3 Important Questions You Need To Answer If You Want To Be A Digital Nomad

I am a digital nomad.

What that means is that I work via the internet and I don’t have a permanent place that I call my “home”.

Digital implies that my work is connected in cyberspace and nomad implies that I’m always on the move.

Basically, I am allowed the freedom to travel around the world as long as I can connect to the internet long enough to get my job done.

NOTE: Before we move ahead, I want to mention that some digital nomads focus more on having a fulfilling internet career while others focus more on the “nomad” part- they have a passion for travel and work merely as a means to sustain that passion. While this is totally acceptable, I’m all about finding a job that you both love and will allow you to travel.

Being a digital nomad is an amazing, fulfilling, and enriching experience… for me.

But it’s not for everyone.

Most digital nomads I know are wanderlusters (people who love to travel), but some just love the freedom of being able to go anywhere at any time and communicate with their clientele/employers via the internet.

Others love the unpredictable nature and spontaneity of the lifestyle.

I’ll give you an example of what I’ve been up to recently:

  • One day I wanted to go to Indonesia. So I went to Indonesia, stayed there for a few months, did my work, and traveled around Indonesia. Then I wanted to go to Malaysia. So I went to Malaysia, stayed there for a few months, did my work, and traveled around Malaysia. Then I wanted to go back to the US to see my friends and family over the winter holidays. So I went to the US, stayed there for a couple months, did my work, and traveled around the US. Then I decided that I wanted to learn to speak Chinese. And now here I am, in Beijing, writing this article and 正在说汉语.

Here’s what I did this morning:

Digital Nomad Great Wall
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I call this one: “Trying to look like no one is taking a picture of me”…

But I’m not always drinking tea on the Great Wall of China…

Sometimes I’m lounging on a tropical beach drinking out of a coconut. And other times I’m holed up in a cafe for hours on end struggling to meet a deadline while fighting with some really bad internet.

This is the unpredictable nature of my life.

But it’s this level of unpredictability that allows me to stay contented with my work.

For me, having any kind of solid routine or plan is dreadful. I just can’t do that.

I get stir crazy if I stay in one spot for too long. I need to move around a lot; because if I don’t, I’ll spiral into a fierce mania.

Depending on who you are, you could call that “wanderlust” or you could call it “fear of commitment”.

Whichever one it is (probably the latter), I need to move around.

So I’ve chosen this kind of lifestyle to satisfy both my “wanderlust” and my desire to do the kind of work that I find fulfilling.

The Work

This is the part many people get hung up on.

I mentioned this moments ago, but it needs to be mentioned again.

While being a digital nomad is great, having a bad job will suck all the enjoyment out of the digital nomadic lifestyle.

When choosing a digital nomad job, you need to make sure that you can a) support your lifestyle and b) find a job that you find fulfilling. Now, these are two obvious things when picking any job, but it’s particularly of importance when you’re a digital nomad.

Why?

Because being a digital nomad comes with many challenges. Unlike living and working in a stable environment, a nomadic lifestyle means that everything is always changing.

It’s often more draining than you would think to keep up with all these changes.

Digital nomad lifestyle
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The only permanent thing is change.

The work you do needs to be a bedrock of stability for the hectic lifestyle of digital nomadicism.

I’ll write an article later on how to pick a digital nomad job, but for now, let me just say that if you love what you do and you can work remotely (not connected to an office), you’re in a prime position to be a digital nomad.

If you can adequately answer these three questions…

Three Questions You Need To Ask Yourself To See If You’re Ready To Be A Digital Nomad

1. Do you like stability?

I personally hate stability.

There’s an odd sense of comfort in knowing that everything around me is going to change very, very quickly.

But a lot of people don’t like that.

A lot of people like routines.

Again, I personally hate routines.

