The 5 Best Things About Being a Digital Nomad
It's easy to wax poetic on the many attributes of the digital nomad lifestyle, but there are five clear winners in my book.
"This is what being an adult should be like."
First and foremost, the #1 absolute best thing about being a digital nomad is having more freedom. But freedom comes in many shapes and sizes. There are actually many more freedoms available to you as a digital nomad than many people realize at first. After experiencing these freedoms first hand for about 15 years of my life, I've realized there is context to freedom. It's like layers of an onion - the longer you are a digital nomad, the more layers of freedom you get to experience.
- Live where you want
- Work where/how you want
- Eliminate your commute
- Choose your colleagues and customers
- Choose your timezone
- Create your daily schedule
- Create your annual calendar
- Design your lifestyle
- No need to ask permission from your boss or company to do ANYTHING
- What time you wake up
- Wear whatever you want to work
- Decide what you want to do with every hour of the day
- Vary your workspace throughout the day, week, or month:
- Coworking spaces
- Coffee shops
- Alone or with others
- Plan your mealtimes: no need for a 12pm-1pm lunch break. Eat whenever you want and take as much time as you want.
The best thing for me, which always fills me with absolute gratitude, is experiencing so many palpable, fleeting moments of the ecstasy and ultimate freedom that can only come from a location independent lifestyle where you are in charge of your life.
- Riding my bike in the middle of the night in Amsterdam on a clear night (because I can)
- Being on a sailboat in Santorini with 50 other digital nomads (because someone had the idea to organize a boat day)
- Flying to Vegas on a Wednesday to attend the Nomad Summit with 100 other current or aspiring remote workers
- Sleeping in because you're tired and not having to worry about it
- Taking a day off to go for a hike or a spa day
- Meeting a friend for afternoon tea in London
- Meeting my cousin on her lunch break in New York
- Deciding which projects to work on on a given day
- Seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up while walking on my way home to my Airbnb in Paris
- Working out at whatever time of day suits me, instead of only before 8am or after 5pm
These are all things I can do whenever I want, because I'm in charge of my day-to-day and therefore, my life.
You can too!
There's no need to limit your freedom to vacation days. As a digital nomad, this feeling is available 24/7 and it never gets old!
2) FRIENDS AND FAMILY TIME
Tim Urban of the popular blog Wait but Why has a very impressionable article called "The Tail End," where he visually demonstrates how much time you have left with friends, siblings, and parents once you reach the age of 18 and move out of your childhood home (Reality Check: it's less than you think). This realization hit me like a ton of bricks, until I realized I am in the unique position as a digital nomad to be able to spend as much time with my friends and family as I want. So I do.
When you work a 9-to-5, you can pretty much only see your friends and family after work or on weekends, if you live near them. In many cases, the only time you get to see your family is once per year during the holidays. This is unfortunate. But digital nomads have choices, and we can see our friends and family whenever we want.
Here are some events I was able to attend or quality time I was able to spend with my friends and family, just because I can work from anywhere with my laptop:
- My niece's birth in California
- My brother's surf trip to Costa Rica
- My sister's law school graduation in Las Vegas
- My parents' European vacation this year
- A childhood friend's business trip to the Philippines and Thailand
- A sailing trip around Croatia with 30 friends
- A girls' trip to Italy for my birthday
- A road trip through French wine country
- A road trip through the Balkans and Eastern Europe
- A friend's charity event in NYC
- I stayed at my best friend's house in Byron Bay, Australia for a month when she had a baby
- I attended another best friend's conference in Mexico City to support her and just spent a month with her in Portugal for fun
- I spent over 1 year in Florida when my grandpa died, to live next door to my grandma and help her sell her house and move near my mom
If you could work from anywhere, what type of fun trips or important family milestones would you be able to be present for?
The options are endless.
So instead of having only 1-5% of your time left with your family members that you'll ever have for the rest of your life, maybe you can increase that ratio to 10% or more.
