Updated: Jul 21, 2022
Now more than ever, people are trading in their tradition 9-to-5 jobs for digital nomad life. After all, who needs a stuffy office when you can sip a piña colada while working from the beach in Thailand? However, before you get caught up in the fantasy of digital nomad life, pump the breaks! Whether you’re considering starting digital nomad life or are currently wading through the waters of the lifestyle, there are some downsides to it you should be aware of. Life is not always as social media makes it seem. So before you book a one-way ticket to digital nomadland, make sure you are prepared for the hardest parts of digital nomad life.
What Is A Digital Nomad?
Being a digital nomad requires two key components. First, as the word digital implies, you must work online. There are hundreds of jobs that can be done online. This aspect of being a digital nomad means you are never required to step into an office. However, while this adds flexibility for a person to choose where they live, it doesn’t always mean that they have flexibility over their schedule. While many digital nomads work jobs that allow them to set their own schedule, not all jobs that can be done digitally are as accommodating. Second, to be a digital nomad implies a lack of roots. The word nomad means a person who wanders. So while you might have a job that you only do online, if you have a traditional house and don’t travel, you do not really fall into the category of a digital nomad. While digital nomads travel in different styles, with some moving locations every week or two versus others slow traveling and staying for a few months in a location, their nomadic lifestyle opens up a world of opportunities. Merging these two aspects makes the perfect formula for life as a digital nomad.
Pro Tip: Want to become a digital nomad, but don’t know where to start? We found the top Unique Digital Nomad Jobs You Can Actually Do.
What Are The Pros Of Being A Digital Nomad?
Before we start to look at the hardest parts of digital nomad life, let’s take a look at the positives of the lifestyle. After all, life is a matter of balance, so digital nomad life isn’t all bad or all good. And while it is always wise to look at Instagram with a grain of salt, social media does give insight to some of the best parts of digital nomad life.
Flexibility To Live Anywhere
Whether you’re a beach person, a city slicker, love the mountains, or want to live somewhere with 365 days of sunshine, there is a place in the world for you. Being a digital nomad allows you the flexibility to be able to explore wherever you desire to roam. No matter whatever your intentions behind traveling are, being able to pick up and move to wherever you want to go at the drop of a hat offers up flexibility like no other.
You Can Save Money
For some, the cost of living back “home” can be expensive. From rent to car payments or the cost of local transport, bills can add up quickly! By having the flexibility to live anywhere in the world, you also are offered up the opportunity to live in places around the world where the cost of living is quite low. Many digital nomads will find that with disciplined budgeting and strategic travel, they can save a lot of money while living a nomadic life.
Meet New People
There are billions of people around the world you have yet to have a chance to meet! The more you travel as a digital nomad, the more opportunities you have to meet new people who share your same values. Being a digital nomad generally requires a more llaid-backaid back personality, so you’re bound to meet some of the most chill people while traveling as a digital nomad. Plus, they’re sure to have tons of amazing travel stories and tips to share!
Pro Tip: Want to meet new people while traveling? Find out Where To Make Friends When Solo Traveling.
Better Quality Of Life
It is no secret that hustle culture can be toxic, and while digital nomads do need to be proactive and hustle to continue traveling full time, generally, digital nomads live a more balanced way of life. After all, work-life balance is key to a happy life. While digital nomad life is not one big vacation, it still offers the opportunity to take time off to explore new places, soak up the sun, and shut down the laptop when it’s time to stop working and enjoy play playtime.
Being a digital nomad allows you to call all the shots in your life. Want to jet off to Germany on a moment's notice? Don’t stress about trying to get time off work approved. Want to spend your day hiking a mountain, learning to scuba dive, or visiting a museum? Done! Sick of being tied down by things? Ditch them and live out of a suitcase or backpack. Being a digital nomad instills a new sense of self and empowers you to enjoy a truly independent lifestyle.
What Are The Challenges Of Being A Digital Nomad?
While being a digital nomad opens up a world of possibilities, it does come with its challenges. Knowing the downsides to digital nomad life before reality hits always helps to prepare for the future. So before you dive feet first into digital nomad life, be prepared for these bumps in the road.
It Can Get Lonely
While being a digital nomad opens up opportunities to meet people from around the world, it also can get very isolating. Sometimes nothing is more lonely than being in a room full of strangers. The more you travel, the more you realize how hard it can be to connect with new friends only to have to say goodbye shortly after meeting them. Plus, even if your friends and family back home are supportive, since they haven’t been along on your adventures it is easy to feel out of touch. Feeling like you don’t have someone by your side who understands the experiences you are going through can be isolating and is a major downside to digital nomad life.
Missing Out On Moments Back Home
While you make memories around the world, your friends and family back home are still going on with their day-to-day lives. This means you will miss out on big moments like birthdays, engagements, breakups, and more. And while the big moments are exciting, life and relationships are really made up of the small and mundane moments. While traveling to new places is exciting, when something happens back home you wish you were able to be a part of it can be very challenging to continue on as a digital nomad.
Travel Burnout Is Real
While digital nomad life offers up a lot of freedom and flexibility, after a while it can get exhausting not to have a place of your own to call home. Constantly moving and packing up your life into a suitcase makes the thrill of traveling full-time wear off quickly. Putting down roots provides comfort and a sense of routine and digital nomad life does not offer that.
A Lack Of Schedule And Routine Causes Stress
Due to things constantly changing, from the country you’re living into the people you’re traveling with, it can be hard to create a consistent routine and schedule. Sometimes it is relieving to not have to guess what will happen next in your life and to be able to anticipate what the future days, weeks, and months have in store. Being a digital nomad brings on uncertainty for the future and definitely comes with constant changes and challenges.
Finding Good Wi-Fi Is Surprisingly Hard
While it might seem obvious, in order to work online, you will need good wi-fi. When you’re traveling wi-fi is never guaranteed. Your hostel or Airbnb might have a bad connection or public wi-fi might be limited. If you’re traveling to more rural or island places, you might not even be able to connect. The hunt for quick and reliable wi-fi can cause major stress!
Navigating Financial Aspects (Like Taxes) Abroad Is Hard
Being financially competent is an ever-evolving process. From budgeting to filing your taxes, dealing with finances is complicated. And traveling full-time makes this even more complicated. When you need to contact your bank, but are in a different time zone things can get stressful fast! Navigating filing taxes while in a different country also poses a huge challenge.
Is Being A Digital Nomad Worth It?
Digital nomad life isn’t for everyone. It definitely requires a certain set of personality traits, flexibility, and an eagerness to travel. With freedom and adventure also comes stress and a lot of unknown. Before you become a digital nomad, it might be wise to weigh the pros and cons, consider how you will face challenges, and figure out why you are pursuing a digital nomad lifestyle.