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Was it right for me? The Pros and Cons of Being a Digital Nomad

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re curious about the digital nomad lifestyle. It’s like being a modern-day Indiana Jones, but instead of chasing after treasure, you’re working remotely while exploring the world.

Well, to be honest, the most treasure hunting you’ll be doing is trying to find a decent Wi-Fi signal, but hey, it’s still pretty cool!

There are a lot of pros and cons of being a Digital Nomad.

You have the freedom to work from anywhere as long as you have a laptop and a reliable internet connection. You can work for a remote company or be your own boss and go freelance (more on that later).

It’s a great way to break free from the traditional 9-to-5 office grind and live life on your own terms. But is it all sunshine and rainbows? Spoiler alert: no, it’s not.

Now, I’m not a digital nomad currently, since I’ve been living in the same place with my husband for the past 2 years. But before the pandemic hit, I was hopping from country to country, city to city, and enjoying the digital nomad lifestyle. And let me tell you, it comes with its own set of pros and cons.

That’s what I’m here to talk about in this post. I’ll be sharing my personal experience with you, but keep in mind that other people will probably have a different perspective. This lifestyle may not be for everyone, and that’s perfectly fine. We all have our own paths to take in life.

So, let’s dive in and take a closer look at the pros and cons of the digital nomad lifestyle, remote work, and freelancing!

The Pros and Cons of Being a Digital Nomad

The Pros and Cons of Being a Digital Nomad

What are the Pros of the Digital Nomad Lifestyle?

Let me start with the good stuff, the digital nomad benefits. The things that sold me into this life when I was weighing if it was worth selling everything I owned and traveling while freelancing.

I’ve always been a traveler. Since I was a kid, I used to save every penny I could to buy experiences when on vacations with my parents, and to travel with my friends or on my own as I got older.

So is not a surprise that the travel part was the first thing that got me excited about digital nomadism. You can explore new cultures, taste new foods, and meet new people, all while still earning a living.

Being a digital nomad changed the way I travel. Is very different to stay in a city a month at a time instead of trying to fit everything in just 3 days. Now, when I get to a new place, I don’t try to hit all the hot spots anymore. Instead, I take my time to enjoy the thing that makes a place truly special.

You get to choose what experiences you enjoy instead of following “What to do in Bangkok in 3 days”. Which, no problem if you like to spend your time in over-touristy sights, but is not my cup of tea.

Related to this is the flexibility to work whenever and wherever you are. In theory.

There are two sides to this coin, but since we are talking about the pros, I can say for sure that you can work from anywhere as long as you get an internet connection and a laptop. Whether it’s an Airbnb, a coffee shop, a hotel, a friend’s house, or occasionally a bar on the beach. Airport lounges are surprisingly good to get a lot of work done when you have a long layover! Worth every penny, trust me.

And finally, something I didn’t realize until I was on the road, is how easily inspired and stimulated you get with every new town, city, or country.

As a graphic designer, I found myself incorporating a lot of things I learned and found on my travels into my work. There’s nothing like experiencing things in the flesh to keep your curiosity alive.

There are more advantages to being a digital nomad, of course. But these are the main ones for me. Now, let’s talk about the not-so-fun stuff.

What are the cons of the digital nomad lifestyle?

While the digital nomad lifestyle certainly has its perks, there are also some cons to consider. Eventually, these can be the reason you decide to settle down in one place.

It’s very hard to maintain social relationships. Getting to know people is relatively easy, even if you are an introvert. But growing those into full-fledged friendships takes a lot of work and you’ll find you are not always willing to spend that amount of energy.

But, it doesn’t stop there. Keeping up with your old friends back home is also increasingly hard. Not just because of time zones, but also because you now live a very different life and sometimes you’ll find that people just can’t relate to you anymore.

Be prepared for your relationships -and the way you get to know people- to change.

Talking about time zones, I think digital nomads who say you can work whenever you want are full of it. Yes, you will be able to move things around and explore the city in the middle of the day, but more often than not, you will find yourself juggling between what you want to do and what you have to do.

Guess which one wins more often.

This also makes it difficult to stay motivated and focused. When you’re working in a new and exciting environment every day, all you want to do is go out and explore. It takes a surprising amount of self-discipline to be a digital nomad!

And lastly, something that didn’t happen to me but I saw firsthand with other travelers, is the access to healthcare in an emergency.

I won’t discuss the C-word here, but there are so many things that can happen to you, and if you are not prepared it can sour the whole experience.

Like this girl staying at the same hostel in Koh Lanta, who had a motorcycle accident. She could access emergency care immediately (no one is going to let you die on the road), but because she wasn’t insured, she had to pay for the medical attention, x-rays, and a few days in a clinic out of pocket.

Thailand was her first stop in a multi-month journey. But she had to ring home and borrow money to buy a plane ticket back to France.

When we first started traveling, we used credit card travel insurance. But when that policy expired, we changed to SafetyWing because we loved their payment structure: you can buy their policy even if you are already on the road, pause it whenever you want, and then get back on it with just one click.