I love doing something new every day. I’m the guy who takes the long way home just so I can see something I’ve never seen before. I’m the guy who schedules “aimless wandering” time into my daily schedule. I’m the guy who goes to a different restaurant every day even though I know I can get exactly what I want at a restaurant I’ve already been to.

Wandering Digital Nomad
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I think my hostel is around here somewhere…

But if you’re not me, and I’m pretty sure you aren’t, these things may sound like massive wastes of time.

And that’s totally cool…

You can try to be a more “efficient” nomad, but when you’re constantly in flux, maximizing efficiency is a major challenge.

Here’s a typical experience:

  • I go to a place. I stay there for a few days. I leave. I go to a new place. I stay there for a few days. I leave. I go to a new place. I stay there for a few days. I leave…

Every few days, there’s a new neighborhood/city/province/country, there’s a new hostel/guesthouse/hotel/tent, and every few days there are new friends.

Continually meeting and saying goodbye to new friends is probably the hardest part. Even I’ll admit that I’ve had to take breaks from meeting new friends from time to time.

It’s very hard to meet great people, experience great things together, and then abruptly leave… and then regularly repeat this cycle.

It’s like a mini-breakup every three days.

Travel
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“I’ll probably never see you again. Have a nice life!”

Unless you have a very strongly defined set of values, this constant maneuvering between relationships will definitely cause you a lot of tension.

I used to joke with my Malaysian girlfriend that I was a full-time boyfriend working under a short-term contract.

Simply put:

There’s virtually no stability in the digital nomadic lifestyle, unless we have a steady job, which, for many of us, is not particularly easy to come by.

But again, if you can find work that is a) fulfilling and b) steady, you’ll always be able to fall back on this bedrock.

But if you really, really like stability, then being a digital nomad is probably not right for you.

2. Do you have anything you can’t leave behind?

I have created a life for myself where I don’t have any entanglements.

I don’t have:

  • Kids
  • A girlfriend/wife
  • An apartment
  • A dog/cat/tarantula
  • A mortgage (though I do have a decent amount of student loan debt)
  • A car
  • A litany of friends
  • Pressing engagements
  • An office job
  • An unused Wendy’s gift card
  • yadda yadda…

But alas, some people do have these things. And having any of these things tying you to a certain place would make perpetual travel very difficult.

If you have a family, you’re probably not going to get up and leave.

If you have a house, you’re probably not going to get up and leave.

If you have a car, you’re probably not going to get up and leave (though I have met people who literally left their car on the side of the road and moved to another continent).

While these things are all hurdles, it’s important to recognize that if the digital nomadic lifestyle is right for you, you can work around these entanglements.

Anything you can’t leave behind
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“Dude, we are so ready for your new lifestyle…”

I have met digital nomad families- families that travel while one or both of the parents work a remote job.

They sell their house, sell their belongings, and start traveling. The kids get an education through living in different places around the world and the parents are able to sustain that level of travel with their internet work.

I have met many others who have had well-paying office jobs and who were in relationships with partners who did not support such digitally nomadic lifestyles. They broke up with their partners, left their boring office jobs, and started traveling and working on the road.

It all depends on what you want. Obviously, in the first example, this kind of relationship is built on shared values, and in the second example, this kind of relationship didn’t have a strong basis of shared values. This is not an article about building relationships, but if you and your partner can’t agree on core values, the relationship is probably not that strong.

Here’s a key phrase to remember:

  • Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

If being a digital nomad is right for you, you’ll surely find a way to make that happen.

But if your family is vehemently opposed to you traveling, and if you value your family above all else, being a digital nomad is probably not going to work out.

3. Can you take a huge leap of faith?

I touched on this in the last point, but it’s really important to expand upon.

If you want to be a digital nomad, you need to take a leap of faith.

We often want great opportunities to be handed to us, but that’s just not how anything happens.

You need to know that if what you want to be doing is working remotely and traveling the world, then you need to be doing that. You need to know that it’s never going to happen unless you make it happen.

You need to get up and go.

Get up and do it.

