Quite often I receive emails that ask – Earl, how can I live the digital nomad lifestyle? How can I become a digital nomad?
I always reply and usually, my response starts off with something like:
That question equates to asking – how can I become an office worker?
They are both very broad categories (and goals) that don’t really offer a direct path or set of defined steps to reach them. They both exist but they are both merely outer shells. What matters most is what you fill them with inside.
What is inside?
A job. A way to earn money.
The Digital Nomad Truth
Here’s the truth – the term “digital nomad” is not a job.
It’s a lifestyle. A digital nomad is a person who has the freedom to move around due to the fact that they can work from their laptop and/or other portable devices.
In order to be a digital nomad, you need to figure out a way to earn money. The nomadic part and the money/work part are generally two very separate things.
And finding work that can provide a nomadic lifestyle generally requires the same process as finding a job that requires a daily 9-5 trip to the office:
examine your skills, abilities, interests and education
figure out which jobs are suitable for what you can offer
narrow it down to jobs/work that interest you and provide benefits that match your needs
try to get hired by a company offering that job
for some, you might create your own business or freelance opportunity instead
Again, whether you strive to be a digital nomad or office worker, you need to find a suitable job/source of income that will lead to that lifestyle/work environment.
The Digital Nomad Opportunities
Luckily, these days, the number of jobs that can match up with a nomadic lifestyle is only increasing. For example, between the years of 2009 – 2018, whenever I met someone on the road who worked online, the chances were quite high that they were a travel blogger or were trying to do one of the less official jobs that I even mentioned in this post. But over the past few years, that has changed significantly. Now I rarely meet another travel blogger.
Instead, I meet data scientists, tech support agents, language tutors, professional development consultants, video editors, advertising reps, psychologists, app developers, magazine editors, accountants, artists, trainers, human resources managers, musicians and on and on.
This is great news. This means that real jobs that earn good money, and offer a remote lifestyle, are more accessible than ever.
Ignoring All the Fluff
Sure, there’s also a lot of fluff out there too. And the point of this post is to try and explain how to create a real digital nomad lifestyle that provides the real freedom you seek. To do so, I would ignore the fluff:
courses that promise an incredible life with almost no work
get rich quick schemes
the lure of ‘easy’ drop shipping success
courses on how to quickly become a successful life coach
anyone that teaches you something new and promises you quick results
It all sounds good and glamorous, but it’s not reality, trust me.
If you want to create a longer term, sustainable nomadic lifestyle that provides the genuine freedom to move around as you wish, I’d personally focus on work that has an actual existing market, plenty of job opportunities and that pays a good, consistent salary. I would also highly consider applying for actual remote jobs as opposed to trying to create your own stream of income. It’s a far easier and more stable path to a successful digital nomad lifestyle.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that work is work. It doesn’t have to be the ‘job of your dreams’. That’s rare and, in my opinion, is not something to strive for. Or else you’ll be running around in circles for years trying to find that ‘perfect job’.
Instead, strive to find work that interests you to a decent degree and allows you to use your non-work time to do the things that you really want to do in life. It’s about finding an ideal balance. The job pays the bills, and hopefully provides some satisfaction along with the freedom that an office job would not provide. There’s always going to be a trade off, but that’s absolutely okay.
My approach to the digital nomad lifestyle is to take a step back from all the noise, grand promises and too-good-to-be-true social media accounts that are thrown in our faces nonstop. If you really want to succeed, take a BIG step back, shake it all off and then proceed with a more grounded and focused approach, one based in reality and proven results.
Use your actual skills, knowledge and abilities. Find actual jobs that pay well and allow you to work remotely. Avoid getting lost in the endless, nonsensical rabbit hole of trying to figure out how to work 30 minutes per day so that you can spend the rest of your time lounging at 5* resorts in the Maldives. Again, that’s just not reality.
On the other hand, a nap on a hammock in Aruba every now and then, in between work sessions, can certainly happen…
The Digital Nomad Rewards
What is reality, is the opportunity to live a very fulfilling life. The opportunity to spend your time living in places around the world, or in your own country, that you really want to experience. The opportunity to spend your free time doing new activities, meeting new people and soaking up a new culture in ways that would not be possible if you never left home.
That’s the goal – to be able to make decisions that are more in line with what you actually want to do and achieve in life instead of what you have to do because of circumstances.
If I think of all my friends who live this nomadic lifestyle as well, it is those who took a step back and ignored the noise and absurd promises that are the most successful. They are the ones who have genuine freedom to travel the world, or stay put in one place, as they wish. They are not on social media bragging about their travels and they are not making grand claims about what they earn while selling a course on how to earn the same.
Instead, they are the ones who are quietly traveling the world, doing their work each day and earning good, consistent money that will keep them going for as long as they want, while also being able to save for their future at the same time. Some of them have remote jobs with companies and others started their own businesses but either way, they all ignored the noise and built something real.
We all have the ability to make this digital nomad lifestyle happen if we want. Just look at the complete history of digital nomads and you’ll get inspired to do just that.
We just have to remember that the foundation of this lifestyle needs to be built out of strong, reliable substance (a job), hard work (there will be challenges) and time (it doesn’t happen quickly). Once that’s understood, the opportunities are indeed endless and the chance of success increases drastically.
As always, if you have any questions at all, just let me know and I’d be happy to assist!
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Not if you like hard work and know that travel lies ahead. It’s all about mental conditioning
Great truth to this article. I have seen so many drop ship “success stories” that I find it hard to believe. I would love to try a digital nomad lifestyle, at least for like 3-6 months but I keep procrastinating when what I am doing is pretty comfortable.
I know it takes a lot of time but what do you think the average time frame is that a person living the digital nomad lifestyle has built up enough work or side hustle or additional revenue streams to really feel comfortable?
Love this post! So true as far as not having a glamorous answer, just find something that lets you do what you want to do.
Work 100 Hours a week for 6 months then travel for the other 6 living extremely beneath your means…rinse and repeat for 20 years then retire without missing out on travel in your healthy years. It’s also a nice balance of settled and nomadic life, hence no burnout from either 😉
Don’t you get burned out by the end of the first week doing that?
This is such a timely post for me! I started a job search a few months ago, but keep going back to the idea of finding a job that’s fun and allows me to use my skills and experience, but gives me the flexibility to be based anywhere. I have such a varied work history (multimedia producer, advertising producer, corporate philanthropy, non-profit, event planner & hostess, catering business owner, and aspiring dumpling maker). Where’s that role that allows me to use all of those experiences together? I love planning and executing/getting sh*t done (producer), meeting new people (journalist), doing good (philanthropy) and dumplings (ok, just food in general) PLUS offer flexibility and work/life balance. I love the idea of taking a BIG STEP back and shaking off all of the excess BS and come at it from a grounded place. So, THANK YOU!