It’s Okay To Be A Non-Digital Nomad

It’s Okay To Be A Non-Digital Nomad

By |2016-07-21T23:48:46-04:00May 17th, 2011|Perspectives, Work & Travel|98 Comments

Digital Nomad

Yes, I know. I am indeed a Digital Nomad myself. It is true that the majority of my income these days is earned online and without my laptop, I simply wouldn’t be able to maintain my nomadic lifestyle.

Of course, that probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to most of you, because, after all, if you spend even just a few minutes reading a handful of the travel and lifestyle design blogs out there, it would be natural to reach the conclusion that the only way to become a nomad these days is to become a digital version of one.

It seems at times that everyone who is traveling or living overseas is earning money on the internet, and as soon as your own mind becomes filled with visions of bank accounts overflowing from a never-ending stream of passive income, it is understandable why you would want to try and create your own digital empire as well.

Believe me, I’ll be the first to admit that earning money online (especially passive income) is simply fantastic. In fact, I can clearly recall the day that I sold my first eBook. That day was an absolute hoot. I was living in Melbourne, Australia at the time, back in 2008, and when I checked my email that morning, I found a sales notification message in my inbox. I stared at this email for a long time, finding it difficult to believe that this wasn’t some kind of trick. For the rest of the day, I honestly couldn’t stop smiling.

“It works! It works!” I yelled out as I ran around the house. “Earning money online works!”

Yes, it works sometimes.

But what is important to realize is that it took me more than 5 months to get that first sale, 5 months of 90-hour workweeks in front of my laptop. And that first sale, while a step in the right direction, was no guarantee at all of future success. It took me another 5 months to start seeing regular sales notifications appear in my inbox, and by ‘regular’, I mean 3 or 4 per week. While that may sound like a success, this resulted in me earning approximately $250 US per month, despite having slaved away for 300 straight days. This amount clearly wasn’t enough for me to survive on as a nomad.

So, ever since 2008, I’ve continued to work hard, working at all hours of the day and night, usually six or seven days per week, whether on the road in the Middle East, Asia or Australia or while living here in Mexico.

And while it is true that my efforts are now paying off, as I do earn enough online income to support my nomadic lifestyle, there is still little time available for me to rest if I want to maintain that income. As I think most Digital Nomads would agree, the income we earn is never guaranteed and what we earn one month is not necessarily an indication of what we’ll earn the next.

In fact, two consecutive months could be so drastically different from each other in terms of income that one moment you may be ready to move to the Turkish coast for a year and the next minute you’re wondering if you have enough money to replace your worn-out sandals.

Such is the life of a nomad.


Actually, such is the life of a Digital Nomad.

And while becoming a Digital Nomad certainly has its benefits, it really is important for every single person who is dreaming of a life of travel to understand that you also have another attractive option available to you.

You can always become a non-Digital Nomad.

I’m personally not a fan at all of the term ‘Digital Nomad’, despite being one myself. The term is so widely used these days that the word ‘Digital’ seems to be inseparable from the word ‘Nomad’. In reality, that’s not the case at all.

I’ve only been earning money online for the past 2 years. Prior to that, I still managed to travel around the world for 9 years, all on money I earned non-digitally.

I taught English, I worked on board cruise ships and I worked a few odd jobs here and there in order to save up some more money to travel. And while I may have earned much less at times than what I’m earning now online, I must admit that I enjoyed a handful of benefits from my non-digital work that I miss out on these days. I’ve actually begun to miss these benefits so much that I’ve now started working on some non-digital projects once again.


Cruise Ship in St. Maarten

As I repeatedly state on this website, the core goal of my lifestyle revolves around my desire to meet and interact with new people as often as possible, people that I would never have met had I not been traveling. Unfortunately, going digital and sitting in front of my computer every day has not really helped me achieve that goal at all. Sometimes I need to remind myself to get outside and have a social life!

On the other hand, working away from my computer, on projects that require me to interact, face-to-face, with other human beings, is infinitely more rewarding in this respect.

For example, I’ve recently become involved with a small business here in Mexico, a position which has required me to wander around from government office to government office, from the offices of architects to the offices of accountants as well as to cafes and other locations to attend meetings. As a result, I’m interacting with new people almost every day. I’m also practicing my Spanish more than ever and I’m constantly learning something new about Mexican culture… and my social life is alive and well. What a better alternative to being online all day!

In addition, financially speaking, it’s also important to remember that, as a Digital Nomad, you could spend weeks or months working on a new project and end up earning zero dollars as a result. I’ve had several online ideas that turned into complete failures (most Digital Nomads do) and I cringe at the the thought of all the months I’ve spent on my laptop only to scrap these ideas in the end.

On the other hand, as a non-Digital Nomad, you have a chance to earn money for the work you perform by getting a job overseas, never having to worry if next month’s paycheck will be lower than this month’s or whether or not there will even be a paycheck at all.


I know that the concept of earning an excellent income online (which is infinitely more difficult to accomplish than most people ever imagine) is drool-inducing and appealing enough to get anyone giddy about building websites, but instead of spending the next 12 or 18 months trying to achieve such a goal, I recommend starting your travels right now.

What happens if, at the end of your 18 month online income experiment, you have managed to earn only a trickle of money or maybe no money at all? You might then decide to abandon your travel plans altogether, something that I have seen happen over and over again with people who are tricked into believing that being a Digital Nomad is the only way to achieve their travel goals.

As a result, believe me when I say that earning $3000, $2000 or even a ‘measly’ $1000 per month, in the form of a steady paycheck, should seem like an equally attractive option as well.

