Technology is radically changing the nature of work in exactly the way that our generation wants. Many 20-somethings are now becoming ‘digital nomads’ – those who do their work online anywhere they choose. It is a way of life that combines work and travel; on paper it sounds like a win-win situation. After all, young people are abandoning the traditional 9-5 office role in favour of freelancing that brings with it the freedom to travel.
So in true millennial fashion, I’ve decided that my ultimate goal right now is to get to a point where I can become a digital nomad. But why should you try it too?
One of the great benefits of being a digital nomad is that you no longer have to work in an office. You might find yourself in a co-working space – usually a lot more modern and relaxed than your bog standard, brightly lit, noisy office. You can say goodbye to the constant sound of printing and annoying office small talk. Your new office is now pretty much anywhere that has a WiFi connection. You can work from home if you want, but believe me, work will be slow. Your bed is at home. So is the fridge. Separating home from work can make a big difference to your productivity. For this reason, I’m usually working from the local library or this cool coffee shop I found that has super quick WiFi.
As much as I don’t miss annoying co-workers, I definitely do miss a lot of the people I used to work with. Freelancing can be a lonely profession. So unless you strike up conversation with someone at the library or coffee shop, there won’t be much socialising going on. Although I imagine this wouldn’t be so much of an issue in a co-working space.
We crave a work-life balance. 92% of millennials say that flexibility in the workplace is a top priority for them. And the digital nomad life offers exactly that. You choose how much you work; you’re in control. It’s a liberating feeling. If you need to see a doctor, you don’t need to tell your manager – because you don’t have one. If you want to stop working and explore a country for a few weeks, it’s no problem. There’s no work holiday calendar that you have to check.
Don’t get me started on procrastination. As a freelance blogger and writer, all of my work involves using the internet – the eternal source of distraction. Trying to find new clients is a challenge. Do you know what’s an even bigger challenge? YouTube. And Facebook. And Twitter. And Reddit. Especially Reddit. Not having a manager checking up on you is definitely a good lesson in self-discipline though.
You can get much more bang for your buck by working remotely abroad. When you realise that the money you’re earning can get you much further in Thailand than the UK, you may be tempted to move abroad. The culture will be a lot different, but you can live an independent life without breaking the bank. Plus you get to travel around new countries and have some really interesting experiences.
But Also More Stress
Travel is exciting but it can be exhausting. As a digital nomad, you may have to contend with travel burnout from moving around too much, loneliness, a lack of a tight-knit social circle, homesickness, perhaps more financial stress than you had before, and the fact that no WiFi means no work.
This Life Isn’t For Everyone…
I think the most attractive aspect of the digital nomad life is the renewed sense of freedom. However, if you want maximum freedom and stability, then looking for well-paid, full-time, remote positions may be the way forward. These kinds of roles can allow you to work from anywhere in the world (making you truly location-independent; whereas digital nomads tend to stick to the cheapest countries).
The flexibility that a freelancer enjoys also entails a lot of responsibility. If you wake up at 11am, then you will have to work until the evening. If you take on too few clients, then there’s the stress of whether you will make enough money. If you take on too many clients (because you need the money), then you’ve got yourself into the kind of overworked situation that you were trying to avoid in the first place.