In a post-restriction world, becoming a digital nomad has become a hugely popular topic and lifestyle choice.
Now more than ever people are seeing the benefits of being a digital nomad: being able to work from home, being able to work flexibly and realising that they can work from wherever they want to in their own country or somewhere else in the world.
But what are the digital nomad advantages and disadvantages? Is living as a digital nomad and following a truly digital nomadic lifestyle really all it's cracked up to be?
I have been a digital nomad full-time for just over two years now (most recently in Croatia) and I see massive pros but also some significant cons to the digital nomad lifestyle that are important to consider if you’re thinking about whether the digital nomad lifestyle is right for you.
However I do think the lifestyle itself has been idealised thanks to social media. People think that if you're a digital nomad it means you're working on the beach every day and clocking off with a cocktail at 2 PM. While it might be possible to live like that sometimes, that's simply not the case for most digital nomads.
So I want to share the full picture of being a digital nomad and the remote work pros and cons to give you an idea of what to expect if you are considering the digital nomad lifestyle.
Read on to find out the pros and cons of being a digital nomad and the advantages and disadvantages of nomadic life from someone who currently is a digital nomad.
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What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is someone who works fully online and remotely using technology and the Internet.
Digital nomads do not have a fixed home address usually, allowing them to travel while they work. Generally they travel very lightly with minimal possessions and rather than hopping from place to place like a backpacker, they will stay in the same area, country or region for weeks or even months as a base.
Being a digital nomad vs. working remotely
I often see “digital nomad” and “remote worker” used interchangeably, however they are different.
A remote worker could be someone who still has an office in their local town or city however they are able to work from their home 1 or 2 days a week or even fully from home. But they still have a home base and remain in one location. And importantly they are often expected by the company they work for to remain in the general area or city.
On the other hand, a digital nomad has no home base. That is the nature of being nomadic. Their job does not require them to be in a specific city, country or location. They usually have the flexibility to work from anywhere at any time of day and complete their work through the Internet and online platforms.
Many digital nomads are self-employed or business owners, although that's not always the case. Many companies will not allow their staff to work from abroad for more than a certain amount of time per year due to tax liabilities. Being self-employed or having your own business gives you the flexibility to design a career, schedule and lifestyle that works for you.
What does my day look like as a digital nomad?
I want to share what my day looks like as a digital nomad. I will preface this by saying that I like a lot of structure and I create structure in my day because I have the choice to, as a digital nomad. Some digital nomads will have much less structure or work less or more hours during their day depending on their preference.
Mornings are my 'Me' time. My partner is also a digital nomad but while I'm a morning person, he's an evening person. So I have my alone time in the morning to focus on my personal projects and self development, and he does the same in the evening.
We go out for a walk along the beach and coast. We do 10,000 steps every day so this is part of that to make sure we get outside the house, and get a change of scenery and it’s great for mental, physical and emotional health.
I’ve usually finished work by 3pm and go to the gym, followed by heading out into the city to meet friends, go out for dinner or if it’s a Thursday, I might leave for a weekend away somewhere as I don’t work on Fridays.
A summary of my day
6.30am - get up, journal, coffee and read
7.00am - writing projects (either my own or clients)
10.00am - go for a walk at the beach
10.30am - business management for clients (project management, social media, operations work)
1.30pm - admin tasks, emails etc
2.30pm - gym
4.00pm - end of work day, go into the city to meet friends, go to the beach, make dinner etc
Digital nomad pros and cons: Is a digital nomad lifestyle worth the hype?
I’ll be completely honest here about the digital nomad advantages and disadvantages…
I think being a digital nomad is worth the hype ONLY if your priorities are:
working online and remotely (possibly starting/running your own business)
flexibility and setting your own hours
leading a minimal lifestyle
not owning a house, car or many possessions at all
A lot of these might sound great and I think a lot of people think that they want these things, however, a longer travelling trip or backpacking adventure might be more suited to what they want, rather than living out of a suitcase on a long term basis for several years.
