If you have 100 digital nomads and you ask them what the best things about working and traveling are, they’d probably all have slightly different answers. After all, we’re all different. However, there’d be a lot that they had in common too.
We didn’t quite ask 100 digital nomads, but we did ask quite a few nomads who’ve been at this for at least 5 years and this is what we came up with: the 15 best things about being a digital nomad.
Freedom To Be You Is Real
You are not free to break laws and in fact, the penalties for breaking laws are often much more severe in other countries than they are at home. However, you are free to live apart from the rules that are pushed on you in your own society.
You will be considered quirky and eccentric (unless you’re violent and aggressive) for breaking the social rules of other places because everyone will know that you are foreign and assume that you know no better.
This isn’t a license to act like a dick, but it is a license to let you be you and without apology. You owe nobody a goddamn thing unless you want to.
Freedom From Taxation (At Least, Partially)
There are only two major countries which tax worldwide income – they are the United States and China. The United States, however, lets you earn a whopping $110,000 or so before it comes calling for its share of any excess.
Everywhere else offers a bunch of rules based on residency. This means you can move yourself to a low tax or no tax environment (think the UAE, for example) and enjoy all the fruits of your own labors.
However, you still need to check with an accountant that you’ve got the residency rules right or you may face a large bill on your return to your country of origin. Of course, there’s no obligation ever to go home but most people will want to at some point or another.
Freedom To Live Where You Want
We love the freedom to live wherever we like. Now, Megan is Filipino which means that she can’t travel to as many countries as I can but there are still plenty of countries we can go to and that’s what we do.
If you (and possibly a partner) have Western passports or Singaporean, Japanese or Malaysian passports the world is quite literally your oyster.
Freedom To Work How You Want
You can work from home, from a café, from a co-working space or dangling from a mountain by a piece of bungee cord for that matter. When you work remotely you have control over where you work and more importantly, how you work.
Want to work at night, or early in the morning, or in alternating one hour sessions? You can.
Prefer to do one type of work? As long as you can find clients, you can do that to your heart’s content. Being a digital nomad means the best kinds of freedom are yours.
Freedom To See The People You Love When You Want
Not only do I get to live and work with Megan, but we can jump on a plane and be near friends or family whenever we feel like it.
There are no barriers to spending time with the people we love. This is a huge deal – we never have to miss an event or occasion. We don’t have to ask permission from a boss or manager to take time – we just go do it.
Freedom To Enjoy Geo-Arbitrage
Some digital nomads, mistakenly, believe that this is where you go and work in a developing nation and try to live like a local and earn a local salary. This isn’t geo-arbitrage, it’s self-sabotage.
Only an idiot swaps a comfortable life in Chicago or Croydon to move to Cambodia to live in a wooden shack and earn $300 a month.
Geo-arbitrage is the act of taking your salary from home and making it work much harder by moving to places with a much lower cost of living.
Everything in South East Asia (excluding Brunei and Singapore and the island groups of Australia which are technically included in South East Asia even though everyone forgets they exist) is cheaper than it is in England.
Combine that with sensible management of your taxes and boom! You’re living the high life on money which would be “lower middle class” back home.
Freedom To Be Healthy
Commuting takes up a ton of time. When I was in the UK my daily commute was the best part of 2 hours a day. My exercise regime in my current life takes 45 minutes. I don’t have to find time to exercise, I got it back when I decided to be a digital nomad.
You’re free to exercise as a digital nomad because you set your schedule. Many of us live in buildings with gyms and swimming pools which make this much easier. In the UK, I’d be looking at spending thousands in rent for such convenient facilities. In Thailand or the Philippines, it’s less than $1,000 a month including bills to live that way.
You are also free to manage your diet. Now, it’s not always easy to eat healthily if you’re racing from destination to destination trying to stuff as much into your life as possible. This is easy to remedy – slow down.
Now, you can take care of yourself. Want to be a vegan? Eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Want to eat less meat? Try going almost vegetarian. You can even experiment with the carnivore diet if you want.
When you free up time for yourself – you can take care of your body and health more easily.
Freedom To Express Yourself
There’s no dress code in digital nomad life. If you want tattoos, dreadlocks, and Hawaiian shirts, you can have them without apology (though don’t expect to be invited to very many parties).
