While the digital nomad lifestyle offers many benefits, such as flexibility and the ability to work from anywhere, it also comes with its share of challenges.
Following up on my previous article on why you should become a digital nomad, and drawing from my own experience after now 10 years of being a full-time traveler, here are common challenges facing digital nomads and lessons I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way.
Challenges facing digital nomads
One of the biggest challenges for digital nomads is staying connected to the internet. In order to work remotely, digital nomads need reliable internet access, which can be difficult to find in some parts of the world. In addition, internet connectivity can be unstable, slow, or expensive in some places, making it difficult to stay connected and productive.
Finding affordable accommodation
Digital nomads often move around frequently, which can make it challenging to find affordable and comfortable accommodation. In some popular digital nomad destinations, such as Lisbon, the cost of living can be surprisingly high, making it difficult to find affordable housing. In addition, many digital nomads prefer to stay in co-living spaces or coworking spaces, which can be expensive and hard to find in some areas.
Digital nomads often face challenges when it comes to managing their finances. Since they are often working for multiple clients or companies, they may have a complex income stream, which can be difficult to manage. In addition, living and working in different countries can make it challenging to send documents to their accountant, pay taxes and manage currency conversions.
Dealing with visas and immigration
For digital nomads who are traveling and working in different countries, dealing with visas and immigration can be a challenge. In some cases, it may be difficult to obtain the necessary visas or work permits, or there may be restrictions on the length of time that a digital nomad can stay in a particular country.
Maintaining a work-life balance
As mentioned in a previous article, the flexibility and freedom of the digital nomad lifestyle offer benefits and can help in maintaining a healthy work-life balance, but they also be a challenge. Digital nomads often work from “home” without a clear private/office space and without a set schedule. They thus may find themselves working long hours, struggling to disconnect from work, or feeling isolated from friends and family. Or the opposite, having a hard time focusing on work, being tempted to spend most of their time discovering the place where they’ll stay only for a short period.
Dealing with loneliness
One of the biggest challenges for digital nomads, and for me in particular, is dealing with loneliness. Since digital nomads often move around frequently and may not have a strong social network in the places they are living, they can feel isolated and lonely.
This can be a particular challenge for those who are new to the digital nomad lifestyle and may not have a support network in place, as well as for those who find it difficult to meet new people. This can make it difficult to find support and connections, which is essential to mental health and well-being.
Coping with the uncertainties of travel
Finally, digital nomads must be prepared to cope with the uncertainties of travel. This can include dealing with travel delays, unexpected changes in plans, health issues and other challenges that are inherent to the travel lifestyle. Digital nomads must be adaptable and resilient in order to successfully navigate these challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a prime example of how quickly things can take a turn for the worse. All of us who were travelling when the pandemic hit, and during the subsequent years, had to adjust our travel plans drastically, and often incurred large unexpected expenses as a result.
How to thrive as a digital nomad
While the aforementioned challenges can seem daunting at first look, they certainly shouldn’t deter you from becoming a full-time traveler. As far as I’m concerned, and I know many of my fellow travelers would agree, the pros of being a digital nomad far outweigh the cons.
That said, some planning and good daily habits can, if not completely eliminate, at least reduce some negative aspects of traveling full-time while working remotely.
Stay organized and focused
One of the biggest challenges of being a digital nomad is staying organized and focused. With so many distractions, it can be easy to get sidetracked or lose motivation. It’s important to have a clear plan and set goals for yourself to keep yourself on track. Writing down your tasks and making a work schedule are simple, yet effective in ensuring that you’ll get the job done.
Build a support network
When you’re on the road, it’s easy to feel lonely and isolated. It’s important to build a support network of other digital nomads, friends, and family who can provide emotional support. Stay connected to the world back home and with your fellow travelers, whom you’ll hopefully meet again down the road, in other parts of the world.
If, like me, you find it difficult to make new friends, I have one word for you: hostels. While not necessarily the best places to work or get a good night sleep, not to mention the lack of privacy, they are great places to force you to meet people. Staying in hostels for up to 9 months/year has been a huge help for me to become a more sociable person, and I’m still in regular contact with some people I’ve met years ago.
Stay flexible and adaptable
As a digital nomad, you’ll need to be flexible and adaptable to changing situations.
Full-time travelers by definition tend to be openminded and quickly learn how to adapt to changing circumstances, but most of us are not immune to the occasional overload of issues, whether they are work-related, dealing with unfriendly immigration officers, or having a hard-time getting accustomed to the local culture and way of life. But as they say, it’s like a wave. Resist and you’ll be knocked over; dive into it and you’ll swim out the other side.
Being able to roll with the punches will help you stay focused, productive and sane.
Manage your finances carefully
One of the benefits of being a digital nomad is the ability to save money by living in affordable destinations. However, it’s important to manage your finances carefully and make sure you have enough money to cover your expenses. This may involve setting a budget, finding ways to save money, and being smart about how you spend your money. Keep in mind that the sooner or the later, you will most certainly be faced with unexpected expenses, so you should plan for that as well and set some money aside for emergencies.
Take care of your physical and mental health
Despite all the great experiences, discovering amazing new places and making friends, being a digital nomad can at times be stressful, and it’s important to take care of your physical health. This may involve eating well, staying hydrated, getting regular exercise, and making time for self-care. It’s also important to prioritize mental health and seek help if you need it.
Part of the experience
Overall, the digital nomad lifestyle can be an incredibly rewarding experience and offers many benefits, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges. It’s important to be prepared for the challenges that come with this lifestyle, and to take steps to overcome them.
Just accept them as part of the nomad life experience and don’t let them ruin a trip. Learn what you can from them and try to take measures to limit their impact.
With the right mindset and support, you can thrive as a digital nomad and make the most of this unique way of life.