Curious about becoming a digital nomad? Maybe you’re already living the lifestyle. Technological advancements over the past 20 years have made a location-independent life possible for millions of people.

All you need is a laptop and reliable internet and you too can meet deadlines from a beach in Thailand while planning your next stop to Colombia...not exactly. Being a digital nomad might sound like an endless vacation, but it’s actually a lot harder than it seems. Here are a few things I wish I’d known before becoming a digital nomad.

Things to know before becoming a digital nomad

If you’re thinking of making the leap from the office to location independence, I encourage you to try it out. It's never been easier to untether your life, but there are few things you should know before you get started!

1. It’s a workation, not a vacation

The digital nomad lifestyle gives you great freedom and autonomy over your location, but that doesn’t mean your life is one big getaway. Even though you get to spend time in some of the world’s most incredible places, at the end of the day you’re still working.

My constant travel photos make it hard for my family and friends to comprehend this. I explain that while I combine work with a little fun, my new lifestyle is not a never-ending vacation, rather it’s a workation. And while Instagram makes it look like I’m working on my tan all day, I’m actually just taking a quick lunch break by the Adriatic Sea before hopping back on my laptop to finish a full day’s work.

“There will be days when you just want to sleep in, but you have to get up and get the job done. #digitalnomad”

2. Say goodbye to office hours

If you think you’ll be working regular work hours from anywhere in the world, think again. As a digital nomad you may be working with teammates in other time zones, which means you might have to catch a client call or team meeting at 11 p.m. or even 3 a.m.

While I try to schedule travel on nights and weekends so I’m fully available during the work week, sometimes the best deals fall right in the middle of my workday. This means I might spend the whole morning and afternoon traveling and, upon arriving to my destination, need to start my eight-hour workday at 5 p.m. It’s definitely not glamorous, but it’s the price to pay for location independence.

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3. It’s exhausting!

I wouldn’t trade the digital nomad lifestyle for anything, but I will say it’s a lot more exhausting than I ever imagined! Traveling is hard. Each time you change locations you have to start over: find accommodation, coordinate travel around your work hours, get your bearings in a new country, chase WiFi, and make friends!

All of this planning takes a toll on your mental energy—imagine being your own personal travel agent and juggling a full-time job at the same time! Some days you just want to sleep in, but you have to get up and get the job done. To help mitigate some of this stress, I highly recommend coliving.

Coliving provides a comfortable place to stay, a workspace, reliable WiFI, and a tribe of like-minded people who are also there to work. It can make the transition of arriving in a new country a lot smoother, saving you time and energy.

4. Slow travel is the only way

One of the best digital nomad tips is to embrace slow travel. There’s no need to rush around the world, otherwise you’ll quickly burn out. Slow travel allows you to be more productive, adhere to a routine, and also helps protect from decision fatigue.

Many digital nomads choose to hunker down in one country or even city for at least a month. Having a regular schedule and work-life balance can work wonders for your mental health, especially when you’re on the road. It also gives you time to explore so you don’t feel rushed or miss any of the major sites.

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5. Loneliness is part of the package

Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, life on the road will get lonely. Traveling alone is a great experience, but there are times when you wish you could share these special moments with friends or family or even get FOMO about all the things you’re missing out on back home. 

The good news is that you will make friends while you travel, however, having to start over every time you reach a new destination is draining.  You might find yourself yearning to make meaningful connections, but feel too tired to make friends. Join one of the many online communities for digital nomads to stay connected with like-minded people and to even connect in-person.

6. Get ready to chase WiFi

Finding reliable WiFi will become your biggest stressor! Without WiFi your work simply won’t get done, and running around a new city trying to find fast, free, WiFi can really hinder your productivity. Even if you book a hotel or Airbnb that claims to have WiFi, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work when you get there. A few tips to help you keep your sanity (and your job):

 

  • Stay at a coliving space. Coliving is built for digital nomads; not only will you have reliable WiFi, but you’ll have a workspace to boot!
  • Try coworking. If your accommodation doesn’t have great WiFi, coworking is the perfect solution. It’s a built-in workspace where you can get your work done and meet locals. 

Get your own hotspot. With a global WiFi hotspot you’ll never have to worry about your internet connection again! Skyroam is one of the most popular and gives you “unlimited WiFi at your fingertips!”

You're ready to become a digital nomad

Taking your work around the world has never been easier! If you’re lucky enough to be location-independent, I encourage you to try out the digital nomad lifestyle—it’s the adventure of a lifetime! Just keep in mind that while it’s totally worth the effort, it’s harder than most people imagine.; knowing what to expect will make your transition much easier!