Why Most Digital Nomads Fail (And How To Avoid It)

Do you know why most digital nomads fail? Most people pick something like, ‘they can’t get their careers off the ground’, ‘they chose the wrong enterprise’, or ‘they can’t hack it as freelancers‘. Others will say it’s because they run out of money, they didn’t budget well, or they got scammed. And yes, these can all be the straws that break the aspiring nomad’s back. The thing is, often these are only symptoms of a much bigger underlying problem.

What am I on about? I’m talking about what I like to call the digital nomad disconnect.

Most travelers eventually feel the need to go home because they’re not socially integrated. The digital nomad’s existence of drifting from place to place might sound appealing, but it has some serious problems. In time, these lead many to pull the plug.

There are two main reasons why this lack of belongingness affects us so. I’ll cover each in turn.
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Freelance Abroad from Granada, Nicaragua

As you might have noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. The last one I wrote was all the way back in November, when we in Corioco in Bolivia. Why haven’t I written one since then? It’s quite simple, really. There just weren’t any places that I felt were worth talking about! Every place we visited lacked something essential for the digital nomad life. Some weren’t inspiring. Others were too basic. And so on.

The first place where all the pieces were in place was here in Granada, Nicaragua. If you’re thinking about settling down anywhere in Nicaragua to work for a while, then go here. On the boards, people will try to get you to go to San Juan del Sur. I wouldn’t listen to them.
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The Digital Nomad Life — A Tale of Inconvenience, Hot Love, and Great Joy.

Our second fantastic guest poster is Etienne Koch. In his post, he paints us an explicit picture of his journey as a digital nomad so far. He’ll die happy once he’s saved the world from global warming, toured Europe with his guitar, and held a handstand for ten seconds. He likes to wear non-matching high-socks, oh, and is single.

Smoking hot Latina women fan me with palm fronds as perspiration drips off their bare breasts in slow motion. I glance up from my laptop at the crashing waves for a moment’s inspiration. Sensing the opportunity, one of the ladies cheekily slips a hand under my floral shirt. I politely remove it—“un momento por favor”—I’m only halfway through my work day. In five minutes I’ll be done and then I’m free to do—whatever.

A loud crash tears my dreams apart. Jeff, the drunk Canadian guy that was sleeping on the top bunk has smacked head-first onto the hard hostel floor. Contorted and face-down, he looks very—dead. (Oh my god!) I jump out of bed and try to shake him alive. He answers with a gentle snore. How the hell did he sleep through that?

Canadians!
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How to Learn the Skills You Need to Be a Digital Nomad

What holds most people back from being a digital nomad isn’t the ‘nomad’ part (though there are plenty of myths about that). It’s the part where they aren’t sure how they’re going to be able to make their money online so they can take to the open road. If they could just learn that, then they’d be set. After all, once you’ve got income you’ve got the space and the time to learn the skills you need – including how to be a nomad.

For that reason, in this article, I’m going to look at the digital side of things. More precisely, I’m going to look at ways that you can learn the digital skills that you need.
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How to be Productive as a Digital Nomad

Warning! The what’s coming up might be upsetting. If you can’t handle brutal honesty and intellectually-explicit language, then look away now. You ready? Okay, here we go.

Digital nomadism has its downsides too.

Wait! Hey! Hold on, now! Let me explain! Hey, who threw that? This is a new shirt, you know!

Seriously though, like any life, it has its problems. And though for many these problems don’t outweigh the advantages, they’re there and need to be dealt with. One of the biggest problems for digital nomads and travelancers, as I’ve discussed before, is how to stay productive.
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Are Digital Nomads Exploiting The Locals?

I keep running into some incarnation of this question in nomad circles. Only this week it reared up again in a Facebook group dedicated to digital nomads. In this case, the question was, ‘when digital nomads outsource their work over the internet to low-paying countries are they exploiting them? Isn’t that damaging the digital nomad image?’ The discussion got heated. Nasty things were said.

To be fair, the original poster didn’t frame the question quite like that. Sure, they used a question mark, but it wasn’t actually a question. For them, the issue was already resolved. Now it was just time for everybody to agree. Low wages weren’t fair. They were exploitive. The digital nomad movement was betraying its roots. Anybody that disagreed with them was a small-minded greedy capitalist.

As you can expect, many people – particularly those who outsourced work to low-paying countries – weren’t happy. Who likes to get judged, right? Some of retorted with well-reasoned arguments. Others were nasty, brutish and small-minded – thereby proving the original poster right about that part.
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Do You Have The Right Personality To Be A Digital Nomad?

It’s terrifying to take the step from a sedentary existence into a digital nomad life. Even if you have enough money saved up, it’s a leap into the unknown. After several years out here, I’d kind of forgotten that. But the more I talk with those who want to take up the life, the more I’m reminded of how I too used to wake up in a cold sweat at night. I spent days worrying at the question if heading out or staying in was the bigger mistake.

Just like these people I was talking to, I’d wished I had a bit more certainty. I wondered if I knew enough about the travelancer life. I questioned if I had the right personality to be a digital nomad.

I dealt with the first question last week. So this week I’ll deal with the second one. And if you’re going to ask any questions about personality, well then you have to turn to psychology.

So, for a second time in a month, I’ve put on my psychologist’s hat. After a bit of research, I realized there’s a lot out there – far too much to cover in one article (here are two more about our need to belong and about mental mistakes).
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8 Things You Need to Know About the Travelancer Life

Many are attracted to the traveling freelancer life. Does that include you? Do you sometimes think, “I could be a digital nomad. I could lounge around in fancy hotels, fly first class and work two- hour days with a Mai Thai in one hand”?

I hear you. I sure could.

The thing is, the digital nomad life isn’t some drawn out hotel commercial. Because of the many myths floating about, it is probably nothing like how you imagine. What digital nomad put in their travel mags and Instagram is just as filtered as the baby pictures your friends fill your social media feed with. The digital nomad life isn’t heaven. It isn’t hell. It’s a life. Nothing more or less. