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When I meet someone new and tell them that I’ve been travelling full time for two years, I usually get one of two general reactions.
The first is a (surprised sounding), “Wow, that’s so cool!”. The second? Isn’t so positive.
“Don’t you want, like, a stable life and friends around you?”
At first, I would be surprised by the negative reactions. Now, I like predicting who they’ll come from.
There are, of course, countless variations on both the positive and negative reactions. And there are just as many positive and negative things about living nomadically itself.
The end of my digital nomadism?
ICYMI, I bought an apartment in Portugal last month. Well.. the pile of rubble that will become an apartment, at least. It’s due to be completed in March 2020 and, shortly after that, I’ll be moving in and setting up base.
So what does this mean for my life as a digital nomad?
Well, it’s going to change – that’s for sure. But that doesn’t mean everything is going to change!
I’ll still be travelling as much (or as little) as I like, only I’ll have somewhere to go back to when I feel like it. It also means I can start to build a social life, join a gym and leave all my camera gear behind when I don’t need it – something both my back and my doctor will thank me for.
Oh, and I get to enjoy shopping for household items for the first time in years!
What it really means, though, is I can hopefully enjoy the best of both worlds. Having a base – and still having the flexibility to travel – means I can still enjoy the perks of nomad life while hopefully lessening some of the burdens.
Pros and cons of being a digital nomad
As you can probably imagine, there are a LOT of amazing things about travelling the world indefinitely. But there are also a lot of really tough times to deal with too.
Buying an apartment and planning to semi-settle (is that a thing?) has got me thinking pretty hard. More than ever, I’m very conscious of all the things I’m head over heels about – and all the things I’d give up in a heartbeat.
So, here are my main pros and cons of living as a digital nomad. I’m hoping that setting up base can help me keep the pros and reduce a few of the cons, but we’ll see!
Advantages of digital nomad life
AKA all the things I LOVE about my life (and don’t want to ever give up)!
#1 – Working on your own terms
I have to start with the biggest benefit of all and, for me, that’s being able to work on your own terms!
My entire digital nomad journey was started through my desire to live and work on my own terms, and it’s given me more freedom than I ever could have imagined. It may have given me too much freedom at times, but that’s a whole other blog post…
Of course, you can work for yourself without travelling. In fact, I’m hoping that having a base will make me even more productive and leave me more free to enjoy the travel when I’m not at home.
But living nomadically really gave me the chance to think about what I want in life and get started with a near-blank slate. And for that reason alone, it will always be the best decision I ever made.
#2 – Travelling the world
This is probably the first thing that came to mind when you saw this post, and it’s a very close second for me.
I used to spend all of my free time and money on travel, and now it’s just a regular part of my life. In fact, sometimes I even get paid to travel!
Although you don’t have to travel to work remotely, freelance or run your own business, it’s a super fun way to do it.
I’ve been to SO many incredible places – more than most people visit in a lifetime – and it just wouldn’t have been possible with a 9-5. Working while on the go means you can spend longer somewhere if you fall in love (looking at you Philippines!).
It also means you can be totally spontaneous and make a quick trip when you feel like it. When I lived in the UK, a short break was limited to European destinations or, at a push, North Africa. As a nomad, I’ve been able to spend 48 hours in Kuala Lumpur, 3 nights in Taiwan and 4 days in Singapore on a whim.
#3 – Meeting new people
As an extrovert, I LOVE meeting new people. And as a linguist, I can’t get enough of learning about other people and their lives. As a digital nomad, I get to do both of those things more than I ever did as a tourist.
There’s a also a HUGE community of digital nomads out there, and I meet people in a similar situation all the time. Most of the time, I’m not even looking for them!
When you do meet other nomads, there’s an instant connection and understanding – and a relief that, for once, you don’t need to explain yourself.
The digital nomad community – just like the travel blogger community – is an awesome group of inspiring people. I’m forever amazed at people’s stories and plans, and I simply love learning about them.
#4 – Living out of a suitcase
Did you expect this one to go in the “cons” pile? Well… surprise!
