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I’ve been living as a digital nomad for nearly a year now, and it’s still always interesting to see how people respond to my lifestyle. Aside from a few suspicious remarks and some initial confusion, it’s usually all fairly positive – perhaps a bit too positive.
I’d love to travel all the time like you do.
I wish I could do what you’re doing. It’s sounds amazing!
Wow! You’re really living the dream!
While I’m certainly living my dream, the digital nomad life is far from dreamy a lot of the time. I want to make sure I share ALL sides of this lifestyle, not just the good, and the reality is that I don’t think many people would enjoy the lifestyle.
So if you’re dreaming of full-time travel and thinking about making the leap, hold that thought for a second. Here are some other things to think about.
11 reasons why the digital nomad lifestyle might not be for you after all
Whether it’s because you’re not cut out for it or just not ready yet, you might want to think twice about pursuing your digital nomad dreams if you any of the following apply to you.
1 – You don’t have a skill to sell
No matter what your background or hopes for the future, you need something to sell if you want to work for yourself. If not, what are people going to pay you for? It could be a product or it could be a service, but you’re going to need some kind of skill to pull it off.
As a digital nomad with no base to hold inventory, selling services is always going to be the simpler option. Many digital nomads build businesses in areas like copy-writing, marketing and social media, but you may need to use a little more creativity if your experience isn’t naturally digital.
Whatever you decide to pursue, you need to develop the right skills to do it. Whether it’s improving your writing, figuring out Facebook ads or learning how to use drop-shipping to start your own dog food brand, make sure your skills are up to scratch. If they’re not already, you may want to think about taking a course (you can find some great ones on websites like Udemy) before you go any further.
2 – You don’t love the work you do
You don’t just need a skill to pull this off; motivation is SO important if you’re self-employed. If you’re self-employed and surrounded by amazing things to see and do, that motivation needs to be even stronger.
If you don’t love the work you do as a digital nomad, you’re going to become frustrated and stressed very quickly. Every single task will feel like an even bigger chore than it would in an office, where you’re paid to be there whether you do a good job or not. And you’ll begin to resent every item on your to-do list as it stops you doing the things you want.
The only way to make a remote work set-up sustainable is by wanting to do the work and the travel (even if you want to do the travel a little more).
3 – You don’t want to take risks
Quitting a job I loved to become a digital nomad is the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. By far.
There will be more risk at play for some than others, but there’s always going to be an element of unknown. The only way to find out if you have what it takes is to jump in and hope you can swim. Which leads me onto the next reason why you might not be ready yet…
4 – You don’t have a back-up plan
While there’s no way to avoid the risks you take in becoming a digital nomad, there are certainly ways to minimise them. And you should.
When I set off to Thailand, I kept £8,000 of “back-up” money in my account. That was £6,000 to live on (if I needed it) while I figured out in the world I would make enough money online to live on. The other £2,000 was emergency money to pay for a flight back home and keep me going while I found a ‘real’ job, should I need one.
Luckily, I’ve now been able to move that money into a house deposit fund, but having it there sure made the difficult days easier. Those difficult days happen to everyone, so make sure you’re prepared for them.
5 – You want a steady paycheck
If you’re the kind of person who likes knowing exactly how much money you’re going to make every month, digital nomadism may not be for you. Unless you go down the path of taking a full-time job remote (which is totally possible, but harder to come by!) you’ll never really know how much money you’re going to make.
The flip side, of course, is that your income isn’t capped at the salary your boss decided on.
6 – You get distracted easily
Dealing with some serious FOMO is by far one of the hardest things about being a digital nomad. There’s always somewhere cool you could be and only YOU can decide whether it’s a good idea to go.
Working remotely takes time management and organisation to a whole new level, and you’ll struggle to keep on top of things if you can’t stay in control.
7 – You have limiting beliefs
This is one that I don’t feel gets talked about enough. I could talk about it for hours, but to put it simply: if you don’t believe you’re going to make it work, you’re almost definitely not going to.
There will be days when your beliefs are tested and your stinky old commute suddenly seems very appealing. If you can’t keep believing in yourself through both the good and the bad, it’s going to get really, really tough.
Trust me – I’ve been there. Even though the last 8 months have been the best months of my life, I’ve also had my lowest lows during that time. Even if you do believe in yourself, I suggest finding a friend who truly understands or a community to lean on when it gets rough. If you don’t have one already, why not come and join my Facebook group?
8 – You don’t take yourself seriously
In case you haven’t guessed by now, this blog post is basically a big old summary of the struggles I’ve faced in my digital nomad journey so far. For the longest time, I felt kind of sheepish talking about anything to do with business and it certainly didn’t help my mindset.
I’m not sure why I thought like that – perhaps I didn’t feel like I deserve it. Most likely, I was just completely overwhelmed by the whole thing. Whatever the case, it’s possible to ease that feeling if you suffer too.
Little things like registering a Limited Company (as opposed to working as a Sole Proprietor) can give you oodles of confidence in what you’re doing. Do whatever it takes to make it feel ‘real’, whether that’s investing money in a course or printing some business cards.
9 – You can’t handle others’ opinions
Ohh, this is a biggie. When you become a digital nomad, people are going to have their opinions. And they’re going to share those opinions with you whether you like it or not.
I mean, what did you expect? Even though more companies are going remote and the digital nomad lifestyle is becoming much more common, it’s still not a mainstream lifestyle choice.
Most people are just confused. Some are jealous (or at least think they are – maybe point them to this article!). And many just don’t want to believe this whole thing is possible.
10 – You want to take time off when you feel like it
I hate to dampen your dreams with this one, but being an entrepreneur of any kind takes away a lot of those freedoms. Having to work regularly is the price you pay for being able to work flexibly – and yes, sometimes that means changing plans last minute.
In the Philippines, I spent a whole day fixing something for a client instead of setting off on the incredible boat tour we had booked. I work 10-hour days regularly so that I can truly enjoy the travel I do. And even today, as I write this, I’m sat in my apartment missing out on exploring some cool mountain caves that I might never see.
Yes, you’ll be able to work flexibly, but it doesn’t mean you won’t have to work at all!
11 – When you think of being a digital nomad, you think about lying on the beach or exploring cool places
Scrap that image right now (and all these other digital nomad myths while you’re at it).
Although one of the best parts of my life is exploring waterfalls, paragliding over blue lagoons or island hopping around the most beautiful parts of the world, it’s just a tiny percentage. It’s certainly not how I spend an average day.
In fact, I spend most of my days sat behind my laptop so that I can enjoy those days of adventure. If your digital nomad daydreams never consider the time you’re going to spend working, maybe you should think twice.
Still want to go for it?
The digital nomad lifestyle is awesome. It’s certainly not always awesome, but overall it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done.
And you really can do it too if you want to. There are only two main things you need to become a digital nomad: a source of remote income and location independence.
And the truth is, if you have both of those, you can choose where to base yourself. That can mean moving every other day (something I definitely don’t recommend!), hopping from country to country as you please. Or it could simply mean buying a house and running your remote business from your spare room. Perhaps travelling as and when you feel like it. Choosing to take a working vacation for a few days, just because you can.
There’s no right or wrong way to be a digital nomad. But you’ll get off to a much better start if you have realistic expectations.