I’ve been a digital nomad for almost 7 years.
In some ways, it’s a brilliant lifestyle. But in some ways, it’s also not as fun or exciting as some people expect.
I like helping people to become digital nomads (which is why I recently wrote a pay-what-you-like e-book about it). But I also like offering an honest insight into what the lifestyle is really like (cos those misleading dancing-on-the-beach TikTok influencers need to get right in the bin).
So, coming up, I’ve unpacked the 17 biggest myths about being a digital nomad. Expect boring revelations, endless complaints, and a load of ignorant accusations. I’m not as miserable as I pretend to be, I promise.
Quick disclaimer: yeah, I also hate the term “digital nomad,” cos it’s horrendously pretentious. But that’s the term everyone uses, so I suppose we’ll all just have to go along with it. Like when a drunk man you’ve just met in a pub keeps insisting you and him should be best friends.
Oh, and in case you don’t know what a digital nomad is (why are you here?), here’s a quick explanation: a digital nomad is a person who has no fixed long-term home, but travels (sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly) while working on their laptop. I hope that helps.
Alright, enough of all the introductory stuff—here are 17 myths about being a digital nomad:
#1. Digital Nomads Travel All the Time ✈️
Obviously, we have loads more location-based freedom than people who need to be in one fixed place…
… but I guarantee we all travel less than you think.
Of the last 18 months, I spent:
See—that’s hardly regular travel 🤷🏻♂️
Many digital nomads travel a bit more quickly and frequently than that—but cos we still need to work and sleep and exercise and so on, we don’t move as often as people think.
That said, the cliché continues to stick around. Although I’ve been living this life for more than 6 years, some of my family and friends from home still ask if I’m “having a nice holiday.”
#2. Being a Digital Nomad is a Lifestyle of Constant Fun and Adventure
Waah waah waaah, another bunch of whiny complaints from poor ol’ freedom-having me.
As you probably worked out from reading this article, I’m a travel writer.
And most people would describe my lifestyle as ‘permanent travel.’
So you’d probably expect my lifestyle to be super fun and super interesting. But for the most part, it isn’t.
Yeah, okay, my weekends are always varied, cos I always have a new place to explore. And I always make sure I do fun stuff on weekends, cos I don’t want to waste my life.
But, to give you an example of how most of my ‘traveling-based’ lifestyle works, here’s a breakdown of how much I traveled this past Monday to Friday:
Traveled from my bed to my living room. Traveled to the gym, before then traveling to my work desk, where I enjoyed 10 hours of immersive travel-based experiences (i.e., writing about travel).
Traveled to the supermarket to do some shopping.
Traveled to the gym again. Also traveled to the pharmacy, to get some allergy pills (for the pollen that’s been traveling up my nostrils). I traveled (mentally) to the destinations I then spent 8 hours writing about.
Took another mental journey. This time, a multi-stop trip, in which I considered all the questionable choices I’ve made in my life. Traveled to the gym and my work desk again. Then (cos I was tired) I took an earlier-than-usual trip to my bed.
My fingers traveled all the way across the keyboard, for 8 more hours of work. I also traveled to the shop again, to get some spinach and a multi-plug.
Hardly inspiring eh? 80% of my life is the same as it would be if I still lived in the UK.
#3. Being a Digital Nomad is Only for Really Adventurous People
You’re not gonna be climbing Everest 🧗♂️ Or becoming the first-ever person to swim unaided across the Atlantic Ocean 🏊 You’re not heading off on a one-man mission to Mars 🧑🏻🚀
Instead, you’re basically just going on a glorified vacation.
For better or worse, life is pretty much the same everywhere. So going to live in another country doesn’t make you the next Marco Polo.
I know lots of introverted digital nomads. I also know lots of pretty unadventurous digital nomads.
#4. Being a Digital Nomad Must Be Really Scary!
What if I don’t make friends? 🤔 What if there’s a massive language barrier? What if I can’t find a long-term place to live? What if I can’t get a visa? What if I get sick, and there aren’t any good hospitals or doctors?
None of those things are going to happen.
You will make friends. You will find people who speak your language. You will find a home. You might not even need a visa. You will find good doctors. And you probably won’t get seriously sick anyway, so I wouldn’t worry about it.
