. This is known as reverse culture shock. It also feels strange being a visitor in your home country. At times, you may feel like you don’t really have a home. Like you don’t belong anywhere. This is a depressing feeling to have.
There are a few ways to make yourself feel a bit more at home. You can bring some small framed photos to set on your desk. You can unpack your clothes so you’re not living out of your luggage. It can also help to pack some comfort items from home. For example, you could bring your favorite slippers or pajamas.
It’s Hard to Make Life Plans When You’re a Digital Nomad
Digital nomad life is unpredictable. You never know where you’ll be living 6 months or a year down the road. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, visas limit where you can stay and for how long. When your visa expires, you have to move on.
Digital nomads are also spontaneous people. They move around as they please. For example, you might also meet someone and change your plans so you can spend time with them. Maybe you grow tired of one region and decide to fly to the other side of the world.
Living this unpredictable lifestyle makes it difficult to make plans for the future. For example, maybe you want to plan a trip home to visit. You may not be sure which airport to fly out of. Maybe you plan to start exercising more. It’s difficult to maintain an exercise routine when you’re constantly moving around. Maybe you want to get married and start a family. Finding someone who is happy with the nomad life will be a challenge.
The good news is that digital nomad life is not permanent. If you want to, you can settle down for a while or permanently.
Making Friends is Hard
Most friendships you make as a digital nomad will be short-lived. You might meet some fellow nomads, travelers, or expats and hang out with them for a few days or weeks. Eventually, you or your new friends will move on and go in separate directions. Because both you and other nomads are constantly moving, it’s hard to form long-term friendships.
The language barrier makes it difficult to make local friends. If the locals speak basic English and you know a few words and phrases in their language, you can’t really form a meaningful friendship. Most of us can’t simply pick up a language after arriving in a new country.
You don’t automatically pick up a language if you’re immersed in it. You have to put in an effort. It takes years of intense study and practice to become fluent in a language. Some people simply aren’t capable of learning a language. If you’re only planning to stay somewhere for a month or so, it doesn’t make sense to learn more than the basics. You’ll be ready to leave by the time you speak at an intermediate level.
Another issue is that the friendships you form will be surface-level. When you meet another digital nomad, you’ll talk about how long you’re there, where you’ve been, where you’re going next, the work you do, etc. Nomads talk about the same things over and over. It gets tiring. Locals will ask you similar questions. Where are you from? What are you doing here? etc.
Digital Nomad Life Can be Stressful
When you’re a digital nomad, your whole life gets uprooted every few weeks or months. Every time you move on to a different city or country, you will experience some stress. You might end up running late for your flight or forget something in your hotel room. When you arrive, you might have trouble finding your way around your new city. You’ll constantly struggle with a language barrier. When traveling short term, these situations are manageable. When living this lifestyle long-term, the stress can get to you.
Sometimes you don’t know where your next bed will be. Your visa might only have a few days of validity left. You might have to scramble to book a ticket to the next country. During this time, you’ll have to research different destinations and plan where you’re going to stay. If you don’t plan properly, you might find yourself arriving in a new city without any plans at all. You might not know where to stay or what to do.
Your finances can cause stress as well. Maybe you were forced to pay for an expensive last-minute ticket and Airbnb that killed your budget. For the next month, you might have to be extremely frugal to make up for overspending. Maybe your business is seasonal. During the off-season, you might have to be extra frugal to make it through.
The stress can be minimized by planning. If you know exactly where you’re going next and where you’re going to stay, you can relax a bit. It also helps to arrive at the airport or bus station extra early and plan for delays on travel days.
Ideally, I like to plan at least a month ahead. I can usually get a good deal if I book flights and accommodation a month out. It’s also nice knowing where I’m going to be. It brings peace of mind.
There are Some Additional Expenses You’ll Have to Deal with While Being a Digital Nomad
As mentioned earlier, the digital nomad lifestyle is often cheaper than living in your home country. That said, there are some additional expenses that can come up that you’ll have to account for when making your budget. Sometimes unexpected expenses come up.
First, you’ll have to budget for flights. Chances are, you’ll want to fly home to visit friends and family at least once or twice per year. A round-trip transcontinental ticket could set you back $1000-$3000 depending on where you’re living and where you’re from.
You can reduce your flight expense by living close to your home country. For example, if you’re from the U.S. but you live as a digital nomad in Mexico, your flights home might only cost a few hundred dollars per year. This is much more manageable.
You’ll also need to buy tickets to travel between cities and countries. Remember, digital nomads move around. They are nomadic. You’ll have to budget for flights, bus tickets, and train tickets. A bus or train ticket to the next country might cost $20-$100 depending on the region you’re traveling in. A regional flight might cost $100-$300. Once in a while, you may want to fly to another part of the world. A one-way transcontinental ticket could cost $500-$1500.
You can reduce your transportation cost by staying in the same place for longer periods of time. Instead of moving every couple of weeks, move every couple of months. Consider staying in the same place for a full year with a digital nomad visa. This makes it much easier to budget. Nomads who only move a few times per year are known as ‘slowmads.’
You’ll also need to consider visa expenses. The cost of visas depends on which passport you hold and which countries you live in. Some visas are free and some cost hundreds of dollars. In order to work in some countries, you may have to apply for a digital nomad visa or residency permit. These often cost more than a standard tourist visa. Chances are you’ll spend at least a few hundred dollars per year on visas while living as a digital nomad. It is possible to eliminate this expense by staying in countries that don’t charge for visas or visa-free countries.
You will probably have to replace some of your work and travel gear more frequently as well. For example, while carrying a laptop, phone, and camera on buses, trains, public transport, and through unfamiliar cities, the chance of theft is higher. Theft at hotels and Airbnbs is more likely than at your home. You’re more exposed to crime. If something gets stolen, you’ll have to replace it.
Carrying fragile electronic devices around in a backpack all of the time also puts more wear and tear on them. If you or a careless baggage handler drops your bag, they could damage your equipment. If you regularly travel in a humid or wet region, you may have to replace your laptop every couple of years. Moisture can cause damage. You’ll want to account for the extra expense of replacing your gear more frequently.
Your clothing also wears out faster because you wear each item more frequently. Most digital nomads only carry a couple of pairs of pants, shorts, 4-5 shirts, a few pair of socks and underwear, and a pair of shoes and sandals. When you’re wearing the same clothes all the time, they wear out quickly. You’re not spreading wear between a closet full of clothes. You have to budget for buying some new clothing every month or so.
Personally, I try to budget $150 per month for gear replacement. This covers electronics and clothing. Most months, I don’t need to replace anything. When I need to buy a new laptop, phone, or pair of jeans, I have room in my budget.
In addition, you’ll want to purchase travel insurance. This could cost anywhere from $20-$100+ per month depending on the company and policy you go with. I like World Nomads travel insurance. For more info, check out my travel insurance page.
You Have to Carry Around Some Expensive and Bulky Equipment
When you’re a digital nomad, you have to carry your office with you. For most nomads, this includes a laptop, smartphone, camera, headphones, keyboard, mouse, laptop stand, mousepad, and external hard drive. You may also need to carry around a number of adapters, outlet converters, cables, and spare batteries as well as protective cases for your fragile items. Some nomads need to carry other gear such as a second laptop, a tablet, an external monitor, multiple cameras and lenses, or an extra phone.
All of this stuff adds a good amount of weight and bulk to your luggage. When you’re a digital nomad, you might need to carry an extra 5-10+ pounds of gear with you. This equipment also takes up a lot of space. You’ll need a larger backpack or suitcase to haul everything around in. The extra weight and bulk makes it a bit more difficult to move from place to place. You’ll need to check your luggage more often.
Your digital nomad gear is also valuable. You may need to carry around $1500-$5000+ worth of equipment when you’re a digital nomad. This can make you a target for thieves. If you lose your luggage with your equipment in it, it will cost you a lot of money to replace everything. You have to be careful about where you travel and where you stay. You need to stay in properties with good security.
Most of your digital nomad gear is also fragile. If you drop your bag with your laptop and other electronics in it, you could cause damage. Water damage is also a possibility if you stay somewhere wet or humid.
When you’re a digital nomad, you need to be careful with your luggage. You can’t just throw your backpack on top of a van or in a cargo hold. You need to plan ahead a bit. This can get annoying if you’re used to traveling without any valuables.
While living as a digital nomad, you will face hardships
The digital nomad lifestyle is not an easy one. There will be a language barrier to deal with. People may discriminate against you based on your race or nationality or simply because you are a foreigner. Some countries are not so accepting of outsiders. You’ll deal with bureaucracy while applying for visas and residency permits and while renting apartments. There is lots of paperwork. You could fall victim to a thief or robber. You’re constantly carrying all of your belongings with you. You may struggle financially at times. Some digital nomad careers are unpredictable. A disease or injury could also occur. You may feel homesick and miss friends and family. Nobody is around to help you out if you fall down. You’re on your own.
These experiences can feel overwhelming at times. If you’re not good at dealing with unusual or stressful situations or if you get overwhelmed easily, digital nomad life may not be for you. It can be a challenging lifestyle. The good news is that all of these experiences build character and make you a stronger person.
Relationships are Difficult When You’re a Digital Nomad
The dating pool for digital nomads is small. Digital nomads aren’t all that common. If you want to date a fellow nomad, the pickings are slim. It is unlikely for you to meet your soul mate in a co-working space. Most people don’t want to travel constantly or simply can’t due to the nature of their work. Most jobs are location-dependent. Long-distance relationships are an option but they rarely work out. As a result, most digital nomads are single. Many date locals wherever they’re living. Some people are fine being single while others get lonely.
If you get to a point in your life where you want to get into a long-term committed relationship and start a family, you may need to end your nomad career. It would be difficult to nomad with a family. People do it but it doesn’t appear to be easy.
Personally, I’m a bit of a loner so I don’t mind it. I do like to go on dates from time to time as I travel. When I arrive in a new city, I’ll try out a few online dating apps. It’s fun to go out with a local and experience the dating culture of a different country. If I were to meet someone and start a long-term relationship, I would consider setting down some roots somewhere and traveling less.
Digital Nomad Life Can be Uncomfortable
Sometimes, you simply can’t find a comfortable place to work. You’re not always going to have an ergonomic office chair and a desk to work at. You just have to make do with what you have. This might be a couch, bed, or a wooden chair at a kitchen table.
Some Airbnbs advertise a ‘dedicated workspace.’ When you arrive, you find a small desk and a rigid plastic chair. Not that comfortable. Oftentimes there is no office chair available. Sometimes, you’ll have to work on the floor or on your bed if there isn’t a table and chair available. I’ve spent many days sitting in bed all day working on my laptop. Sometimes, I have to sit at the kitchen table. These types of setups aren’t great for the back.
You also won’t have access to all of the office accessories you’re used to. For example, you won’t have a 27” monitor or multiple monitors. You have to make do with your small laptop screen. For some jobs, this can be difficult.
There are some ways to improve comfort. You can travel with a laptop stand. This lifts your laptop to eye level so you don’t have to hunch over quite so much to view the screen. Many digital nomads swear by Roost laptop stands. The Roost V3 Laptop Stand is a popular option.
You can also travel with a portable monitor. This gives you some extra screen real estate to work with This ASUS ZenScreen 15.6” 1080P Portable Monitor would be a good option. It’s lightweight, affordable, and connects with a single USB type C cable.
If you use a MacBook, you can use an iPad as a second screen with Sidecar.
You can also use an external keyboard and mouse to improve ergonomics. If your chair isn’t comfortable, you can sit on a pillow for some padding. If you need a proper desk and office chair, you can work in a co-working space.
Some digital nomads end up living a less comfortable and lower quality of life than they could have at home. This is particularly common among digital nomads with low income. These nomads may end up renting a small room in a dilapidated old apartment complex in a dangerous part of town for $150 per month. They may share a bathroom and have no kitchen. They eat cheap food, rarely go out, and live a basic lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with this lifestyle. It’s just not comfortable for most.
One of the main benefits of living as a digital nomad is that you can have a better quality of life while spending less money. If you’re not earning enough money and you have to lower your standard of living, you’re kind of defeating the purpose. You might as well stay home where you can most likely earn more money.
When moving from a developed country to a developing country, you also give up some comforts. Your standard of living may decrease. For example, fewer public services may be available to you. Infrastructure may be worse than you’re used to. Utility services may be less reliable. The city might not be as safe, clean, or politically stable as you’re used to. The internet may be slow. Healthcare may be worse. Public transportation may be poor or nonexistent. All of these things can cause discomfort and lower your quality of life. Living in a developing country is usually less convenient.
The act of moving is also uncomfortable as well. You have to pack all of your belongings up and carry your heavy bags from one destination to the next. You then have to sit on a bus, plane, or train for hours on end. You’ll often depart or arrive at odd hours. You might miss a night of sleep. Moving can be stressful too if you’re running late or have a short layover. The lifestyle is unstable and unpredictable. Digital nomad life is often uncomfortable.
Saying Goodbye is Hard
After living in a city for a few months, you grow attached to it. You develop a routine and you make friends. You might start to feel settled and comfortable. Once your visa runs out, you have to uproot your life and move on.
Being forced to leave a place you love is depressing. You’ll miss your new friends, favorite coffee shop, and your old apartment. This feeling of loss can last for weeks until you start getting used to your new home in another city.
Saying goodbye to your new friends is particularly difficult. You never know when or even if you’ll see them again. Chances are, you’ll both move on and grow apart. Once in a while, you may make a lasting friendship and meet up again years down the road. Regardless, saying goodbye is always hard.
There are Lots of Little Annoying Jobs You Have to Do When You’re a Digital Nomad
When you move from one city to the next, you’ll have to spend time researching your next destination, applying for a visa, booking tickets, and finding a place to stay in the city. It takes time to research and price everything out. You’ll also spend time researching things that you want to do and see in each country you visit. I estimate that I spend about a full day of planning every time I move to a new city.
You’ll also have to pack and unpack your belongings every time you move. Once or twice per year, you have to plan a trip home. On top of that, you’ll have to do day-to-day chores such as cooking and cleaning.
Simple day-to-day tasks are also more difficult when you’re a digital nomad. Once you arrive in a new country, you may have to spend time finding a new gym, grocery store, laundromat, barber shop, favorite restaurant and bar, etc. You won’t have your regular places to go to. Every time you want to go somewhere, you’ll have to check the map to see how to get there. You’ll have to learn how to get around Every public transit system works differently.
If you rent an apartment, you may have to transfer the water and electricity bills into your name and set up internet. You may need to buy a new sim card and get a local number. There will be a language barrier to deal with. You’ll also have to deal with learning local customs. You don’t want to accidentally offend someone. All of these little jobs take time. This is time you can’t spend working.
Your Finances Can Suffer When You’re a Digital Nomad
Most digital nomads don’t earn that much money. Particularly when they’re just starting out. Many only earn $12,000-$24,000 per year or around $1000-$2000 per month when they first move abroad. This is enough to get by on in many countries in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe but money can still be tight. There isn’t much margin for error.
The problem is that there are lots of little unexpected expenses that pop up. For example, you’ll have to pay for flights, visas, visiting family, moving expenses, replacement gear, etc. This level of income is also not enough to save for a home or retirement. Almost all of your money will go toward travel and living expenses. You’ll be living paycheck to paycheck. If you live this way short-term while you’re establishing yourself and building your business, it’s fine. If you live this way long-term, you’ll end up falling behind financially.
A trap that some digital nomads fall into is that they kind of slack off once they start earning enough money to live on. They basically decide that they’ve achieved their goal of becoming a digital nomad and work just enough to maintain their basic lifestyle. These people can fall behind financially as well. It’s easy to get too comfortable.
