• By Check-a-Salary
  • Posted Monday 25 th July 2022

The Digital Nomad Lifestyle - Pros and Cons

Fancy hopping from island to island on your lunch break in sun-soaked Bali, or flitting from cafes to courtyards in Paris, laptop in hand? Whatever your answer, we think you’ll agree it’s a lifestyle that certainly holds more appeal than the daily office commute. As Intel’s co-founder and inventor of the integrated circuit once said — “wouldn’t you rather work in Hawaii?”.

The term ‘Digital Nomad’ was coined in the early 90s (but the lifestyle itself was predicted much earlier), as the internet and advances in technology presented an opportunity for workers to escape the confines of their offices. However, while laptops and mobile phones did exist 30 years ago, they were primitive in comparison to the devices we take for granted today. In fact, society has only truly come to adopt the Digital Nomad lifestyle thanks to the ubiquity of smart devices and wireless networks, and the global pandemic forcing the planet to work remotely — a perfect storm of sorts.

Perhaps you had a taste of remote working during lockdown, and you’re hungry for more. Maybe you run your own business and are contemplating a change of scenery. It could even be that you’re simply curious about the realities of the digital nomad lifestyle. In any case — read on!

The pros

Work from wherever you please

It’s a bit of an obvious one, but let us paint a picture for you…

The soft symphony of the ocean harmonises with the cool, salt-scented breeze as you begin your day. You log in, lazily adjusting the soft pillows lining your woven wicker seat, feet digging into the soft, ivory-white sand as you shift. Sunglasses on, fully relaxed —  you’re ready to work. Life is bliss.

Okay, so we may have oversold the idea just a little, but hopefully, you see our point! The digital nomad lifestyle means complete freedom. A laptop and an internet connection are usually the only requirements needed to work just as effectively as your office-bound counterparts. Even if you find yourself in a location lacking adequate WiFi signal strength, a simple 4G dongle can soon see you connected and ready to work in a jiffy.

From an employer’s side, the freedom offered by the lifestyle is a huge pro, too — happy team members are more productive and less likely to search for pastures new. Thankfully, the days of battling with various HR and legal frameworks when dealing with employees working overseas are now a thing of the past. Nowadays, the process is remarkably simple. All of these matters can be handled through an employer of record service like Remote, allowing you to build a global team relatively easily.

No office politics

While a select few may revel in the soap opera-esque world of office politics, the vast majority of us would prefer to simply keep our heads down and get the job done. Digital nomads can dodge the snide comments, favouritism, and cabin fever of the office altogether.

Fancy eating a particularly pungent meal while working on a presentation? Go right ahead! Find that you’re more productive when listening to heavy metal at full blast? Rock on. With nobody around to offend, you’re free to work on your terms, away from any judgemental glances or disapproving stares. As long as you’re getting your work done, who cares? Contrary to what many may have thought before the pandemic, remote workers are actually more productive! And while we’ll concede that the expulsion of office politics from working life may not be solely to blame for increased productivity, it’s certainly a contributing factor.

Your money could go further

If you’re lucky enough to live and work in a developed country such as America, Canada, France, or Australia (to name a few), you’re in a great position — in many parts of the world, your money is much more valuable, meaning your cost of living could be a fraction of what it is back home.

Thailand, Bali, and Portugal are just a few of the locations well favoured by digital nomads looking to maximise the bang for their buck. Why scrape by when you could live a life of luxury on a relatively modest salary? Many nomads find that the entire cost of living abroad (accommodation, food, travel, transport etc) is the same as what they’d spend on rent alone in their previous residence. Free up your cash flow and use it however you please — take a jet-ski out for a spin on the weekend. Paraglide over a lagoon. Enjoy endless mimosas while watching the sunset. Or, if you’d prefer, use it as an opportunity to build your savings. For tips on how to manage your money effectively, check out our guide on how to overcome money troubles.

The cons

Balancing friends and family life

The dream of escaping our day-to-day routines and heading out on an adventure may be alluring, but it isn’t without its downsides. Jetting away to a far-flung part of the world may seem appealing to you, but keep in mind that you’ll be leaving your friends and family members behind in the process.

Birthdays, weddings, funerals... No matter the occasion, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to attend — unless you’re willing to repeatedly fly back and forth to fulfil your social obligations. Of course, this does make the nomadic lifestyle more suited to younger professionals who are free and single and don’t yet have a family of their own. Whatever the case, your loved ones may miss you and find themselves unable to understand or relate to your new lifestyle. As heartbreaking as it may be, be prepared for statements like “why do you have to leave?” and “we all miss you and wish you’d come home!”.

If you do make the leap, we’d recommend setting aside a regular time where you can catch up with friends and family. Even if you’re not physically present, great comfort can be found in a simple conversation about the week’s events. Homesickness is fairly common among newcomers to the lifestyle to stave off loneliness by building up a new network of friends on your travels — there are plenty of programs that cater to this.

No sense of belonging

They say home is where the heart is, but can the same be said for a digital nomad? It takes a lot of courage to leave everything you know behind in favour of new and unexplored lands and hopefully, you’ll grow to love your new home just as much as your old one, but even once you’re settled, it’s not uncommon to experience a lack of belonging. This is perfectly natural — especially if you’re residing in a country with vast cultural differences, but for some, the unshakeable sense of dissonance and estrangement may simply be too much to handle.

No matter how unsettled you may feel, it’s always advised that you give yourself some time to acclimatise to your new environment — the recommended time frame falling between 3-6 months. Try introducing some home comforts and make your space cosy and comfortable. Immersing yourself in your host country’s culture can also help too. Heading out on an expedition to find the best local cuisine or taking a day trip to a nearby tourist trap could provide some much-needed vindication if you’re left doubtful of your lifestyle change.

FOMO (the fear of missing out)

Part of the motivation for many digital nomads is the excitement and opportunity an entirely new location brings with it. Just imagine all of the places you’ll go, people you’ll meet, and things you’ll see! However, in a world of possibility, it’s incredibly easy to burn yourself out, fast.

It might be tempting to pack in as many day trips as your schedule allows, but the unfortunate truth is that it’s impossible to see and do everything. Compromises must be made, and when they are, you may find it difficult to shake the feeling that you’re missing out.  This is a common occurrence with those new to the lifestyle, but sadly, it’s one you’ll have to live with — your primary objective is to work, after all.

As a general rule, it’s best to avoid socialising too much with holidaymakers. Their incessant invitations to parties may initially be flattering and well meant, but constantly declining their offers or listening to their tales of hedonism could quickly become tiresome if you’re trying to focus on work. Instead, we’d recommend linking in with a community of fellow nomads like Wifi Tribe or Hacker Paradise — it’s far more likely your schedules will line up with theirs, and you’ll be avoiding any risk of offence if you aren’t able to get in on the fun.


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