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The pros and cons of being a digital nomad

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author-photo Danijela Horvat
The pros and cons of being a digital nomad

The pros and cons of being a digital nomad

When people think of a digital nomad, they often picture someone on their laptop working from jaw-droppingly beautiful locations like beaches and mountaintops. Being able to work from the most gorgeous and exotic spots in the world attracts many people to the digital nomad lifestyle, but it’s rarely as glamorous as Instagram makes it seem.

While you might have the opportunity to work from a cafe with a view of the beach, you will probably never sit on a chair in the water, directly in the sun, with a laptop. A laptop is a digital nomad’s livelihood, and few will risk dropping it in the water or overheating in the sun (and don’t get us started with the screen glare). Consider more before choosing to embark on a digital nomad lifestyle. Knowing the pros and cons of life on the road can help you decide if the lifestyle is for you or not.

The pros of being a digital nomad

Being a digital nomad comes with many benefits. Here are some of the top reasons that you might want to become one:

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You can travel full-time

This is an obvious advantage of the digital nomad lifestyle and one of the main reasons people are interested in it. Being a digital nomad allows you the greatest flexibility to travel as much or as little as you want because a physical workplace does not constrain you. If you want to slow travel and base yourself in countries for 6 months at a time then you can! Or if you prefer to move every few weeks to see new places, you can do that too.

Work from wherever you want

As a digital nomad, you have the freedom to work whenever and wherever you choose. It may be a charming cafe in Bali with lots of sunshine and a pleasant wind or a bookstore in Tallinn with volumes stacked from floor to ceiling. You’re good to go if you have a stable Wi-Fi connection, a good table and chair, and your laptop.

Experience new cultures

Traveling is fun, but experiencing more of the local culture, staying longer in one area, and learning to be a traveler rather than a tourist can teach us to be more modest. The more locations you see, the more you realize how little you know. You’ll observe how different we are, but we are all humans and all connected. You’ll form connections with people from different religions, cultures, backgrounds, and walks of life, even if you don’t speak their language. You’ll try foods you’ve never eaten, hear new forms of music, and live differently. And most importantly, you learn more about yourself.

Personal growth

You are continually exposed to new settings, challenges, and ideas when you live as a digital nomad. Personal growth is an important component of digital nomadism, whether it’s navigating a country’s transportation system, meeting new people, or dealing with disappointments. Every situation you face helps you learn and grow as a person, making you more well-rounded and aware.

Meet new and interesting people

Having a common experience with someone lets you connect on a new level, especially when you’re strangers. Your friends you make while traveling will understand some aspects of your life better than those you have at home. When you go through something life-changing with someone, you’ll bond on a deeper level and much faster. If you’re traveling New Zealand solo and tick skydiving off your bucket list you’ll never forget the person you experienced it with. Those new friends will feel like family after a short period of time.

Additionally, each person you meet has their own unique story. You’ll encounter interesting people worldwide who had different reasons for choosing the nomadic lifestyle.

Lower cost of living

Popular digital nomad destinations are usually countries where the cost of living is lower than your country of origin. At the same time, these countries offer everything you need as a digital nomad, from gorgeous landscapes to fast internet, safety, and coworking spaces. Instead of living in the United States or Australia, you can live in Mexico, Georgia, or Colombia, where you’re paying a quarter of the cost (or less) for living expenses.

You’ll also save a lot of money on typical expenses like car payments, car insurance, mortgage payments, electricity, gas, etc. since you’ll have no home base or use for these things. When you rent accommodation, everything is usually included.

You can say “yes” to more

A digital nomad lifestyle offers enormous flexibility, and not only for your own travel. If you’re working an in-person, full-time job, you had to ask for time off from work for every trip you wanted. And when the vacation days run out, you can no longer take time off. Destination weddings, trips to festivals with your friends, summers with your family spent in beautiful remote locations – this is all possible when you can bring your work with you anywhere.

No long commutes to work

Long commutes to your workplace are incredibly frustrating, not to mention inefficient. You don’t get paid for time to and from work, so you are wasting valuable time. As a digital nomad, you no longer have to commute to work. You can choose to work from home or a cafe or coworking space near your home, making it easy to come and go as you please without wasting time.

