Some of the articles on this blog have made you wonder, will you be a digital nomad forever? Perhaps, but probably not. As many digital nomads get older, they look into a different type of lifestyle. One such option that’s in the same vein as digital nomadism is location independence.
Does location independence offer more freedom than digital nomadism or just as much? Despite their similarities, location independence may pave the way for a life of slightly more freedom than digital nomadism. It can vary depending on your life goals and your current phase of life, though. For instance, if you have or want a more stable career or a family, then location independence is the better choice for you.
In this article, we will compare digital nomadism and location independence in more depth, defining both and talking about, which offers more freedom, adventure, and stability. Whether you’re a young digital nomad thinking you can do this for a long time to come or you’re an older traveler looking for a change, we think you can benefit from this article.
What Is Location Independence?
We’ve mentioned location independence already, but we want to give it a clear definition now. When you’re location independent, you have the freedom to be wherever you want when you want if you wish. You have no ties holding you back, be those your job or something or someone else.
Those who pursue a life of location independence are often remote workers. Sometimes they’re part of a company and have the freedom to work from home (or anywhere). They may also be freelancers or even own a business themselves.
Someone who’s location independent can travel if they want to, and they often do. Anytime the urge strikes, they’ll pack up and stay somewhere for as long as they please. They also tend to own a home, even if they don’t spend all their time there. They still get their work done as well, typically on a computer.
What Is Digital Nomadism?
Here’s where things get confusing. You have location independence as a digital nomad, but the two lifestyles are still different. How?
We’ve defined digital nomadism on this blog before, but let’s do it again. Breaking it down, a digital nomad works digitally, meaning they too use a computer to do their jobs. A lot of the time, they own businesses, but they can also be freelancers or part of remote companies.
Dictionary.com defines nomadism as “a member of a people or tribe that has no permanent abode but moves about from place to place.” That’s the critical difference between someone who’s location independent and someone who’s a digital nomad. Location independence leaves room for homeownership. Digital nomads may have homes, but they often travel so frequently that there’s no need for one. They live from hotel to hotel, Airbnb to Airbnb.
A Comparison Between Location Independence and Digital Nomadism
Now that we’ve defined location independence and digital nomadism, we want to present a comparison of the two lifestyles. This comparison will go three levels deep, discussing several essential life components. These are stability, work, and adventure. Which lifestyle offers more of the above in greater quantities, location independence, or digital nomadism?
Let’s explore the answers.
Undoubtedly, if you’re seeking a life of stability, the way to go is location independence. As we said in the definition section above, many people who live a location independent lifestyle own a home. One difference between them and those with a nine-to-five job is the location-dependent person didn’t choose where they live because of their job or career. Instead, it’s all down to personal preference.
For instance, if you’re part of a company and you got asked to relocate to Seattle, well, that’s not your choice. You live in Seattle not because you necessarily want to, but because you have to for your job.
As someone who’s location independent, you could live in Seattle just because you love it. You’re not limited to life in the United States, either. If you think you’d be happier in another country, you could set up a shop there anytime you wanted.
Like we said above, those who are location independent often do travel, but at the end of the day, they have somewhere stable to come back home to. Digital nomads rarely do. It can impact many facets of their lives. They leave their family and friends back home where they came from. While a digital nomad can make friends with anyone on their travels, these bonds are rarely lasting.
The same goes for romantic relationships. A digital nomad might have a difficult time finding a partner. Even if they do, unless this person travels with them, then the relationship quickly becomes a long-distance one. Those are difficult to maintain for sure.
With location independence, you can still see your old friends and family anytime you want through your travels. You also have friends and maybe loved ones where you live now, making your life feel richer.
It’s no wonder that many people who are location independent today were once digital nomads themselves.
While the advantages of stability concerning location independence are clear, when it comes to working, that’s not so much the case. Both digital nomadism and location independence offer the same types of work opportunities.
You need little more than a laptop, a charger, and an Internet connection to get to make progress on your work projects. As we said in the above sections, both digital nomads and those who are location independent hold similar jobs. They may work as freelancers, including writers, website builders, photographers, graphic designers, or editors.
Others are part of a company that offers remote opportunities to their employees. Today, some companies have gone entirely remote, with no bricks and mortar offices at all. The company’s employees can all work wherever they choose. Yes, they have timeclocks and assignments and responsibilities, but with this kind of job comes immense freedom.
More still own a business. The company may or may not have a brick and mortar location. If it does, the digital nomad/location independent business owner has someone else hold down the fort. Then they travel while attracting new customers and maintaining current ones.
For career longevity, location dependence may be the better choice since you have more stability in your life. Digital nomads who want a stable career can work for one, too, but it may not come as easy.
There’s a misconception about working as a digital nomad or as someone who’s location independent. It’s very rarely about sitting on a beach at two o’clock in the afternoon on Wednesday, sipping martinis. Instead, these travelers tend to hold very odd work hours. There are indeed no constraints like with a nine-to-five schedule, but with no constraints, there are no boundaries, either.
Digital nomads and location independent workers alike may have to get things done very early in the morning, late into the night, and on weekends. They’ll squeeze in a few hours of work at the airport before a flight and then in their hotel room after, even if they’re jetlagged. It’s the downside to all that traveling and freedom.
As for whether you get more adventure with location independence or digital nomadism, we have to give this one to digital nomadism. That lifestyle is more about consistently traveling. That’s not to say you couldn’t do that as someone who’s location independent, but that life has a little less constant travel and more stability.
With both lifestyles, you can pick a place on the map when a whim strikes and venture there. Digital nomads don’t have a house to worry about, and rarely do they have pets or kids that need sitters. They can leave when they want and stay for as long as their schedule and budget allow. There’s no one telling them to come home early or be somewhere else. That’s not necessarily the case if you’re location independent.
