Note – This post contains affiliate links, however, the opinions and experiences are my own.
There are some things that I see digital nomads promoting that’s something to be desired, but it isn’t actually practical or it is counterproductive to being a successful digital nomad. I don’t normally like to discuss anything that is negative. But it is important that aspiring digital nomads know the difference between reality and fantasy when it comes to working and travelling around the world.
These are some things based on my experience that digital nomads should be aware of.
The lifestyle of a digital nomad is one long holiday.
Unless you are earning all of your income passively, you will need to dedicate time to do your work. Being a digital nomad allows you to work from a remote location in a destination that you want to work in the world as long as you have access to the internet. It allows you to immerse yourself into the local lifestyle and culture, but it doesn’t give you the freedom to be on a fulltime holiday.
If you are working as a freelancer, you will need to set aside 20-40h a week to work on your projects. If you are a business owner operator or manager, you may need to dedicate 40-80h a week.
Once you have organised your working sessions, you can designate sessions to enjoy yourself, explore and experience the local area that you are based in.
You can do straight weekly working sessions such as 3 weeks on, one week off. Or if it permits, 2 weeks on and then 2 weeks off. But you will need to find a work-lifestyle balance that will allow you to still be productive and allow you to enjoy the travel experience.
Working with your laptop on the beach is not advised.
My laptop is my livelihood. It is also worth a few thousand dollars. And I won’t risk getting sand or water in it by working on the beach. It also exposes you to theft.
Additionally, it is really uncomfortable to work on the beach in the hot sun. It is difficult to see the screen with the sun’s glare. It gets really hot and your computer might actually overheat.
What should you do instead?
If you have accommodation that overlooks the beach, that would be ideal. Otherwise, you can go to a cafe or bar that has WiFi, comfortable seating and shade and just buy drinks or food and enjoy the scenery of the sea.
Working in an area exposed to rice fields will expose you to insects.
You’ve probably seen the images of a digital nomad working in or near the rice fields in Bali or somewhere in South East Asia. If you are working in the open area (especially as the sun begins to set), you will get exposed to insects (particularly mosquitos). You don’t want to risk your health by exposing yourself to mosquitos that might be carrying something. You can use DEET repellent to prevent mosquitos from biting you or use other mosquito or insect repellents. However, if the place where you are working has an internal area, then you can move inside.
Another thing to consider is the environmental elements such as the humidity and wind, which can make the working experience uncomfortable.
What is an alternative solution?
Ideally, you can work inside a room or space that overlooks the rice fields. Or if you work in another space, make sure that you work during the morning or early afternoon (before twilight). If the space has upper decks, try to work there instead of at the ground level.
Socialising and loneliness.
Travelling as a digital nomad will allow to to meet several new people. However, it won’t allow you to forge strong and lon-lasting relationships that you can sustain for the duration of your travels. Many digital nomads talk about their frustrations with having good friendships, or for those that are single, finding love.
Most people that travel do so only for a certain amount of time before they return to their home country or choose to base themselves in another location permanently.
As good as it is to meet new people, the fact that people will move on makes the experience more lonely. You will find that many of your long-lasting relationships will be virtual ones.
What solutions are available?
If you can, travel with a partner or with a group of people. That way, you will always have the social dynamic as a part f your travels.
Alternatively, you can meet people that are staying in the same place as you. There may be groups on Facebook or meetups organised by people for socialising.
You can also get to know the locals in an area. You can meet them in social areas or participate in local events, hobbies or sporting teams.
Many experiences come at a cost.
You may see many digital nomads sharing their photos or videos of themselves participating in activities such as paragliding, jetskiing or feeding the animals. The truth is, many of the experiences come at a cost. And it is something that you need to factor into your travelling budget.
Whether it is hiring a scooter or a vehicle to explore the region, or purchasing a bus ticket, or paying an entrance fee, these are costs that you need to factor into your travels. If you plan to do these activities everyday, the expenses will add up quickly.
What solution is available?
Make sure that you allocate a budget for doing the activities or the experiences that you want to have. Do your best to plan ahead so you can stick to your budget.
Frequent travelling can get tiring.
We experienced this first hand when we started travelling. We were moving on a daily basis, which was exhausting and it also makes it near impossible to get work done.
What’s an alternative solution?
I’ve found that the best pace if you want to travel is to base somewhere for 3-4 weeks. If I really liked a place, I would base myself there for 2-3 months. This would give me the opportunity to really immerse myself in the culture and with the locals. Whilst allowing me to maximise my productivity.
You are essentially “Homeless”.
This can make things tricky in terms of storage and managing your correspondence. You will either need to take your belongings with you, put them into storage, create a virtual home or minimise everything.
What solution did we use?
We minimised everything and used our parents address as our permanent virtual correspondence address. You could do this with a virtual office address as well.
The lifestyle of a digital nomad is great if you can get the lifestyle that you want. But you shouldn’t be fooled into believing that everything is perfect. Every situation presents a different type of challenge.
A couple of things I would like to leave you with is that:
You should get your ideal working environment.
This means the environment that you work in. The chair that you will sit on. The internet connection and the ability to focus. I personally prefer to be inside a room that has a view. Whether that is a hotel or inside an apartment. In your case, you might find that being in a coworking space or working from a particular cafe is ideal.
Find the work-life balance.
I know that the experiences that I enjoy while travelling are eating and seeing landmarks and nature. So I’d prefer to set aside 4-8h on a day and do my exploring and enjoy myself. Outside of those hours, I would prefer to work on my projects. At the end of the day, you need to do what is best for you.
There are several others that are living the digital nomad lifestyle. I’ve shared links to their blogs so you can also see their perspective.
I hope this helps. All the best with your digital nomad travel adventure.
Other interesting posts about digital nomad myths.
8 myths about the digital nomad lifestyle that are holding you back.
What they don’t tell you about being a digital nomad.
12 Myths about digital nomads that’s pure nonsense.
9 Common digital nomad myths (and the reality behind them)
Busted! Debunking the top 10 myths of the digital nomad lifestyle.
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