“I just want to travel.”
We’ve all heard it from somebody if not from ourselves. If you haven’t expressed that sentiment, surely you can still see why quitting your 9-5 job to travel the world is an attractive scheme. With 24/7 Internet connections and worldwide access to enviable travel photos, the possibility of traveling the world seems like a dream within one’s reach.
Idealistic? Yes. Possible? Yes. Easy? That, my friend, is where one needs to sit down and take in the realities that a digital nomad faces.
Typically defined as individuals who achieve their work through technology and have agency to work from any location they wish to, digital nomads play a huge role in the 21st century counterculture movement. Digital nomads, commonly represented by freelancers and entrepreneurs, have become so prevalent that they are starting to become—dare I say—mainstream.
The revolution of cafés and the rise of co-working spaces are testaments to that. Corporations have also been—or unsuccessfully trying to, to the dismay of overtaxed human resource departments—adapt their workplaces to retain employees yearning for work-life balance, flexibility and a sense of purpose. All things of which digital nomads have at the tip of their fingers.
So what exactly is it like being a digital nomad?
To steer things clear, I’m a full-time freelance writer who experienced the corporate grind for two fruitful years. While I was working in the advertising industry back in 2015, I launched a travel blog that I still update every now and then. I’ve been freelancing for almost a year now and although I am far from being a seasoned digital nomad, I believe I’ve learned lessons that may be of interest to soon-to-be digital nomads.
Everyone’s journey is different, and digital nomads are certainly of no exception to this aphorism. The fact that there’s no sure-fire formula in succeeding as a digital nomad can be thrilling, terrifying or both. Despite this, there are a few truths that this tech-savvy, independent group can attest to.
So before you believe that a digital nomad’s path is your yellow brick road, here are truths only a typical digital nomad would know the gravity of.
Flexibility is a curse and a blessing
The common misconception directed towards digital nomads is how everyday to them seems like the weekend. Sure, staying home all day and waking up at 10 instead of 6 in the morning sounds like a dream. It almost sounds too good to be true. But this doesn’t take into consideration the late nights and the working weekends due to project demands, unconventional deadlines and other less justifiable reasons such as laziness. Not to mention the pressure of getting the ‘s’ word—attaining ‘success’ as a digital nomad, despite how fluid the word’s definition has become.
“With freedom comes great responsibility,” Eleanor Roosevelt once said. A digital nomad, at times, can have too much of it. The independency, in most cases, entails being your own CEO, HR head, finance committee and production team. On top of these intimidating responsibilities, you need to be able to market yourself like a pro, too.
Being disciplined and action-oriented is easier said than done. If you want to become a digital nomad, it’s essential to have clear, results-oriented goals in order to achieve progress in your career. If not, you may just fall into a rut that may cause you to feel just as trapped as one might feel in a typical corporate job.
Networking isn’t an option, it’s a must
Depending on where you lie in the introversion-extroversion scale, this truth may either be a dreaded reality or an exciting endeavor. The importance of being part of a community or having a stable network is undeniable. It exposes you to more jobs and more opportunities, which ultimately leads to financial stability and a boosted career. It doesn’t hurt to gain lasting friendships, too!
Whether you find yourself in a foreign land or in your friendly local neighborhood, use your time wisely by expanding your network. Join groups related to your industry, may it be the creative, technology or entrepreneur space. Take advantage of the Internet and strike up conversations with people you’d like to collaborate with. Chances are, like-minded people would love to meet and expand their network, too. Cheers to 21st century tech-driven dating network building!
Reality is what you make it
Anything unconventional will trigger negative reactions. If you’re a digital nomad, chances are, you would know what it’s like to have a career that’s frowned upon. May it be from traditional relatives, conservative elders, or even from your cynical co-millennials, people will always have something negative to say with your nomadic, free-spirited, I’m-my-own-boss choice of living.
This may take a toll on your self-esteem, pressure you to get a more stable job despite doing pretty decent (if you say so yourself), or even stray you from pursuing the digital nomad’s path. Even if you would consider yourself a pretty successful digital nomad, people’s negative opinions of your career may cause you to rethink what it truly means to be successful in life.
So if you’re a digital nomad, know your truth. No one else knows it as much as you do. If people think your career is aimless when you’re confident of finding ways to sustain yourself long-term, don’t let people make you think otherwise. Listening to what people have to say can be insightful, but if you only find them to be discouraging, it’s best to pay attention to other things that will actually serve you.
With technology’s boundless capabilities, today’s world is an undeniably a digital nomad’s playground. Ultimately, it’s up to you to achieve your own version of success.
Would you consider becoming a digital nomad?
About the Author
Danna Peña is a freelance writer living in Manila and a former Content Producer at Rappler. When she’s not writing about lifestyle, travel and technical topics such as food safety, she dabbles in prose and poetry. Besides writing, she is deeply passionate about photography. View her travels at www.dannapena.com and Instagram For more of her writing works, view her online portfolio.