Digital nomad. It’s a term that has been growing in popularity over the past few years thanks to social media and a dream that many nine-to-fivers have: living a location-independent lifestyle which allows them to choose their own hours, pay rates and routines. According to Forbes, it has also become a luxurious career move for those who choose the right niche: a career move that offers a six-figure income, exclusive retreats and, of course, a life of travel.
EVALUATE YOUR IDEAL LIFESTYLE
According to Jacky Habib, a freelance journalist who specializes in global development, there are a range of attractive aspects to the lifestyle – but there are also a few important considerations.
“I spent years working as a journalist in several countries. After finishing a contract as a TV reporter, I decided to go freelance so I could align my work with my lifestyle goals. For me, freelancing presented an opportunity to continue doing meaningful work, while traveling and working on creative projects.”
“I’m currently based between Toronto, Canada, and Nairobi, Kenya. While I spend the majority of my time in these places, I also travel frequently for work — mostly across Africa — and for fun too, of course. Being a freelancer and working remotely gives me this flexibility. I sometimes take trips to the coast of Kenya or nearby countries like Uganda and Tanzania, to work there for a week or so at a time.”
“Digital nomadism looks like a dream and, for many, it really is. I love traveling, but I also crave routine, so I’ve managed to set up a few bases around the world that feel like home to me. Take time to figure out what your ideal lifestyle and travel schedule looks like and commit to pursuing it. There is no shortage of resources out there to help you make it possible, whether you’re going to freelance or start an online business.”
A DIGITAL NOMAD REQUIRES STRUCTURE
Bianca Caruana, a freelance journalist and travel blogger who writes about social and environmental impact, agrees. While following her freelancing dreams allowed her to leave her corporate job in Sydney, Australia and travel the world whilst raising awareness on ethical travel; she has learned that it’s a lifestyle that demands some structure and routine to remain consistent.
“It requires a lot of self-discipline – structuring your life so that you can manage your workload without the need for any supervision or peer management. While the freedom of being a digital nomad is exhilarating, it does open the door for procrastination and distraction. The nomadic lifestyle also requires personal changes. You have to be able to let things go, whether that be something as simple as your personal belongings or something deeper than that, such as your relationships. You’re essentially committing to a whole new way of living and so you must be ready and open to embrace this new way of life.”
“In my opinion, feeling ‘at home’ is important. Whether you are in a space for a few days or a few months, try to create a homely environment. A prolonged sense of homelessness can affect mood and hinder concentration. The constant stimulus can also be a distraction from work.”
Once you have decided the lifestyle is for you, the next step is to figure out how to make it happen.
ADAPTING TO A NOMADIC LIFESTYLE
“There is the million-dollar question – “How can I make money while abroad?” There are many ways in which people can achieve this, and it doesn’t always mean going out on their own and starting something new”, says Bianca. “I decided to take on a remote role with a company in Australia because that option suited my needs and provided financial stability for me while I traveled through Asia. Had I wanted to be financially stable in a place like Europe I would have had to reconsider my contract and look at other options. I would suggest mapping out your financial expectations before embracing the nomadic lifestyle. Each case is different, but honor your truth and what’s important to you.”
Hopefully, one of those said important things will be the impact you have on the world around you throughout your travels. Jacky Habib’s side project, New Lens Travel, is a social enterprise that allows travelers to experience African cultures through the guidance and storytelling of local people. She says that, through New Lens Travel, she hopes to encourage others to be mindful of other cultures while receiving an educational experience.
“On our trips, I connect travelers with local creatives and storytellers in Africa who are rewriting narratives about their communities and the continent at large. We spend a lot of time learning from these local experts and challenging our own perceptions. Travel has a way of fast-tracking learning and, while I’m continually striving to be a better traveler, I’m happy to help facilitate this learning for others too.”
“There’s so much I could say about how to respect and support local communities when traveling – but the key is that you need to be conscious of this. Think about whose businesses you’re supporting (are they foreign or locally owned?), how you associate with locals when traveling, what assumptions you make about people or places.”
REDUCING YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
Frequent travel includes a large environmental price tag – with 2% of the world’s global carbon emissions reportedly coming from aviation. Bianca says that, in this area, it is important for digital nomads to “take action”.
“We’re seeing a trend of disconnect from one another and the planet, which is being fuelled by an overwhelming sense that the situation is too dire for us to make a difference. It’s just one plastic straw, said eight-billion people. I think there is more that needs to be done to encourage people to take action on the things that are wrong in the world. If some of my stories can inspire a change in the mindset of the people, then my work is done.”
If you want to make a conscious impact as a digital nomad, Bianca encourages individuals to apply the following steps to their situation:
- Decide what type of impact you want to make
- Start small: “Start by reducing your single-use plastic waste, as the majority of the countries in this world lack any kind of waste management facilities. Pack a reusable water bottle, a few tote bags, a keep cup and a cutlery set that includes a reusable straw.”
- Take advantage of online resources: “There are some great platforms that connect travelers directly with locals for authentic local experiences”.
As a final piece of advice, Bianca encourages readers to simply start with a plan.
“I would encourage them to map out the ways in which they could make the digital nomad lifestyle work for them because it is a huge change from the lifestyle we are used to.”
“Don’t be discouraged if you have a more traditional career background”, adds Jacky. “Not everyone is a web developer or writer — I know nurses and teachers who’ve created nomadic lives for themselves too. I really believe: where there’s a will, there’s a way.”