Vacations: Even the most dedicated workaholic enjoys them. But the one thing about vacations that isn’t so much fun? Is that they always end.
Unless, of course, you’re a digital nomad. For digital nomads, the secret to fulfillment is living their entire lives like it’s one long vacation. Sure, there are times when the work has to get done, but with the right amount of planning and forethought, it’s possible to earn a full-time living while also traveling full-time. And according to Nomad List founder Pieter Levels, over 1 billion people will be choosing this lifestyle by 2035.
To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld: What’s the deal with digital nomadism?
Why is this trend growing, and how are these intrepid people going on “permanent vacations” while still earning an income? Is it really possible to travel full-time while also running a successful solo business? Apparently the answer is yes, if you’re motivated enough.
The Freedom to Travel and Have New Experiences…
It’s not hard to understand the appeal of digital nomadism. Feel like spending the day on a Costa Rican beach or hiking up a mountain in Thailand? Go for it. Want to sit in a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower and watch the Parisians below? No problem. Never been to a Tibetan monastery before? Nothing’s stopping you from going now.
Digital nomadism is all about making your work fit around your life, rather than the other way around. Digital nomads say they’re driven by a need for absolute freedom in the Kerouacian sense. Plus, the lower cost of living in places like Serbia and the Philippines make these destinations not only affordable places to travel, but also ideal places to live for those who want to stretch their dollars further and leverage lower costs of living to grow their businesses.
…Paid For in Sweat Equity…
While this freedom to travel at will is definitely appealing, it’s not without its sacrifices. Earlier this year, One Tribe Apparel owner and digital nomad Ryan O’Connor told Forbes that being a digital nomad requires a total eschewing of typical notions of work-life balance.
Instead, O’Connor says that he will often do 3-4 week “sprints” involving up to 12 hours of work per day, followed by 2-week periods of travel. Discipline is key, and taking time off in the middle of a project simply doesn’t work. Falter at any point during a sprint, and you’ll end up behind on client projects, unable to travel, unable to take time off to recover, and miserable.
That’s why digital nomads like O’Connor say that digital nomadism requires tremendous discipline. Digital nomad Harry Guinness says that discipline is by far the digital nomad’s number one challenge. Guinness notes that for digital nomads, there’s always “lots of shiny new stuff going on that takes away from a desire to do some actual work.”
…Provided You Can Handle Unique Challenges
Digital nomadism is a rewarding way of life, but it’s also a difficult one. It requires you to uproot yourself and spend months at a time far from friends and family, in places where you may not always have reliable Internet access, may not speak the local language or understand the local customs, and will often encounter administrative challenges like determining which taxes you have to pay and which kinds of visas you’ll need.
Digital nomads are logistics ninjas by necessity; they know that even a minor error on an arcane piece of paperwork could mean weeks of chaos and anarchy. They’re also highly disciplined, and aren’t afraid to work every waking hour of the day when necessary. But at the end of the day, they know that the freedom to travel, to experience, and to be themselves is worth their Herculean efforts.
What’s your take on digital nomadism? Digital nomads: What are your strategies for making the nomad lifestyle work? And if you’re not a digital nomad yet, what’s stopping you? Let us know in the comments.