The Most Important Soft Skills for Life on the Road (Digital Nomad Survey)

Changing environments, constantly meeting new people and tackling new challenges–or the life of a digital nomad–can be particularly suited for certain personality types. Possessing certain attributes can make your life easier on the road, but maybe also knowing which attributes are the most useful can help you decide if you’re ready to take the leap.

One Facebook user in a digital nomad community wondered about this question, specifically asking about what are the most useful soft skills for digital nomads to possess. Many fellow users responded with which skills and why.

We’ve organized the responses for you by frequency, so you can check out which skills you might need to sharpen up before heading out for life as a digital nomad, or see where you’re already checking the boxes.

Table of Contents

1. Flexibility / Adaptability (20)

To begin, adaptability is most frequently mentioned by users. This seems like a no-brainer as the ability to change and adapt to new environments is essential to the life of a nomad.

“For the lifestyle, soft skills are flexibility, tolerance, and inner happiness. In a lifestyle where things are constantly changing, you have to be adaptive and happy in the flow.”

“General independence and self-reliance. Flexibility and open-mindedness.”

“Having a plan without really having a plan. Knowing what you want but being ok with not getting at the time you want it most.”

“Flexibility. The lack of desire for things concerning experiences.”

“To be adaptable. I’ve seen most nomads with expectations of things being like back home.”

“Curiosity and adaptability. One to keep me moving, the other to make the most of where I am.”

“Flexibility of the mind. Traveling increases this and leaves you more open to the next adventure. You can easily adjust to new environments, changes to plans, hurdles you encounter.”

“The ability to adapt to different environments and recognize the need for a plan B. Unforeseen circumstances could happen so it’s always good to have a backup option.”

“Love change and I never feel lost in any city because if I can read a map. I grew up and lived with different cultures and ethnic groups for a long time.”

2. Social Skills / Communication (17)

Coming in second place is social skills and other topics relating to communication. When you arrive in a new place, it’s these skills that can help you make new friends or maybe a business connection on the road.

“Social skills via social psychology education.”

“Interpersonal skills and critical thinking skills. Couldn’t have survived 25+ years traveling, living and working abroad before it was cool to be a digital nomad.”

“The more I improve my communication skills, the more my life improves. I don’t think I could have been successful as a nomad without those… and they didn’t come naturally!”

“The ability to strike up a conversation with someone and quickly develop rapport. I’ve met so many people, made friends and business contacts along the way!”

“Communication, often because of language barriers you rely more on your other senses. Eye contact, body language, tone or pitch of people’s voices and a sense if a place or situation is not good.”

“Being nice and genuinely interested in people around me = the reason it helps is that you can remember people and network, and use your connection to connect other people – helping other people get what they want is helping yourself in the long run.”

“The ability to listen and appreciate people.”

“Listening to people’s stories. Since I was 13, I always wanted to know people’s stories. At 59, I’m still asking questions to learn from people.”

“Treat people as equals no matter where in the world.”

“Being a nice person.”

“Communication- through meditation and insight.”

“To not be afraid to say “Hello” to anyone. That simple word can get you many places.”

“Being able to connect with people very quickly by being empathic, a good listener and highly adaptable to people of various backgrounds, personalities and viewpoints.”

“Altruistic and willingness are two of them. I’m able to work in a team and independently. Also, I can make people feel comfortable.”

3. Perseverance/ Persistance/ Resilience (10)

Third is the tough-mindedness that many nomads have to possess to deal with uncertainty and the last-minute changes that seem to come with life on the road.

“Steadfastness. Never giving up as long as I have breath in my lungs. I believe in humanity and this is how I give back.”

“Determination for sure”

Tenacity in my darkest hours!

“Challenges aren’t a reason not to do something. They’re just problems you’ve not solved yet.”

“Problem-solving.”

“Calmness in the face of trouble. I developed this early in life when I was an EMT second and third shift.”

4. Sales Skills (9)

This one may come as a bit of a surprise, but sales skills came up among the useful skills for a digital nomad. These skills can be useful as many digital nomads will work for themselves trying to leverage a travel brand into a lucrative business, but can also help you in all areas of your life.

“Sales are a life skill. We all are sellers from our childhood. An example is when a kid asks their parents to buy a toy. Well, children are usually horrible sellers, but by knowing how to properly communicate and persuade you basically can get what you want. So sales are more like a combination of good communication skills and very good listening.”

“Sales” + “Something” is the skill that will allow you to be a digital nomad (with luxury). While you might be good at anything, if you are not able to sell that (directly, digitally whatever it may be), it will become difficult. I think most in the group would agree.”

“Sales. If you can sell with confidence you will always be taken care of.”

“My good customer care skills. Helps with Clients from all over the world and when talking to locals where there’s a language barrier.”

“Closing the deal. In the freelance industry you don’t just need to earn the trust of clients but also be able to let go of a few things to maintain good business relations.”

5. Open-mindedness (7)

Open-mindedness comes as no surprise for the life of a digital nomad, as you’ll be integrating into a new culture and be meeting people from all over the world along the way.

“Open-mindedness and humility. Whatever you’ve learned, believed, valued or thought growing up wherever you did isn’t the only way. Be humble, be willing to learn, and LISTEN.”

“Being open-minded and not having too much expectation. Most of the time I just go with the flow.”

“Tolerance”

“Curiosity for other cultures/circumstances. If you are genuinely interested in the other person, the other person is more likely to open up/share their culture.”

“Keeping an open mind and minding my own business, the same skills that ensure a long life.”

6. Confidence / Courage (5)

Next up is confidence and courage, which are essential for braving new environments.

“Knowing what I bring to the table, and being comfortable with eating alone most of the time.”

“Fearless: I talk to everyone, share, laugh and learn. I also speak 3 popular languages.”

7. Patience (3)

Patience is another valuable skill for dealing with unforeseen changes.

“Patience and tolerance and being able to pivot in the 11th hour when things go sideways.”

“Patience. I learned that because nothing turned out the way I planned it to.”

“Patience. Silence. The quieter you are, the more you hear.”

 8. Finally, there were a few responses by digital nomads that didn’t quite fit into a category but were important–or humorous–advice nonetheless.

“Being fully embodied in my divine feminine energy so I am 100% comfortable in the unknown! Because I trust & can surrender to spirit and being guided that way in every moment.”

“Frugality.”

“Organisation”

“Paranoia”

“Aggressive opposition to conventionalism”

“Definitely low, low standards”

“Being able to act dumb shall the situation require it. Dumb people like to think they are smarter than you, let them be happy and they will do anything you want.”

“Faith”

“Being able to take cold showers with a bucket.”

“Curiosity, practicality, resourcefulness…etc.”

“I’m able to use words like pivot, leverage and agile to make it seem like I’m saying something when I’m not.”

“Keep the war chest full and bills low so I can make adjustments to plans based on demand. So basically work/time management.”

“Integrity. You have to be consistent with your integrity as a person if you want others to trust you and do the same thing of how you want to be treated.”

“The ability to drink most men under the table. Both have served me well in traveling.”

Final Thoughts:

Some people are just well-suited naturally for the life of a digital nomad. Based on what these users had to say, those that are flexible and adaptable might have an easier time adjusting to the lifestyle and handling unforeseen challenges. Before you consider a lifestyle change, it might be helpful to see if your personality matches up with the attributes mentioned above.

P.S. If you’re interested in becoming a digital nomad, check out The Ultimate Guide to Digital Nomading & Location Independence.

Madison Schulz
Madison Schulz is an American freelance writer living in Paris, France.