Being a digital nomad requires you to get comfortable with uncertainty, spontaneity, plans changing at the last minute, things not going to plan, visa and tax issues, immigration issues and long term travel requirements.
You also need to be comfortable with the idea that your life will look very different from your friends and family back home. While friends your age are buying houses, getting married, having children, settling down, having a stable income, reliable healthcare, pension payments etc, you might start to miss these things and realise that the digital nomad lifestyle does not allow these traditional life points or advantages to happen as easily.
There are perhaps more pros and cons of digital nomad lifestyle than you think, which is why I often suggest that people might also consider backpacking if travel is more of a priority over building a completely nomadic life abroad.
The pros and cons of being a digital nomad
Let’s break down the digital nomad benefits and nomadic lifestyle advantages.
What are the benefits of being a digital nomad?
Significantly increased freedom and flexibility
Not restricted to the 9-5 or “traditional” way of living and working
Not answerable to a boss or employer
Plenty of travel opportunities and adventure
Chance to pursue your own interests and start your own business
Create a lifestyle and daily routine that fits you and your interests (I’ve always wanted to live by the beach and now I do!)
Freedom to live almost anywhere in the world and experience countries in more depth
Cheaper and easier to live a more minimal or low cost lifestyle
More diverse experiences
Ability to save a significant amount if living in a cheaper country than your home country
Expand your network and make friends all over the world
Can be spontaneous and move around as much as you like
Eye opening experiences to opportunities you might not otherwise encounter
Now for the disadvantages of nomadic life.
What are the disadvantages of being a digital nomad?
Long term uncertainty can be challenging, particular as a freelancer looking for nomad jobs
Constantly living out of a suitcase
Visa and immigration issues
Moving around every few months
Feeling like you’re missing out on things with friends and family back home
Loneliness or homesickness
Difficult to maintain relationships, particularly if you’re a solo digital nomad
Inconsistent access to healthcare
Cost of living can be unpredictable
Working location or wifi access can be unpredictable
Not owning a house, car or other large assets
Dietary restrictions depending on the country and your dietary needs
Work from anywhere drawbacks can feel especially daunting if you’re concerned about access to medical care, that’s why it’s SO IMPORTANT to make sure you have appropriate nomad insurance coverage.
SafetyWing is travel medical insurance created by nomads, for nomads and I love their rolling cover - I just pay by direct debit every month. You can even start, pause and resume cover when you’ve already left for your trip and there’s no need to share your itinerary with them, so it’s ideal if you don’t know where you’ll be next.
Summary: Digital Nomad advantages and disadvantages
I honestly feel that the digital nomad lifestyle has been very idealised by the press and social media. The actual lifestyle and advantages of nomadic life are incredible IF that’s the lifestyle you’re looking for.
I love the lifestyle, the freedom and flexibility, the ability to travel extensively and get to know new places in depth while meeting people and making connections all over the world. I love that being a digital nomad has allowed me to travel with my partner, experience living in multiple different countries, save money, build my business, live by the beach and create a life I love.
But the honest truth is that the unpredictability and non-traditional way of living does not suit everyone. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The freelancing advantages and disadvantages can be really great or really off-putting depending on how well you handle uncertainty.
Some days I wish I was at home for big family gatherings, significant events with friends or to support loved ones. Sometimes I wish I owned a house or had the job security of an employer and a pension. But 99% of the time I love my current lifestyle.
That doesn’t mean I can’t change my mind in the future though. And that’s the beauty of being a digital nomad. Maybe you want to try the lifestyle out for a year or two - that’s a great way to test if it’s right for you. I always think if you don’t, you’ll wonder “what if” - it’s always worth a shot if you think it might be the lifestyle for you.
Hopefully these pros and cons of digital nomad life have helped inform your decision on whether it’s the right choice for you.