Even when you have a desk job, a family and all the things that society expects of you, it can be hard to find a purpose for your life but when you’re a digital nomad, drifting from place to place, never putting down roots? It can become very difficult to see meaning in your life.
The good news is that you can still discover your purpose as a digital nomad and that it can be as meaningful as anyone else’s purpose. You need to look into what drives you as a person, think about what gives you energy, work out what you will give up to achieve your desires, determine the person or people that you will serve through your purpose, and finally, determine how you will serve.
So, let’s take a look at how that can work in practice:
What Is It That Drives You?
If you don’t like the word “drive” here, feel free to swap it for “motivate” because the two are interchangeable in this context. You’re not looking to discover some corporatist set of hollow values when you seek your purpose – you’re expecting to give your life more meaning.
The important thing is to seek the deepest drive within you and not something surface level that has no real intrinsic value to you.
My drive in life is based on my desire to teach other people. When I was a kid, I had one wonderful teacher, Mr. Fisher who showed me that it was possible for someone to be good at a wide range of things and to tailor learning to the individual student.
With the exception of a couple of other competent teachers, most of the rest of my teachers were a disaster. They didn’t know how to handle me (I was brighter than the other kids in my class) but they also didn’t know how to handle the kids who were struggling either. They dwelt in mediocrity – conveying their own average-ness to the average kids and failing everyone else.
It drove me crazy for years. The school was akin to a life sentence for me. I learned very little that I couldn’t have learned out of a book by myself and I learned it a lot slower than I would have done with that book.
In the end, I didn’t go into teaching because I spent some time as a volunteer working with kids and found it exhausting. The children were wonderful, but they deserved more energy than I have to offer. So, I went into training adults and it’s been brilliant.
This blog exists because I love to teach things.
You need to find something that you want to do badly enough that you can put up with a few bumps in the road to get there.
What Is It That Gives You Energy?
I love to write. I love to stand in front of a class and teach. I love to work with people to solve their problems. These things make me feel good about myself, they give me energy.
I don’t love office politics, I don’t enjoy endless meetings, I don’t like big social occasions, I don’t like a lot of things. So, I try to keep them to a minimum because they take me energy and waste it.
This is the easiest part of finding your purpose. You know what you enjoy and what you don’t. Make a list of that stuff. Part of having a purpose is trying to deliver on it. You’re going to want to remember the things you love so that you can incorporate as much of them as possible.
If we don’t do things that we love as part of our working lives then eventually we end up burning out. Burnout is pretty horrific in a corporate setting but, at least, when it happens there, there’s some support for you on hand. In digital nomad life, there’s no such safety net.
Working and travel ought to be fun. I see many people rejecting the idea that work should be fun because “paying the bills” is what matters. They’re not wrong that it’s important to pay the bills. But they are wrong in thinking that you can’t have fun while you do that.
In fact, having fun is far more important than the money you make in the short-term. The more you enjoy your work, the more you will work at it, the better you will become, and in the end, the more you will earn anyway.
I can code but I don’t because it sucks all the joy out of life for me. So, I write, and I train because they’re much more fun. And as Megan and I aren’t starving, I figure that it pays enough to be worth doing too.
What Are You Willing To Give Up?
Today, I am working on this blog post. I have no idea if it will ever make me any money. That’s OK. I do this because I want to do it. But also means that Megan and I are at home when we could be exploring the great city of Hanoi.
I could be taking photos (my big hobby) which I love but then this wouldn’t get done. I’d never finish the initial content plan for my blog and then it will never be read by anyone.
You don’t have to burnout, but you do have to sacrifice. If you want something badly enough (and what I want at the moment is to stop being a freelancer and move into running blogs on a permanent basis – I’ve been doing this for clients who’ve been making money out of me, now it’s time for me to cut out the middle man) then you have to give some things up.
You don’t have to give everything up. We still go out. We enjoy our time in new places. I still take photographs, but you must get the work done and that means cutting other things out, at least for a while.
Hopefully, you, dear reader, think it’s worth it.
Who Do You Want To Serve?
I want to serve my community. That is people who work remotely, who freelance and who are entrepreneurial and who’d like to combine that with travel. In short, I want to serve digital nomads.
Why? Because they’re my tribe. I’ve been doing this for the best part of 20 years.
I’m not interested in fueling the fantasy machine of the “digital nomad gurus” selling lifestyle porn and $2,000 training courses in useless disciplines like drop-shipping (a quick Google search will teach you all you need to know about this endeavor).
I want to talk about the lifestyle, the challenges you face, and the reality which is that you can have a long and happy life on the road as long as you tend to the basics.
This is because I care about you. I want you to succeed. I don’t want you to go home after 6 months crying in your cornflakes because you ran out of money. Digital nomad life is an amazing thing, but you can’t get rich quick and you can’t snap your fingers when you’re broke and create your perfect life either.
When you have a purpose, it needs to be harnessed to serve the needs of others or, at the very least, an other. Think a parent serving their child for an example of the smallest scale of this.
Human beings are a social species. The best way to live our lives is to work to build others up. It also makes us feel good to do this.
Oddly, it also tends to bring financial rewards. People like you more when you have their interests genuinely at heart, they want to do business with you – it’s a virtuous circle.
How Will You Serve These People?
The final step is the practical one. Your first four steps are about defining your purpose – what do you care about, what do you enjoy, what do you need to give up and who do you want to do these things for?
The final step is putting that into action. How will you serve your community? I am beginning my journey by writing the content for Nomad Talk. There will be, approximately 350,000 words of content by the time the first drop is done.
It’s all free too. No paywalls. No hidden stuff. Just free content.
After that, I intend to write a couple of books (maybe more) and sell those under the NomadTalk brand. I will also be working on some other blogs on other subjects (though these are subjects that could still benefit the digital nomad community they have a broader audience too).
I also hope to get back into public speaking and training. I won’t be doing 3-day workshops on how to be popular on Instagram (hint: this is because you need to be attractive and, ideally, female and I am neither of these things) but I will be looking to real value to people’s businesses.
I may even offer some business coaching though the last time I did this, I let it take over my life a little bit – so, I need to think it through before I do.
Your purpose is only real when you take action in keeping with it. Otherwise, it’s not really your purpose – you picked something that doesn’t drive you and which you aren’t willing to sacrifice for. If that’s the case, that’s OK, you can always begin again. You’re not doomed to a life without purpose.
One Last Thing: Meditation May Help With A Digital Nomad’s Sense Of Purpose
There is a strange correlation between people with a purpose and people who meditate. We don’t know which drives which but people who meditate are far more likely to have a strong sense of purpose than people who don’t.
Meditation is, as I am fond of pointing out, easy to learn and free to practice. It also has mental and physical health benefits. So, it can’t hurt to try meditating if you’re struggling to find your purpose as a digital nomad.
You may not believe it but a study published back in 2010 in Applied Psychology showed the people with a strong sense of purpose are not only happier than people without, but they also have a 30% reduction in the chances of dying in a 10 year period!
The Journal of Research and Personality in 2016, published a study that showed people with purpose also make more money than those without.
So, there are good reasons to get a sense of purpose. Fortunately, there’s a 5-step process that can help with this. Meditating may help as well. It won’t cost you anything to develop a sense of purpose as a digital nomad and it may be the key to the life you really want.