You’ve got a remote job.
You can work from home, coworking spaces, or coffee shops.
But what about a new country?
Is the digital nomad lifestyle right for you?
With many companies offering remote positions, contract work at an all-time high, and new ways of making money online popping up constantly, more people than ever before are achieving location independence.
Wait, are digital nomadism and location independence the same thing?
Location independence means that you don’t have anything like an office, clients, production set, or laws requiring you to perform your work from one place. You are a remote worker and can do your work from anywhere. You still may choose to have a home or stay in one place for the majority of the year.
Digital nomadism means that you travel for the majority of the year. You live out of suitcases or backpacks. You work from home, cafes, or coworking spaces, and change locations semi-frequently.
By these definitions, all digital nomads are location independent, but not all location independent workers are nomads.
Obviously, these are not comprehensive descriptions. Some people may refer to these lifestyles as “part-time” &” full-time” nomadism, or something else. That works too.
Side-note: I’m aware that the term “digital nomad” is becoming problematic in the international traveler community. Many people seek to capitalize on its trendiness, while others reject the label due to certain expectations or connotations. For the sake of simplicity (and SEO if we’re going to be 💯) I’m going to refer to everyone who travels for 6 or more months out of the year as a digital nomad in this article.
Maybe you sought out a remote job.
Maybe your company has decided to turn you into a remote employee.
Maybe you quit your job and are beginning your career as a freelancer.
However you did it, you’ve achieved location independence.
And you’re wondering if you’d enjoy being a digital nomad.
Everyone who has tried the nomadic lifestyle has been in a similar situation.
You’re probably excited by the prospect of fulfilling your wanderlust, seeing new places, and learning new things each month.
You’re probably confused or even scared of the logistical complications of moving every couple of weeks or months.
That’s the state I found myself in before I quit my job, left my apartment in New York City, packed everything into an Osprey Farpoint 40, and went to Mexico.
For the last year, I’ve hopped around Central and South America, changing locations every 2-8 weeks. Some months I spent on my own, some with a small circle of friends, and some on WiFi Tribe chapters.
For me the “nomadic” lifestyle is ideal. I love changing locations frequently. I’m an introvert, so doing a month with the tribe, then a month on my own is perfect.
But everyone has their own needs and desires. That’s why travelling is so fulfilling. You get to meet people from all over the world and share our experiences, giving you insights into new opportunities for self growth.
If you’re curious about the digital nomad lifestyle, here are the top 7 things I wish someone had told me about the digital nomad lifestyle before I packed my bags:
1. Finances Are Tricky (At First)
1099’s, tax laws, Airbnb daily vs weekly vs monthly prices, plane tickets, baggage allowances, food delivery, weekend trips, import fees, foreign doctor and hospital bills…it’s a lot to get used to.
I know some people who actually save money by being nomadic. Pretty much anywhere you go in Central or South America will be cheaper than NYC, LA, SF, Northern, or Western Europe.
I’ve met others who spend 2 to 3 times as much money as I do, taking more weekend trips, ordering more delivery, and hopping on several international flights each year.
What I mean to say is that your budget is going to change. Every country has a totally different cost of living and set of expenses. It’s going to take a couple of months for you to figure out how to prepare and balance your new budget.
Just be sure to track your spending, create realistic budgets, and stick to them. Nomad List is a pretty good tool that will help you get an idea of how much you’ll spend in a new city.
2. You’re Chained to Civilization (During the Workweek)
They don’t call us digital nomads for nothin’. If we don’t have wi-fi, we can’t work. If we can’t work, we can’t travel.
That means that a serious portion of your travel planning is dedicated to finding areas with stable good internet speeds, comfortable apartments, and productive work communities.
This is why nomad “hubs” or “hotspots” are popping up in Bali, Thailand, Lisbon, Medellin, Playa Del Carmen, and other places with stable internet connections, reasonable costs of living, and good weather.
Unfortunately, it’s rare that we find a beautiful cabin in the mountains with enough wi-fi to stay for even a week. There isn’t much chance to spend time in rural locations or small backpacker towns. For nomads, it’s city after city after city.
Hence our obsession with weekend trips 😅
3. Productivity Might Take a Dip (Until You Get the Hang of It)
One of the most common conversation topics among nomads, location independent people, and WFHers (work from homers) is productivity.
It’s especially tricky for people who change locations frequently. It’s very hard to keep a routine when one month you’re living by the beach and the next you’re living in a 30 story apartment building in the city.
Honestly, your productivity will most likely suffer at first. The thrill of travel, inspiring conversations, and beautiful locations will distract you.
But eventually we all realize that in order to maintain this lifestyle, we have to figure out how to stay productive while traveling.
Luckily there are tons of resources on this.
4. Staying in Shape Gets a Lot More Complicated (But Some of Us Are Still Fit AF)
Kiss your workout routine goodbye.
If you want to build muscle or do strength training, I suggest doing that before you pack your bags.
Some months you’re lucky enough to have a gym nearby. Some months you’re on your own.
That being said, there is a very large portion of the digital nomad community that is devoted to fitness. As a runner, I didn’t find it that difficult to maintain my level of fitness. In fact, now I do yoga, HIIT workouts, and a bit of strength training I’ve picked up from other travellers. To be honest, I feel more fit and healthy than ever.
(I feel like I should throw a link to Fitness Blender’s online workouts here. They rock.)
Every WiFi Tribe chapter I’ve been on, there is a health and fitness Slack channel where we coordinate workouts, sports, and meals.
Although, not everybody has shared my experience. Some people find it really hard to stay fit without the routine of going to the gym. Others learn to work around it. It’s really up to you.
5. You’ll Burn out and Get Homesick
There’s no way to spin this one positively.
Once I spent 2 weeks in my apartment in Mexico City without seeing a single person except my Rappi delivery guys.
I was so sick of packing, working alone, and waking up thousands of miles away from my family and friends.
It was not fun.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues come with you everywhere you go.
You’ll get sick. You’ll overwork yourself. You’ll miss your home.
You’ll have to learn to deal with it.
I did. I got better. I’m still travelling.
At least we live in a time where we can video chat. It’s not the same as giving your friends a big hug and catching up over a coffee or a beer, but it definitely is better than having to send them a handwritten letter, or not being able to communicate ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
6. It’s Hard to Meet People (Sometimes)
Solo travel gets lonely (very…very…lonely 😢) sometimes. Some months you wind up binge watching your favorite comfort show on Netflix to fight the solitude.
Digital nomad dating is confusing. Traditional relationships are a thing of the past.
When you do find your tribe, you’ll know it. Living and working with people who have the same set of values, desires, and goals is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.
That’s why I wound up doing 5 Wifi Tribe chapters in my first year of joining. It’s why I’m writing this blog for them now.
If you’re nervous about getting lonely, or not having a community to rely on when you make the switch to travelling. Join the tribe. We’d love to have you 😊
7. It’s Hard Work, but You Can Do It
As you can see, being a digital nomad isn’t easy. Between booking tickets, Airbnbs, learning new cities, finding friends, and trying to learn the survival vocab of new languages, it feels like I’m constantly making decisions and learning new things.
Sometimes I’ll go months without what feels like a day off.
But when I do get to unplug, and I have the chance to relax, process, and let time catch up to me, I know that I’m in the right place.
If you’re considering dipping your toes into the location independent/nomadic lifestyle, I highly recommend talking to someone who has experience with it. (Just hit us up on instagram @wifitribe.co, we’d be happy to chat, or link you up with one of our members)
Or read about my friend Jordan’s journey to remote work and why he believes remote communities matter.