Teach English, work on board cruise ships, work in a hostel or a bar or even on an organic farm in exchange for all of your room and board. Do you have a degree? Well, start applying for jobs overseas. Contrary to what you may have read, actual jobs are not evil! After all, if you’ve just spent 4 years at university, why not look for a job in a different country that requires the very skills you have? Many people take this path and it’s an excellent way to start your life of travel without having to worry about where the money is going to come from.

Better yet, use your creativity. I once read a story about a young traveler who earned an impressive income by promoting a certain boat tour operator to newly arrived backpackers in a popular Central American town. She earned a small base salary plus a generous commission for every person that signed up for the tour and was so successful that she implemented her business model in several other countries as well.

Why not? Just writing about it makes me want to close the lid of my laptop, travel to Nicaragua and do the same thing she did myself!

But maybe you still can’t get the idea of being a Digital Nomad out of your head. Well, once you’re out there, traveling and living overseas, and putting some non-digitally earned money in your pocket, that’s the time to start working on generating online income. This way, you won’t have to worry about abandoning your travel plans if those efforts don’t pay off.

And the best part is that if you don’t want to try and earn an online income, then that’s perfectly acceptable as well.

Remember, don’t let anyone convince you that being a Digital Nomad is your only option.

Not only is it okay to be a non-Digital Nomad, it is usually the most reliable, direct and sane path available to help you live that life of travel that you’ve been dreaming about.

What do you think? Are you a Digital Nomad? Non-digital Nomad? Does the above make sense?

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  1. […] my phone some day and avoid digital nomad jobs entirely. I’m more likely to gravitate toward non-digital jobs. Though I have no earthly idea what form that may […]

  2. Danielle August 5, 2015 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    Love this! In the last year I’ve become a sort of “Digital Nomad” (I really can’t stand the term!) by working on freelance websites, but I do often miss the camaraderie and experiences that come from real live work situations. Plus, sometimes I used to flat out run out of money, and be frantically searching for work in the days before I worked online. Although those were always struggles, the struggles make the best stories.

    Anyway, loved the read!

  3. […] Wondering Earl argues in this fantastic blog post, therefore, being a digital nomad entails various problems which might be solved by becoming a […]

  4. Melanie Murrish August 4, 2013 at 7:03 am - Reply

    Oh-I forgot to add, I’m a people person and the computer doesn’t talk back! 😉

  5. Melanie Murrish August 4, 2013 at 7:00 am - Reply

    I have just typed “How to travel the world without being a digital nomad” and this post popped up-HOW ON EARTH have I not seen this!!!!!!! What a relief; I’ve wanted to travel since I was very young and now I have a husband and two daughters to consider.

    I’m doing a course with Jenn Miller from The Edventure Project and Nancy from Family on Bikes to follow my dream-I have been having sleepless nights thinking I would have to be a digital nomad and pretending I wanted to be one. I love reading travel blogs but the thought of working constantly on a computer fills me with dread. I know having a family makes things a little more complicated but I am confident that I can now make this work!


    • Arham Bardia December 14, 2018 at 12:04 am - Reply

      I have been through a similar feeling like yours. Have always wanted to travel like a nomad. Like the kyrgyzs of kyrgyzstan but while I was looking for ways to do so over the internet, I didnt find any suitable writeup. Being a digital Nomad never appealed to me and never seemed like a solution. Working on the same online project from everywhere in the world doesn’t expose you to the real world. You end up working in dorms and seeing the tourist spots. I rather wanted to immerse myself into the local life and culture.

      Thank you for this writeup.

  6. Liz April 25, 2013 at 5:56 am - Reply

    It’s nice to read an article that is saying you don’t need to be a ‘digital nomad’ to earn a living travelling and that there are income revenue options. While everyone would like to have online businesses I believe you still need options for other income streams in case googles new algorithms push you to the bottom .

  7. MrsCalgary April 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl

    So nice to see such a young man travelling and learning about the world. Recently we returned from Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Our family would love to get out of Canada and relocate. My sons are 25 and 27, they have dogs to bring too.
    We are learning spanish of course.
    We would like to rent a house and live with Mexican people, not separate from them.
    Is there a website for information on jobs and house rentals that you know of?
    Calgary CaNADA

    • Earl April 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      @MrsCalgary – The best website for house rentals is The site is in Spanish but the places listed here are not marketed towards foreigners so you’ll definitely find places that will allow you to live around Mexicans. As for jobs, that’s a bit more difficult as it can be difficult to find work in Mexico considering that it is a developing country and there just aren’t many opportunities for foreigners. Also, the wages are much lower than in Canada so potential jobs won’t seem as attractive. Most of the foreigners I know who live in Mexico have either started their own business or they work online.

      But I will say, Playa sure is a wonderful place to live!!

  8. Missy Holden February 26, 2012 at 5:42 am - Reply

    Hi Earl, I literally found your site today and by the way, love the Currency of Pad Thai…
    I am currently in the process of building my online business whilst working at a normal job and your post has really hit the nail on the head. The amount of time dedicated to getting something new off the ground whilst not knowing if it will all be worth it financially made me feel like you understand the plight of the online world. Some of your readers comments too have been incredibly insightful. I like the idea of a combination of online and offline income, and regardless, all of us need to look at multiple streams of income in this day and age anyway, no matter where we are from.
    Anyway, I will keep pottering through your posts. Love your balanced approach. Happy and safe travels. Missy.

    • Earl February 27, 2012 at 1:02 pm - Reply

      Hey Missy – Welcome to the site! I think the combination is definitely the way to go…not only is it wise in terms of diversifying our streams of income, but it is also a healthy option of course. We need to make sure we are away from our laptops and interacting with human beings in the offline world in order to stay sane!

  9. Jeff @ Digital Nomad Journey January 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    I’m aspiring to be a half and half Digital Nomad!

    I like the idea of having a small home-base somewhere , while working locally from coffee shops on my laptop.

