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What is a Digital Nomad?

Short answer: a digital nomad is someone who uses technology to earn a living remotely, giving them the freedom to travel and/or relocate without interrupting the flow of income.

In an effort to clear up any confusion about digital nomadism, I’ve broken down a few key questions below to help give you a better understanding.

You never know, this could kickstart your own DN lifestyle!

What does it take to be a Digital Nomad?

This is a big question and it’s hard to answer concisely. It’s also hard to dictate exactly what’s required since the types of work can be different.

At the base level, you’ll need the equipment to be able to connect remotely: a laptop is best since it will transport easily. And whatever other equipment you may need, be it cameras, software, etc.

You’ll need to identify your specific skills, since to be a digital nomad, it takes someone who is tech-savvy in their particular area. Find out what your skills are.

  • Can you create websites?
  • Do you do digital illustration?
  • Are you skilled at graphic design?
  • Can you put together PR plans for businesses?
  • Professional accountant, CPA or tax lawyer?
  • Help brands expand their reach with Google Ads?
  • Maybe you offer quality copywriting, or can ghostwrite for publications.

Basically, if you can do it with a laptop, and conduct entire business transactions without the need to meet in person, you have a good start in becoming a digital nomad. But it goes beyond marketable skills.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but this lifestyle isn’t for everyone.

If you go freelance, you need to be ready for fluctuations in income—some clients will leave, some will not have enough work for you, etc. But on the flip side, you may have months where you are extra busy! Some months you’ll be raking it in, and some months you might make less than half of what you hoped for. You’ll need to be ready for rises and falls in your income, because the one pitfall of nomadic freelance work is the absence of job security.

And it’s a necessary sacrifice if it means living the lifestyle of your dreams.

If you are able to work from anywhere with an employer, you get to keep your job security, but may encounter other issues. Such as time zone restraints requiring you to have meetings at all times of the day or night. Or maybe an added pressure of performing above and beyond to prove that you are a productive employee outside the office. The issues can really vary depending on your company, team and role but you still need to be prepared to learn to adapt.

TLDR; being a digital nomad takes technical skills for remote work, quality digital equipment, and the ability to adapt to non-traditional work settings.

Watch my interview with Digital Nomad Aliza and see how she learned to take risks and bet on herself.

Who makes up digital nomads?

There are a lot of different types of digital nomads. They can be retirees seeking a more fluid location lifestyle, entrepreneurs, remote employees or freelancers with skills that allow them to work with brands, companies, or influencers without being tied to a city.

In the latter category, common careers include programming, graphic design, branding, writing, website developer, and social media marketing. When you meet other digital nomads, chances are that they probably work in one of these jobs!

You might also meet language teachers, as this kind of work is becoming more and more commonly conducted over Zoom rather than in a physical classroom. These are all fields that allow you to conduct most of the work entirely online, making them great options for location-independent work.

I’ve met quite a few DNs myself while traveling, many who have been doing this for years!

Watch my interview with Adim to see how he was able to incorporate travel into his remote job.

Are there any benefits?

There are absolutely benefits to being a digital nomad.

Mainly, freedom.

Location freedom is something that many people dream of and being a Digital Nomad allows you to do you work from anywhere and everywhere (with wifi!). I think freedom is the number one thing that Digital Nomads crave and seek out and why we choose this lifestyle.

You can work from your bed (as we’ve all done at one time or another), from the cute cafe on the high street, or from a quiet restaurant alongside your evening meal. You have so much flexibility in the where and the how—the only thing that matters is that the work gets done, so the circumstances around doing it are entirely up to you!

Many of us are adventurers at heart, and having the freedom to explore and wander whenever we jump off our computer is a huge plus to this lifestyle.

On top of location freedom, some people even find financial freedom. For many, traveling can actually be more affordable than living in their home city or country.

Common misconceptions

There are so many misconceptions or myths that are floating around about digital nomads, but so many of them are just straight-up not true! There are actually a lot of misconceptions, but I’ll just share a few here:

1. The first is the myth that DNs are swimming in cash, staying in 5-star hotels and living a life of luxury. The reality is, most are making a humble income, enough to be able to live somewhat comfortably in inexpensive Airbnbs or even just hostel-hopping. This is the price DNs pay to be able to live their travel dreams.

2. The second misconception is that all your friendships will be fleeting. You know how it can go, meeting someone while travelling: you bond for a few days, then you exchange Whatsapp numbers or follow each other on Instagram, and then never speak again. While this can certainly be true for some people, in my experience, connecting with other nomads can be so much easier and more meaningful. We’ve bounced ideas off each other, asked advice, and spent long hours sharing stories, even after we’re no longer in the same location. Some of these friendships I just know will last the rest of my life and they are so important to me.

Get my free guide on how to Build Community as a Digital Nomad.

3. Another one that I think is really important to deconstruct is the myth that you have to be young to be a nomad. This is simply not true! While older retirees can be DNs, you can absolutely be a working digital nomad at any age. Don’t let your age define you. If you have the desire and the equipment to pull it off, anyone can achieve this lifestyle. There are so many resources to help you get started if you don’t know where to go.

4. The final myth I’m choosing to address is the one that says that as a digital nomad, you cannot build a successful career. I think this is really important to talk about, because a lot of people dismiss the idea of being a digital nomad because they want to have a career. But the fact is, you don’t need to work in an office to have a career! Personal and professional growth is more complex than that, and you can achieve the same level of expertise from location-independence as you can from being a cubicle employee.

Just ask my friend Taylor Wallace if being a nomad has hurt her career

As you can see, there are a lot of facets and things to consider about digital nomads, but under all that, it’s remarkably straightforward. With the right skills, tools, and determination to make it work, anyone can choose this lifestyle.

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