When you decide to take on the digital nomad lifestyle, you are taking a leap of faith. There is a sense of the unknown- what will the nomadic lifestyle be like? Will I be able to start my business successfully? Will I find a community? There are many aspects to focus on when choosing this new path, and this can be extremely daunting. However, knowing the challenges, you will likely face ahead of time will help you be prepared when it happens. Here are five tough challenges that digital nomads face and some of the solutions.
The toughest challenges for a digital nomad can include the following, which we will go into even more detail later in the article.
• Inconsistency of surroundings
• Work/Life Balance
• Financial struggles
• Finding a consistent community
The Toughest Challenges for a Digital Nomad
#1 – Problem: Inconsistency of surroundings
To be a successful digital nomad, you do have to be flexible. As you are traveling from country to country across months or even just a few weeks, it can be challenging to get a lot of work done because you lack stability in terms of a home base. Besides, contingent upon the country you are in, you may not have dependable access to WiFi due to that country’s infrastructure or lack thereof. Some countries might even experience frequent power cuts for a few hours at a time during an urgent business call or workday.
Time zones are another factor you must take into consideration. It can be a massive adjustment because you might have a business call with someone across the world during a time when you might typically be sleeping. The alignment will not always be perfect, and this can be frustrating and disrupting.
#1 – Solution:
Patience and flexibility will be vital when adapting to third world countries when you might be very used to the comforts of the first world. Make sure you are doing your research before you decide to travel to a country. Ensure that wherever you are staying has access to WiFi and power and if not, make sure you bring portable WiFi devices to compensate for spotty connection.
Familiarize yourself with the places you intend to stay in and try to schedule which days you might be out of touch. If you can communicate these days to your potential business partners ahead of time, it will help eliminate confusion and keep productivity levels on track. Knowledge and preparation in these situations is power, so you are not taken by surprise once you arrive at a new location.
#2 – Problem: Safety
Not to scare you, but adjusting to safety levels in different countries can also be quite tricky at times. Most of the time, safety directly correlates to the culture and current political climate of a society. Unfortunate circumstances can happen to anyone at any time. There are some places where a visible tourist or someone who is not native to that country, you will be at a higher risk. Petty crime such as pick-pocketing or even scarier instances such as muggings.
#2 – Solution:
Again, do your research and don’t be naïve about the current social, political, and economic situations of a country before you travel there. After you have done adequate research, it will be vital for you to take precautions to eliminate risks where you can. Make sure you do not stand out in public spaces with flashy clothing or jewelry. Do not walk around the streets with valuable belongings such as computers, cameras, and large amounts of cash. Try not to walk alone after dark, and make sure you always have a protective object on you as well, such as pepper spray. Though the likelihood of these things happening is low, it is still great for your peace of mind to always be prepared!
#3 – Problem: Work/Life Balance
Finding time to carve out for yourself can be difficult when you are a digital nomad. It can be tough to know when to draw the line between work and play/rest. Of course, you want a booming business and healthy relationships with your business partners, but being healthy and mentally sharp plays a considerable role in this element of success.
Being a digital nomad is not always as glamorous and relaxing as it might appear to be. You have to work while traveling, sometimes long days for extended amounts of time. It’s not always a vacation like social media can make it appear to be. There is a difference between wanting to travel and having a genuine desire to work abroad. Unlike a 9-5 job, your work role doesn’t stop when you leave the office. Your work is your passion, so at times it might take over your life.
#3 – Solution:
Establish some checkpoints for yourself. Although you probably decided to take on this nomadic lifestyle to travel and escape your traditional 9-5 routine, you still need some sort of routine, as counterintuitive as that sounds. Having a life without one can be hard and not quite as satisfying because you might feel lost and lacking in direction in terms of personal and professional goals.
Find discipline and make a routine for yourself that you can consistently incorporate into your work schedule. Use planning apps and scheduling assistants to keep your life in check, and penciling in self-care activities for yourself, such as exercise or meditation is essential. Eat nutritious foods that give you energy and take care of your body physically and mentally. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep and setting precise work and rest times. Compartmentalize your life to some degree, so you don’t burn yourself out!
#4 – Problem: Financial Struggles
Getting started as a digital nomad can be difficult financially. You likely will not have a six-figure paying job right away as you start. You will have to work your way up the ladder, so to speak, by building your portfolio, your reputation, and your professional network abroad. It means that you might not have a steady income coming in at all times, and you might struggle to pay for necessities like rent and food. In turn, this fear and instability can affect other aspects of your life, such as your mental and physical health.
#4 – Solution:
When you are transitioning out of a 9-5 job which often comes with a steady income and benefits, make sure you have a safety net in place. Start with insurance. Try to find an international plan that is affordable enough to make monthly payments but also provides adequate coverage in most parts of the world. It’s also helpful to have coverage and warranties for valuable items such as computers and cameras in case anything gets stolen or damaged. Take that insurance policy so you won’t have to pay large sums out of pocket which can set you back.
Also, consider working in countries where the US dollar is strong. If you can find places that spark your creativity and excitement but also have a low cost of living, then the financial transition might be more manageable. Finally, make sure you have a lot of savings. This money will help keep your head above water as you are building your business, which inevitably brings some financial growing pains.
#5 – Problem: Finding a Consistent Community
It can be challenging to develop deep or meaningful relationships with people when you are moving so frequently or are location independent. It can be hard to maintain relationships you’ve had in previous locations or lives due to time zone differences and just the craziness of life in general.
The lack of community can feel lonely at times and have an impact on your emotional stability. By now, you know it can affect your work output and the ultimate success of your business, among other things. With the ability to be just about anywhere, there is that dual pressure of not being everywhere. It’s hard to know you might be missing out on significant milestones in your friends and family’s lives.
#5 – Solution:
It may be hard for some, but it’s vital to open yourself up to new people and allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to create lasting relationships with people you meet abroad, even when you know you might not see them again. It’s scary putting your trust and love in certain people to know you might have to leave them, but it also strengthens your experiences and helps associate each new place you go to with some beautiful memories!
Do your best to maintain a connection with people back home, wherever that may be. You can keep in contact through WhatsApp, iMessaging, Skype, and FaceTime as long as you have a good connection. It can be challenging to align with people over different time zones. So it might require more effort and planning to get talk times into a calendar versus them naturally occurring like they might with a more regular schedule. It can quickly be done, and it just requires a little extra effort!
It’s also important to keep in mind that after a few years, as a digital nomad, you might want to stay in destinations for longer periods of time so you can connect with a more permanent community and truly explore and enjoy each place they visit abroad. It is okay to feel the need for a quasi-home base- this doesn’t make you weak or any less of a digital nomad!
The digital nomad lifestyle comes with its fair share of challenges and even scary moments. It can be hard because problems often seem to outweigh positive experiences and can derail your forward progress both professionally and personally. It is incredibly important to maintain a positive attitude and always remember the “why” behind your reason to transition to the nomadic lifestyle. If you can keep your passion as your focus, it will help eliminate frustrations. It will also keep struggles in perspective, allowing you to see how the many benefits of the digital nomad lifestyle outweigh the very few bad parts of it.