3) LIFE OPTIMIZATION ARBITRAGE
This is a concept that I think I made up but it is definitely the reality for many astute digital nomads. Life optimization arbitrage to me means being able to take advantage of optimal prices or quality of life opportunities that arise when you can do whatever you want. IE: traveling on off-peak days and times, living in a place with a low cost-of-living, etc. Let's compare:
Arbitrage Definition: the simultaneous buying and selling of securities, currency, or commodities in different markets or in derivative forms in order to take advantage of differing prices for the same asset.
Life Arbitrage Definition: the simultaneous living, working or conducting activities using specific decisions that optimize your life experience, value and happiness for the lowest possible cost in time and money. The ability to take advantage of opportunities that aren't available to the masses due to the common geographic, time, and monetary restrictions that the global population must typically abide by (working from a physical location, limited vacation time, etc).
Maybe you want to eat brunch on a Monday without waiting in line, or travel on an empty flight on a Wednesday at a lower price than business travelers, or position yourself in a time zone where you can work during your peak performance hours, and choose where you'll be when colleague or customers are awake.
Let's look at an example:
$7,000/month net salary in San Francisco after state taxes
$3,000/month average rent in San Francisco
$3,750 disposable income remaining
$8,000 net monthly income as a digital nomad (no state taxes)
$300/month average rent in Thailand inclusive of utilities
$7,700 disposable income remaining
By consciously choosing your geographic location and subsequent cost-of-living, you can directly impact your savings, disposable income and overall net worth whereas someone on a salary in California can't.
4) ABSOLUTE CONTROL OVER YOUR HEALTH
The modern world is living in a global physical and mental health crisis due to our modern-day lifestyles. But digital nomads have a better chance at achieving better health, if they so choose. Why is this ?
We have more choices over our inputs over office workers:
- Food and Nutrition
There is an argument to be made that digital nomads spend more time at their laptops or eat out more, drink more, etc, but these are all choices. Because you're not as rushed or at the mercy of your management team, you can make better nutrition and environment choices while eliminating stressful commutes or time-wasting meetings.
You can also choose where you get healthcare. We all know that the US has the most expensive healthcare in the world. Why not pay less for equal care in one of the many medical tourism destinations around the world? Because you can!
Typical 9-to-5 Life, responsible for modern-day health problems:
- Wake up at 5-6am
- Rush to commute 1 hour to work
- Drink a lot of coffee to stay awake
- Stay in an office all day
- Eat lunch at desk or on a rushed lunch break with limited, crowded food choices
- Remain at the mercy of meetings, office climate, etc
- Commute back home
- Go to the gym or happy hour, limited leisure time
- Sleep 6 hours
Possible Digital Nomad Life:
- Wake up at 8-9am
- Complete 2-4 hours of deep work at home
- Drink coffee as a ritual more than because you're falling asleep at your desk
- Go for a walk or run
- Eat lunch wherever, after the 9-to-5 lunch rush
- Arrive at co-working space for the afternoon
- Leave whatever time you want
- Do whatever you want after work
- Go to sleep at midnight or 1am
- Sleep 8+ hours
As a digital nomad, you could also have free time to yourself all day and start your work day in the afternoon or evening. It's up to you!
5) GLOBAL NETWORK & COMMUNITY
Having a close-knit tribe or community is one of the most important ways to increase your happiness and overall well-being as a human being. The digital nomad lifestyle definitely delivers when it comes to this aspect of life.
Being a digital nomad can be lonely at times, but you can also make deep connections and life-long friendships at a faster rate than in your previous "normal" life. This is because of the other benefits that I list above in this list - notably, having the freedom to live and work wherever you want contributes to being part of multiple communities.
Between coworking spaces, apps, and attending nomad-related conferences and events, you can easily meet hundreds or thousands of like-minded people per year. I've found that I get to know people faster and on a deeper level as a digital nomad, just because people are more open to meeting others while traveling. Also, digital nomads are usually quite intentional about growing their networks and making friends wherever they go.