(Side note: why would you be scared that you can’t make friends? Do you stare at people through cafe windows? Do you smell like a corpse? Do you repeatedly ask women if you can sniff their hair?)
Don’t convince yourself that this stuff has to be complicated. You got it!
#5. I Think Digital Nomads Must Always Feel Alone
Get this: I reckon being a digital nomad is usually a less isolating choice than living a ‘normal’ lifestyle.
Here’s my logic: most digital nomads (though not all of them) are 25+, and the average digital nomad age probably sits somewhere between 30 and 35.
If you’re back home and you’re around that age, most of your friends are getting married and having kids. And if they’re getting married and having kids, they won’t be prioritizing you pal.
So, yeah, you could stay at home where you know people. But you probably won’t see much of those people.
On the reverse, it’s very easy to find sociable obligation-free people when you’re digital nomadding. Those menchildren (and womenchildren) usually have no kids of their own, so they’ll have loads of time to prioritize you you you. Lucky them.
I don’t want kids. So that makes the digital nomad lifestyle a bit easier for me. But not all digital nomads are kid-free or partner-free. I know some married digital nomads who have both kids and pets. And they manage to make the lifestyle work.
Anyway, the point is this: this isn’t an isolating lifestyle choice. It’s actually a highly sociable lifestyle choice.
#6. The Digital Nomad Lifestyle is Incompatible with Most Jobs
What are you talking about?
These days, most people* work online.
And if you work online, you can probably work remotely.
Either find a job where your employer will let you work remotely, or become a freelancer or business owner. It’s that easy.
I’m a writer. I have friends who are also writers. And I have friends who are graphic designers, website builders, programmers, crypto traders, online English teachers, etc.
*yes, when I say ‘most people,’ I am generalizing. I haven’t conducted a questionnaire. So I could well be wrong. Soz.
#7. The Digital Nomad Lifestyle is Only for People in Their 20s and Early 30s
Like I say, I reckon the average age of a digital nomad is somewhere around 32 or 33 (I’m 33, in case you’re wondering).
In fact, according to NomadList, the average age of digital nomads is precisely 34 (source).
But I have digital nomad friends who are in their 40s and 50s. I once met a digital nomad illustrator who was in his 70s.
If you have the income and the desire, your age is irrelevant.
Worried you’re too old? You’re only gonna be older tomorrow.
Whatever choices you make, you are your age anyway. You can either be your age and happy, or your age and unhappy; your choice.
#8. Digital Nomads Spend All Their Time on the Beach
No, we don’t.
I hate beaches. They’re one of the most overrated tourist attractions in the world.
I know you’ve seen all those weird misleading photos of digital nomads sitting on the beach with a bikini and a laptop. But I reckon about 5% of digital nomads have actually done that.
I want you to imagine for just a second how unproductive and uncomfortable that would be.
The sand in your keys. The glare on your screen. Your battery burning in the sun. The intrusive man repeatedly trying to sell you some sunglasses while you’re attempting to write an article about digital-nomadding myths (😉).
It’s all just so unrealistic.
#9. I’ll Need to Save Loads of Money Before I Can Become a Digital Nomad
You need money, but you don’t need as much money as you think.
Lots of would-be digital nomads contact me, claiming they’re gonna save money for like 5 or 10 years before they begin.
You really don’t need that much cash.
Here’s what I recommend: make sure you have a reliable and consistent income stream. Does that reliable and consistent income stream cover your expected costs and lifestyle in the place you’re planning to live? If it does, all you need is this income, plus 3-6 months of backup money. That’s it.
That said, this all assumes you have travel insurance. If you travel without insurance, a major accident could easily wipe out all of your backup money. Please don’t be an idiot, please get some travel insurance.
#10. I’ll Need to Do Loads of Planning Before I Can Become a Digital Nomad
Some people who want this lifestyle are too intimidated to actually do it.
Usually, they’re intimidated cos they think they have to do endless planning.
Instead, you save some money, you find a job you can do remotely, you get some travel insurance, then you book a flight. That’s it. You don’t need to do anything else.
Life’s too short. If you want this lifestyle, don’t be intimidated by the hurdles in front of you—most of them aren’t even real. And the real ones aren’t very hard to overcome anyway.
#11. Digital Nomads Don’t Have Real Jobs
Well, I’m a travel writer. So you’ve probably got a good point as far as I’m concerned.