If, two years ago, you’d asked me what I thought my biggest challenge would be, I would have said living out of a suitcase. I was a serial hoarder with more clothes than I could wear in a year, and more random possessions than my dignity would let me count.
Now, I absolutely LOVE living with my 22kg suitcase. I only have the things I love and need because there just isn’t space for anything else. And it makes life so, so simple. Plus, packing has never been easier – I just throw it all in!
RELATED READ: What’s in my digital nomad suitcase.
#5 – The freedom
Now that I look back on my digital nomad journey, there’s one word that comes to mind: freedom. I have more financial freedom, physical freedom and professional freedom than ever before – and I don’t think I could ever give it up.
It’s only really when I go back to the UK or speak to my friends in “normal” jobs that I realise just how much freedom I have now. It just kind of hits me, and every time I realise just how grateful I am to live completely on my own terms.
Disadvantages of digital nomad life
Writing all of the above almost made me forget that it’s not all rosy when it comes to being a digital nomad. In fact, the lows are low.
I wouldn’t change a single thing about the way I’ve chosen to live, but these are the issues I hope to reduce by having a base:
#1 – Feeling guilty
Being a digital nomad is great because you get to work AND travel. You don’t have to sacrifice one to have the other – but you do have to accept a constant feeling of guilt.
Whenever I’m out exploring a place, it won’t be long before I feel guilty about not working. And whenever I’m working, I feel guilty for not “making the most” of my time somewhere.
Being a digital nomad is a constant race against the clock and juggling act, and I rarely feel like I’ve got it right.
READ NEXT: My entire digital nomad “office”.
#2 – Never really travelling
It might sound weird to say that I’m hoping to travel more by no longer travelling full time. But hear me out on this one…
Right now, I rarely feel like I’m really travelling. I’m obviously exploring new places all the time and, yes, I basically live at the airport.
But with deadlines, delays and crazy workloads, I never feel fully in the moment when I’m travelling. I’m always thinking about the work I have to do when I get back to the hotel or Airbnb. I find it hard to switch off. And it’s incredibly to have a day of pure travel.
With all of those combined, I rarely feel like I’m travelling – and I rarely see everything I wanted to (and could have). By having a base, I’ll have a much clearer line between “work days” and “travel days”.
#3 – It can get lonely
One of the worst parts of being a digital nomad is the frequent loneliness that comes with it.
Although you meet new people all the time, it’s never the same as having a circle of close-knit friends nearby. Nothing can replace those relationships that take years to build and, if there’s one thing I really miss more than anything, it’s that.
When you work from home, you feel it even more. As much as you may hate your colleagues, it’s pretty lonely without them.
#4 – Having to take everything everywhere
Even though I love the suitcase life, it does get a bit tiring. Sometimes I’ll find myself lugging a load of winter gear to a Caribbean island because I’m also going hiking in the Patagonian mountains and vice versa.
Just because my stuff fits into a suitcase, it doesn’t mean I need all of it all of the time. It’s going to be SO nice to be able to travel with only the things I need for each destination in future. And it’s going to be awesome to buy camera gear knowing I don’t need to break my back carrying it everywhere with me!
#5 – Lack of direction and flow
Building up any kind of routine or new habit is a challenge at the best of times – and it’s even harder as a nomad. There have been a few times when I’ve got myself into a good morning/gym/work routine… only to have it dashed as soon as I pack up and leave that destination.
One thing I’ve learned as a digital nomad is that I’m much more focused when I have a routine. Without one, I begin to question things, lack direction in my work and life, and generally feel a little lost.
With a solid base and everything I need around me, I can’t wait to get into more of a routine. Then, when I travel, I can just let it go and enjoy the moment – without worrying about squeezing in workouts or morning rituals.
Even though becoming a digital nomad has had its challenges, it still remains the best thing I ever did. It was 100% the right decision for me, but I’m looking forward to finding a nice “halfway” point between travelling and having a somewhere to call home. Who knows what the next chapter will bring…
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