What no one tells you about being a digital nomad
Working online while traveling the world, it’s a dream for many and good ol’ Instagram does a wonderful job of plastering our feeds with people who have managed to make the dream come to life.
(Or is that just my feed? I dunno.)
I want to get honest here though. While I do indeed love the digital nomad lifestyle and have a grand total of 0 jealous feels over the lives of others in the ‘real world,’ it’s not all perfect.
I’m not Instagram, so I’m not going to paint a fake picture and pretend it’s all sipping coconuts, long flowy dresses and sunset views over rice paddies.
(Though, that does happen, it’s just not a 24/7 thing.)
Instagram and other blogs will do a fabulous job of telling you all the benefits and making you really jealous of the digital nomad lifestyle. Hell, I talk about the benefits often too, but while I love this lifestyle, I don’t want to mislead you.
Here’s what no one tells you about being a digital nomad.
1. Your problems will follow you
This is probably the biggest misconception and a darn hard lesson to learn. ‘Travel will solve my problems!’ we hope. Honestly though, this is not normally the case.
If you have any sort of mindset or mental issue, that stuff will follow you like overweight luggage to the end of the earth. There’s no getting rid of it by hopping countries and continents unfortunately.
If you’re hurting from a break up, are rocking a solid case of depression or are dragging around issues from childhood, I guarantee you they’ll still be there to accompany on the beautiful white sand beaches of paradise.
If you’ve got some unresolved mental baggage, I recommend getting a therapist in whatever country you digital nomad in.
I hired a life coach in Bali, Naomi Saelens. While Bali didn’t solve the mental baggage problems I was carrying around, Naomi sure did.
2. Tax law will have no idea what to do with you
Tax law? Yeah, that’s still pretty behind the times.
A completely online business that hops countries every few months and serves clients all over the world? Tax law straight up doesn’t get it.
Meaning you’re about to make your tax situation a giant pain-in-the-buns.
Most accountants will run in the other direction when you tell them your situation, so it might take a while to track one down who has the knowledge and backbone to assist you.
The good news is, your fellow digital nomads have been through it too, so they’ll be empathetic, and if you’re lucky, will give you a recommendation on an account they’ve used to help them wade through the tax nightmare.
Fact: I filed taxes in 3 countries one year and yes, it was just as much of a nightmare as you’re currently imagining.
3. When friends/family visit, be prepared for the guilt
My friends and I joke that I now basically determine their travel plans for them. Two friends in particular have visited me annually, always in a different country, for 3 years now.
You’d think I would have learned the first few times I had people visit, but apparently I didn’t. When friends and family visit me I either feel guilty for working when I should be with them hanging out and touristing, or I feel guilty when I’m with them and am slacking on my work.
The obvious solution would be to take a vacation when they visit, but I have more friends and family than I do weeks in the year. If I took a vacation every time someone visited me, I would’t actually ever work.
Pro tip: Make sure whoever visits you comes in pairs or groups, that way they’ll be more self-sufficient and won’t need you to entertain them 24/7.
4. Non-digital nomads will not get it and think your job is nonsense
‘You run an online business? You work from home? Or the beach? Or a villa? Rrrrrright, of course you do.’
Yep the rest of the world is fully rolling their eyes and assuming you twiddle your thumbs all day and don’t actually do anything. To this you can do one of two things.
- Get annoyed and say ‘I have a real job’
- Feel badly that they’re stuck in 9-5 world and let the judgement roll off your sun-kissed shoulders. Or if you’re a red head like me, your slightly sunburnt shoulders.😂
You know the term ‘technology guru?’ My Dad has proudly labelled himself a ‘technology goof’ and calls my business my ‘internet thing.’
Real conversation I had last week with him.
'So, how’s that internet thing of yours going? You’re not going to come home broke are you?’
A major point of pride came the other week when I hired a friend to be my VA during a course launch. She previously had a vague idea of what my online business was, but after working closely with me for 2 weeks said this:
"I'm seriously in awe of how much work you put into what you do!"
Honestly, after everyone else assuming I sit at home scrolling through Facebook all day, it was massively gratifying to hear that from one person who actually got a peek into my day to day business life that she did indeed realize just how much I put into this business.
5. You’ll question everything
Judging is in our nature. Something different? It’s hard to keep our judgey thoughts contained.
But the beauty of travel, and therefore being a digital nomad is that every day you will realize your own weird culture and knee-jerk thought processes.
A friend wanted to go ride elephants. I wasn’t down, I had heard how it was bad for the elephants if we ride them, and they tend to be treated badly in the elephant sanctuaries. Then the obvious question came to my mind, why is it okay to ride horses but not elephants? Do the horses enjoy captivity and being whipped?
I heard of Indonesians eating dog. Judgement and disgust was at an all time high. Then I asked myself, what really is the difference between a dog and any other animal? Why am I totally cool to eat one animal, but not another? Maybe the vegans are on to something? The reason I judge was because my culture told me dogs are valuable but chickens are not. But in another culture it could be the other way around. Which culture and people are right?
So there you are.
That’s the stuff no one tells you about being a digital nomad.
I can however guarantee you of the above 5 things just as much as I can guarantee you that your love for your new globe-trotting life will grow with every stamp in your passport.
New bucket list item: Run out of pages for stamps before my passport expires. 😃
Seeya on the road friend!