The Reality of Digital Nomadism — the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

                    Photo by me for the opening of WeWork Hebbal, Bangalore, India

                   Photo by me for the opening of WeWork Hebbal, Bangalore, India

Lessons Learned Roaming the World for a Couple Years

What a Digital Nomad Really Is

*This is my own interpretation and understanding of the term

It starts with not having a place to go back to. It’s someone who left their apartment or house in their country of origin. Someone who stored, sold, or gave away pretty much of their physical belongings. Someone with no plans to come back or settle somewhere for a longer term.

The is the nomad part of being a digital nomad.

You are a digital nomad when you do actual work. The line is blurrier here. Do we qualify “actual work” by hours? Salary? Location? Something else? All of these? I’d personally say that if you spend more time playing than working, it’s more of a vacation.

 

How I Became a Digital Nomad

Back in June 2015, I left Toronto with my wife to travel the world for a year. The whole purpose of the trip was to experience other cultures abroad.

It was an amazing journey.

We saw the most impressive sights, ate the best food, had empowering volunteering experiences, but most of all, we met the most incredible people.

But we were not digital nomads. We had left our apartment and had given away all our belongings, but we didn’t work. And we missed that part.

We ended up coming back to Toronto. Back to our previous job, because it was easier, and truthfully, we actually really liked our jobs.

But five months in, we realized we needed to be out there in the world. We still had wanderlust and the only way to satisfy it was to be away again. At a pub one night, I told my wife: “Let’s just leave again.”

I thought she’d dismiss the idea, but she said she was “in”.

A month and a half later, she applied for Médecins Sans Frontières and got the job shortly after. It meant that she would be away for six-month missions, where I would not be invited to go. It was a tough decision, but in the end, that was the best way for us to accomplish our current goals.

We left Canada again in June 2017, traveled for a bit, and we parted ways in August. She went to Central African Republic, I went to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I’ve been roaming since.

 

The 6 Good

1. You will be more interesting

With all the places you’ll have seen, all the food you’ll have eaten, all the activities you’ll have done and all the different friends you’ll have made, you will have a repertoire of interesting stories to tell for years to come.

2. You will make new friends

The connections you make while traveling and working tend to be really strong. You share wonderful experiences that most people don’t get to live. When back home, you’ll occasionally meet like-minded people and the bonding will be that much easier.

3. You will have a deeper appreciation

A deeper appreciation for everything. When you see that people in other countries don’t have the things you take for granted, well, you don’t take them for granted anymore.

4. You will be more positive

When you are in new environments frequently, it’s stressful. You panic. You yell. You cry. Then you’re back and things feel so “easy”. You start thinking positive about every situation.

5. You will be more open-minded

You’ll have met people with all sorts of backgrounds. You’ll have eaten food you never even thought existed. Your prejudices will go away and you will start to appreciate everyone and everything for what they are.

6. You will work harder and play harder

You will work harder because you won’t have a stable job and you’ll still have to pay for lodging, food, and transportation. You’ll diversify your skillset to meet the demands of remote work. You’ll have a plethora of incredible adventures “at your doorstep”. You’ll do epic things on weekend and enjoy vacation longer due to less travel time, and less stress.

 

The 5 Bad

1. You will be less tolerant of meaningless problems

The so-called first-world problems become so hilarious at times. You’ll hear people complain about the most meaningless of things when you’re back home. Sometimes you’ll find it funny, but sometimes it will irritate you.

2. You will become really cheap

A lot of countries can be cheaper than home, depending on which country you’re from. When you’re used to paying little for meals, it’s hard to come back and pay 5–10x the price for less authentic meals. It’s the same for accommodation and other things.

3. You will lose connections

I mentioned that above. Your friends will have a different lifestyle. You won’t connect on the same level anymore. Striking a meaningful conversation becomes harder when you don’t have anything in common anymore.

4. You will annoy people

You will be interesting to some, but you’ll be annoying to others. You will be perceived as pretentious. You will be so excited about your wonderful journey that when you talk about it, people will think you speak in a superior tone.

If you watched The Big Bang Theory, it’s similar to when Howard came back from space.

5. You will not be understood

People will not have lived the things you have. A lot of your close family will not agree with your new lifestyle or ideas. This can be difficult.

 

The 2 Ugly

1. You will not be easily impressed anymore

When I travel with people who have traveled less than me, they think I’m boring because I prefer to stay in and work instead of going to explore a city or do an activity that’s less interesting than my previous experiences.

That my friends, is ugly.

I don’t want to be like that, but I can’t help it. People promise me an incredible waterfall to go see. Well, I’ve seen hundreds, including those that are considered the most beautiful in the world. I’m not excited about waterfalls anymore. Same with religious sites, ruins, and more.

And that sucks because I really want to be impressed.

2. You will have a hard time getting back to a more normal life

Digital Nomadism is not an easy lifestyle. See the 5 bad above. At some point, you try to have a more normal life. It’s hard to sustain the lifestyle. Society made it counter-intuitive to be a nomad, and “fighting” the system can get tiring.

A lot of people talk about travel blues coming back from a long trip. Digital nomads have it worse. A lot of them feel depressed for a while during the transition period. And only another fellow digital nomad can truly understand that.

If you are feeling like that, feel free to share in the comments below, it helps to talk about it.

 

Conclusion

Don’t let the bad and the ugly discourage you!

Digital Nomadism is an amazing way of life but is not without its downsides.

Your journey will have its ups and downs. It will shape the person you are and will be for the years to come. It will change your life, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Ultimately, once you go past the bad, nothing beats the good you get out of it in my opinion.

Thanks for reading and sharing! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/@danny_forest/the-reality-of-digital-nomadism-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-7435116faab5