A Digital Nomads Life: Are You Up For The Challenge?

Last updated on : September 10 2020

A female digital nomad working in the countryside on her pc

The tourism and travel industry is one of the world’s most lucrative, and for a good reason. While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a drastic reduction in travel worldwide, the industry’s pre-pandemic numbers are impressive. Travel Daily News reports that travel and tourism contributed a whopping $8.8 trillion to the global economy in the fiscal year 2018. That equals more than 10% of the entire global economy, supporting some 319 million jobs.

Traveling has myriad benefits and has been found to impact our health positively, both physically and emotionally. People who take an annual vacation are significantly less susceptible to developing heart disease than those who rarely travel. Travelers also have lower stress levels, demonstrate greater creativity, gain new perspectives, and are less likely to suffer from depression. Keep in mind that you get these health benefits from a single vacation: Imagine how much happier and healthier you could be as a digital nomad!

Of course, it’s not necessarily easy to make such a massive lifestyle change. Money is a significant factor: Unless you were born into wealth, you might find frequent travel to be prohibitively expensive. Even a week-long vacation can set you back thousands of dollars, to stay nothing of a lengthier sabbatical.

But, even if your finances are a bit lackluster, don’t put your traveling dreams on hold just yet. Thanks to modern technology, it’s possible to make a living while also traveling the world. What’s more, you may even discover that working for yourself promotes financial wellness, allowing you greater control of your income and expenses.

Those who have successfully managed to integrate work and travel are commonly known as “digital nomads.” As of 2019, approximately 7.3 million Americans live a nomadic life, working in diverse locations from Seattle coffee shops to sustainable Earthships in the desert Southwest. The bulk of America’s digital nomads report high levels of life satisfaction, a striking contrast to those who hold traditional jobs. According to Forbes, more than half of the U.S. workforce is unhappy with their work situation, and work/travel opportunities may help bridge that gap.

No matter your chosen career path, the good news for prospective nomads, is that there are plenty of jobs out there that allow an adventurous spirit to thrive. However, before you seek out job opportunities that are conducive to travel, you must look inward. The life of a digital nomad requires tenacity, mental fortitude, and self-motivation. Are you up to the challenge?

Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Digital Nomad?

Nomadic looking man getting off small plane with backpack

We romanticize the nomadic lifestyle in popular culture. The writer Jack Kerouac wrote numerous books about his nomadic life, inspiring generations of others to follow in his footsteps. His classic 1957 novel, On the Road, has become the unofficial guidebook to living a nomadic life.

In the 21st century, nomads have gracefully stepped out of Kerouac’s counterculture to become leaders and influencers in their own right. Pilar Noriega, a former consultant whose blog, The Lifestyle Hunter, is wildly popular, and an enthusiastic globetrotter known only as Wandering Earl are two of the most acclaimed contemporary digital nomads.

Yet, for all of its purported glamour, the nomadic lifestyle isn’t as carefree as it may appear, especially for those of us who work for a living. Traveling isn’t always glamorous or comfortable. For digital nomads, the unexpected can happen at any time: A bank error could temporarily freeze your debit cards, for instance, or you may find yourself stranded on a remote road, dealing with mechanical issues.

For this reason, successful digital nomads are highly adaptable individuals who roll with the punches. For digital nomads, work and travel must seamlessly coexist. Thus, you may want to beef up both your communication and problem-solving skills.

When travel is part of your everyday life, open communication with your clients or employer is a must: A travel-based emergency can impact your ability to perform quality work, or even meet impending deadlines. If you do end up at a standstill thanks to a (literal) traveling roadblock, you still must remain accountable from a business standpoint.

It would help if you also considered your specific job responsibilities. Most digital nomads can’t get much work done without a steady internet connection. As reliable connectivity is crucial to your success as a digital nomad, make sure to plan accordingly. If your internet suddenly fails due to an unexpected power outage, inclement weather, or another reason, do you have a back-up plan?

The more thoroughly you prepare before setting out on your work/travel adventure, the smoother you’ll make the transition into a nomadic life.

The Importance of Having a Routine

By definition, the nomadic life is transitory and fleeting. Yet that doesn’t mean that you can’t have structure or permanence in your daily life. Indeed, having a routine can help you stay grounded, and it may even reduce stress. In some ways, the positive effects of a daily routine mirror those of traveling itself.

When you have a routine, you may experience lower stress levels and become more productive overall. For those new to the nomadic life, establishing a systematic way can ensure a smooth transition from college or traditional work to something much more satisfying and fulfilling. Effective routines can also boost your motivation, which is of vital importance when you’re a self-starting digital nomad.

Research indicates that morning routine is especially useful regarding your creativity, organizational skills, and punctuality. No matter your job description or duties, starting your day with a morning routine is one of the best ways to maintain work productivity over the long term. It’s important to note that effective morning routines are highly individualized. Whether your preferred morning activities involve meditation, coffee, cardio, or a hearty breakfast, tailor your daily routine to your personal needs.

When developing your routine, consider your desires as well as required tasks and logistics. Don’t try to cram too much into your morning routine, as you may end up feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated. Start small, and work to develop your ideal morning routine over time, re-evaluating your needs as necessary.

Once you have set up your routine in stone, you’re likely to have plenty of motivation to complete work-related tasks efficiently and independently. But first, you’ll have to secure a job that’s conducive to a nomadic lifestyle.

Job Options for Nomadic Adventurers

Sign on ground saying passion led us here

Following college graduation, most of us received plenty of practical career advice from mentors, friends, and family members. While networking and brushing up on your interviewing skills are indeed important, digital nomads may need to take additional steps before landing their dream job.  

Of course, specific jobs almost seem tailor-made for adventurous nomads, such as cruise line workers and flight attendants. But your job options as a digital nomad span well beyond the traditional travel-based occupations of the past. Exciting jobs for travel enthusiasts include adventure guides, wildland firefighters, and travel writers, and photographers.

Keep in mind that some travel-based job opportunities have strict physical requirements: For instance, aspiring wildland firefighters must perform a pack test, wherein you must walk 3 miles in 45 minutes while carrying a 45-pound backpack.

Even if you don’t envision a long-term career as a seasonal firefighter or freelance travel photographer, these occupations can serve as a stepping stone to a more significant opportunity. The skills you develop as a digital nomad, from strength and endurance to compassion and an understanding of diverse cultures, will serve you well in your future endeavors. Still, as you lead a hiking group or review the best seafood restaurants in a particular town, you may find that the nomadic life isn’t suited for everyone.

Finding Fulfillment in Your Unique Lifestyle

Even if you love to visit new places, the idea of travel as a lifestyle may seem quite daunting. After all, we generally accept that adult life in contemporary society starts once you finish college and land your first “real” job. At that time, the expectation is to settle down, planting roots in your new city or hometown, and take a vacation every so often.  

Generally speaking, we only travel for either business trips or leisurely adventures — not both at once. Yet here in the 21st century, digital nomads have turned this outdated notion on its head. Worldwide, the digital nomad community is strong and diverse and is growing every day.

Key Takeaways

As unlikely as it may seem, digital nomads are leading the change towards a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled global workforce. Whether you’ve found a temporary home in a seasonal villa in the French countryside or you’re traveling down the Pacific Coast of the U.S. in a gas-powered motorhome, you can make a living doing what you love.

If your spirit yearns to break free from the mundane 9-to-5 or service industry job, consider the merits of nomadic working life. Job opportunities for digital nomads are highly versatile and more ubiquitous than ever, encompassing a diverse subset of careers ranging from writers and editors to adventure guides and au pairs. The sky’s the limit for digital nomads in 2020 and beyond.

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