    Then if I want to travel a couple months out of the year, I can do so, while still running things from my laptop. This seems like the best of both worlds to me.

    This breaks up the 9 – 5 grind of constant sameness, but it also isn’t quite the chaos of traveling non stop.

    • Earl January 25, 2012 at 9:21 am - Reply

      Hey Jeff – That seems like a sweet setup to me! Anything that gives you the freedom to move around if you want to is much preferable than a standard daily routine in my book. Good luck with your endeavors!

  10. ritchan December 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Wait a minute, you can’t just work anywhere. How did you get a position without a work permit? Or do you just take up minor jobs like private tutoring where nobody cares?

    • Earl December 11, 2011 at 10:35 am - Reply

      Hey Ritchan – The jobs I’ve done overseas were a private English tutor (no work visa needed – sort of), working on board cruise ships (no work visa needed) and working online (I can work from anywhere on my laptop with a tourist visa). And it all depends on the country/position in terms of whether or not you need a working visa, but in general, if you land a position that does require one, the company/organization hiring you will assist with the paperwork to get such a visa.

  11. Randi September 16, 2011 at 12:22 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for posting this Earl! I have been reading through your website for the past 2 nights now while working my overnight shifts and have been becoming more and more inspired to travel. I just do not think the “digital” lifestyle would be for me. So I appreciate you going through the other options that are available for making some money.
    I have been dreaming of traveling ever since I was 10 and have always said that it is not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when” I will do it. I feel now is the time. I am 23, have a child and youth worker diploma and am ready to explore! I plan to save up for a year (I currently work in a transition home for teenage girls) and hopefully will be able to leave Canada with $2200 in my account. I am not sure of what the first destination will be, but I am thinking either India or Sounth America to start. Maybe we will run into eachother some day!

    • Earl September 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm - Reply

      Hey Randi – I appreciate the comment although I do hope that you didn’t ignore all of your work duties while reading my site!

      That’s the beauty of it all, there is no one way to achieve a person’s travel goals. Some ways work for some people and other ways work for other people. Being a ‘digital’ nomad is merely one option of many and I have no doubt that once you get out there into the world, you’ll discover the style that suits you best. As you can see from the post, you will have plenty of options!

      And I love that you’re thinking of heading to India first…that’s the country I’m most addicted to and can’t get enough of. If you do decide to head in that direction, let me know and I can offer you some tips that might be useful.

  12. flipnomad July 22, 2011 at 1:55 am - Reply

    great post earl…. most people are excited about earning from their travel blogs (just like me) but does not realize that just like any other jobs that exist, it also needs alot of time and effort and (some)money too (to pay for hosting services, design, etc) … but still… i wouldnt trade whatever im doing now because i am really enjoying this compare to sitting in my office for hours and waiting for my two weeks vacation to get approve… although i honestly couldnt see myself doing this for a very long time… maybe in the future ill try to earn from other kinds of online and offline businesses…

  13. Juila June 30, 2011 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    This was a really big help. Your posts are putting so much in perspective for me right now. There are so many options out there as to how to make your travel dreams come true. Did you ever have a problem explaining to your family your idea of a life of travel? Did they ever ask you about your plans and challenge them? If so, how did you handle that? Did it make things harder for you?

    • Earl July 1, 2011 at 12:07 am - Reply

      Hey Julia – That’s a good question and yes, it took several years for my family to come around to the idea that I was living quite a different lifestyle. At first they thought it was merely a phase that I would grow out of but eventually, once I proved that I was able to find ways to earn money, save money and achieve my goals in life, they accepted my life of travel 🙂

      When they did challenge my ideas, I simply stuck with what I felt was right, which was to continue traveling and learning about the world. I knew that was what I needed to do and as hard as it was to see my family confused and upset about my decisions, I was fully confident that I was making the right decisions. And things began to change once my family started visiting me overseas and they saw that my life was not some pathetic waste, but remarkably rewarding instead.

      These days, everyone is more than supportive but understandably, it did take some time to get to that point…

  14. Anthony June 2, 2011 at 9:51 am - Reply

    This feels like it was wrote for me haha! Hmm, I agree with many things you are saying, however, I work with a lot of dicks! So I guess it’s ingrained in my head to dislike the word “job.” That said, if I find myself teaching English in Thailand, chomping on delicious food with a set of lovely, friendly people…I don’t think I’ll complain!

    I’m continuing to work on my online projects before my clock runs out (5 months will fly) and if I don’t make anything-I can at least say I tried and know what DOESN’T work. I am notorious for finding jobs with ease in England, so I guess I’ll have no problem being a non-digital nomad-and certainly won’t complain if it’s a good gig 🙂

    I’m looking at this post such as a positive, as you’ve highlighted so many options!

    • Earl June 3, 2011 at 12:00 am - Reply

      Hey Anthony – Haha…it wasn’t written for you, don’t worry! The last words you wrote are the most important – so many options. As long as you are aware that working online is not the only method for achieving your travel goals, then you’re all set. Like you said, if things don’t work out right way, you can always find a job overseas so that you can still travel and continue working on your projects. You’ll get there one way or the other…I’m sure about that!

  15. Planning Financially May 26, 2011 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Thank you all for the informative and uplifting posts. I have found myself looking for ways to slow down the over-all pace of my day to day life and have taken comfort in what some of you have to say in regards to being on the move and allowing our high speed technological reliance take a back seat for awhile. The hardest part for me is keeping up with the financial burden that I’ve managed to collect in several years of being a young student. These loans were quick to remind me that I am increasingly living in a day to day, global and digital world. I’m not trying to escape my past expenses, but learning to accommodate them into the present and future savings that are necessary often prove a difficult task in the life of a nomad.

