Every now and then I feel like I’m playing defense explaining myself to others about what it means to be a remote worker and battling misconceptions of being a Digital Nomad. I feel like it’s a misunderstood life full of bloggers who depict it as a fantasy lifestyle in order to sell their next e-book. While in reality, it’s much more complex than sitting on the beach drinking cocktails during a conference call.
There are many things I want to tell non-digital nomads, but for now, I’ll just stick to 11.
1. I Am Not on Longterm Vacation, I Am Working
The first and most important fact on this list. No matter how my Instagram looks (and it looks pretty baller), I am not on vacation. I still have work to do and clients to manage. In fact, it’s probably more difficult to be a Digital Nomad because we don’t have the comforts of home or a full-service office. We have to make due with crowded cafe life, spotty internet, and communicating with clients at all hours of the day due to time differences.
Trust me when I say that I am not working on the beach because… A. THERE’S NO WIFI AT THE BEACH and B. sand. Sand, everywhereeee. I’m not getting unfortunate tan lines on my legs from my resting laptop next to a bright blue ocean because that’s not real life. Oh yeah, and C. could you imagine how hot your laptop would be sitting in the sun like that? Stock photos, you sit on a throne of lies.
2. We Learn to Appreciate Fast WiFi While We Can
That slow internet can trigger a rage deeper than a woman scorned. We appreciate a good wifi connection when available, which in turn, makes us far more productive in shorter amounts of time than someone stuck at a desk browsing Facebook and Buzzfeed for hours. I know what it’s like to get stuck in the dreaded dark hole of the web, unable to climb out for the remainder of the day. I know what it’s like to not stop until you’ve finally find out if the Taylor Swift/Tom Hiddleston relationship was a sham or not – internet sleuths, I feel you.
Because we don’t have to suffer through an 8 hour straight workday, there is no such thing as procrastination. Really! Because we may get inspired at 10:00am or 10:00pm but either way, we know when to get shit done.
3. There’s No Such Thing as a Weekend
A Saturday is the same as a Wednesday or Thursday to me now. The usual M-F routine isn’t a thing for most nomads, including me. Usually these are the best work days because you don’t have your email inbox exploding and can actually get things done uninterrupted. However, there is a downside to working on weekends. If you work for a legitimate company and not self-employed, you are usually still required to work Monday-Friday, even if you also work on the weekend.
I recently learned the hard way that this routine is not stable for a full-time employee of a company. On a train from Vienna to Prague, I was on mental overload from logging at least once every day for a couple of weeks. Every single new email in my inbox was like a bomb, just sending me over the edge until I quietly cried in my seat. What’s worse? It was next to a super cute Spanish man reading seated beside me who was totally giving me googly eyes before my meltdown. LESSON LEARNED to take days for yourself, you need it and you’ve earned it.
4. You Can Do It, Too!
Seriously! Step 1 is saving money, Step 2 is asking your boss or finding remote jobs that will let you travel while working! I don’t have a trust fund or Mommy and Daddy giving me an allowance or have one of those fancy-dancy passive incomes that dropshippers just love to talk about. It’s just me, my computer, and a steady job – which is so attainable for anyone, I just want to shout it from the terrace of my new Prague apartment. See, when you’re a Digital Nomad you get to humblebrag like that 😉
5. It’s Not the 4 Hour Work Week
I know The 4 Hour Work Week has been a ‘Bible’ for some aspiring or current remote workers, but trust me, 95% of all Digital Nomads are not living this lifestyle and we regularly work 30-50 hours per week. Although that’s not to say it isn’t a dream of ours, and maybe we’ll get there one day, but today (and probably tomorrow) is not the day that we are able to only work 4 hours per week.
And honestly, the 9-5 schedule is a little bit of a fantasy, too. Although some days you can allow yourself a 9:00 – 3:00 or 12:00-5:00 schedule, more often than not, your day is realistically like:
First batch– 10:00-3:00
Second batch– 5:00-7:00
Goodnight batch– 10:00-11:00
6. You Deserve More in Your Work/Life Balance
If I had a nickel every time a friend of mine said they couldn’t take a vacation because of their job, I really would be able to work 4 hours a week! And to them, I want to give a giant GRRROOAAANNNN. Bored. Next.
Stop undervaluing your worth and what you deserve, especially if you’re American. We are internationally known for being Work Martyrs and that is not a good thing. Yeah kid, pull yourself up by your bootstraps only to pay bills and die. What kind of life is that?
