Are you thinking about becoming a digital nomad and living the digital nomad lifestyle? Do you want to travel the world while working from your laptop?
After a number of long-term teaching jobs in other countries, this past year I decided to teach online full-time and try out the digital nomad life.
As you can probably guess, there are lots of pros and cons of being a digital nomad and they are similar to remote work pros and cons.
Here are a few that I experienced and that are worth thinking about if you want to try living this lifestyle.
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1. Pro: Travel Wherever
This is the obvious one. Being a digital nomad gives you the freedom to travel whenever you want since you are not tied down to a job that is location-based. You can work from anywhere in the world, so you can choose to work from your favorite beach or city or explore new places while still being able to earn a living.
Traveling can be a great way to learn about new cultures, meet new people, and broaden your perspective. You can immerse yourself in local traditions and customs and have experiences that you wouldn’t have if you were just visiting for a short time.
2. Pro: Travel Whenever
Ok, I had to split travel into two pros. Having been a teacher who was only able to travel during school breaks, being able to travel whenever is a pretty major advantage.
This means that you can take advantage of two important things: great weather and off-season prices. If you don’t like cold weather you can chase eternal summer by traveling to warm climates.
As someone who increasingly dislikes the cold Wisconsin winters, this is one of the best digital nomad benefits!
Plus, when you can be flexible with your travel dates you can shop around for the best prices and get some really good deals!
3. Pro: Work Flexibility
One of the most significant benefits of being a digital nomad is the flexibility it provides. Depending on your job, you may have the freedom to work from anywhere, at any time. This means you can create your own schedule, take time off when you want, and work in an environment that suits you best.
For example, if you’re a morning person, you can work during the early hours of the day and have the rest of the day to explore your new location. Alternatively, if you prefer to work at night, you can do so without worrying about office hours.
4. Pro: Work-Life Balance
Being a digital nomad can allow you to have a better work-life balance.
For one, working remotely means that you can significantly reduce or completely eliminate your commute, saving you time and the headache of being stuck in traffic.
When you have a new city to explore or a mountain to climb, you’re going to stop working as soon as the work is done. You’ll focus more on life outside of work.
5. Pro: Lower Living Costs
If you are earning in a strong currency like U.S. dollars or Euros, you can choose to live in countries that have a lower cost of living and save some serious money.
For example, in my hometown, rent for a standard one-bedroom apartment costs around $1500. In Eastern Europe, I could get a one-bedroom apartment with a pool and weekly cleaning for half that price.
I have heard this concept referred to as geo-arbitrage, and I love the name. You chose the places you travel to based on the costs of traveling and living there.
I have to acknowledge that there is a high degree of economic and political privilege that comes with this and this would not be possible for digital nomads from countries with a lower cost of living or from countries with weak passports.
6. Pro: Freedom and Independence
Another perk is the general freedom and independence that digital nomads have.
Want to stay for another month in a place? You can!
Want to visit Rio de Janeiro for Carnival at the last minute? Why not?!
Location-independent people are used to living in the moment and taking advantage of last-minute opportunities.
7. Pro: Focus on Experiences, Not Things
Being a digital nomad will make you re-evaluate your relationship with things. You’ll be living out of a suitcase or two and wearing the same clothing for months.
Many long-term travelers purge most of their belongings and sell them or give them away before they travel. They become evangelists of minimalism.
Things will matter less and experiences and people will matter more when you are living this lifestyle.
1. Con: Lack of Stability
The biggest disadvantage of being a digital nomad is the lack of stability. Frequently moving around means that things are always different: a different bed, a different kitchen, a different schedule, and different weather.
While variety is the spice of life, a lack of stability can be hard for mental health and productivity.
2. Con: Travel and Health Insurance
Traditional insurance policies from your home country may not cover you if you’re working and living in different countries. Depending on where you are from, you may need to have multiple policies. Some insurance companies require you to buy a policy based on specific travel dates and travel to certain countries. Many policies don’t cover all the adventurous activities you want to do. This can be a real pain.
It’s essential to look into insurance policies that are specifically designed for digital nomads. Having digital nomad insurance can give you peace of mind and protect you in case of unexpected events.
SafetyWing is a company that I’ve used and is a great option for digital nomads looking for insurance coverage. I love their mission to build a borderless world with a global safety net!
