A digital nomad typically consists of anywhere between one and six months spent in a foreign country, working online. Essentially, if you’re working remotely and constantly on the move, congratulations, you are a digital nomad.
Why Live This Kind of Life?
People live this lifestyle for many reasons:
To pursue their passion (writing, painting, designing, etc).
There’s truly nothing like living in a different city every couple months to stimulate the creativity in your soul. Also, having the opportunity to learn different techniques and skills from artisans around the world is pretty hard to resist.
To live or work abroad.
With such a big, wide world out there, many of us (myself included) have that persistent call to adventure (or food) that drives us to visit other countries. Who knows, you may find a work culture that suits your personality more than where you are now. And yes, Belgium is high on that list with that four-day workweek. Also, there may be job opportunities that are only available to people within that country for various reasons (visa requirements, reporting on local interests, timezone/deadline restrictions) so being mobile gives you access to jobs that others may never even see.
To learn another language or experience another culture firsthand without the commitment of residency.
Because, honestly, how do you know you like a place if you don’t spend some time there first? All the textbooks, teachers, and YouTube videos in the world can’t give you the true experience of walking the streets with your own two feet and there’s no faster way to learn a language than to throw yourself into the deep end and immerse yourself in it.
The digital nomad lifestyle allows you to travel around countries where living costs are low while keeping your job as long as you have an internet connection and enough cash to keep yourself afloat.
But What About Making Money While You Travel?
Many digital nomads supplement their income by teaching English, but there are countless ways to make money from home or the road that you can take advantage of.
Teaching English online.
Yes, I know it looks like the same thing, but I promise you it’s not. There is a VAST difference between teaching English in a classroom setting and doing it online. Personally, I am a huge fan of iTalki, a platform that allows you to learn just about any language from a native speaker. As an English tutor, I can set my own prices, hours, and work with students around the world from the comfort of. . .basically anywhere I want. Being able to have class in my nice, comfy hoodie with a glass of whiskey on the balcony really crushes the classroom life.
Translating documents or websites to English.
One day Google will speak all of the languages all of the time and actually learning will be a thing of the past. Until that day, students will need letters of intent, employees will need resumes, and business owners will need websites that speak to as wide an audience as possible. As long as English remains the “universal language”, they’ll need you.
Proofreading/editing digital or print media.
Whether it’s in your hand or on your screen, we all need news. It could be something as trivial as what two YouTubers don’t like each other to something major like local/national elections, but no matter what, it has to be well written. I don’t know about you, but nothing will make me close an article faster than a multitude of typos. The best way to help these media outlets and yourself is to offer your services to make sure they stay on point with their audience.
Writing digital articles or eBooks for companies based in another country.
Long-form writing is an art. Even for those with native-level speaking skills, writing is usually a different ballgame. This presents another opportunity for you, my dear digital nomad, to offer your abilities to companies that may want to capture a certain market, but lack the expertise to create the content or products necessary.
Creating content that educates others about places you’ve traveled.
This is probably the most difficult to do, but the most fun to consume. I spend a somewhat. . .embarrassing amount of time watching YouTubers that live in/travel to Japan because I find their videos fascinating. The places they’ve traveled to, the food they’ve eaten, the sights they’ve seen they all share through well thought out, recorded, and often scripted content. To some extent, living your life becomes a job so finding and maintaining a work/life balance becomes much like balancing a blade edge on your fingernail, BUT if you can pull it off, your audience (and hopefully sponsors) will basically pay for you to go anywhere you want. . .as long as you take them (virtually) with you.
OK, So What’s the Catch?
You are quite the perceptive one. As awesome as globe-hopping sounds as a lifestyle and/or job, it’s not always amazing local cuisine and viral videos. Many an issue can hamper the digital nomad lifestyle, including, but not limited to:
A global freaking pandemic
So yeah, this was obviously the big one. When your livelihood depends on you being able to travel from one place to the other, randomly closing borders is literally the last thing you want to hear about. Though the switch to more remote work has been helpful for many workers, getting cut off from a job due to travel restrictions is a nightmare no digital nomad is truly safe from.
The burden of information
What even is that, right? Look at it like this: as an American citizen, if you don’t plan on visiting another country, you really don’t need to know much about them, right? If, however, your job relied on you dining at and listing the 10 best restaurants in the Ukraine, it would probably behoove you to know about their current situation with Russia. As a digital nomad, you may have the freedom to go where ever you like, but you also have the responsibility to know what’s going on. . .if for no other reason than you’re own safety. That includes cultural gestures (because who wants to get into a fight at the bar because you didn’t know rubbing your nose a certain way was an insult), exchange rates (literally finding out “your money’s no good here”), and/or laws (FYI, Asia is SUPER anti-drugs. Like all the drugs. Including weed).
A saturated market
Now, if you’re trying to put a small town/city/or even country on the map, you might be OK. However, if you are in any city featured in a TV or Movie, there are likely hundreds, if not thousands fighting for the same spots and opportunities you are. Specifically, in the content creator field, it can be pretty rough when your Japan video of visiting Shibuya Crossing has to compete with Abroad In Japan (channel of YouTuber Chris Broad) and their trip to a literal volcano.
I promise you I’m not trying to dissuade you, I just want you to have a full picture because I care. Many times we see people doing things that look really cool, but don’t always think through what it takes to make that vision a reality. But if you believe in you, I believe in you too! Break out that map, find the country or continent of your dreams and go nuts, you beautiful future digital nomad you! I look forward to the greatness you may find out in the world.
Writer, rhymer, gamer: the easiest way to define the man known as Kenneth Medford. I’m a simple man who loves to learn and loves to help and I wander the digital world trying to find ways to sate my hunger for both. Basically, I’m Galactus but helpful.
Check out my other work here or reach out to me on LinkedIn.