By 2035, it’s estimated that there will be 1 billion digital nomads in this world.
This brings a lot of questions about the future of work. Furthermore, how will that change the meaning of a fulfilling work life for you?
In this article, I introduce you to some of my experiences exploring the digital nomad life. I learnt that being a digital nomad is not sustainable from my experience and I'll show you options that may be more effective to create a fulfilling work life.
It's easy to desire the digital nomad life coming from a 9 to 5 job
Like many people, you wonder if you are still on the right career path. The “normal” 9 to 5 routine alienates and tires you. At work, you feel you cannot be your authentic self and you have to adapt a lot to fit in.
For some time, you have been thinking about changing your work life. You want to take a direction where you can create more meaning and impact for causes that you care about.
You may dream about living abroad and working remotely. You don't want to be caged into an office anymore. Living as a digital nomad in the Bali bubble also doesn’t sound like a long-term alternative to you.
I feel you!
My journey to location-independent work
It took me some time and courage to allow myself to go for the work-life that really energizes me. I explored alternatives to the “normal”, accepted career path but also didn't want to fall into the digital nomad disillusion.
Throughout my life, I never felt really at home, rooted in one place. Like my Spanish mother and grandmother, I was used to traveling and moving around. I never had all my family members and friends located in one town. I always longed for some adventure, either going to Canada when I was in school or doing social work in Brazil after my A-levels.
After my Master studies, I worked almost 6 years for an internal company as a full-time employee in training & development. The office was in a small town in the middle of nowhere. I was missing the freedom to work on my own time schedule and not being bound to an office. I wanted to live in a city where I felt more at home. A place to connect with other people like me, who haven’t been living for generations in one place. People who speak several languages and who have lived in different places.
I never had the urge to become a (solo)entrepreneur or business owner. Even so, I realized that this way of working could give me the freedom to be work location-independent (pre–COVID-19 era where many companies were not as flexible as they have to be now).
When I quit my job at the beginning of 2019, I did what many privileged millennials like me dream of when they think about the future of work. I went to Bali, the hub for digital nomads. For a short time, I wanted to explore the digital nomad bubble and local culture.
What I found in lots of parts are Western people creating their own world. It was full of hip co-working spaces, vegan restaurants and so many exclusive yoga centers cocooned off from the locals.
I travelled around the world for more than a year without a consistent home. In this time, I found several reasons why the stereotypical digital nomad lifestyle is not a sustainable, fulfilling way to work.
Reason No. 1: It’s exhausting!
The classic stereotype of digital nomads is that they move fast from place to place. Every week or few weeks, they move around while working on their laptop at the beach. The reality is that there is a lot of planning involved: Where will I move to? How do I get there? Where can I work from?
You need a lot of technical equipment and a quiet space for when you are in video calls and virtual workshops. I hardly ever worked outside of an office where I had bad WiFI, I got constantly distracted or had too much sun glare on my screen.
Furthermore, moving from place to place is physically and more emotionally exhausting. It always takes me time to arrive fully in a new place and set it up to feel like home. You cannot follow through with your usual routines either (important especially for empaths). For things like going to the gym, it can have a negative impact on your health.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed working in incredible places like Nepal or Athens. But my body felt depleted after being on many airplanes and constantly moving around.
Reason No. 2: You don’t want to live an excluded, expat bubble life
When you work remotely, it is easy to replicate your life from home. You can cocoon yourself from the local reality. You find other expats who speak your language, eat the same food you're used to and celebrate the cheaper lifestyle.
In contrast, for locals it's getting harder and harder to find affordable housing. As privileged Westerners, we contribute to the local economy. But we also take part in the exploitation and gentrification of local communities.
Going deep and experiencing a culture in the real sense does take more time than a couple of weeks. It’s a humbling process where you need a beginner’s mind. You need to be ready to look stupid and be perseverant to integrate in your host community.
Reason No. 3: It’s not relationship friendly
Building and maintaining relationships takes time. One of the things that I have seen a lot is the loneliness of digital nomads. They may be in the most beautiful locations in the world, but they become fed up with the constant coming and going of fellow travellers.
Being far from your family and life-long friends can be challenging. If you are in a relationship and/or have children, it is easier when you have a home base and a local network which you can rely on.
What is the alternative to the digital nomad bubble?
If you want to create a location independent work life, there are many possibilities to design it and get started with it. It’s not being a full-time corporate employee or digital nomad in Bali.
Connect with like-minded people who have created a work life you aspire to. Ask them about their journey, what they have learned. Most of the time my clients are surprised about how much people are willing to share their stories and tips. You can find many online groups and can use social network platforms to connect with other global business owners.
Find a good coach with a track record to support you in creating a fulfilling work life on your own terms. Coaching helps you to get out of your comfort zone. It challenges you to take small steps so you can go the extra mile.
I strongly recommend having a home base in a country or place that you really like. Like many location-independent entrepreneurs, I chose a location with amazing weather (300 days of sun in the Algarve). It's close to lots of nature - both the sea and the mountains. I make an effort to interact and connect with locals and to speak their language.
You can also start working as location-independent from your home country. You can do so as a freelancer, being a remote worker or running your own business. This way you still have enough flexibility.
Steps going forward
After the past challenging months, you may feel you need to make changes to your work life. You may need some clarity or time to recharge. You want to make the most out of your location freedom, but you're not quite where to start.
I have the perfect opportunity for you to get a different perspective from your daily business life. A chance to unplug, slow down, take time to reconnect with your inner wisdom and connect with like minded women.
From October 1 to 8, 2021, I am going to invite 7 empathic female entrepreneurs to a dream location in Portimão, Algarve.
This intimate retreat is designed for women like you. With me, your certified Co-Active Coach, you will learn how to use your empathy, intuition and sensitivity for your unique, value-driven work-life.
Click here to learn more about this exclusive retreat and book your space.