The lines between a vacation and a workday can get blurred. You’ll get to your destination, unwind, but have to work in the morning. Maybe you get to explore after hours or on the rare day off, but neither lifestyle offers a permanent vacation. You need money to fuel future adventures, and that can only come from working.
Which Lifestyle Offers More Freedom? What Kinds?
Now that we’ve compared digital nomadism and location independence in terms of stability, work, and adventure, we have to talk about a vital lifestyle component. That is, of course, freedom.
Will you have more freedom if you’re location independent or a digital nomad?
Honestly, you’ll enjoy more freedom in both types of lifestyles compared to the average nine-to-five, five-day workweek most people adhere to. However, we’re picking only one of the two lifestyles that have more room for freedom, and we have to say that’s location independence.
As a caveat, this does depend on two things: your life goals and your current phase of life. For instance, do you want to get married? Have children? Then location independence suits you far better. Like we’ve said, those who are location-dependent tend to have a stable home. The location of that home was of their choosing and not dictated by work or other life matters.
Having a home makes it easier to start a family and raise children. That’s not to say you can’t have a whole family of budding digital nomads, as you absolutely can. You can also travel with a digital nomad spouse or partner if you’re so inclined. As we talked about earlier, though, it’s a lot more challenging to meet someone permanent in your life as a digital nomad, be that a friend or a romantic interest. You’re always jet setting off to the next place, ready to forge ties elsewhere with other people.
Some people never want to settle down and start a family. That’s entirely their prerogative. For them, digital nomadism makes a lot more sense. They alone can choose where they go, how long they stay, and when they leave without the influence of anyone else.
The life phase you are in is also important here. As a younger person in your 20s and 30s, you’re thrilled at the chance to travel the world on your schedule. It’s like the greatest thing ever. You’ve always had an interest in travel, but now you have the funds to make your dreams a reality. At this point in your life, digital nomadism is the best fit for you.
As you begin to get into your 30s, though, your life priorities may change and become more serious. You still like traveling, but you want to be a homeowner. You also want to get married and enjoy more stability. With location independence, you can have the best of both worlds, drinking in the sweet taste of freedom without all the constant travel of digital nomadism.
Let’s say you’re content mostly being on your own regardless of your age. You might think you want to be a digital nomad forever until one day you wake up and realize that’s not true anymore. You fantasize about owning an apartment or a home and sleeping in the same bed for more than a few nights in a row. You dream about having friends, the same friends you see semi-regularly.
You still like traveling, but it begins to feel lonely and almost hollow to you. Through a life of location independence, you don’t have to give up your traveling plans entirely. You can have that nearly normal life when you want it and then pack it up anytime the travel bug bites you.
The Tradeoffs to Consider
You’re truly living a fortunate life if you’re a digital nomad or location independent. It took a lot of hard work to reach this point, but you realize you’re in a great life position.
Well, it’s not all great, at least not always. Here are some tradeoffs you have to consider for both lifestyles.
- Lack of friends and family: When you travel all year long as you often do as a digital nomad, you rarely see your friends and family from back home. Sure, you can stop in once or twice a year, but the closeness you once had with these people disappears in your absence. There’s little to do to change this except to spend more time in your home state, which you might not want to do.
- Possibly no marriage and kids: There are plenty of married digital nomads who have children who travel with them. That said, there are just as many who struggle to form meaningful relationships when they’re constantly on the road. That may mean giving up your chance at marriage and kids.
- Delayed homeownership: When you funnel all your cashflow into your next adventures, you live where you travel. There’s no need to own a home. Should you change your mind about digital nomadism years down the line, though, you could find yourself buying your first home when you’re in your 40s or 50s. That could be a struggle for you.
- No pets: Sorry, but as a digital nomad, you can’t really have a pet. Hotels tend to ban most animals, and it’s not very fair to make your cat or dog fly in a crate on a plane all the time. For animal lovers, going through life without a pet can leave a big hole in their hearts.
- No regular working hours: At first, getting rid of the traditional nine-to-five sounds amazing until you find yourself working past midnight on a Friday night and then half the day on Saturday. As a digital nomad, that could become your new normal.
- Lack of frequent travel: While you can travel as much as you want with location independence, you’re not going to do so nearly as often as a digital nomad would. You have a home and maybe even a family to look after.
- No office work: Some people tend to miss having coworkers after doing remote work for long enough. It’s that lack of water cooler gossip. If it’s just you and a partner together in location independence, that can sometimes feel kind of lonely.
- Traveling on a whim can’t happen easily: A digital nomad who’s primarily by themselves can conceive of a trip and book the flight the same day. As someone who’s location independent, you’d have to find someone to housesit or perhaps dogsit or babysit. Like we’ve said, you can still travel, but it takes a bit more work to do it.
- No normal working hours: You may have more freedom and stability in your life through location independence, but you lack normal working hours. It’s just like with digital nomadism, in that your hours vary depending on the job you do and the tasks assigned to you.
Location independence means you choose where to live based on your own needs and desires, not a job or other factors. You tend to have a home and a bit more stability. As a digital nomad, you may lack a home, but you live where you travel.
Both lifestyles are amazing, but we’d have to say location independence offers more freedom. Still, there’s no one right answer that’s necessarily better for you. At the end of the day, you have to think about which lifestyle would satisfy you more. Since digital nomadism and location independence have their drawbacks, benefits, and merits, you can’t choose wrong.
I’m the owner of Digital Nomad Explorer. I’ve traveled to over 50 countries and been an expat in Scotland, Finland, and China. I was a digital nomad while having my own robotics company and traveled throughout Europe and China working remotely. Currently, I’m location independent with a home base in Kirkkonummi, Finland.