After my last stay in Chiang Mai, I got very uncomfortable with calling myself a ‘digital nomad’. I felt like ‘the scene’ in the city had become very populated with chancers, scammers and people who didn’t have a plan, a business or any form of income. I also found myself being surrounded by people who were more concerned with ‘digital nomadism’ as a career than actually understanding that term defines a lifestyle.
Wikipedia describes digital nomads as “people who use telecommunication technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner”. To me, nothing comes easy and being a digital nomad, building a business that allows you to work from anywhere, is hard work. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also met some incredible digital nomads/entrepreneurs who have inspired and encouraged me to dream bigger.
Anyway, back to the point of this post. Because I fall under the definition of digital nomad, I wanted to share my reality and squash a couple of misconceptions that people might have of this community or lifestyle. So here’s a list of things I don’t do as a digital nomad:
1. I Don’t Work On A Beach, In Hammocks, Or Poolside
I fully believe that there is a time and place for everything. For me personally, a beach, hammock or poolside is not my time to work. My back literally starts hurting when I see digital nomads working in these locations. I prefer a desk and office chair in a quiet place. I mean, beaches, pools, and hammocks are meant for vacations, so why taint them with work.
(Ironically, the accompanying photo to the Wikipedia definition is a guy working on a beach.)
2. I Don’t Constantly Travel
When visiting a new city, I go with one of three purposes: 1. on vacation (2 weeks/no laptop), 2. to check it out as a potential place to relocate to (1-3 months), or 3. relocation (3-12 months). There’s no in-between. Constant travel is exhausting, but being settled somewhere for 3+ months allows me to experience a new place in my own time while still growing my business.
3. I Don’t Discuss How Much I Earn
There’s this weird thing amongst digital nomads to discuss how much money we make. I was taken aback the first time someone asked me how much I earn (at a social event). My natural response was, “It’s none of your business” which he found rude and quickly lost interest in my company. Personally, I’ve only EVER shared how much I earn with two people – my financial advisor being one of them.
4. I Don’t Live Cheaply
On the topic of money, I don’t live frugally. I work very hard to live comfortably wherever I choose to go. But I don’t live in places that have a cost of living that I can’t afford. In this regard, Chiang Mai works well as it’s safe and affordable place to live. I can enjoy great food, fast Internet and plenty of massages at a fraction of a price compared to other cities (even my hometown of Cape Town). My rule is that if I don’t have enough money to continue to live this nomadic life then I have to go home and find a 9 to 5 job.
5. I Don’t Like Co-Working Spaces
I’ve tried it and it just doesn’t work for me. It takes me back to my days of working a 9 to 5 job so I prefer having a home office. No matter where I live, I need a workstation in the place I’m living. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it’s my workspace for the time that I am in that city. I want to be able to work any time of the day, not having to worry about anyone around me. It does help that I’m extremely self-motivated which helps with productivity.
6. I Don’t Follow Digital Nomad Facebook Groups
There’s this vortex on Facebook that sucks me in like no other and it’s called digital nomad groups. Firstly, some of the posts and comments just kill me – why are people so negative? And there’s a thing called Google that could easily answer most questions. Secondly, these groups just take up so much time that I would rather spend exploring a new city or working on my business.
7. I Don’t Do Visa Runs
Hopping in and out of countries to just get a 30-day visa stamp is seriously not worth the effort. I always choose destinations that allow for longer stays and get the correct visa beforehand. Trust me, spending that extra money on a visa that allows for a longer stay is definitely worth the effort and puts your mind at ease.
To be fair, I love being a digital nomad as it has allowed me so much. But let’s not get this lifestyle twisted by a facade that it is an easy way of living or a quick way to make money. My hope is that this post helps you see that being a digital nomad doesn’t mean you need to be a carbon cutout of everyone else. At the end of the day, it’s all about living your best life, in whichever way you choose to do so.
I would love to hear the things you don’t do as a digital nomad so leave a comment below and share your experience.