If traveling is truly a dream of yours, but your company doesn’t extend much time off, learn how to negotiate or ways to ask for more vacation time. Instead of a cash bonus, ask for an extra week of paid time off (which could actually be worth more), or tell your employer about an upcoming conference in a city that you want to visit. Be sure to position the opportunity as a good investment for the company and that you will return with new skills to share with the rest of your team that will ultimately increase revenue.
None of the above manageable? Go freelance or build your own business. Take a shot of whiskey and just do it. Here’s tons of resignation letter templates.
7. Please Let Me Complain Sometimes
And don’t make me feel guilty about it.
I try to be on my best behavior and never outwardly complain to friends and family because I realize how appreciative I am to travel, but, sometimes I want to complain danggit. You can have bad days even when working from charming Bavarian cities or on the beaches of Spain. You can have bad days no matter where you are! Sometimes it’s even more overwhelming being a Digital Nomad because you’re in unfamiliar territory without the comforts of home and that’s stressful.
So when I want to tell you about the rough time I am having, please listen to me. Don’t brush me off with “How can you be stressed when you’re living it up in [insert location here]”
8. Sometimes It’s Lonely
I recently met a girl from Australia and she told me how she was in Budapest last week and rarely left her Airbnb, only to grab dinner and explore a little on foot. I was so surprised to hear her say this because within the travel community, that particular aspect of traveling is very hush-hush. We feel like we are supposed to live this Instagram-worthy life and constantly make friends in hostels and bars but sometimes that gets exhausting and you just need to decompress alone.
And also, it’s hard to make friends in some cities. I was in Salzburg for 4 days and didn’t have a meaningful conversation with anyone but my food delivery man who wanted to practice his English. I tried to start light conversation in various places, but many people were not fluent in English and I don’t know enough German to carry on anything for longer than 3 minutes. It’s acceptable to admit that sometimes you and a city just don’t ~vibe~ and that’s okay.
9. And Sometimes It’s Not
Being a Digital Nomad Girl means getting to meet and be inspired by people all over the world, from all over the world. There’s no better opportunity to grow as a person and reflect inwardly than by creating relationships, no matter how strong, with fellow adventurers and explorers.
That friend from Australia mentioned above? She was my roommate in a hostel in Vienna and as soon as I walked in the room we hit it off and went to the bar that night, and ate dinner at the Naschmarket the next night. We realized we’d both be in Prague during overlapping days so guess what? We met in Prague a few days later and experienced the world-famous Prague bar and club scene. Countless new friendships have been made while I’ve been traveling and that’s not only an incredible feeling while on the road, but a great skill to have in the “real world.”
And PS. Sometimes you’re sitting in Prague Old Town eating a hotdog and an attractive backpacker from Illinois sits next to you and you strike up conversation and end up spending the day drinking beer and having an innocent little fling for a day.
So for every lonely day on the road, you’re going to have twice as many exciting, whirlwind days meeting new people.
10. I Live Modestly, And Probably More Cheaply Than Non-Digital Nomads
This is one of the most frustrating things of being a Digital Nomad – people assuming I’m bleeding money, living extravagantly abroad. Nope. I spend the same amount as someone who works from home, only my home isn’t a stationary apartment, it’s wherever I am with my computer – anywhere in the world.
Before I became a Digital Nomad, I was living in Charleston, SC which is experiencing exorbitant rent hikes and cost of living. A bedroom in a nice apartment within a 20 minute commute to Downtown would average around $1,000 and a 1 bedroom apartment would also average anywhere from $1,300 to $2,000.
So imagine you spend $1,000 on rent + going out on weekends, ordering lunch at the office, a car payment, concerts, shopping…. see where I’m going with this?
I live from a suitcase so I don’t need to shop, I eat from markets or find great food and drink deals while walking down the street, and I live comfortably in modest Airbnbs or Coliving houses for half the cost of living in Charleston. Plus, I’m single so I don’t need to buy shit for a significant other every single holiday or anniversary. HA!
11. We Care About our Work and Careers!
Don’t confuse backpackers with Digital Nomads. Not that there is anything wrong with backpackers, but for the most part: we are Digital Nomads partly because we want to engage and grow in our careers, and feel the best way to do this is by traveling. We even create entire businesses while traveling the world.
PS if you want to meet like-minded women from all over the world and work on your business or project in an encouraging environment, I HIGHLY recommend the Digital Nomad Girls retreats! I was fortunate to attend the past one in Las Palmas, and looking forward to attending another.