The Truth about Being a Digital Nomad

There is a trending headline among those who have managed to escape the humdrum of office life and the monotony of the 9–5. It goes something like this: There is a dark side of being a digital nomad, I’m not living the dream, This isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… *cue melancholy music and fade aways to isolated landscapes with silhouetted figures in the distance*. I get it. I can even relate to some of what these articles say, but I’m still going to call their bluff. Here’s why.

I’m not an argumentative person (I’m really quite friendly!), but I do feel the need to write this article to refute this current trend because I think it is steering people in the wrong direction. Some people are trying to make big changes in their lives, and it is scary. For some of us, it is almost second nature to make big changes at the drop of a dime, to follow our instincts and to trust that everything will work out. This is not the case for everyone. There are a lot of creative, innovative, intelligent people dreaming of different lifestyles from their cubicles who are calculating all of the potential risks. They aren’t quite sure if they can afford to take the risks and more importantly, they aren’t sure if it is really worth it to try. I don’t think that they should be discouraged by people who have made it to the other side who only write to say, “this really isn’t so great”. Because it is. SO GREAT. On so many levels.

What characterizes the digital nomad lifestyle is a freedom to move enabled by a job which allows one to work remotely. Many people take this as an opportunity to travel. Traveling for long periods of time is an incredibly enriching experience. It is also exhausting, lonely at times, stressful, and sometimes revealing on levels that we may not be prepared for. This is where much of the ‘dark side’ comes in. Getting lost. Running out of money. Sleeping outside. Having things get stolen. Missing pillows and real mattresses. Being far from friends and family. Missing out on milestones in your loved one’s lives. Experiencing things without someone next to you to share it with. These are all bound to happen if you spend enough time on the road. But here’s the thing:

You don’t have to.

A digital nomad is defined as someone who is location independent and uses technology to perform their job. The reasons we become digital nomads are as numbered and diverse as the jobs which allow for remote work. Some of us want to spend more time with our families. Some of us want to escape the people we are surrounded by at our jobs. Some of us want to have more creative license. Some of us want to set our own schedules. Some of us want to travel. Some of us want simply to have the options — to have flexibility when it’s needed, to be able to travel if we want to, to be able to be present with friends and families without worrying about the rigidity of a work schedule. What we are all simultaneously searching for, on one level or another, is freedom. No one ever said digital nomads have to leave home and stay in far away places.

The awesome thing about freedom is that it means that you are free to make any choice that suits you. If you decide to travel and you hate it after three months (or less!), and/or you miss your friends and family, guess what? You can go back. There is nothing stopping you. If you are home and hating it, you have the option to change the scenery at any time — whether it is working from a new coworking space, a cafe or restaurant, a different town, or a different country — it is all entirely up to you. You can BE wherever you want to be, with whoever you choose to be with, for however long you choose to be there. And if you change your mind, you have the freedom to redesign your life, over and over and over again. Or you can keep your life exactly as it is, right now.

The word Nomad originated in Greece in antiquity, and it found its way to the English language in the 16th century from the french word nomade meaning ‘to roam in search of pasture’. It’s an old word, and its ancient meaning doesn’t have to be taken so literally. So when you find your metaphorical pasture, feel free to stay there. Some say the grass is greener on the other side. The truth is, the grass is greenest where you water it.