by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 9th October, 2019
Search up #digitalnomad on Instagram and you'll quickly be met with thousands of well-edited, perfectly shot and styled photos of various attractive influencers watching the sunset, whilst sipping on an espresso martini and typing away on a laptop.
This is the online perception of "Digital Nomads" - people who work from the road, earning money remotely in order to work and travel the world at the same time. As with any Instagram trend, however, there's a lot more underneath the surface.
Whilst the idea of traveling 24/7, never having to commute to work and hopping from one stunning white sand beach to the next is idyllic, it's not always the reality of digital nomad life.
Of course, there are a lot of perks to being able to work on the go, travel and never having to "go home", there are also a few overlooked downsides.
As much as traveling the world, meeting new people and constantly being surrounded by new cultures and new people sounds amazing, it's not all fun and games when you're a digital nomad. The realities of travel are that it's stressful, and at times, overwhelming.
Juggling work, travel, and socialization can be difficult, especially if you're on the move a lot.
A common misconception is that digital nomads are travelling literally all the time. Three days in one country and then onto the next one. This isn't exactly so, however.
Some digital nomads can do this, but in general, that kind of lifestyle gets tiring very quickly and doesn't leave a lot of room to get work done. In reality, many digital nomads will stay in one spot or area of a country for a while, or until their visa is up. Slow travel is much more common.
All jobs need time management skills to some extent, but it's certainly a lot easier to manage your time, and your work-life balance, when you have a 9-5 job.
Being able to work whenever and wherever you want is great, but with great power comes great responsibility. You need to be the one who gets up early in the morning to get to a cafe, find a spot and force yourself to work, even when you don't want to.
You also need to be the one who figures out how you're going to balance traveling, new experiences, going out and all those other fun activities with the harsh reality that if you don't work your butt off, you're not going to be able to do any of those things.
When you're in a new country or a new city, the temptation to just go out and explore can be overwhelming when you know that what you're supposed to be doing is working. Developing self-discipline and intrinsic motivation can be tough, especially if you've previously relied on a boss to keep you in check.
Another very common misconception is that as a digital nomad, you're automatically going to be wealthy and bringing in the big bucks.
However, for the majority of digital nomads, this isn't the case. Sure you may be able to be a serial entrepreneur and only work for 4 hours a week, but for the average digital nomad, freelancing or working remotely is their main source of income, and as such, you'll probably just be earning an average wage.
Taxes don't just magically disappear once you start traveling and neither does your need for insurance, visas and all the other boring admin minutia that comes with being an adult. As fun as travelling the world can be, the reality of life is that much of your time will be spent dealing with the boring everyday stuff.
Travel brings with it new experiences, new opportunities and chances to grow and learn. It also brings risk, uncertainty, and unfamiliarity. As such, it is pretty much inevitable that at some point, something will go wrong.
You will catch the wrong train, end up in a dodgy hostel, have your money stolen or any number of the common travel mishaps. This doesn't mean you should fear travel or avoid it, but rather accept the fact that shit happens, and create a contingency plan for when it does.
It may sound trivial, but one of the facts of life, or travel in general, is that wifi is not a guarantee. Particularly in certain areas of the world, wifi can be very slow or even difficult to get. As such, you may end up unwittingly forking out a lot more than expected on a large mobile data plan to get you through the work week.
One of the benefits of a regular 9-5 job is the opportunity to form relationships with your coworkers. You see and work with the same people day in, day out and ultimately end up getting to know each other pretty well.
You don't always get that same privilege as a digital nomad. You might make friends, but then one of you has to move on, and of course, you're not always available to hang out and explore the sites because you have to work. Sometimes you might have to end up working a lot more than expected and never find the time to socialize. As such, digital nomad life can get pretty lonely.
Travelling is stressful, juggling a full-time job is stressful. Add the two together and you have a recipe for burnout. Sure you may be able to spend your time after work relaxing on a beach with a martini, but sometimes that's just not enough.
Having a good work-life balancing, stress-relieving activities and scheduling in some holiday time will help to prevent burnout considerably, but it is still a reality of life.
Staring at a screen for hours on end every day will end up hurting you in some way. From repetitive strain in your hands to strain in your eyes or strain in your neck that you're constantly having to crane to see your laptop screen in poorly designed cafe's - the digital nomad life takes its toll.
You're not always going to able to get the most ergonomic desk setup and as a result, your body and brain might take a beating.
Being miles away from your family and friends will take its toll on your relationships back home. Slowly, calls become less frequent and you find yourself losing touch with what's going on in their life.
Likewise, constantly making new connections wherever you are in the world is also difficult, particularly if you're not naturally extroverted. Putting effort into new friendships can be difficult, especially when you're still trying to maintain your old ones.
Of course, by nature of being a digital nomad, you probably don't want to settle, you want to travel and see the world. However, even for constant travelers, a bit of stability can be nice sometimes.
Spending a few months in one place can give you the time you need to slow down, gather yourself and get stuff done. However, chances are you'll need to move on at some point because you've got a flight booked or your visa has run out etc etc.
Just when you've started building a routine, making friends and so on, you'll need to pack your bags and leave, and this can be tough.
You can't be lazy and be a successful digital nomad. It's either one or the other. Since you're either working for yourself or working for someone else remotely, you need to be the one who gets up, gets out to that co-working center or coffee shop and starts working.
Plans change, people change, money comes and goes, bookings cancel last minute and so on. This is the unfortunate reality of life, and it's amplified tenfold when you're constantly moving your life around in a backpack. You have to be adaptable to whatever situation you find yourself in.
Another unfortunate reality is that travel is expensive. From buying food to going out to paying for snorkeling trips, travel will drain your bank account. Sure, you can most definitely travel on a budget and save quite a bit of money, but if you want to travel well and enjoy yourself, you need to come to terms with the fact that you're going to be spending quite a bit.
If you're a freelancer, as many digital nomads are, then you may be faced with the dilemma of money fluctuations. Some months you may earn more, some months you may earn less, and you may encounter some money problems because of this.
Here are 10 Best Destinations For Digital Nomads.