But I still work a normal (35-40ish) number of hours per week.
And I have digital nomad friends who work 60+ hours a week. As I keep saying (soz for being so repetitive), the digital nomad life isn’t just one big fun-packed holiday.
#12. Being a Digital Nomad is Just a Phase
But when you think about it, everything is just a phase, isn’t it?
Your life is a phase. Your job is a phase. Your current relationship is probably a phase.
If you’re only gonna do things that last forever, you won’t do anything ever.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “it’s better to do things for only a short while, than it is to pointlessly and disrespectfully misquote people in travel articles.”
#13. If I Become a Digital Nomad, I’ll Have to Be a Digital Nomad Forever!
The exact opposite idea to the above.
And the exact opposite of this sentiment is true.
It’s very easy to start your digital-nomadding lifestyle. But it’s also very easy to end it.
If you don’t like being a digital nomad today, you can go back to your home country tomorrow. One of the best things about this lifestyle is the flexibility—and that includes the flexibility to go home whenever you want (or for how long you want; maybe even permanently).
Eventually, I’ll live long-term in the UK again. Probably sooner than most people expect.
#14. I’m a Digital Nomad, and It’s Impossible to Keep Fit
This is one of the biggest lies digital nomads tell themselves.
Yep, you maybe have a little less time than the average person, because you need to spend more time doing life admin (like finding apartments, and applying for visas, and booking transport tickets, and all that stuff).
But like everyone else, you waste time. You’re reading this, for example (and God knows this is a gigantic waste of time).
Don’t tell yourself you don’t have time to exercise when you probably spend two hours a day scrolling through Instagram or Tiktok.
#15. Becoming a Digital Nomad Will Solve All of My Mental Health Problems
If you’re depressed without cause at home, you’ll be depressed without cause abroad.
Yep, travel can give you new experiences. And fresh insights. And new friends…
… but as the old saying goes, “wherever you go, you’re there.” And if you’re depressed right now, you’ll be depressed wherever you go.
Of course, if there’s an actual tangible circumstance or problem making you miserable at home, then moving away from that problem might be great for your mental health. But unfounded mental health problems will not be fixed simply by living in a new location.
I actually reckon digital-nomadding can make mental health problems worse. But that’s a debate for a different time.
#16. Digital Nomads Are All Really Pretentious
Well, yeah, some of them are. But some of all people are pretentious.
This lifestyle is unique, but the people living it aren’t. For the most part, digital nomads are just normal everyday people, who happen to not be living in their native country.
Some digital nomads are even pretty boring. Not me though, obviously. I’m really interesting and exciting. And sexy.
#17. I Can’t Become a Digital Nomad
Yes you can.
Us humans are weird—we all have this notion that the life we want is possible for someone else, but not for us.
Don’t let yourself believe that lie.
You’ll be dead soon. Given that you have limited time on this planet, do you want to spend that life enjoying yourself, and feeling fulfilled, and maybe smiling every day? Or do you want to spend that life being miserable and despondent?
It’s your call pal.
Obviously, not everyone wants to be a digital nomad. And I totally get that. Some days, I wonder why I’m a digital nomad. But if you want to become a digital nomad, become a digital nomad. It’s that simple, and everything else is excuses.
It’s your life. Live it.
Before You Go
Alright boys and girls, that’s us done here!
Want to know anything else about remote working? Here are our guides to the best coworking spaces in Tbilisi, the best coworking spaces in Newcastle upon Tyne, and the coolest coworking spaces in Chiang Mai.
Thanks for reading, thanks for checking out Travelness, and thanks in advance for sticking around for more. See ya!
Do you want to be a digital nomad?
If you do, maybe you don’t know where you might want to live. Or how to live there. Or whether you need a visa. Or how to make friends in the scary sprawl of a brand-new city. Or how to stay productive while you travel. Or how to find an apartment. Or whether this lifestyle really is for you. Or… I’m sure you get the idea.
But with some insight and experience, it’s not as difficult as you think. So in this book, I’ve gathered my 6 years of digital-nomadding experience… and I’ve used it to answer all your questions, soothe all your fears, and get you on your way. After reading this, you’ll realise being a digital nomad is much easier (and much more possible!) than you think.