Right now.

Digital Nomad No Fear
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I’ve never tried flying before…

If you need to tie up some loose ends first, then fine, do that. But if you’re using your entanglements as an excuse and are not actively working to find a workaround, then you are either not serious enough or are afraid to try.

If you’re not serious enough about leaving everything behind and throwing caution to the wind, then that’s fine. This is not the right kind of lifestyle for you.

But if you really, really, really want it and are just too afraid to take that leap of faith, then you need to re-examine your life.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to sell your car and buy a plane ticket to (wherever), let me tell you, if you don’t take the leap of faith now, you will keep wasting time as you spiral further and further into a deep pit of despair.

I know… I’ve been there.

It sounds bizarre for most people in our culture to accept that in order to do the things we really want to do, we need to leave behind the status quo and fiercely move toward our goals.

If our goal is to be a remote working traveler, then that’s what we need to be driving toward.

There is no other option.

Being a digital nomad
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Life exists outside of the dream of life.

It’s unwise to keep asking ourselves: “What if?”

We can’t keep doing that.

We need to get up and go.

And if you’re struck with worry, it’s OK. Everyone feels this worry.

But if you have the means (even a modest amount of money is enough to get started) and the desire (and if you’ve read this article this far, I’m assuming you have the desire), there’s no other option:

You need to take a leap of faith.

Is The Digital Nomad Lifestyle Right For You?

Being a digital nomad is a truly wonderful experience, and I am thankful each day that I wake up and am allowed to pursue not only my fulfilling career, but also my passion of travel and exploration.

If these two things are also valuable to you (or at least the wanderlust part), you should see if you can answer these three questions in this order:

  1. NO
  2. NO
  3. YES!!!

Again, I am not here to say that this kind of lifestyle is for everyone.

In fact, I’ve met many people who burn themselves out very quickly and return their previous lives due to the challenges that they inevitably face walking along this path.

I need to stress this: It’s not easy to be a digital nomad.

But if you value the sense of freedom that such a lifestyle gives you, it can be one of the most rewarding life choices you’ll ever make.

Here’s another clichéd saying you need to remember:

  • You never know until you try.

All you need to do is get out there and try.

If at this point you’ve fully decided that you’re ready to be a digital nomad, I have one final question for you:

Where in the world do you want to go?

Give me your answer in the comments section below!

Are you thinking about being a digital nomad? What’s holding you back? Are you currently a digital nomad? What do you find rewarding/challenging about your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Authored By
Eric Michelson is a man of many hats. Not literally. He seldom wears hats. He is a traveler, writer, artist, and thinker. He is the founder of Perspective Earth - a meeting space for great minds to discuss the most important issues of the day. You can follow him and his work on Facebook and Twitter.

29 thoughts on “3 Important Questions You Need To Answer If You Want To Be A Digital Nomad”

  1. HI Eric, I have already red one of your article based on traveling. Actually, There are many things which fall in my personality type that you have mentioned in your article as i am looking for to be “Digital Nomad” and looking for work where i can work remotely and can travel around the world. I have worked with top Travel company in India but found the same office job 9 to 6 which not suites to me at all. As i get lost when i work with people. I have visited Thailand twice and would like to visit US/EUROPE/RUSSIA/ and whole India. I quite my job because of introvert nature and looking for some freelancing work. I tried to get some work based on data where i can work remotely but could not get successes. I red your article and got inspired by your lifestyle the way you live your life. I could not stop myself to write these things. I am eagerly waiting for your next article where you are going talk about “How to find job as Digital Nomad”. Thanks for writing such great Article for the people who are looking for same things in their life Style. thanks Eric

    1. Hey Ravneer, I’ve known some people who have worked in the travel industry, and yeah, all they did was sit inside an office!! Oh the irony!!!

      Great to hear that you want to go and visit the US!! You can make lots of digitally working friends there!