I haven’t worn a suit since I worked in Saudi Arabia. In fact, I haven’t owned a suit since I lived in China. I once had hundreds of ties. Now, I have none. Oddly, I miss them every now and again but life’s better in jeans and a t-shirt, for me.
You can be whoever you want to be.
Freedom To Make Time For Yourself
One thing that I rarely did when working for an employer was take time off. I’d work late even though there was no overtime. I’d get roped into weekend working because everyone else was doing it. I’d cut short vacations because somebody else’s poor planning had resulted in some sort of “emergency” and so on…
Now, I can take time off when I want and while I probably don’t give Megan as much time as I should – I am a million times less attached to my desk than back when I worked in somebody else’s office.
The number one perk of digital nomad life is travel. You have to take time off from work to see places and experience them.
Otherwise, why bother at all?
Freedom To Motivate Yourself
Nobody cracks a whip while I work, not even metaphorically. Nobody tells me how to do my job. Nobody pushes me to turn up on time or stay late.
This is great because I am self-motivated. If you don’t motivate yourself as a digital nomad, nobody else will. You can’t blame anybody else for when things go wrong, either.
Freedom To Learn And Grow
Back when I was an employee, management dispensed training like it was a reward. Sit up and beg often enough while wagging your tail; we might send you out to learn some skills to benefit the business or we might leave you languishing in the doldrums with nothing. Because we feel like it.
When you work for yourself; you may have to pay for your professional development, but you can access whatever you want to learn and whenever you want to learn it. Most things can be learned very cheaply – no 5-day classroom courses required – from sites like Udemy or Coursera.
I have a lovely list of certifications about 10 miles long that I’ve gained online too. I’m a Google Ads professional and a Hubspot inbound marketer among many other pieces of virtual paper that I’ve accumulated over the years.
I also read about 2-300 non-fiction titles a year and much of that, I do in work time. Nobody gets in the way of your personal and professional development as a digital nomad except for you.
Freedom To Try New Things
I’ve done some things out here in South East Asia that I’d never have volunteered to do back home. I’ve climbed a mountain (Preah Vihear in Cambodia – I wish I’d been fitter but I did it all the same), I’ve done a nearly 1km zipline (Flight of the Gibbon in Siem Reap), I’ve slept in the top bunk of a train (Hua Hin to Penang) and more.
The joy of travel is that you are often presented with opportunities to do new things. You have the freedom to say “no”, of course, but most of the time – I find saying “yes” leads to the best times.
Freedom To Be A Part Of Communities
We don’t subscribe to the “digital nomad community” because we don’t find it very useful but that doesn’t mean we’re a pair of misanthropic social outcasts either. We join communities of expats and other communities based on interests wherever we may go.
We often find a community of our peers will coalesce around us too. You are free to be your own person and form your own communities as well as to join any community you like too. If you find the digital nomad scene to your taste – we won’t stop you from taking part, in fact, we’d encourage you to have fun. That’s what life is for.
Freedom To Choose The Climate You Want
I haven’t done very well at this. I hate hot weather and have spent nearly 20 years in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In a couple of years, we’re aiming to be in Georgia… where hopefully it will be cooler.
We may even, at some point, go to the UK so Megan can see where I come from and experience actual cold for the first time in her life.
However, I’m not you. You are absolutely free to pick a place based on the weather – I tried once, I was going to live in Baguio in the Philippines where it’s cool (but not cold) all year round and then I met Megan and ended up in Cebu, instead. I tried, honest.
Freedom To Cut Down Consumption
Actually, this last one may not really be a form of “freedom” at all. Digital nomads tend to buy less stuff and own less stuff than most. They rarely own cars (though far too many buy motos in S E Asia) and generally, they consume less than their non-nomadic counterparts.
Sadly, we still burn a bunch of fuel every time we fly. But you can’t have everything, right?
So, there you have it. There are downsides to digital nomad life, for sure, but there are also a ton of positives. If you do it right, you can cut down on consumption whilst dramatically increasing your freedom.
That’s why we love our digital nomad life, we’re freer than we’ve ever been before.