Most working people in America have at least dreamed of it: the chance to ditch all the responsibilities of office life and bail for a transient lifestyle of travel. And, a lot of people have actually done it too.
According to Forbes, a full 15 percent of millennials claim to be digital nomads. That amounts to a huge figure, given there are more than 75 million millennials just in the U.S. alone. Do the math, and that means there are one million digital nomads between the ages of 18 and 34 in America (or at least from America) right now.
Well, I am one of those people, and I'm going to let you in on what the life is really life.
1. Most of us aren't really nomads.
You could call us freelancers who live abroad. The main idea is that we simple work somewhere that is less expensive than our home country. The word nomad is thrown around — but not all of us are truly nomadic, nor homeless as some folks might think. Many of us have apartments and even pets abroad. Many are simply expats. I'm a travel blogger so I'm often bouncing around, but I have a base in India.
2. There are thousands of Facebook groups for digital nomads to network and get advice.
The "cool" digital nomad hubs never stay a secret; people chat about them online, and then a throng comes flocking. The Facebook groups are to talk about how to earn money, how to find apartments, which places the best in certain countries, and more.
3. Most digital nomads live in a few select places.
I've personally used Goa, India as a base... which is not a typical digital nomad hub for one main reason: lack of good internet! What are good places? Chaing Mai and Playa Del Carmen are very popular. Digital nomads look for a few things: Is it cheap? Is it warm? Is the Internet good? Are there other digital nomads I can connect with? Canggu, Bali seems to be the next hotspot for freelancers. Sites like Nomadlist help people find their perfect hubs.
4. The reason they all want to be in the same town is because most have no idea what they are doing.
I am not exaggerating when I say people move to Chaing Mai, Thailand because they want to "be a digital nomad" — when they have zero clue what that actually means. Because of that, they often fail. It's not a job you just sign up to and get paid. It means you are creating your own career identity, and usually more than one.
5. Digital nomads actually do stuff.
That said, here's what the successful ones among us actually do: There are bloggers, Insta-celebs, people who translate books, freelance writers for magazines or websites, graphic designers, and illustrators. Many write e-books and courses on how to earn money online and live the digital-nomad dream. I am a travel blogger and freelance writer but I also run other people's social media accounts and plan their online strategy. Many realize and act on the need to diversify.
6. People of all kinds of backgrounds can do it.
I went to school for nursing. I barely knew how to use Gmail. But, there are so many blogs about "how to blog" that you can learn strategies if you put in the time. Most digital nomads went to school for something unrelated to what they do now.
7. At first, many are pretty broke.
It might look like a dream, but you should definitely save up for a year's worth of living before you go off on your digital nomad adventure. It takes time to build an online profile and get freelance contacts. You don't get to move to a digital nomad hub, as they are called, and expect someone to tell you all their contacts. In fact, it's the opposite; people are very secretive about how they earn money so that their job doesn't get stolen from someone offering to do the same work for less.
8. They may have left the 9 to 5, but many thrive in office co-working spaces.
Many digital nomads learn almost everything by experience and learning from failures. Many make money from "selling the dream," or selling courses meant to guide people on the same path. And many are doing all of these while they exchange ideas in co-working spaces.
9. It's living the dream but it's a lot of work, too.
There are no set hours and income is based on how much people work and pitch new work. We have to find a balance between work and play because no one will hold us accountable. It can be hard to stay healthy, keep lasting relationships, and plan for a future.
10. It's not going away.
Working for yourself in a hot place with other like-minded people is a great way to live, and it's clear why so many are choosing this path. If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to try working fully online before you move abroad and see how it goes. If it's for you, then take off for the adventure of your life!
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