As a successful digital nomad you are going to be accused of selling an impossible dream. People are going to call you nothing but another scammer who is paid by a company to leave the impression he is enjoying a happy life traveling the world and sipping from cocktails.
Is this the reality behind the digital nomad life? No! Not at all!
Just like everyone else, a digital nomad has his or her own problems – in fact, dare I say at times, this life is more of a nightmare than a dream, but the only problem a digital nomad doesn’t have is a boss. Life on the road is both amazing and exciting, as it is tiresome and challenging. There are many drawbacks to it, but none of them can’t be overcome, so as long as you do your best to find solutions for each problem which comes up, you are a truly digital nomad.
The world around us is made by us, so if you start with the idea you can’t do a certain thing, you won’t be motivated to look for the solutions and resources you need to accomplish that thing. When you are serious about becoming a digital nomad, you need to first get into the positive mind frame and believe in your power to change the world one step at a time. And those steps are the steps you are going to make to become a remote worker and escape the 9 to 5 life.
Life on the road is tough and it comes with lots of problems. For all start-ups, young entrepreneurs-to-be and even well established companies, here is an inspirational post on what it means to be a digital nomad. Its purpose is not to deter you from joining the rest of nomads, but to prepare you for what is means – it’s nothing like the image you currently have, I guarantee that!
Work challenges of a digital nomad
There are a lot of advantages to being your own boss, but the number of disadvantages is also… well, let’s say significant. First, you have to deal with all the things your boss was dealing. If you were given work at your full time job, now you have to chase it.
Marketing your personal business online is one of the biggest problems a real digital nomad has to deal with. At the beginning you will be spending more time looking for work instead of actually working. And if you are looking for work, you have to stay put, so you won’t be very “nomad” during this time.
No one can deny the frustration you get when you seem to stumble upon online millionaires! The same emotion is going to make you angry when you see how many other remote workers offer to do the same job at a fraction of your price. All these can lead to a creativity block, which can be made worse by the stress of lacking a steady income.
Time and currencies are often going to work against you. You will agree with a client to deliver a project tomorrow and be paid a certain amount of money, then you will discover their tomorrow is in fact your today and the exchange rate makes the payment way too little.
On top of all these, the so called work-travel balance is more of a all work and not travel balance.
Why? You are on a constant battle with yourself, torn between exploring the amazing city you are in and actually working. Despite the misleading image you now have, a digital nomad’s working day is around 12-15 hours. And this happens when your deadline is just around the corner for like 10-20 projects, you only have one more day to spend in your current location and you haven’t actually worked for some time, due to procrastination.
Technology is an ass–
Among the problems a real digital nomad has to deal with is technology issues. Your laptop is going to crash seconds before completing a project, your chargers will crash and you will pretty much deal with all the possible technology issues you can face. And couple of which you thought were impossible.
Most of the times, only the capital city has a reliable WiFi connection and reliable laptop services, which makes traveling to all those amazing remote areas difficult. If you were wise to insure your laptop, you will probably find the insurance doesn’t cover the reason it crashed.
Being lost is going to become your natural state, as Google maps doesn’t work in most countries. Speaking of working technology, WiFi has a habit of crashing when it rains, so in many islands of Oceania and tropical areas you might face serious problems when it comes to work.
However, the 24/7 problem all digital nomads have to face is the lack of a stable connection.
Traveling is not an easy thing either
Do you think traveling is easy? It’s not! It may be the most unpleasant side of your entire digital nomad life, at times. Your documents have a lot to do with this. In some countries, you will be checked and double checked, because they might think you look like a criminal or they think you have criminal intentions. Getting a visa is often impossible, as you have to provide proof of employment. Moreover, the visa laws change constantly and it’s really hard to keep up with the new regulations. Plus the bribes! When you are asked to write your address, you will get in trouble in some countries for not having one.
And if you manage to lose your passport, you are doomed!
When you do manage to get to a new country, you need to check the accommodation, which often doesn’t look as pictured, but it’s still expensive. After all the time spend in airports – from where you will do a lot of work, by the way, the only thing you will want will be a comfortable bed and warm meal, which are hard to find. A digital nomad is prone to digestive problems, as we try on all the traditional meals from the countries we travel to.
Seasons are not funny when you are on the road: switching from tropical climate to freezing winter is going to remind you all the warm sweaters you haven’t packed. Staying fit is really challenging, as most gyms don’t offer decent plans for short term.
Another sort of problems a real digital nomad has to deal with are national holidays: just when you need to do the shopping, the stores are closed for one, two or more days.
Timezones are another painful reality: it’s hard to manage them and you will be calculating hours and minutes each time you have to send an email, so no one will know you are working at 4AM.
Bank fees are another pain, which adds to the fact you have to stay alert and avoid local scams. Unfortunately, most scams are linked to changing currencies, which is something you have to do a lot. A drastic exchange rate drop can blow up your budget.
Lastly, you have to file the taxes in your own country and you might have to show up in person to pay them – have fun with this one!