A digital nomad is a term for people who use technology to work remotely while traveling and living a location-independent lifestyle.
There are 35 million digital nomads worldwide, and 23.2 million live in America. This is a 37% increase from the 16.9 million workers recorded in 2022.
My digital nomad journey took a lot of work. I had a misconception that I needed more opportunities for my skills online. I wanted to work on the hotel reservations, but no option came up then. It was a lot of research on my end back then. It was challenging for me at first because I needed to gain more knowledge on freelance work. Unfortunately, if that made sense, I was the only one who mentored me on what I needed to do.
I was able to quit my hotel job in 2016, having yet to have a fixed idea of what I wanted to focus on in my freelance career. Before leaving, I made sure to get a client not to worry about a stream of income because I had to finance my sister’s university education. That was my main worry at that time. So I was okay with being unable to travel as long as I would not have issues paying for my sister’s tuition and, of course, my monthly bills.
On the other hand, the other reason why I pushed myself to become a digital nomad was the urge to travel more and the idea of being able to step foot on foreign soil. I have read many travel articles about it. In addition, I was just inspired by a few Filipinos traveling and working while away from their home country.
I did not have a laptop when I started my journey. I was working from home using our PC. I remember that after my shift, my brother would use the computer to do his thing. It was a struggle because my brother back then worked on his stuff in the wee hours.
When I had my first client, it was a stable income stream, and I could balance my finances. I was already traveling locally in the Philippines from time to time. My first solo backpacking experience was on Siargao Island. Unfortunately, I was in a motorbike accident without any travel insurance. Thankfully, I only had minor scratches.
Here are the pros of being a digital nomad base on my experiences:
Freedom to travel
I value freedom so much in my life, and I think it’s the most important for almost all digital nomads—the space to be wherever they can be as long as they can stay.
Here’s an interesting fact: 46% work from apartments and hostels when digital nomads travel, while 45% work from cafes. In addition, 27% complete their work hours from an Airbnb, while 19% frequent coworking spaces during the day. Source: Thinkremote.com
Work and travel lifestyle
Almost everyone I know wants to have this lifestyle because traveling around while still earning is one of the best experiences one can do. It’s also a chance to learn more about the other side of the world.
Here are some additional digital nomad statistics regarding their work schedule:
- 70% of digital nomads across the globe work 40 hours a week or even less.
- Less than one digital nomad out of 3 does work more than 40 hours weekly.
- Due to these statistics, most people leading a nomadic lifestyle tend to have a better work-life balance than other traditional workers.
Let’s talk about the cons.
As a Philippines passport holder, I always need to research a lot, especially planning to visit countries that Filipinos don’t usually explore.
Always moving can sometimes be lonely. However, you can also feel homesick while on the road. You will miss friends and family from time to time.
Balancing work + travel
When I’m in a new environment, I constantly battle with the idea of exploring first and then being productive. It’s a matter of self-discipline. As a digital nomad, sometimes you have to live like a local and not be a tourist.
Traveler fatigue and culture shock
These are two reasons for digital nomads give up on this lifestyle.
- It is finding a reliable WiFi source.
- Issues while working with colleagues based in other time zones.
- Communication is difficult while on the road.
- Personal safety.
- Unable to figure out travel logistics.
After all, a nomad lifestyle is not for everyone. Many would work from home/office rather than spend so much money hopping extensively from one destination to another. However, this lifestyle is still worth the risk if you love the world more than anything else. There is just so much to see out there.
Also, the community is getting bigger, not just for developed countries but also for developing ones.