12 Myths About Being a Digital Nomad
There are quite a few inaccurate assumptions about what constitutes the digital nomad lifestyle and what it means to be a digital nomad—or any other variation of the term, including location-independent, remote worker, wandering professional, or something else.
Here are 12 of them.
It's easy to see how digital nomadism and travel became closely associated with each other. They're like macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, or some other delectable life pleasure.
Because, when you can work from anywhere, why wouldn't you?
But being a digital nomad can be just as satisfying/fulfilling and arguably more productive if you just worked remotely in your hometown. The expectation of traveling while working can add an undue amount of pressure to an already complex situation, especially at the beginning of the journey.
If travel is on your bucket list, that's great, but the lifestyle is less hectic and more sustainable when you start with a sound business foundation and peace of mind in your comfort zone—before leaving it.
Myth #2: You Have to Quit Your Current Job and/or Leave Your Area of Expertise
As tempting as it may be to clock out of your cubicle and never come back, it's not a necessary change. These days, most jobs can be performed remotely—you don’t need to sit at your company's HQ when you could be telecommuting.
Becoming a digital nomad can be as straightforward as applying for the exact same job you currently hold, but at a remote company.
Also, you don't have to abandon what you know or change fields. In fact, it's more reasonable to build over the foundation of your existing skillset rather than throwing years or decades of experience away to pursue something new.
In short, it's better to test the waters before jumping ship.
Myth #3: You Should Prioritize Generating Passive Income so You Can Work Less/Retire Early
Even though The Four-Hour Work Week brought the digital nomad lifestyle into the limelight, it doesn't mean everyone should aspire to work four hours per week. Tim Ferriss clearly doesn't.
In concept, it's great to have a variety of passive revenue streams, but these can take months or years to develop.
Before dedicating the foreseeable future to that endeavor, it's important to consider the opportunity cost and trade-off of spending time chasing the proverbial carrot versus deepening your focus on your current business or area of expertise.
Myth #4: You Have to Work in Technology
Online forums and groups are full of chatter and advice about taking a coding or other technical course in order to become a digital nomad. Again, not necessary.
While expanding your knowledge and skillset is usually a positive way to spend your free time, unless you have an inner desire to become a programmer, don't get into that mess. Plenty of traditional jobs can be made remote, from personal training to management consulting and beyond.
Myth #5: Being a Digital Nomad Is a New Thing
Well, history says it's not. People have been nomadic for most of eternity, save the past couple hundred years and especially the 21st century, whereby the industrial revolution created the modern workday and current global standard.
I think that the nomadic lifestyle is wired in our DNA, which probably contributes to why the concept of becoming a digital nomad is so appealing to many. Now that we have the digital part to go with the nomad tendencies, the world is our oyster.
True, the Internet is relatively new, but the nomadic way of living has always been part of human DNA.
Myth #6: All Digital Nomads Are on Shoestring Budgets as It's Expensive to Travel
Quite the paradox, isn’t it? The reality is that digital nomads reflect society at large. Some are living in hostels, out of a backpack, while others have unlimited budgets and prefer to live in luxury.
The act of traveling in itself, that is, getting from point A to point B, can be expensive—if you fly first class versus taking a bus or train, for example.
But the cost-of-living in one destination varies widely, whether you're a local or digital nomad. It's possible to keep costs low and stick to a budget wherever you go.
And, on the same token, there's no one stereotype about how a digital nomad has to live.
Myth #7: You Have to Write and Blog About Being a Digital Nomad
It's perfectly acceptable to be enthusiastic about your new life of location independence. You can also journal or share about it online, but that doesn't mean that blogging about it should be your new side hustle or the main way you expect to fund your lifestyle.
Myth #8: That You Should Must Go to Tropical Places or Digital Nomad Hotspots Like Gran Canaria, Chiang Mai, and Bali
Working from the tropics seems like a great idea— until you actually do it. After spending years slugging it out against heat, dust, rain, mud, power outages, and negligible wifiWi-Fi on the beaches of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, I couldn't wait to change my home base to the developed world of Canada and the EU.
I still like to occasionally visit places like Thailand and Bali, on occasion and I work wherever I go, but I spend considerably less time there because I've accepted that productivity is simply more of an uphill battle in such destinations. Some places are just better suited to vacation rather than co-working spaces.
Likewise, you don't have to constantly live around other digital nomads to be a digital nomad. I love meeting other entrepreneurs and remote workers throughout the year, but also like to balance intense periods of social interaction by retreating to places that don't get as much buzz, like Northern and Eastern Europe.
Myth #9: That It's Hard to Make Long-Term Friends
Loneliness is an oft-cited downside to the digital nomad lifestyle, and it's a real consequence. On the flip side, it's possible to make lifelong friends with people after traveling and/or working with them for even a few days or a week.
Even if you eschew travel for a more grounded lifestyle, there's nothing holding you back from joining meet-ups and activities at home.
[ Recommended: 15 Way to Meet People as a Digital Nomad ]
Just because you don't have a fixed workplace, doesn't mean you can't have a thriving social life. It just takes a bit more creativity than bonding with people at the water cooler.
Myth #10: That it's Being a Digital Nomad Is Not Sustainable OR You Have to Do It Forever.
This is another digital nomad paradox. Some people claim that the this kind of lifestyle isn't sustainable, and at some point in the future, you have to go back "home" or to real life.
Others assume that once you become a digital nomad, that should be your identity for the foreseeable future.
In reality, neither are group is completely accurate. The lifestyle is what you make of it.
If you decide to be nomadic forever, even if it's no longer serving you, that's your choice. Likewise, if you put a limit on your time as a nomad because you think you have to, that's also voluntary. One of the great benefits of an untethered life is being able to decide for yourself!
Myth #11: That Being a Digital Nomad Is Always Fun
From the looks of many an Instagram profile, being a digital nomad is the equivalent of= pure, unadulterated bliss. Not so, my friends.
One of the things I've always loved about being a digital nomad is the freedom it provides. I tend to enjoy a baseline level of inner contentment on a day-to-day basis by virtue of being in charge of my life and not having to answer to anyone.
That being said, even though experiencing the world through the digital nomad lens is generally enjoyable, it's far from perfect. That photo of a laptop in front of the Eiffel Tower only tells a sliver of the story.
Myth #12: That Living as a Digital Nomad Will Solve Your Life Problems
The fallacy that money makes you happy applies to the traveling or concept of "getting away from it all."
Even though there's enough evidence to show that it's not the case (more money and more travel can result in diminishing returns), people still fantasize that quitting their jobs and escaping to a remote corner of the earth will fix things for them.
In actuality, many personal or professional problems that adults face facing adults in the standard nine-to-five modern day lifestyle can be exacerbated upon transitioning to a life of location independence. Tread with caution and keep your expectations in-check or grounded.
However, I strongly believe that being a digital nomad is the best option for an optimal lifestyle.
I hope that this article sheds some light on the realities of being a digital nomad. After living some variation of an entrepreneurial, nomadic, or expat lifestyle for close too 15 years, I feel it's my duty to set the record straight and report on my experiences.