DIGITAL NOMAD LIFESTYLE – Our Definition
Digital nomads. What are they? Some IT geeks? And why “nomads”? Do they have a home? Who do they work for? Are they just on a long vacation?
It seems that the more popular the digital nomad lifestyle is, the more questions it raises.
People imagine a “digital nomad” is somebody with a laptop globetrotting the world while they’re being financed by wealthy parents or generous sponsors.
Someone who wakes up whenever they want, travels wherever they like, and doesn’t have to work much, if at all. Oh, and the beaches. Digital nomads work from sunny destinations. At least, that’s what one would think of.
Now, what is the reality? Is a digital nomad lifestyle only a hype? An irresponsible adventure that won’t last? Or is it something that can eventually become a sustainable way of living?
We strongly believe the latter, especially after being able to make money online, while traveling the world since 2013. If you’re interested in learning more about what we do for living, and how we started to travel and work online, visit our page About us.
From our perception and experience, a digital nomad is someone working online for their own business or for a company of someone else. A digital nomad is a location independent entrepreneur who can freely decide where and for how long they stay before they seek another temporary home base.
To put it simply, ‘digital’ stands for using modern technology and working online, and ‘nomad’ stands for moving and living in different corners of the world.
A digital nomad can work solo, as part of a team located in a different country or a continent, Or, they can lead a remote team themself.
An expat, on the other hand, is simply a person living, working or is retired outside of their home country.
Myths about Digital Nomad Lifestyle
1. You don’t want to work
Tim Ferris’ The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich has created a revolution and changed the mindset of many who’ve been dreaming of freeing themselves from draining jobs, with a vision to work less.
The message of the book and the goal of your new lifestyle is to work smarter and live life fully. To have time to learn more, to have time for your hobbies, to help more through volunteering, to observe, to absorb more from your surroundings, not to avoid work or trick the system( as this lifestyle can sometimes be perceived).
“So, is it really possible? Can I work less and earn the same or more?” You can certainly work those famous 4 hours a day, but in most cases not at the very beginning of your digital nomad career, unless you have a big chunk of cash saved,and you don’t mind building a business for two or three times longer than it generally might take.
Especially when establishing a solid base for your digital nomad lifestyle, you’ll need to dedicate most of your day working. You’ll be creating an online platform, looking for clients, hiring people to help you, and training them, which requires tons of time and money. That’s something many people don’t realize before they jump into travel mode and expect their cash flow to be the same as when they worked 9 to 5.
2. You travel a lot
Sure, you will live in exotic destinations and wake up to some magnificent views. But the fact that digital nomads are on permanent holiday exploring the world is truly a myth. For you as a digital nomad, the priority will be to find a comfortable and safe place to work.
Don’t be surprised that you’ll end up staying in one place for 6 or 12 months, renting an apartment and doing only short trips to the neighboring countries most of the time.
3. Your travels are funded by sponsors/parents
That’s one of the most favorite jokes your friends and strangers will make about your lifestyle. Well, you’re about to find that occasionally there might be someone who supports your project if your pitch is outstanding, and then it can be a win-win business for both sides.
Don’t get lured into the huge amount of freebies. Promoting someone’s business is not really for free since you’ll still need to work for them creating content.
Regarding parental support, trust us, no relatives of a digital nomad would be willing to pay for this neverending “holiday,” as is often perceived about the lifestyle.
4. You live and work only from beach destinations
It’s true that digital nomads like budget friendly sunny destinations, (Southeast Asia, Mexico, Portugal, Spain) but it’s not the rule.
You can freely pick a country which allows you to stay for a longer period of time, and where you feel safe, comfortable with their culture, where the Internet allows you to work on your projects, and where a digital nomad community thrives without being conditioned by weather.
To be completely honest, you don’t really need a beach or a palm tree to live a digital nomad life.
5. Your life is full of adventures
The world is beautiful and undoubtedly, there will be many new adventures you’ve dreamt of trying. Zip-lining through canyons, kayaking serene lakes, climbing up volcanoes, swimming with turtles, visiting the elephant sanctuary, you name it. You’ll be tempted by these activities left and right.
The truth is, living in a wonderful destination as a digital nomad is not the same as having a great time during your holiday where you know you can have fun all day long because that is the only time in the year where you can travel abroad.
Unlike digital nomads, who are on the road full-time or for most of the year, there is often a struggle between finding a balance between work and fun.
6. You must have excellent tech skills to work remotely
Here is some great news. You don’t.
“Digital” applies to working online, but it doesn’t necessarily mean working as an IT expert. The only thing required is having any skill that will help you generate income.
You can work as a translator, a language teacher, you can be a fitness coach and create online courses for your clients abroad, you can even create your online store. The options are endless.
