We try to offer a balanced view on NomadTalk and that means we also take a look at the flip side of digital nomad life. Today, we want to explore the reasons that you might not want to be a digital nomad and travel the world and work.
We’ve developed a list of 12 reasons that you might want to think twice before you sell your stuff, pack your bags and empty your bank account and head to Thailand (or wherever). Remember, it’s OK not to be a digital nomad if you’d be happier doing something else.
Table of Contents
You Don’t Have Any Skills That Are In Demand
It is much easier to develop your skills at home than it is to do so in a foreign country watching the cash in your bank swirl down the drain. If you’re going to travel and work – work is going to be a vital element of your digital nomad life.
Many digital nomad “gurus” will urge you to get moving anyway but we’d prefer that you didn’t and that you prepared yourself properly for the demands of life overseas before you pack.
It doesn’t have to take forever to learn some skills that you can sell. In fact, we’d say that with a bit of commitment you can make the “professional” grade in a whole host of professions in under a year if you practice and study hard.
Being broke sucks. Don’t set off to travel the world and starve.
You Hate The Work That You Can Get
I’ve changed careers 3 times in my life. I was a salesman and a good one at that. I moved into training because I felt I’d exhausted the challenge in that role. I rose to the level of head of training and development for a multi-billion dollar startup. I realized that while I loved to train, I hated being a senior manager – too much politics not enough doing to be fun.
Then, I became a freelancer and an entrepreneur. 10 years later – that’s where I still am.
It can take time to find something you love to do.
If you don’t enjoy the work you do, you’re going to struggle on the road, given a choice between “fun on the beach” and “another ****ing day of doing stuff I loathe” the beach wins.
Find something else before you set off – you may even need to develop new skills to do so. This will be easier at home than in Cambodia, trust me on this.
You Hate Taking Risks
Let’s be blunt about this. I am a jump first, look second, kind of person. Megan’s not. She trusts me to take the risks for her but I doubt she’d travel if she was on her own – she’d find somewhere she liked and hole up there instead.
Constant moving and working remotely is a risky proposition. I’ve come close, twice, to finding myself completely broke and potentially homeless on the other side of the world. If you hate feeling like the world is fraught with peril; there may be better ways to go than digital nomad life.
You’re Too Close To Family And Friends
I love my friends but I’ve spent my whole life (including before I was a digital nomad) moving every 1-3 years. I am good at making new friends and while I miss the old ones, we can always keep in touch via Facebook or Skype and if our friendship was strong enough – we can meet up somewhere else too.
I’ve never been close to my family.
So, it’s easy for me to live out on the road. I know a lot of people aren’t the same as that. They start pining for home nearly as soon as they’ve unpacked.
There’s nothing wrong with this but if you need your family and friends around you – it’s probably not a good idea to abandon them and head off to Namibia.
You Thrive On A Regular Pay Check
Oh dear. Yes, it’s possible to get a remote job and many people do. The trouble is that there’s very little security in the job market of today. If you want to rely on a steady paycheck, you may find it disappears while you’re in the middle of nowhere, Laos, through no fault of your own.
Then what do you do? It’s much harder to find remote work when you’re a million miles from home. Ask all the hopefuls chasing dreadfully paid work in South East Asia.
The best way to approach being a digital nomad is with some entrepreneurial spirit – you want to build something to last and once again, this involves taking some risks.
You Thirst For The Security Of Crowds
Look there’s no “digital nomad lifestyleTM” and the people selling that nonsense? They’re not your friends. The people who manage to be a digital nomad for years are not in Chiang Mai or Bail (though they may pass through them to see what they’re like).
They’re spread thinly all over the world and they don’t announce that they’re a “digital nomad” every time they go out for an evening.
If you need big groups to feel secure in, they’re not there unless you’re happy to keep handing over money to the digital nomad sharks that create them in soulless nomad hub cities.
You Hate Making Friends
I’ve noticed a common pattern with those who quit the digital nomad life and then write angry articles about how impossible it is to live this way – they lack social skills.
They’re often convinced they have brilliant social skills, ironically, but this is a fairly simple truth: if you travel all over the place and can’t make any friends, it’s not the other people at fault – it’s you.
If you hate making friends or have no idea how to go about it; you face a potentially lonely life on the road.
I’ll write an article sooner or later about how easy it is to make friends. You don’t have to be lonely though you do need a little self-discipline in order to break the ice.
You Lack Self-Discipline
I admit that I struggle with this. It’s hard to say no to fun times and even to just staring at the ceiling and knuckle down and work. But here’s the rub – your digital nomad journey will end and end quickly unless you do the work.
You also have to do that work to the best of your ability AND you have to do it on time. Client deadlines are, generally speaking, important to clients – miss them and nobody will want to work with you ever again. Seriously.
I am not by nature a finisher of things. I am excellent at starting them, mind you. Which means I have to constantly nag myself to get things done. I’ve managed to do this for all my adult life even if it means not living “my true self” (or some other form of spiritual mumbo jumbo).
You can give yourself self-discipline, as I do, but only if you badly want it. I find that most “digital nomads” don’t want it that badly. Though they may spend a lot of time on Reddit, Facebook, etc. pretending that they do.
You Love Having “Stuff”
I don’t believe in the minimalist nonsense of only having one set of clothes made out of some indestructible material and only a single carry on bag but let’s be fair – if you want to spend your life on the road; you can’t own a ton of stuff, either.
It’s one of life’s biggest disappointments, for a bit, going to nice new places and not buying any souvenirs, etc. because you can’t carry them around. But you do get used to it if you want to.
I was once one of life’s biggest hoarders. I had a three-bedroom home in the UK and two bedrooms were full of my record collection and my book collection. Fast forward to now… I still have plenty of music and books, but they fit on two hard drives. We don’t own much beyond our electronic equipment and some clothes now and somehow that’s still 95 Kg of luggage. (Carry on and hold baggage).
You Love Having a “Home”
I miss this. Having somewhere to call your own and hole up against the world but even if you own property and rent it out while you nomad – it’s no longer really “home”.
Home is where your heart is and for a nomad that has to be “out on the road” or you have a lifetime of misery to look forward to.
You Take Yourself Too Seriously
People who can’t laugh at themselves tend to be a bit too fragile to handle life on the road. The joys of a Chinese person walking up to you and proudly telling you that you’re too fat, tall, or whatever aren’t joys when their (well-meant – this isn’t an insult in China) comments hurt your feelings.
The rest of the world doesn’t move by Western standards. If you are foolish enough to believe there’s no racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. in non-Western climes you are going to be deeply, deeply disillusioned by the time you get home.
You learn to go with the flow and let stuff slide or you go insane. The highly-strung often aren’t cut out for the digital nomad life.
You Can’t Deal With The Opinions Of Others
The world is not an echo chamber. Once you move beyond Facebook and Reddit, with their censorious admins, you’re going to find that people disagree with you and think you’re wrong a lot of the time.
That’s because nobody’s right all the time and because nobody’s going to stop them from speaking their minds.
You need to be tough enough to handle the grind of life or it’s going to make you less than happy out on the road.
Digital nomad life is awesome for me and Megan. But we won’t pretend it’s for everyone. You need to look at yourself honestly before you sell everything and move abroad and ask, “what makes me happy?”
That’s because you’re the one who is going to be traveling the world and working if you make the jump. Each of the points above is a warning sign that this life may not be the ideal choice for you. If you find that you identify with a lot of them – you might want to think twice before becoming a digital nomad.