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The cons of being a digital nomad

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Stress

Being a digital nomad is not for everyone because the lifestyle is almost always more stressful than staying in one place. This stress comes from the fact that you are constantly trying to figure out your way around new places, get new SIM cards, find the best grocery store, find accommodation, etc. It can be overwhelming because simply doing life is harder and takes more effort, and it repeats in every new location.

Trying to liaison with clients in different time zones or working for an employer in a set time zone can also be stressful when you’re moving around and always operating in different time zones. Plus, it can impact your sleep schedule and social life.

Lack of stability

There is no stability in the life of a digital nomad. You don’t have a stable place to go home to where you have everything. You don’t have a comfortable bed with memory foam pillows and cozy sheets that you picked out yourself. You don’t have your favorite bar down the street where you go for after-work drinks, and everyone knows your name. You don’t have family and friends nearby that you can go visit when you’re having a bad day. Every day is constantly something new, and while this can be fun and exciting, the lack of stability is not for everyone, and nothing is guaranteed.

There is no guarantee that when you arrive at a new destination you’ll be able to find accommodation that ticks all your boxes or offers everything that you like to be comfortable. There can also be a lack of stability with work, especially if you’re self-employed or work as a contractor/freelancer.

Loneliness

Loneliness is another big con of being a digital nomad. Even if you like your alone time it is not the same as feeling lonely. This can be tough on mental health because, in some locations, you might not make friends as fast as you expected, or there may not be much of a nomad community. Or, you might make a good friend, and then they leave, or you leave. As a nomad, you need to put yourself out there to make connections, which can be hard for many. Dating is also difficult as a digital nomad since you may not be somewhere long enough to establish a deep connection.

On top of that, keeping in touch with family and friends worldwide can be tough, especially when you’re in different time zones. You’ll also have to miss out on special occasions with people you love, which can be challenging and make you feel isolated and alone.

Work/life balance is hard to maintain

It’s easy to get distracted from your work when you’re in a beautiful country for the first time and want to go sightseeing. Especially when you first become a digital nomad it is challenging to realize that you’re not on vacation and need to put in the same amount of work you did before, but you’re accountable for yourself. You’ll also often lack a good quality workspace and have to adjust; during this time, your work can suffer. Many digital nomads burn out due to lack of work/life balance and end up working too much because of low productivity. Or, they are too tempted by the attractions and sightseeing and their work suffers as a result. It is possible to achieve a good work/life balance, but you really need to stick to it if you want to maintain it.

You’re misunderstood

Most people in your life will not understand why you’ve chosen to be a digital nomad. For many, success is having a house, car, kids, and a well-paying job. When your lifestyle differs, you could feel criticized and demotivated to start your journey as a digital nomad.

You need Wi-Fi

Even if you generally could travel anywhere in the world as a digital nomad, this comes with many limitations. To work, you need good Wi-Fi, and not every country and location has a good Wi-Fi infrastructure. You can always try using hotspot devices and international SIM cards, but they can be very pricey and are not a long-term solution. If the Wi-Fi goes down or isn’t fast enough, then you can’t work. And if you can’t work then you can’t travel.

You don’t have a home

When visiting a new country you can get used to a lifestyle and even like it a lot, but it is not your home. And unless you find a really good digital nomad visa option, you might have to leave sooner than you’d like. Most digital nomads do not have a home base, meaning they have nowhere to return. You lack the comforts of home and carry everything with you, so you must be picky about what you keep in your suitcase. Traveling alone, constantly changing groups of friends, not being able to have pets, and having a difficult dating life can all be hard to handle.

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Pros and cons of being a digital nomad

With a well-rounded understanding of the pros and cons of being a digital nomad, you can evaluate your goals and determine if this is your lifestyle. Many people can thrive and live a fulfilling life as a digital nomad, but awareness of the disadvantages can help prepare you for them, so you’re not shocked when things aren’t as perfect as you expected. Life on the road is exciting, and if you are an explorer at heart, it might be exactly what you are looking for.

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