Before you start living as a digital nomad, you’ll want to take some time to consider your finances. You should have at least $5,000-$10,000 saved up as an emergency fund in case something goes wrong and you need to return home and find another job. Ideally, you should be able to save at least $500 per month to invest for retirement. To live comfortably long-term as a digital nomad, you should earn a minimum of around $2500 per month or $30,000 per year. This level of income will give you some stability.
There is also the opportunity cost to consider. If you quit a $100,000 per year job and take a $60,000 per year remote job, becoming a digital nomad is costing you $40,000 per year. Even if you stay with the same company, you might earn less when you work remotely. Many companies adjust the salary according to the cost of living for their remote employees. This way, those who live in a low cost of living area earn less than those who live in a high cost of living area. Is this worth it? Chances are you can earn more working a location-dependent job in your home country.
If you quit your job to start your own online business, you’re taking a big risk. In the beginning, you’ll be earning even less. You might not make any money at all for months or even years. Your business might simply fail. This could cost you big time. Of course, you will gain some valuable experience from this.
You might also want to factor in career opportunities you’re passing up on. In order to become a digital nomad, you might have to take a job outside of your field. If you do this, you’ll probably earn less. Your career could also stagnate.
If you decide to come home after a few years, you might have trouble finding a job in your field if you have unrelated work experience on your resume. This could cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run.
Some promotions also aren’t available for remote employees. You might be passed up because you’re out of the country. This can also cost you.
Digital Nomads Have a Stigma in Some Parts of the World
Some people will think you’re lazy for sitting around on your computer all day. Some people will think that you’re some kind of bum or drifter because you constantly move from place to place. People might not want to get too close to you because they know you’ll be moving soon.
In some developing countries, locals don’t like digital nomads because they raise the cost of living. This happens because digital nomads often earn a higher than average salary. They can afford to spend more than locals. When digital nomads come in and spend more on goods and services, prices increase for everyone.
For example, for a digital nomad, paying $1000 per month for rent may not be a big deal. That could be a massive amount of money for a local. As more digital nomads arrive, the monthly rental price may creep up to $1000 per week. At some point, local people may not be able to compete in the rental market and be forced to move to cheaper neighborhoods. This is often called gentrification. Gentrification can be both a good and a bad thing depending on your perspective.
Businesses also come in and cater to the high-spending digital nomads, who are willing and able to spend more. Local business raises their prices as rent increases. This causes prices to increase for locals. This is becoming an issue in places with large digital nomad populations. For more info on this phenomenon, check out this interesting article.
There can also be an element of envy. A digital nomad who earns $1500 per month would be considered upper middle class in many developing countries. Locals may think of you as a rich person, even though you may be considered middle class or poor in your home country. The rich have their own set of stigmas.
Some locals will simply think you’re weird for wanting to come live in their country. They may not understand why you would want to move from a wealthy developed country to a developing country where life is more difficult. You may meet locals who are trying to move to your home country.
Cultural differences can also cause resentment. Most digital nomads don’t integrate into society. They don’t attempt to learn the local language or adopt the local culture. Instead, they live in digital nomad communities and interact only with other foreigners. This can be annoying for locals.
Digital Nomad and Expat Communities are Hit or Miss
When you’re a digital nomad, you’ll probably want to involve yourself in the local digital nomad or expat community. You can meet fellow digital nomads, expats, and retirees online on Facebook groups and in person at meetups. This is a great way to make friends in your new country. Almost every country has some kind of expat population. It’s nice to make friends with these people because they are sharing a similar experience of living in a foreign country. Most speak English as well.
The problem is that these communities can be hit or miss. Some are better than others. Oftentimes digital nomads and expats tend to be a group of misfits. The lifestyle attracts people who don’t conform to societal norms. This can be good or bad.
On one hand, digital nomads and expats tend to be interesting characters who are fun to be around. They have lots of stories. They know how to party and have a good time. On the other hand, they are oftentimes weird, unreliable, and even anti-social. This lifestyle attracts some strange people.
Some digital nomads come off as kind of fake. They might exaggerate their experience or their income. This is common among influencer types. Some digital nomads may try to get you involved in some type of business deal or sell you some type of course or service. This is common among those claiming to be entrepreneurs.
