On the Road and On the Web: The Life of a Digital Nomad

No 9-5. No office. The freedom to hit the road whenever the spirit calls.

Praia Da Pinhao, Lagos, PortugalTo most people, the life of a digital nomad seems ideal. Nearly everyone yearns for the opportunity to travel, with all its adventure and fulfillment, but many people feel they lack the time and resources to make travel a constant part of their lives. It’s much more common to find people working hard at a typical job – pushing through the daily grind, working for the weekend and for that distant few weeks of vacation. Digital nomads are the lucky few who seem to have eschewed the “common mode” of living, and travel year round. But is it just luck? I hope to dispel some of the myths surrounding this way of life: a life which seems too good to be true.

Follow Your Dream: The Nitty Gritty & The Sacrifices

A nomad is defined as a person who moves from place to place, making a living. The digital nomad lifestyle is a way for an avid traveler, who does not wish to settle in a permanent location (at least not yet) to support themselves financially in order to continually fund their travels. A common thing I hear from non-nomads is “I wish I could travel, but I don’t have that kind of money.” Travel does take money, yes. But, unfortunately so does everything! I am a firm believer that everyone can travel if they set their mind to it, but does require a great deal of hard work, and a bit of sacrifice, at least initially. To travel in the nomadic fashion may mean that you don’t own a house, car, or other items that won’t fit in your backpack. It may mean that your first few months on the road will be spent gazing avidly at your computer screen, rather than posing for photos on a Thai beach.

To some, the security and comforts of home, the latest flat screen TV, the car or the fancy kitchen are amenities that they do not wish to do without. And that is perfectly fine! And that’s fine! But the digital nomad lifestyle means trading those material ties for the flexibility to travel at will.

What You Need

You need money to survive in this world. If things were free, I think we’d all be non-stop globetrotters. You need a source of income to do the things you want to do. With the advent of the web, communication changed profoundly; business could now be conducted from anywhere in the world. As the internet continued to grow and develop, it became increasingly clear that individuals with certain skills could make a living entirely via the internet. As long as the proper connections were available, work could be done remotely from virtually any location. Thus, the digital nomad was born.

So what does it take to make this lifestyle work? To forge a successful career as a location independent professional, one needs to have a viable skill which can provide a (fairly) steady income. Many digital nomads these days seem to be bloggers, sharing their love of travel with the internet world. While some are wildly successful, few bloggers make their living solely from blogging. The majority of us are freelance writers, photographers, journalists, web designers, affiliate marketers, or even day traders. Software designers and web developers are especially sought-after positions with the growth of the web and mobile market.

Hard Work Indeed

Digital nomads know they are blessed with an extremely appealing lifestyle, but they also know the sacrifices they’ve made to live this kind of life, and they know the hard work involved. For bloggers, blogging is a full-time job. Interesting and appealing content needs to be written every few days, at a minimum, as well as marketing, photography, and any additional work that the blogger does. Freelancers may spend the majority of their time searching for their next project and contacting potential employers. This work is not always steady, which can lead to additional stress and financial strain.

Even if the work is constant and enjoyable, the digital nomad makes many sacrifices for this lifestyle. A life of travel may mean forgoing things such as home ownership, car ownership, or the luxury to buy many things. It may be more difficult to maintain personal relationships or start a family. Constant travel has additional stresses such as applying for visas, getting health and travel insurance, and enduring a constant barrage of planes, trains, and buses. While traveling to exotic and amazing locations, the digital nomad may not always have the extra income to afford a trip back home for a holiday, thereby missing out on the trappings of a more “traditional” lifestyle.

So, the life of the digital nomad has its challenges, but the reward is the freedom to journey around this unique and beautiful planet. Anyone has the potential to live this kind of life, but must be prepared to work hard and make sacrifices. For those who want nothing more than to see the whole world, why would anyone choose to live any other way?