    • Earl May 28, 2011 at 1:58 am - Reply

      @Planning Financially – It definitely isn’t easy, especially when there are student loans involved. The key is to try and work on several different streams of income over time, some digitally, some non-digitally. You could teach English overseas in a place such as Japan, where you could earn enough to start paying off your loans and having some left over for daily living expenses. And then you could work on creating a digital stream of income which you could use for future savings.

      Obviously this is not the most ideal situation for someone interested in being a nomad and traveling around the world but it is a solution that can help get one started on the right path….

  16. karen ho fatt May 24, 2011 at 9:54 am - Reply

    Being digital or non-digital nomad is an uphill climb either way, they both have their pros and cons as you have clearly stated. Some of us don’t have a choice and have been dealt what life gives to you. I have been on both sides of that road and now in the former. I go with the flow. As age takes hold the non- digital world I am afraid generally speaking is less accepting.

  17. Audrey May 23, 2011 at 4:47 am - Reply

    Recently, we were contacted by a young college grad looking for “secrets” on how to travel the world and make money. She was disappointed by my response when I mentioned teaching English, working on a cruise ship (directed her in the direction of your book) or picking up restaurant/bar jobs. She was looking for some sort of “get rich on the internet quickly” response and had completely dismissed these other jobs – really a shame.

    While much of our professional life is digital these days, I am actually looking forward at some point to a life where my professional life also involves working hands on with people wherever we may be living. It’s important to value these jobs as well.

    • Earl May 24, 2011 at 1:17 am - Reply

      Hey Audrey – I’m with you on that and I’ve already begun transitioning to a less digital working life. That constant interaction with people is something that I am just missing too much these days.

      I’ve also given advice to others about ways to travel the world and what I find is that upon learning that I earn an income online, a typical response is, “Do you think 6 months is enough time for me to starting earning money online?” People have been led to believe that there is one step-by-step manual out there and if you follow what it says, you’re guaranteed to be earning lots of cash in the digital world. It really is a shame that non-digital work is so often overlooked or never even considered.

      And thank you for recommending my cruise job book 🙂

  18. Peggy May 22, 2011 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    Earl, thanks for the great info. The specifics about where you can live comfortably for under $1,000 month is so helpful. I’m planning my nomadic escape early next year and this confirms I can do it! The idea of being non-digital is such a good reminder. We get so caught up into the “digital nomad”jargon that we can forget there are lots of options.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Earl May 23, 2011 at 12:26 am - Reply

      Hey Peggy – Thank you for commenting! And you can definitely make it happen. That list of places to live cheaply consists of only a tiny fraction of the places where it’s possible. Also, by realizing that non-digital work can help you achieve such a goal as much as digital work can, you basically have nothing stopping you at all!

  19. Heather in Lapland May 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    To be honest, when I was travelling the last thing I would have wanted to do was spent so much time in front of a computer. now that i live abroad and have a fairly steady life it fits in well but I can’t help thinking that i would have missed so much if I had tried to become a ‘digital nomad’

    • Earl May 22, 2011 at 6:56 pm - Reply

      Hey Heather – It can be a challenge while traveling and there are definitely some sacrifices to be made. Although, many digital nomads tend to live in one place or, as I tend to do, travel very slowly so that I have time to work as well as explore my new surroundings. It helps but of course, it would be much better if I didn’t have to sit in front of my computer so much!

      Thank you for the comment!

  20. Anthony May 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    I think it is important to keep everything in perspective and create a future of a bit of both. I think having a passive income is always good, but interaction with others is always more satisfying. Balance is the key!

    • Earl May 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm - Reply

      Hey Anthony – Balance is important and hopefully people realize that before they get too sucked up in the digital world. The problem is when a little passive income starts rolling in, we naturally want more and more and so we tend to spend more time on the laptop instead of outside!

  21. Acceleratedstall May 20, 2011 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    I like that you close with advise not to let anyone tell you there’s only one way to do it. Only one option.

    I do work a regular job, a standard office job – but I’m an independent contractor in the US and the companies I work with are web-centric so everything we do is accessible via high speed Internet.

    The down side is that in the US this leaves me with no health insurance and no one to be sure the Feds get their income tax money… those responsibilities fall on my shoulders.

    However, it also means I can take next week off and visit a special friend in London, I can go to Cambodia for 6 weeks this winter as they have great Internet and cheap cell service – and no one can tell me I can’t.
    *raises brow and grins broadly*

    • Earl May 21, 2011 at 11:12 am - Reply

      @Acceleratedstall: Haha…I can imagine the reactions you get! Like anything, there are pros and cons to the type of work we choose and for someone who likes to travel, the downsides of your work are worth being able to pick up and go overseas for a while. I know plenty of people who would love this kind of set up.

  22. Jason May 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    A really great post Earl, and something that all wanting digital nomads should read cafefully. As you’ve pointed out, making money on the road to sustain (or partly sustain) your lifestyle took you quite a long time, and alot of work.

    The dream of the digital nomad lifestyle entices everyone with a free spirit, but in reality you get nothing for nothing in this world, and it is still requires work. What I’m afraid of is that many young people today are far to enticed by this dream, and it will have an impact on their travel experience.

    People need to sit back and ask themselves what are they traveling for?

    • Earl May 20, 2011 at 12:51 pm - Reply

      Hey Jason – That’s exactly how I feel as well. Everyone has different travel goals (and, just like you said, I also think it’s important for everyone to figure out why they want to travel) and as a result, should take different paths to reach those goals. Being a Digital Nomad is not a solution for everyone and I’d say there are just as many (if not more) people disappointed by the results of trying to work online than there are people who succeed with such work.

      The allure is great but the reality of what one can expect is drastically different than what many claim!