We liked the system so much that we kept it for the first months in our new city before regular health insurance kicked in. Being insured was especially important because, you know, fun Covid times. It still is!

Of course, that’s not the only thing they offer. You can learn more here.

Making Money on the Road: work & digital nomadism

Part of being a digital nomad is that you bring your work wherever you are. You keep working while traveling, which means that you can choose between 2 paths: remote working, or freelancing.

People tend to confuse them but there are some key differences. As a remote worker, you are basically a lucky employee whose company doesn’t require you to be in the office every week (if they even have an office in the first place). You get paid a salary and have to do whatever it is they require from your role.

As a freelancer though, you work with clients on several projects -usually with different clients- at the same time. You are also responsible for getting new clients and keeping the work coming. You won’t receive a set salary each month like a remote worker, but your earning potential is much higher.

So, while these two working styles have some overlap, their differences justify talking about each one of them on their own.

Remote Work Pros and Cons

Let’s start with remote work – the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.

As a remote employee, you get more autonomy than ever before. No more pesky bosses breathing down your neck, no more dress codes, no more mundane office politics – it’s just you and your work, baby. Plus, you’ll have fewer distractions to deal with, so you can really focus on the task at hand.

Say goodbye to spending hours stuck in traffic or rushing to make it to the office on time. I mean, you won’t escape these completely. As a digital nomad, you still have to take traffic into account when going to the airport to catch that cheap red-eye flight. But is nothing like commuting every day!

Getting paid each week or month also gives you stability while traveling. You are able to plan your travels according to your wallet and choose cities that align with your income.

However, you will soon find that communication can be a bit of a challenge when you’re not in the same room as your colleagues. Sure, the pandemic allowed most people to work from home, so using communication tools is not a novelty for anyone. However, being in a different timezone can be a challenge if you have a lot of meetings.

And that for me is the downright ugly part. Some remote jobs offer a lot of autonomy and flexibility, while others may require you to be available for certain hours or to work in a specific time zone. Staying awake until 4 am every day doesn’t leave you with a lot of energy to explore a new city.

You might think you will be able to juggle it all but I’ve seen firsthand how quickly that routine leads you to burn out.

If you are considering finding remote work to become a digital nomad, keep in mind that you are probably going to compete with a lot of people for the same position. And, not every company with a work-from-home policy allows for travel. There are taxes and legal implications to consider for both parties.

But, if you align time zones and your position allows you to work in a different country, it’s a great way to finance your digital nomad life.

Freelancing Advantages and Disadvantages

Ah, freelancing. The ultimate “be your own boss” dream. There are definitely some major perks to being a freelancer, like the flexibility to set your own schedule and choose the clients and projects you want to work on.

I’ve been a freelancer for over 10 years and I still get a high when firing a client from hell.

Something that surprised me as a freelancer-digital nomad is how many new professionals and collab opportunities you find on the road. Remember I talked about being constantly stimulated? Well, when you put a lot of creative people with that amount of inspiration, things just flow.

And let’s not forget about the potential for higher income. If you’re good at what you do, you can charge a premium for your services. You are not limited to a set salary.

But, just like with remote work, freelancing isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The unpredictable income can be a real buzzkill. One month you’re rolling in dough, and the next you’re eating ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And forget about benefits like health insurance or paid time off. When you’re a freelancer, you’re on your own.

Another downside is the inconsistent workload. Some weeks you might have more work than you know what to do with, while other weeks you’re left twiddling your thumbs and refreshing your inbox every five minutes. Unless you have a system for having a constant stream of new clients (which you should), constantly marketing yourself and finding new opportunities can take the fun out of things.

The main difference with remote working is that you don’t have to be in a similar timezone as your clients. You have way more flexibility to plan your travels and adventures because of this.

Not to mention that you are open to working for a global market, and have the opportunity to get local clients if you stay for a prolonged time in the same place.

Is being a digital nomad right for you?

I hope this post gave you a better idea of what it’s like to work and travel long-term. As you can see, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but it can definitely be an exciting adventure.

For me and my husband, the nomad life was a thrilling adventure for a while, until we realized that it wasn’t sustainable in the long term. We got tired of living out of a suitcase and dealing with the dreaded work from anywhere drawbacks: constantly hunting for the best deal on flights and accommodations, fighting to get good Wi-Fi, and having more stable social relationships.

Now we have a base and still enjoy the perks of freelancing, but we’re not on the move all the time anymore.

If you’re considering the digital nomad lifestyle, my advice is to go for it! You never know where it might take you. Just be prepared for the ups and downs that come with it, and remember that it’s not for everyone.

Whether you choose to travel the world or work from the comfort of your own home, the most important thing is to find a lifestyle that works for you.

As for me, I’ve found a balance that works for me right now. But who knows what the future holds? Maybe one day I’ll be back on the road again, searching for my next adventure.

Take advantage of all the different ways you can earn money online (after all, freelancing and remote working are not the only ones), and be the one who makes the call on how to enjoy your life.

Where are you going next?

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