Digital Nomadism, It’s No Vacation

Marcella Korver
Nov 10, 2018 · 8 min read

I recently wrote an article about the perceptions that people have about the Digital Nomad Lifestyle. One of the perceptions I mentioned in this article is the believe that a Digital Nomad is always on vacation.

If you have been part of the whole Digital Nomad scene for a while, unfortunately you know it isn’t like this most of the time. If you’re interested in the Digital Nomad Lifestyle, be prepared to be disappointed sometimes. Be prepared to think back to your days in the office instead of your working days at the beach.

There has been a lot of focus on the fun part of the Digital Nomad Lifestyle to show it as a vacation. To give you a better view of the reality I will delve deeper into this perception and show you that living like a Digital Nomad isn’t the same as a life long vacation.

The Definition Of Vacation

A vacation is a holiday or a stretch of leisure time away from work or duty and devoted to rest or pleasure. In the corporate world where a person works for someone else, this person is giving a short period in a year to rest. In some countries as little as a few days a year, in others a few weeks or sometimes even a few months a year.

vacation: a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday.

However, switching from the corporate world to the Digital Nomad Lifestyle means a person is just about to redefine vacation. If you want to get into the Digital Nomad Lifestyle because you want that full time vacation, rethink your next steps. There isn’t much vacation about the Digital Nomad Lifestyle besides the beautiful destinations. You don’t ‘just’ work 9–5, you will work every single day, including holidays and weekend.

The Hard Truth, Digital Nomadism Is No Vacation

Every time I leave my home country, people wish me a ‘happy holiday’, ‘enjoy your vacation’ or similar. This might have been right a few years ago, when I was backpacking. It definitely doesn’t count nowadays. I’m sure almost all Digital Nomads can relate to this.

Digital Nomads are everything except always on holiday. The average Digital Nomad works 7 days a week. There’s no such thing as weekend. Yes, we take some time off, but when the average person is watching their tv screen at night, the Digital Nomad catches up with the lost working hours during the day.

So goodbye to your well deserved weekends!

You’re Always Working, Even When You Think You’re Not

Even if you give yourself some time off, it’s hard to fully disconnect when you try to run an own business. Conversations with other Digital Nomad friends aren’t about the latest fashion trend or town rumours, they are about business. How to grow, how to outsource and so on.

Even when you will take your mind off to something and you decide to go hiking, there will always be that one client with an emergency. Of course you didn’t bring your laptop to the hike so you sit down and try to fix the emergency with your phone. It doesn’t only take a lot longer, it can be very frustrating, and it’s all part of the deal.

Lesson learned never take your phone on a hike 😉

If there is no emergency client, you will talk with your hiking partners about business. New business ideas will come up, outsourcing possibilities will be discussed. All with all, even your joy-able hikes turn into office hours.

Digital Nomads Don’t Work From The Beach!

Though you might think Digital Nomads work from the beach, a pool or their hammock all the time, in reality rarely happens. The sunlight on your screen doesn’t allow you to see anything, so there’s no way you can get work done outside. Working from a pool? Who wants to get it’s laptop wet? And after I decided to put my laptop on the beach once I had to bring it to the Apple store to remove all the sand inside. I wouldn’t suggest doing such to anyone.

Can you really work with the sun shining on your screen?

Of course we often work from nice scenic places, but we need power and internet, just like everyone else. This means we’re often inside, working from a coffee shop table on an uncomfortable wooden chair. Or at home, in bed, the couch or at the dining table. Photos you won’t see, as you don’t want to see an unshowered person in jogging pants or pyjama sitting in the dark as I’m too lazy to shower before leaving the house.

Wasted Traveling Hours

Most Digital Nomads will be travelling a lot as well, so those hours the regular person is doing something they like, you might be sitting in an uncomfortable low cost airplane, that sick making bus ride or waiting in the rain for your next hitchhike on the side of the road.

In an airplane I love to catch up with work again, but the hours in a bus or car are wasted hours for me. I can’t stare at the screen, I simply get a headache and get sick. But I have seen those who even open their laptop on the most beautiful scenic roads. Another emergency client that needs something to be fixed straight away. I don’t know if I should be happy with those smartphones who give us the possibility to create wifi everywhere we are.

Routine Is Still Key To Be Productive

If you really want to be productive, it’s still key to have a routine. Something that isn’t always possible while you’re traveling the world. You need to stay in one place for at least a month, preferable more to be able to settle into a proper routine. Make proper working goals and working hours to get work done and still be able to meet new people, see new places and do fun things. As that’s the whole point of starting this great lifestyle 🙂

The Homecoming Obligations

When Digital Nomads come home to their home country, they actually have a lot of obligations. You will have to see your grandmother, your parents and those newborn babies of friend with suddenly a totally different life. And that besides all the work you have to do. When you think of coming home to relax, you’re mistaken. Coming home often feels like more work than being away.

As you see, not much vacation so far..

Thinking Back To The Good Old Days

Sometimes I think back to the backpacking days, the days I was able to travel, read books, relax and have hourly conversations with random people about random topics. Just because there were no obligations, at all. So much free time. But those dorm times are over, and concessions have to be made for that. There’s a future to work on, and that’s where the Digital Nomad Lifestyle is the perfect combination. No office job and still being able to work on a future.

We can’t complain at all. I mean, most of the time we’re in amazing places. So when we do want that break, or when we close our laptops because we finished working, we jump in that pool, drink that cocktail on the beach or do something we truly like.

Acceptance That The Digital Nomad Life Isn’t a Life Long Vacation

As you see, it’s no wonder one of the biggest challenges of a new Digital Nomad is to accept that this new lifestyle isn’t a long-term vacation. Most start with a bit of money in their bank account, so in the beginning it all looks good. The worries begin when they start to run out of savings, when they actually have to make a living. Keep in mind that as a Digital Nomad you will mostly have to juggle between traveling, having fun and actually building a business.

Causes Of Misconception

There are two major causes for the misconceptions of the Digital Nomad Lifestyle. First is the confusion between the Digital Nomad Lifestyle and other similar lifestyles out there like backpacking around the world or a gap year kind of traveling. And secondly it’s because this is the way Digital Nomads showcase themselves on Social Media.

Misconception Due To Similar Lifestyles

So, how can you tell if you have met a Digital Nomad and not a Backpacker or any other kind of traveller? Before you get confused, here are some differences between a Digital Nomad and the lifestyles who actually are on a long term vacation.

If you want to know more about the terms and differences, I would refer you to another blog post I’ve written.

In general you will find Digital Nomads working in any kind of cafe or coworking space. They have much more a routine. Won’t be drinking, partying and going out as much, as they know what workload is waiting for them the next day. They know that they will have to get work done if they want to continue to explore the world. But of course this doesn’t mean Digital Nomads don’t drink or party at all. Everyone needs to destress and have fun sometimes, and there’s no better way to interact with people while having a drink.

Misconception Due To Social Media

The other major cause of misconception is how Digital Nomadism is shown by Digital Nomads themselves. In most cases, what we see on instagram galleries of these people are the countless photos they took at a concert or “get-together” and not of the work they do or the struggles they go through. It’s very normal that only the nice is shown, but it could be misleading as well. The perception people have therefore is that of fun and not work. But as you now by now, hard work is involved.

Although Digital Nomadism Is No Vacation, It’s Still Worth It!

If you’re ready to work hard, play hard, dive in. It’s still a great world and it’s amazing to explore. Be prepared and try to actually take a vacation if you can! It might not be a long vacation, it still is a lot of freedom and fun!

Data Driven Investor

from confusion to clarity, not insanity