  23. John May 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    Earl, you prob don’t remember this but back in late 09′. I emailed you asking how are you able to travel the world and you told me about Internet Marketing. I was like “WTF is IM??” .. And ever since I been hooked. It is because of you , who introduced me to IM, led me to gain the knowledge needed to succeed and now, I am able to make a full time income off Adsense. My bank account as well as I, thank you. One email changed my life…


    • Earl May 20, 2011 at 12:40 pm - Reply

      Hey John – Of course I remember and that’s such great news! I’m sure you’ve put a lot of effort into your projects and hopefully now you can enjoy a little bit of the freedom that such work provides.

      Actually, I just might have to ask you for your secret to success now 🙂

  24. A Lady in London May 19, 2011 at 10:01 am - Reply

    Great post. I too am somewhat of a digital nomad, and I try to find balance between the two sides. I’m really passionate about what I do, but sometimes it is nice to have a break!

    • Earl May 19, 2011 at 2:15 pm - Reply

      @A Lady in London: Thank you for commenting! If you’re passionate about your work, whether it is digital or non-digital, then you’re definitely on the right path 🙂

  25. Dani | Globetrottergirls May 19, 2011 at 5:21 am - Reply

    I have to say that I love the internet & that it enables us to work from anywhere in the world!! We earn our money ‘digitally’ while we are traveling the world, but rather than relying on making money from websites we work on freelance projects for our former employers. Which means we know exactly how much money to expect every month – not really knowing how much income to expect would cause me sleepless nights. The only disadvantage of working digitally is that it gets harder and harder to disconnect from the net for a few days.

    • Earl May 19, 2011 at 2:20 pm - Reply

      Hey Dani – Your set up is another option that people have and is quite a rewarding combination of both. The key is definitely knowing how much money you will be earning as that certainly makes it easier for someone to plan long-term travels. Also, it tends to be much easier to disconnect (at least for a few hours) when there is a white sand beach nearby. At least that’s my experience. Perhaps you’ll agree 🙂

  26. Erin May 18, 2011 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Although we love the flexibility of being digital nomads, and the thought of committing to one place long enough to get a job isn’t appealing, there are definitely down sides – especially being chained to a laptop and the search for decent wifi.

    • Earl May 19, 2011 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      Hola Erin – The search for decent Wifi is a constant challenge and many days are spent running all over town looking for a stable signal. But you are right, committing to one place for a long time with a non-digital job is not enticing to many people. I can barely stay put in one place for 2 or 3 months before being ready to move on!

  27. Joan May 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    Earl, from what U wrote, I’d rather be a non-digital nomad. Do you ever return home for visits, or have friends and family visit you.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 5:01 pm - Reply

      Hey Joan – I don’t blame you 🙂 And I do return home, normally once or twice per year for about 3-4 weeks in total. But yes, my family and friends do visit me in places around the world, so in the end, I see them as much as I would if I lived back in the US, considering that everyone is spread all over the country!

  28. Michel May 18, 2011 at 6:26 am - Reply

    Hey Earl…good post. I’ve been working on finding my Muse for a while now and haven’t come up with anything viable yet. Chisa has decided to sell gourmet salts in Japan and we’ll be able to run this business while travelling. The whole digital nomad thing is tough and certainly not close to as easy as Tim F makes it appear in his book but that’s hardly surprising…there is no free lunch as they say and whatever you end up doing you should be prepared to work hard especially in the beginning. I too have been spending way too much time hammering away at the keyboard and pad and have even starting getting all twitchy in my forearm and 2 fingers…time for a break me thinks. I write a travel blog but those waters are so crowded and with many who write much better than I so it’s just for fun and so my mom knows what I’m up to.

    Nothing wrong with hitting the ground aka the non dig world. A few years ago in the middle of my 1 year Latin American trip I stopped in San Luis Potosi, Mexico for a few months to hang out, teach ESL, and had an amazing time. Btw La Huasteca is one of the most amazing areas I’ve ever seen in my life and with nary a gringo in site (save for me of course). Mexico in general is amazing and has so much to see and experience.

    All the best to you Earl and everybody trying to blaze their own trail whatever that may be!


    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much for the comment Michel! And I must say, when the twitchy arm starts, it’s definitely time to take a break! A long break.

      And thanks for the tip on La Huasteca….I’ve never heard of it but any place without a gringo in sight seems like a good place to visit to me. That’s the thing about Mexico…so many amazing places to visit, which is part of the reason I have trouble staying away for too long.

      Any chance you’re planning on heading back down here?

  29. Juno May 18, 2011 at 6:17 am - Reply

    I want to do both, am I too greedy? 🙂 thought I want to be more digital nomad but I think that’s really hard to have just one occupation, since now there’s so many great ones out there! Great post Earl! I think I got inspired everytime I read your ‘about’ page.
    And by the way, I really like your email-rss feed style.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm - Reply

      Hey Juno – You, greedy? No way! Why not do both? That is definitely a wise decision as it’s never a good idea to focus on only one way to earn income.

      And I’m glad to hear you get inspired. I’m still waiting for you to visit Mexico during your crazy around the world, visit everybody you know adventure 🙂

  30. Sally May 18, 2011 at 6:14 am - Reply

    Yay, Non Digital Nomads unite! As someone who has a hard enough time maintaining a hobby-blog, I can’t imagine trying to maintain a money-making blog. Working a “real” job while in a country is a great way to not only make some cash but also meet people (which, sadly, sitting in front of your computer doesn’t help you much with — unless we’re talking about Twitter people). While I’ve been teaching ESL off and on for the past 13 years, I’ve recently been thinking about changing directions. There are lots of great NGOs and other nonprofits out there that hire international workers. I’d suggest people check out if they’re into that line of work.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm - Reply

      Hey Sally – That’s right, unite indeed! Even though I’m a digital nomad I want to join the non-digital movement too. Hopefully this post is enough to get me into the club 🙂

      That’s a great point about the NGOs and nonprofits out there. That kind of work gets very little publicity in the travel blog world and as a result is seldom considered by those looking to find a way to travel and/or live overseas. And thanks for sharing that link. I had never heard of the site. Very interesting stuff. I actually spent 30 minutes this morning browsing the jobs myself. Hmmm….

