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Pandemic or no pandemid, digital nomads on Instagram continue serving us with pictures at exotic locations and meetings at the beach. Who wouldn’t want that? Well, we are sorry to burst your bubble, but the reality is not as glamorous as the pictures you see on social media. In this article, we answer all your burning questions about digital nomads and delve into what it really means to be one.
Who is a digital nomad?
The term digital nomad refers to freelancers and entrepreneurs who choose to work remotely and are constantly on the road. The emergence of modern technology and communication channels like Slack and Trello have made this lifestyle possible.
Differences between digital nomads and remote workers
We see many use the two terms interchangeably, but they are not the same. The difference between a digital nomad and a remote worker is the “traveling factor.” Digital nomads are constantly on the move but remote workers, on the other hand, work from home or a nearby coworking space.
Why are digital nomads a trend?
Digital nomads have been around for several years, but the pandemic increased the hype when it forced everyone to work from home. Many employers have begun to appreciate the benefits of remote work. The pandemic also exposed the myth that you need to be huddled in an office to get any work done. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 56% of workers have jobs that they can do remotely, which only proves our point. Companies including Twitter, Paypal and Uber have decided to adopt remote work practices permanently.
What does the future look like for digital nomads?
We dare say that digital nomads are the new normal, and the statistics do not lie.
Should you become a digital nomad?
The digital nomad trend is not for everyone. It is not as simple as boarding a plane to God knows where, and contrary to the information out there, the digital nomad lifestyle is for people who have the financial means (meaning a stable income) and no responsibilities tying them down to a place (for example, spouse and kids). Otherwise, we hate to break it to you, but it will be pretty hard for you to make it work. There are challenges like any profession or lifestyle, but we believe nothing is more fulfilling than working on your terms.
Perception/expectations vs. reality
Before you buy a ticket and hop on a plane, make sure you know the realities of being a digital nomad. Examine your intentions and be sure you are not doing this on a whim or motivated by fantasies in your head.
Perception: Digital nomads have all the freedom and time in the world. The number one perception about digital nomads is that they spend most of their time sipping mimosas on a beach and going sightseeing.
Reality: In reality, many digital nomads work all the time and do not have space or energy to engage in leisure activities. A lot of digital nomads have admitted to overworking. They also tackle procrastination; it takes a lot of discipline to stick to work hours they set for themselves and fight the desire to spend time doing anything but work. It is easy to lose sight of your duties and deadlines when you don’t have a supervisor breathing down your neck in an office.
Perception: Worry-free life. Many people assume ”Hakuna Matata” is the anthem and theme of every nomad.
Reality: In truth, there are thousands of things a digital nomad has to worry about; they include looking for accommodation in a safe neighborhood, navigating the culture, trying not to break any laws, finding a coworking space to operate from, taxes, etc. The nomad lifestyle may look glamorous, but it can get pretty dark. Many travelers have gone missing or gotten killed in foreign countries. Most nomads’ immediate concern is being safe as soon as they arrive in a country.
Perception: Financial freedom. Many people think digital nomads earn fat checks regularly and are financially independent.
Reality: Digital nomads fall into two categories: independent contractors/freelancers and entrepreneurs. They spend a lot of time pitching to clients to get gigs or contracts. It takes a while to build trust and develop a good relationship with a client. Many nomads accept lower wages than what they deserve due to stiff competition. Most digital nomads are responsible for themselves financially, so they take care of bills like accommodation, food, clothing, utilities, etc. on their own. Keep in mind that the exchange rates and cost of living in a country play a role in how financially sound you will be; for this reason, many nomads go to countries with low living costs like Indonesia.
Perception: Strong internet connection. A lot of people assume there is a stable internet connection everywhere.
Reality: Many digital nomads consider WiFi availability before traveling into a country. Poor internet connection means freelancers cannot do their jobs and meet deadlines, and if this happens frequently, they may lose their jobs and the client’s trust.
Perception: Travelling. Digital nomads are always on a plane flying to someplace or another.
Reality: Do not let the Instagram pictures fool you; some digital nomads secretly hate traveling frequently. They say it is exhausting and time-consuming. Sometimes all they want is stability instead of planning trips and booking tickets. It is draining to continuously plan to travel and work out logistics, especially in countries that do not speak the languages the nomad knows.
Perception: Vibrant social life. Partying and hanging out with friends is the order of the day.
Reality: Believe it or not, many digital nomads struggle with loneliness, the anxiety of making new friends and being homesick. It is common to get lonely and sometimes regret the decision you made. It is not easy to make new friends as a foreigner, and when you do, it will take time for you to open up and trust them. You will most likely spend all of your time working, watching movies and catching up on social media.
We hope we did not scare you to rescind your decision to be a digital nomad. We want you to consider the factors involved and make an informed decision carefully. Good luck!