I have recently been asked by a client if I am a digital nomad. Somehow, the answer was not an easy one for me. Yes, according to the definition, I am a digital nomad. I work online and I travel the world. I spent time in 11 countries last year while helping people through counseling. So yes, I am a digital nomad. But the world of digital nomads today is a very weird one. Let me explain.
Do you dream of a life in a hammock and the warm south? The world of digital nomads seems appealing to many at first glance. Especially if you are stuck in a grey and cold European winter. I have been avoiding winters for almost 2.5 years now, I can definitely relate to this. I sold most of my stuff and have been traveling around the world with my backpack and laptop. I traveled trough the US, Canada and Mexico, lived in Thailand, spent the summer in Europe, went to New Zealand and am living in Australia at the moment. I am enjoying summer while everyone back home is complaining about the cold and getting sick. I don’t only travel, I am also able to work in the field I trained for and that I love. As a psychologist and psychotherapist, I offer online counseling to clients from all over the world. I love my life and the path I chose, but just because it is the right one for me, it may not be for everyone.
the world of digital nomads
Many digital nomads work in online marketing, web design or have a travel or lifestyle blog. Most of them struggle to make a living, staying in cheap countries, working long hours trying to make their dream come true. At 35, I am probably older than many digital nomads. I did not leave my home and life because I didn’t like them. I had a good job and a home that I liked. After many years of training and working as psychologist and psychotherapist and after completing a PhD in psychology, my life was all set up for me back home. I was going to open a private practice, working as psychotherapist. I love my job, and I am very glad I found a way to combine it with a different lifestyle. Working as a psychologist online, offering online counseling to people from all around the world is the perfect way for me to keep doing the work I love while being on the road. Of course there are moments where I miss my old home, friends or family. But those moments are rare and I was lucky enough to actually spent more time with my family than I probably would have if I had stayed. My family loves to travel almost as much as I do. Over the past 2 years, I went to Vietnam and Laos with my mother, to Cambodia with my father and traveled around Thailand with my brother. I have spent time back home, visiting my family and friends during the summer months and I am about to do the same this year.
is it really a dream life?
Wherever I go and whenever I tell people what I do, it elicits reactions, questions and a longer discussion. This is something that I am used to, being a psychologist and psychotherapist, but now I am adding the traveling, digital nomad aspect to it. At first I often encounter envy. People who only have a couple of weeks of holidays and have to go back to their job and home seem to envy my freedom and lifestyle. But once we start to talk a bit more about it, most of them can’t really see themselves living that kind of life. On the road, no house, no home, almost no routines. The dream may not be a dream for everyone after all.
are you living the dream or selling it?
But, the dream is being sold everywhere and the media has recently taken more interest in the world of digital nomads, promoting new ways of working and living. Within the scene itself there appear to be two distinct tendencies at the moment: those promising freedom and happiness, trying to sell the dream to newcomers. I almost feel as if there is a new “how to become a digital nomad” website launched every week. I wonder how those people make a living. But then the market of “how to become an online coach” seems to flourish at least as much. I sometimes wonder if there are any coaches left doing actual coaching, you know, the one where you talk 1:1 to clients with real problems and not only selling a dream or a lifestyle. But I guess there is more money to be made in selling a dream than in actually doing the work itself. And, then there are those who start to question the lifestyle and realize, that a dream, a blog and a cheap place to live may not be enough to actually make a lasting and fulfilling living.
let’s be nicer to each other
What really surprises me is why so many people can’t manage to live their life, their dream, without having to convince others, or without being jealous. I have chosen this path, but I do not think that it is the only valuable one. I love my life and the freedom it brings, but that does not make the life of my friends, who stayed at home, bought a house and have children less valuable. I may love my life today, but I might not next year. There is no shame in admitting that it is time to try something new, that the dream did not come true or may be over. Dreams can change. We can change. We would all profit from taking better care of ourselves, not only promoting ourselves on social media, but actually taking care of ourselves. Doing more of what makes us happy and content. Without thinking too much of what others might think. I have met so many digital nomads who work more than they used to and still don’t make enough money to live even in the cheapest country. Their Instagram may be full of beach-laptop-pictures, but the reality often is a very different one. There is a great pressure among digital nomads to be happy, to live the dream. Being unhappy while living in paradise is indeed hard to explain to those back home.
be honest to yourself
I am happy for all those who are living their dream and who are happy with their lives. I count myself among them. I love my life and I am among those who work less than they used to. I have more time to sleep, go for long walks on the beach and explore new places than I used to. But to all those, who are not happy, who are struggling, I would like to encourage you to be more honest with yourself and others. The digital nomad lifestyle can be challenging. Far away from family and friends, working too much and under great pressure, without the routines and comfort of a home, it can be a lonely and exhausting life. And yes, you can even get depressed while living in paradise. Maybe even more so than back home. And, to all those who stayed at home but are dreaming of the hammock life: look again. Is it really something that you want? Are you ready for all the sacrifices that it means? If yes, go for it! But if not, it’s maybe time to stop being jealous and to start appreciating the life you have a little more.
Totally agree Sonia.
In my humble opinion, digital nomads come in at least two varieties.
Those that need to work and are productive and all the rest – who tend to be gap-year streetfood bloggers.
Too many of the latter and you may as well be in the chillout room of a rave.
Personally, I think like you – that I’m not really a digital nomad at all. I just remote work.