  31. Christine May 18, 2011 at 6:05 am - Reply

    THANK YOU! I often feel like I have to justify myself because I’ve realized that I don’t have the motivation at the moment to support myself through my writing and/or my blog. I’ve waitressed and bartended in France and Australia, and I currently have a marketing job in Melbourne on a working holiday visa. I loved waitressing because it let me interact with people, I love my current job because it lets me live a very “local” life–working with Australians, taking the tram to work, going out on the weekends–and is teaching me so much about running a small business. My current plan for the next couple of years doesn’t involve living off online revenue, but it does involve living, working and traveling around the world: things that I can totally do on my current model. Hospitality with a touch of freelance writing is an awesome way to go–I’m not an eBook writer, and I’m OK with that. Thanks for the support–awesome post.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 4:53 pm - Reply

      Hey Christine – I’ve heard that same thing from many people, that they feel the need to justify themselves because they have not chosen to go digital. It’s crazy because in the end, you’re connecting with a place and with people in a way that very few digital nomads have a chance to. You’ll be able to travel for as long as you want because you already know that there are infinite opportunities out there that do not include earning money online. It’s a great example for anyone else who feels trapped under the pressure of having to become a digital nomad!

      Seems like you have it figured out. Of course, anyone who decides to live in Melbourne for a while clearly knows what they’re doing.

  32. megan May 18, 2011 at 5:22 am - Reply

    This is a great post. I know that I really don’t want to permanently go back to an office job, but I’m also doubtful as to whether the digital nomad thing is for me – I don’t know if I’d have the perseverance! So I’m thinking of teaching English somewhere in Asia next year – and I’m excited at the possibility of living an entirely different life in an entirely different country. I think it’s just as exotic as being a “digital nomad” 🙂

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm - Reply

      Hey Megan – You should absolutely be excited about teaching English in Asia! You will have a chance to imbed yourself in a culture in a way that very few people ever experience. If anyone thinks that is less exotic than sitting in front of a computer all day, they’re a bit confused 🙂

  33. Nicole - Woman Seeks World May 18, 2011 at 4:51 am - Reply

    Great article, I think a lot of people (myself included) don’t even consider having a ‘real job’ when travelling…In my case I hate my current job, so have been focused on the digital aspect (which I love) but I think a balance between the two might be the way to go, considering how hard making incoem online can be.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm - Reply

      Hey Nicole – A balance is a great way to go…at least in terms of sanity. And it’s funny how having an actual job seems so incompatible to travel. That idea is really ingrained in our brains these days even though it’s not really the case at all.

      Good luck with your online endeavors!

  34. Matthew Bailey May 18, 2011 at 3:04 am - Reply

    So true that being a digital nomad is not what its cracked up to be. I left work over a year ago now and am still a bootstrapping digital entrepreneur. Although I’ve had some success lately, I’m nowhere near where I plan to be yet. My girlfriend hates working on the computer because although you meet new people, it is pretty lonely and very hard on the eyes.

    It’s not for everyone but nothing really is. I love it myself but know many people who don’t.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm - Reply

      Hey Matt – It works for some people and for others it doesn’t, so as long as we realize that there are other options, we can all find a way to travel extensively. It’s great that you love working online, and many people do. I certainly wish you more success in the near future and hope your efforts pay off soon!

  35. Edger May 17, 2011 at 11:51 pm - Reply

    For the past four years, I’ve been a non-digital nomad. And for most of that time, I’ve been jealous of all of you who have figured out how to be location independent/digital nomads/lifestyle designers or whatever else the title of the day is. Only recently, have I come to the conclusion that I’m not sure I have it in me to be that, and that’s ok. I’m a physical therapist and for a long time worked short term travel contracts in the states so I could take weeks or months off at a time between contracts. Now, I’m stopped in Portland for a while, but still work a pretty flexible schedule that allows me to only work days/weeks/months I choose. Sure, there are days where I wish I didn’t have to show up and work 9-5, but then I realize I only have to work from 9-5. I never take work home with me, and when I travel, I get to enjoy every minute and never have to feel guilty for not taking time out to work on my website/projects/blogs. It’s not an option for everyone, and it’s not always perfect, but what is? Not to mention, it makes me feel better that I’m using that degree I paid for when I see that student loan payment on my bank statement every month!

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      Hey Edger – That’s definitely ok if you don’t feel like joining the herd of digital nomads.To be honest, I’m quite certain that many digital nomads would be jealous of the position you’re in (although they may not admit it!).

      And yes, it does feel better to use that degree we end up paying for over many years. Actually, I’ll have to take your word for it as I haven’t used mine exactly and it definitely stung every time I paid a monthly installment of my loans 🙂

  36. Kim May 17, 2011 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    Nice post. I’m saving now to be a nomad. Period. I’d love to make some income while I travel and I’d love to have the option to travel indefinitely. I’m open to anything that will bring in money on the road. Life is so full of options and it’s exciting to think about all of the different opportunities out there.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      Hey Kim – That’s the key…being open to any opportunity that allows you to achieve your goal. The important thing is to just get started. Very few long-term nomads earn money from only one source during their life of travel. One opportunity tends to lead to another and on and on!

  37. Katie - Green Travel Girl May 17, 2011 at 10:23 pm - Reply

    A lot of the travel blogs that I’ve been reading have been focused on digital nomads. I don’t have the skills or passion to be a digital nomad but I do love travel and want to find local places to volunteer or work to support my travels. For now I’ll be working as a trip leader and on cruise ships to get my travel fix while making some money! Great post, thanks for the inspiration to travel without being a digital nomad!