      Keep on the lookout for those digital jobs in your expertise on all the job boards and freelancing platforms. You can also start cold emailing some people with asking if they need any freelancers. That is a technique that works really well. Find an up and coming brand or service who you think might need your help (don’t try selling computers to Apple) and send them an email with your resume and a note telling them how you can help.

      You can definitely get there if you persist. Know what you want and take that leap of faith to get there!!

  2. Varun Shrivastava

    I truly enjoyed your article. And to answer your questions,
    Yes, I’m thinking about a digital nomadic lifestyle.

    There are certain baggage that is holding me back (mostly related to expenses). I’m having hard time figuring a way out. May be I need some push to get out of it. I started a blog in the first place where I use to share my daily life learning and now it has become an integral part of my life. May be I’m close but don’t know what life plans for me 🙂

    Currently, I’m not.

    I would like to know how and when did you started your digital nomadic lifestyle and what all challenges did you faced. I think that would really help someone like me to get started quickly and make better decisions.

    1. Hey Varun, glad to hear you’re thinking about taking a digitally nomadic leap!

      Money is always a prominent worry for many people, but if you have a limited amount of funds, you can still get by. Usually, plane tickets are the most expensive things, then once you get to somewhere cheap (say SE Asia), you don’t need much money. I was able to live decently in Indonesia for about $300/month. And I saved the remainder of my money for my future travels.

      Personally, I live very modestly, so I usually end up saving money (except when I pay large tuition fees for Mandarin school in China..lol). I generally end up saving enough money to get myself to my next destination and then just sort of “figure things out from there”… lol. I’m not good with planning things…

      If you’re making anything from you internet work, having enough for a plane ticket and one month of expenses should be more than enough. I’ve met people that only had enough for a ticket and “figured things out” once they got there.. lol. I generally believe that we’re gonna be fine as long as we work toward the things we want.

      It’s often really rough to step out of our comfort zones and take those leaps of faith, but that’s how everything happens. Just keep trying, and you’ll surely get where you want to be!!!

  3. Sunirmal Das

    Hi, Eric,
    You’re living the dream life of many of us. We all want to be like that, but there is but with us!
    I love your writing style, Where can I read more stuff of yours?

    Anyway
    All the best! Buddy.

    1. Hey Sunirmal, thanks for the comment. And you can be here, too, if you want!! Just figure out how to make it work!!

      I’m working on a blog right now that’s under construction, but you can go to the FB page and like it to stay updated. https://www.facebook.com/pvearth/ Also you can click on my name in the “Authored by” section of this post to see my other SML posts!

  4. Md. Masud Parvage

    Hey Eric,
    That’s a very inspirational story. As you ask me 3 questions regarding our strategies to become a digital nomad! I can say- I don’t have anything to become a great digital nomad, but I have a dream like Martin Luthar King, I’ve my 100% efforts to reach my goal. However facing a lot of challenges, but I believe that all of the challenges will be overcome. Thanks for sharing the inspiration…

    1. Well said, Masud. You can absolutely get there if you keep at it. Everything starts from that dream. Keep your eyes focused on that dream and make everything else work itself out!!

  5. Josh Lister

    Nice article! I know I really need to take a leap of faith with yourcomputerzone.com. I guess, I just find it hard to balance things. But, I know that I will eventually get there!
    I like blogging, writing and internet marketing and guitar playing.
    When I am success online, I would really like to go to Thailand and Japan.

    1. Awesome Josh! Thailand has a big, bustling digital nomad scene! Cheap, great food, amazing people. Not too sure about Japan, but I hear it’s a beautiful country with beautiful people (not as cheap though, lol). And you know what’s in between those two countries??? China!! Come say hi!!

      Just keep at it, know that you want it, and take that leap of faith. When you make big jumps, that’s when the good things start to happen. Keep going!!!

  6. Indrani Sen

    Even I love this life of continuous change.But alas !I realised it late.Trying now to get a life for travelling and doing things my way at least before this life ends.