And even if you feel lost in online world, there are so many tools online to help you grow. If you don’t have a certain skill set to start your journey, you can certainly learn your way through a lot of it.
7. You cannot experience career growth
If you’re looking for a praise from an authority, a regular pay rise, and eventually a higher and more responsible position – we can assure you that you can get it all while working as a digital nomad.
If you work smart, you will see your bank account growing. You’ll expand your team and lead more people, which creates more responsibilities. Eventually, you can delegate lots of tasks that take you too much time and hinder you, in order to commence more creative projects or develop more effective strategies.
8. You’re running from problems in your home country
So far we haven’t met a digital nomad who was a former criminal or an irresponsible dude just having fun in foreign countries. It’s actually quite opposite. While living abroad, you’ll have more responsibilities.
You’ll need to be aware of legal conditions in a country where you’ll be nomading, and you’ll need to learn about their cultural habits and taboos. You’ll be responsible for your way of interacting with locals, authorities abroad, and at home if you pay taxes in your home country.
To your friends and family, it might seem that choosing freedom over security is irresponsible. You know it’s not true. (Unless you really are a criminal hiding on a secret island.)
9. You cannot do it long-term
What can we say? We’ve been doing this since 2013, and we are not the only ones who’ve been on the road working online that long.
10. This is only for people who quit university or fresh graduates
Uhmm, no. When we left Germany, we were in our 30’s and 40’s. We weren’t running away from our studies, nor trying to squeeze in a gap year post graduation. There are no age or education limits when it comes to being a digital nomad. Actually, there are hardly any boundaries that would not allow you to live a location independent lifestyle.
How can I become a digital nomad?
First things first – a digital nomad is not a profession. You cannot simply study it for three or five years and then apply for a job.
Being a digital nomad covers different kinds of skills you’re going to get along the way. You’ll work with the techniques and knowledge you’ve learned prior to hitting the road, but you’ll keep learning new things practically all time, and from fields you’d never have expected.
You might feel that writing is something you’re passionate about, but that’s not where you should stop. You’re going to learn how to write differently for online platforms. You’ll also study a thing or two about marketing in order to promote your work.
You’ll learn from other pros how to embrace visuals for your social media, you’ll learn how to lead a team, how to communicate better, or how to edit videos. There is no single way to work as a digital nomad, no ultimate guide that would show you the only possible path. You’re going to create your own life according to your own preferences and financial possibilities.
Be inspired by others, but don’t compare their success built from many years with your starting point.
Here are some useful tips on where to start based on our own experiences:
1. What are your skills?
If you’re not having an online business or an agreement with your boss to work remotely, then sit down, and put it all black on white. Analyze, analyze, analyze. Write down all your skills and think about how you can use them in an online world.
Do you love social media? Then give it a try as a social media manager. Have you recently taken a course of graphic design? Why not to use this skill and try to build a clientele? Are you excellent in languages? How about translating documents or books or teaching languages online? Are you a techie who loves solving problems? A web developer job might be ideal for you.
2. Make a plan
You don’t need a big plan for some adventures. They often happen randomly while exploring the world. But you’ll certainly need a plan before setting off the digital nomad life. Start with a fixed date when you’re going to hit the road.
Make all necessary arrangements regarding visas, flights, and accommodation (at least for the first days). Check if your bank account supports free withdrawals abroad, and open a virtual storage to upload your photos, videos or other documents.
Leave home prepared.
3. Temporary or a long-term trip
There is no need to pack your bag, hug your loved ones and say goodbye! As a start, you can plan a short trip abroad for a couple of months. Then, see how you feel in a new environment, take note of how you adapt to new food, culture, and climate.
If you’ve already experienced living abroad before, and you know you can handle all of it, go to a destination that is farther and stay longer than you did the last time.
4. Exotic or familiar culture?
Do you easily adapt to a new destination when going for a trip? Analyze your previous trips abroad and decide accordingly. There’s no need to jump straight into an exotic country you’re not familiar with, especially if you don’t feel comfortable about it.
On the other hand, ask yourself if you’d be fine going out of your comfort zone. Traveling and living abroad is about growing not only as a business person, but also as a human being. And there is no big teacher out there than the world itself. Don’t be afraid to learn something new by traveling to new destinations.
Do your research and check how affordable different travel locations are. You can check it on numbeo.com or in our articles about the cost of living in different countries.
Do it before, during, and after. Meet other like-minded people before you leave your home, (online or in meet-ups in your city) while traveling, (at the co-working spaces, workshops, check FB groups of digital nomads in a city you’re) and stay in touch with people you’ve met after you leave the place. You never know when you’re going meet agaiO