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm - Reply

      Hey Katie – I think what you’re doing is excellent! Working as a trip leader and on cruise ships is the way to go. You’ll be traveling, saving money, meeting new people…without staring at a computer screen all day. For others who don’t have the passion to work online, you have shown that there are plenty of options out there to still find a way to travel. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! And sweet elf costume by the way 🙂

  38. Ozzy May 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    One of the many reasons I joined the Army was cause they pay me to travel the world and cover all my expenses.


  39. El May 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    Thanks for saying this! I recently traveled around Europe for three months and while I wanted to blog about my adventure, I hated sitting in Europe in front of a computer for hours. Would love to hear more about you cruise experiences!

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm - Reply

      Hey El -I don’t blame you at all for not wanting to sit in front of a laptop when the alternative is being out and about exploring Europe! Blogging and online income is not for everybody and I’m glad to hear you chose the option that you felt was best for you!

      And I’ll definitely work on adding some more posts about my time on board cruise ships. If you have any questions about that type of employment, please feel free to send me an email and I’d be more than happy to answer as best I can!

  40. LLoyd May 17, 2011 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    This really hit home – thanks.

    I used to think online income was the only way to be able to travel the world – unless of course you were wealthy enough not to need one.

    I’ve since discovered many ways to pursue my dream of seeing the world while generating income in foreign lands – some of which have been mentioned above.

    I’m currently an English teacher in South Korea. I’ve recently began working on building my website to become an ‘Internet’ Nomad – I don’t like Digital Nomad either :-). That being said, I’m not putting all of my eggs into one basket.

    What I’ve realized is that when you take that first step and leave the homeland, so many more opportunities open up! If one doesn’t work out, there’s always another.

    As long as you keep an open mind and put in some work, being any kind of nomad is possible!

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      Hey Lloyd – It’s great to hear from someone who is making it work non-digitally as well. You have summarized exactly what I try to tell everyone who wants to travel – that a world of opportunities will appear once you’re out there. The most important factor is not having an online income stream set up but just taking that first step and starting your adventure.

      An open mind and some hard work are indeed all you need!

  41. maryanne May 17, 2011 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    Awesome post, Earl. I’ve been out there doing the same thing as you since I was 19 (am 36 now) and although I haven’t broken into the digital nomad realm, I’ve certainly tried out a ton of other options that have popped up over the years. Right now, I’m trying to move away from teaching (which I’ve been doing in a few countries for the past 9 years) and into language proficiency examining, which is quite portable and pays well.

    I saw that someone above mentioned that employers only want English speakers but that’s not wholly true (though it is often true, unfortunately, in backpacker areas). For example, in South Africa I once spent 6 months working as a sound/lighting technician for a small children’s theatre company which did shows in Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu… none of which I could speak, nor was it necessary to be able to. As well, here in China, there is work available in a number of different languages in a number of employment areas (including teaching). In Turkey, I was once asked to be a French tutor for the foreign minister’s brother.

    There are options out there and it doesn’t have to be digital nomad or nothing. Short contracts can be picked up, giving a little secure boost to any writing/web projects you have. Not everyone has the skills or interest for investing in a wholly digital-based lifestyle.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 6:32 pm - Reply

      Hey Maryanne – I completely agree with everything you just said and you brought up a great point about non-English speakers being able to find work as well. For example, in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where I am right now, I know foreigners who are teaching French, Italian, German, Japanese and even Russian down here. There is definitely a market for things other than English and while they might be a little harder to find, it’s usually worth the effort because there won’t be too many others to compete with.

      The options are indeed out there. And I firmly believe that if there’s one person who’s been able to manage non-digitally for 17 years, then pretty much anyone can make it happen! I really appreciate you sharing your input, which I consider extremely valuable because you’re doing exactly what others think is impossible.

      And I wish you luck moving into the field of language proficiency examining!

  42. Jasmine May 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    I have to say I prefer being a digital nomad, because it’s a lot more flexible. I’m a freelancer, so I don’t have a “boss” per se and I don’t have to be in a certain place at a certain time and wear certain clothes, you know what I mean? Though you’re right, I have to make a serious effort to interact socially and make sure I don’t spend the whole day holed up in a hotel room in front of my laptop.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm - Reply

      Hey Jasmine – There are definitely benefits of being a digital nomad…there’s no doubt about that. I love the flexibility that comes with it as well, which of course allows me to move around the world as I want.

      It’s just that many people think that it is the only option available these days, which obviously it is not. There are plenty of ways to travel extensively without being holed up in our hotel rooms and actually, to many people, the idea of being holed up in a hotel room at all while traveling simply seems odd!

  43. Nick Berggreen May 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Great post, Earl. I think one of the biggest barriers that prevents people from turning vacation into lifestyle is the income aspect.

    Sure, you can work a job and save up money, but then you’ll have a stack ‘o cash that slowly dwindles as you travel, like a financial time bomb.

    Working on cruise ships, as you have done, is very rewarding in that you don’t need a permanent base. You can travel, work a shift, travel, work a shift, etc… all while living out of a backpack.

    For those people who do want to earn a living online while traveling full-time, here’s my suggestion: Work on bringing your expenses down to zero. You’d be very surprised on how little you need (less than US minimum wage) to travel the world on $40 a day.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 6:40 pm - Reply

      Hey Nick – Your suggestion is perfect. Most people believe that increasing income is the only way to afford whatever it takes to achieve our goals. But reducing our expenses is just as effective, and usually a lot easier.

      Also, it doesn’t take much to get caught up in the cycle of wanting more and more money. However, as soon as a traveler gets out there and realizes, as you have, that you can survive in most of the world for $40/day, it helps put things in perspective. What seems like a small income at home can go a long way overseas!

