What It Means to be a Digital Nomad
My name is Sarah, and I am a digital nomad.
The term “digital nomad” is becoming more and more popular amongst travellers, and not only does it describe a certain way of working, but it actually encompasses an entire lifestyle. Being a digital nomad does not simply mean to be able to work from anywhere you want. As a digital nomad you make the conscious choice of not only working online, but also living the life of a nomad and herewith being location-independent. Most digital nomads don’t just have one job; a lot of them work as a freelancer in their free time or host a blog or podcast.
This rather new phenomenon is becoming a culture in its own – a culture of connecting people through technology, a culture of collaboration, online communities and co-working, of exchanging ideas, sharing, and experiencing.
While it may sound difficult to pursue and maybe even scary at first, such a lifestyle does not require much. Leaving aside the fact that you will need a job that allows you to work remotely, the main requirements are a stable internet connection, a personal passion for traveling and a place in mind of where you want to go to and live at for a certain period of time.
Me becoming a digital nomad was not planned – it just somehow happened. I have always loved traveling. I discovered it when I was sixteen and went to Australia for three months to visit a local high school. The travel bug bit me and I knew I would never be able to live in one place for too long at a time. By the age of 23, I have now been to close to 40 countries, and in ten of these I have lived in for more than six months.
Luckily enough, my studies allowed me to travel and while I was in Central America working on my bachelor thesis, I got a job offer for a full-time job for once I finished my university career. The job would involve working remotely and needless to say, I didn’t think twice. At first, the whole team was in the same city, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but eventually all of us moved to different places. I chose Spain and my colleagues went to Mexico, Eastern Europe and other places in Asia.
Eventually, I noticed that being an employee just doesn’t didn’t it for me. I had too many ideas in my mind that I couldn’t fulfil with the position I was holding, and I decided to quit my job. Because I had too many requirements to any future job, I started my own company in order combine my passions of traveling, working online, and surfing.
During my one and a half years of being being an employee of an online business, I learnt a lot and some of these things might sound surprising at first.
Although I travel a lot, I always stick to a schedule and on most days I actually start work at 9AM,and I continue until late afternoon. For a lot of people, becoming a digital nomad embodies an escape from the regular “9 to 5” work day, however, for me a schedule is what increases my productivity and what makes me enjoy my “free time” more. With setting myself rather strict working hours, I learnt to appreciate the lifestyle I chose even more. Having a fixed schedule is easier when you are in a country that you enjoy.
As a digital nomad, you are independent, but you are not as independent as you might think you are. Working in a team of remote workers requires a lot of trust, and because you do not see your colleagues regularly or maybe not at all, you will experience difficulties. You can’t remind someone else in person to get things done and simply have to trust them to do their job. Of course you are free to choose where you want to live and maybe also the amount of hours you work, but if you are employed yourself or have employees you will always depend on your team to some extent.
While being a digital nomad brings enormous advantages with it in regards to flexibility, and fewer restrictions to your work place and type of job, it also means moving away regularly, and leaving behind friends you have made in each location. While sometimes being a digital nomad leads to unsteadiness, I would never change this lifestyle for anything else and the list of places I want to live in is growing and growing.
Spending a day or two in a country just to “cross it off the list” has never appealed to me, and I prefer to live in each place I go to for a few weeks or even months My friend and I founded Nomad Surfing to introduce others to this new concept of living and working to others and we want people to really experience new cultures and countries, while continuing their job. We are passionate about what we do and we can’t wait to share our experiences with digital nomads, or people who are interested in this new phenomenon and lifestyle. Nomad Surfing brings together 35 digital nomads, or people who are planning to work remotely, to travel, work and surf together for four months.