    1. Keep at it Indrani! Every second you can live doing the things you want is a great opportunity. You are lucky that you have the courage to go for it! Some people never find that courage. Keep going!

  7. Hello ERIC,
    I truly enjoyed your article.I love your writing style, Where can I read more stuff of yours?

    1. Thanks, Aminul! I’ve got a blog that’s still in the making, but you can like my FB page while it’s being worked on – https://www.facebook.com/pvearth/ .. Also you can check out my other articles here on SML! (Just click my name in the “Authored by” section of this post and you can see my other stuff.)

  8. Rupesh Kumar

    Nicely written article Eric. But I have contrast views. This whole concept of digital nomad or being nomad itself sounds exciting for few years, mostly when you young. But very soon I have seen people returning to their own roots. I had my own share of nomad life for couple of years but soon I realized even being nomad for years was boring. As you rightly said only change is permanent. Now I may not have luxury of going nomad very often since I have family and kids but it does not mean I cannot enjoy or achieve exceptional things which I have ever dream of.

    1. Very true, Rupesh. It’s very hard to live this kind of lifestyle and if people aren’t ready to do it, then they shouldn’t get any idealized expectations about it. Living on the road is a real challenge, but many people love it (myself included). And while it’s possible to “grow out of it”, I know many elderly people that started traveling as kids and haven’t stopped. It’s all about what you want. And if you really like stability, you are not gonna like constant traveling. If you have a family, it might not work out. Again, this is something I value very highly, so I’ve created a circumstance that allows me to do this (no kids haha). It’s all about finding what works right for you.

      To each, their own!! Glad you found a system that works right for you!!

  9. Good job on the article. I can relate to it. There are days when you (as a digital nomad) just wanna toss your laptop down the window when your Internet connection gets interrupted. I must say the life ain’t as easy as many people think it is. Just like the rest of the world, we have to work hard, too. The bright side of being a digital nomad is you can just work anywhere, and pack your bags and leave when you feel it’s time to move to another location.

    1. Killin it, Lizzzzz! Yeah, it’s a tough life sometimes, but I think the ability to travel, see new things, meet new people, and learn new things is what makes the life bearable. I really can’t see myself staying in one spot for any period of time.

      Glad it’s all working out for you. You’re gonna crush it, girl…

  10. Gautam Shastri

    HI Eric, nice article, it all depends on your passion and dedication towards what you want to achieve in your life!

  11. So well written 🙂

    I wish I had half the courage to lead my life the way you are doing. I personally hate routines, just like you do! But I have relations to be taken care of and a boring job.

    I’m chasing my dream but In a different sense. I so wish to be a digital Nomad someday, if Possible.

    Thanks for the inspiration, though!

    Reading your article was so great.

  12. Hi Eric! Very well written article. It made me understand more of how a digital nomad is. I am not one but I met someone who is. Then we fell in love but realized that we didn’t want the same things. I am still healing but I think we made the right decision thanket it drag for a long time.

  13. Even I love this life of continuous change.But alas !I realised it late.Trying now to get a life for travelling and doing things my way at least before this life ends.

  14. That’s a very inspirational story. As you ask me 3 questions regarding our strategies to become a digital nomad! I can say- I don’t have anything to become a great digital nomad, but I have a dream like Martin Luthar King, I’ve my 100% efforts to reach my goal. However facing a lot of challenges, but I believe that all of the challenges will be overcome. Thanks for sharing the inspiration…

  15. Eric Michelson …Are you literally living such kind of life ?
    Wow! That’s amazing . It seems with lot of surprises and challenges. I have never seen person like you. It is quite inspiring for us, because we people are stuck to our belonging things like – my car, my house, my girlfriend, my friends bla bla…Big salute to you man.
    Thank you for sharing such inspiring story with us.
    And special thanks to Harsh Agrawal Bhai,because of you such inspiring people are sharing their stories with us.

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