  44. Irina Sazonova May 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    Yes, fortunately or unfortunately not everyone can make a living off the Internet. Also, I find there is some kind of discrimination going on what concerns non-digital jobs like teaching English, working in bars and hostels. Employees want only native English speakers. That would make sense for teaching (although, in all honesty, I’ve met native speakers who speak worse English that people whose mother tongue is a different language), but for other jobs? Not so much.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 6:45 pm - Reply

      Hey Irina – I think that many people automatically assume that a native-English speaker will be able to communicate more easily and so that is their preference. However, I’ve met plenty of non-native speakers who have been able to find work in bars, hostels and even as teachers. The good thing is that it’s quite easy to prove that you can speak English as well as, or even better, than a native speaker, which should put you in a good position to get a job as well. Of course, I’m sure this varies in different parts of the world and I have no doubt that it takes an extra effort for a non-native speaker to land a job overseas.

  45. Radita May 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    I like the idea of you wandering around practicing your spanish and meeting the locals. How could one really experience another culture if we are always behind a computer. I have my eye set on a few restaurants in Sayulita — I actually CRAVE the idea of NOT working on a computer, as that is what I have done for the past many years. I hope to find the balance. Thanks for the share.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 6:47 pm - Reply

      Hey Radita – Hahaha…well, in that case, you definitely shouldn’t work on your computer as much any more. Hopefully you will find that perfect balance in Sayulita. I’m sure you will as that village tends to sort the lives out of everyone who arrives!

  46. John Bardos -JetSetCitizen May 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl,

    I am also considering non-digital ways of earning money. I have a couple of consulting projects that more than pay for my living expenses but I am looking for ways to get out from behind a computer.

    I have found that it is not that easy to make money online (unless you are comfortable hyping over-priced ebooks and membership programs). It is not impossible, but false scarcity tactics and long sales pitches are definitely not my style.

    I think I need to create another real world business or I am going to go crazy.

    Any chance you will make it to Calgary when you come to Canada?

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 7:14 pm - Reply

      Hey John – It is extremely difficult to earn money online but it sounds so ideal that people will forever fall into the trap of believing that it can be quite easy. However, if people put that same energy into non-digital projects or finding more meaningful work overseas, they would probably be even more happy with the results.

      We’re definitely in the same boat. All of the projects I’m now considering are non-digital as I don’t know if I could handle the work required to start a new online venture.

      As for Canada, I’m not sure of my plans as of yet. I still don’t even have my flight to Vancouver, which I should probably purchase one of these days, but there are a few things holding me back at the moment. Will you be in Calgary for all of June?

      • John Bardos -JetSetCitizen May 18, 2011 at 7:18 pm - Reply

        Yes, I will be in Calgary for June and most of July. You and Anil should come and visit if you have a chance. The mountains are only an hour away.

  47. Turkey's For Life May 17, 2011 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Great article! The internet has provided a lot of freedom of movement for people – but it’s also made a lot of people into slaves to their laptops (or whatever they may use) and where’s the freedom in that? Working with people and meeting them on a social level is so much more important.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      Hey Julia! I know what you’re saying and there really is little difference between a digital nomad being a slave to their computer and someone back home stuck in the same office all day, every day. Sure, a digital nomad can live wherever they want and that is a huge benefit but I’m still not convinced that the work required to get to that point is really worth it. I’m sure many people think it is, which is great, but hopefully others will realize that the alternatives provide their own set of wonderful benefits as well.

  48. Mzuri May 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    I think you hit the nail on the head – that the greatest freedom of choice lies in defining a goal without embedding a presumed solution in it.

    You defined your goal as meeting many people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet in a “rooted” lifestyle. That gave you all kinds of freedom in deciding strategies to achieve that goal.

    On the other hand, if you’d defined your goal as: “I’m going to meet all kinds of people by being a digital nomad,” then you’d have shrunk your freedom of choice to one path.

    Nicely written. Thanks.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 7:08 pm - Reply

      Hey Mzuri – That’s such a great way to put it. And I think that many people believe that becoming a Digital Nomad is a solution for every goal and so they assume that by spending months and months on their computer, they will easily achieve what they want (and many people don’t really know what they want). But everyone does have a different goal and that’s why I want people to know that the path they may need to follow doesn’t have to involve working online.

      Like you said, it is vital to define the goal first and then look for ways to achieve it.

      Thank you so much for commenting!

  49. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler May 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Great post, Earl. I think everybody should read this. I think for me it’s best to find a balance between both worlds. I don’t want to be attached to my computer every day, yet I want to be location independent. I think working overseas for short periods of time can be the perfect solution for some people. Like you said, you tend to meet so many people that you may not have met otherwise.

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm - Reply

      Hey Christy – And one of the benefits of meeting new people all the time is that this also leads to new ideas and opportunities as well. You never know who you are going to meet and where that will lead, but you need to get out there and meet people in order to find out!

      A balance is of course ideal as having that other income allows us to breathe a little easier, confident that we won’t be going broke any time soon 🙂

  50. David | Almost Bohemian May 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    Man thanks for saying this. So many people are so focused on getting rid of their job…

    I think folks need to realize they should pursue their passions first. The right job or whatever will follow. Not everyone will be a digital nomad.

    Of course, I am a bit of a hypocrite considering I plan to quit my job at the end of the year and travel indefinitely. Oh well… its my passion, right?

    • Earl May 18, 2011 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      Hey David – Exactly what I’m trying to say – Not everyone will be a digital nomad. And not everybody should feel as if they need to be a digital nomad either. If a person really does want to travel, there are infinite ways to achieve that. This is why I always recommend that people take that first step into the world sooner rather than later as they are bound to discover new opportunities once they begin to pursue their dream lifestyle.

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