Digital nomad communities vary widely. Some countries, like Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, and Colombia have thousands of digital nomads. You’ll meet people from all walks of life. Other countries only have a handful of digital nomads.
In some countries, the digital nomad population consists of mostly professionals who work for a large companies. Other parts of the world attract creative digital nomads such as photographers, bloggers, vloggers, influencers, and YouTubers. Some places attract older nomads or retirees.
These groups all have different personalities and interests. You may fit into one community but not the others. Part of the beauty of being nomadic is that you can stick around the places you enjoy and just pass through the places that don’t appeal to you.
My Experience Being a Digital Nomad
I fantasized about becoming a digital nomad since my first trip abroad 10 years ago but didn’t know how to make it happen. I had no relevant skills. Before becoming a digital nomad, I worked in a bar in Southern California.
While backpacking across Africa in 2017, I met a travel blogger who explained the business to me. He explained online advertising and affiliate marketing. He told me about the types of articles he wrote and how he marketed his website. I thought blogging sounded interesting but unrealistic. After all, travel blogs are oversaturated.
When I returned home from Africa, I decided to move to Tijuana, Mexico where rent was cheaper. I started doing gig work on the U.S. side of the border and living in Mexico. Several days per week, I commuted across the border.
I remembered what my buddy had told me about blogging and decided to start a blog about my experience living in Tijuana and work in in the U.S. I spent a couple of months building my site and writing articles. After a couple of months, I wasn’t getting any traffic so I gave up.
A few months later, I checked on my site and noticed that a bit of traffic had started coming in every day. This inspired me to start writing again. This time, I stayed consistent and never gave up. 2.5 years later, I started earning enough money from my blog to become a full-time digital nomad.
Digital nomad life suits me perfectly. I enjoy working alone because I’m a bit of a loner naturally. I also really value the freedom of owning my own location independent business. As long as I get my work done, I can work when and where I like. All I need is my laptop, camera, and a decent internet connection. I don’t have a boss telling me what to do. I don’t have employees or co-workers to deal with either. It’s peaceful.
Travel was my main motivation for becoming a digital nomad in the first place. It’s the only thing that I’ve ever felt passionate about in my life. All of the happiest memories I have were made while traveling. Being able to travel whenever I want for as long as I want is a dream come true.
Taking advantage of geographic arbitrage was another primary motivation for becoming a digital nomad. I was living paycheck to paycheck in Southern California before starting this blog. Now, I am able to save and invest a bit of money every month. My finances have improved.
I started my digital nomad journey living in Mexico. The country offers a low cost of living, interesting culture, and phenomenal cuisine. It’s perfect for digital nomads. From there, I traveled through central and some of South America. In recent months, I’ve been living in Argentina and Brazil. I plan to head back to Africa next month. I’ll probably spend the winter there then head to Asia in the spring.
Of course, I have found that there are some drawbacks to this lifestyle. Constantly moving around does get exhausting. It’s difficult to make friends and nearly impossible to have a long-term relationship. It’s also hard to stay healthy. My diet and sleep schedule aren’t ideal. I also don’t get as much exercise as I should. I spend too much time sitting in front of my computer.
Within the next couple of years, I would like to put down some roots somewhere. Maybe abroad or maybe in my home country. I think the perfect setup would be to have a home base somewhere and travel 3-6 months per year. That would allow for the best of both worlds.
Final Thoughts About Being a Digital Nomad
As you can see, there are many pros and cons of being a digital nomad. For those who love travel and freedom and are able to work independently, the lifestyle can be ideal. This lifestyle is a dream come true for many. Being a digital nomad can teach you new things, introduce you to new people, and allow you to save money. It’s an exciting and rewarding life full of adventure.
Of course, digital nomad life certainly isn’t for everyone. There are many hardships such as loneliness and bureaucracy. Being a digital nomad can be stressful as well. Constantly planning travel and moving around gets exhausting. Regardless of whether or not you end up becoming a digital nomad, I hope this guide has helped you decide whether or not it’s the right lifestyle for you.
Are you a digital nomad? Share your tips and experience in the comments below!
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