3. Con: Isolation
Another disadvantage of being a digital nomad is the potential for isolation. If you’re working from a remote location, you may not have the same opportunities to socialize and connect with people as you would if you were working in an office.
One way to meet people is to join a coworking space, but this costs extra money.
Another option is to join a co-living environment where you can live and work with other digital nomads.
Outsite is one such community I’m a member of. They have beautiful properties on many continents and I stayed with them in Puerto Rico. If you’re interested in Outsite, message me. I’m happy to answer any questions and I’ll give you my referral link for $50 off your membership or first stay.
Another way to meet people is by staying at their home through couch surfing. You need to be a bit cautious before couch surfing, so here are safety tips for using Couchsurfing.
4. Con: Difficulty with Time Zones
Working from different time zones can be challenging, especially if you need to communicate with clients or colleagues who are in different time zones. This can result in working odd hours, which can be exhausting and can also make it difficult to get a constant routine.
When I did the Remote Year program in Valencia, Spain, I was teaching my classes from 3:30 pm to 10:00 pm! I did most of my exploring before class each day, but then would go out for dinner or drinks after working. Some nights I was going to bed at 3:00 am and waking up at 11:00 am and I felt like a vampire who never saw the light.
5. Con: Missing Family and Friends From Home
Missing family and friends is a common drawback that digital nomads have to deal with.
Travelers are fortunate that today’s technology allows them to easily keep in touch with anyone anywhere. However, a video is never going to be a substitute for actually being there for important events like birthdays, weddings, and holidays.
6. Con: Distractions
When you’re working from a new and exciting location, it can be easy to get distracted by all the things that are going on around you. A loud group of locals may interrupt your work at a cafe or trying to talk to a friend at home at a specific time may affect your productivity.
This can make it difficult to focus on work, which can impact your productivity and earnings.
7. Con: Constant Search for Wifi
One of the work from anywhere drawbacks is the need for strong, consistent wifi. In some countries, this is not a problem, but in others, the infrastructure means that the wifi is slow everywhere.
Slow wifi is maddening and negatively affects your work output.
Needing wifi to work also means that you may not be able to travel to certain remote places that you might like to.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is being a digital nomad worth it?
The answer to this question would be different for each person, but considering the huge rise in people choosing this lifestyle, the answer for most people is a resounding YES!
If you are hesitant to go all in, try it for a month or so to see if you like it first.
How much can you earn as a digital nomad?
The sky is the limit here. Digital nomads have all different jobs, from freelancers to entrepreneurs to corporate CEOs. Anyone that can work remotely can become a digital nomad, so incomes vary a lot.
How long did it take you to become a digital nomad?
Not very long. I had lived in other countries and traveled a lot, so once I got my remote job I was able to make plans quite quickly.
If you already have a remote job, you can leave as soon as you can buy a plane ticket (although I definitely recommend doing some basic planning first).
What are freelancing advantages and disadvantages?
Many digital nomads are freelancers, meaning they work as independent contractors and are not employed by one company.
An advantage is that they usually have very flexible schedules and can choose which work they decide to take. A disadvantage is that they don’t receive benefits like regular employees would.
How do I avoid being lonely as a digital nomad?
Digital nomads often cite loneliness as one of the biggest negatives of this lifestyle. You need to make an effort to make connections with others or else it is easy to find yourself isolated.
A great way to do this is to seek out others in the digital nomad community. Two programs I would recommend are Outsite (co-living) and Remote Year (1, 4, and 12-month programs for remote workers around the world).
Using one of these organizations is also a great way to get your bearings and have a support system as you start out.
Do I need a digital nomad visa?
Each country has different entry requirements that change depending on which passport you have. In many countries, you can travel for months as a tourist. For other countries, you need a tourist visa in advance or on arrival.
It’s important to research each country and see how long you are allowed to stay.
Digital nomad visas have been popping up in the past few years to provide an option for remote workers from other countries to stay in a country legally for months or even years. If you find a place you love, they are a great option.
Conclusions on Digital Nomad Life
I hope this post has given you some advantages and disadvantages to the digital nomad life to consider. If you’ve decided to go this route, here’s how you can become a digital nomad.
Everyone is different and no two people will have the same experience. Factors like money, family, nationality, and job type will affect each person’s experience differently. Nevertheless, I encourage you to give digital nomadism a try!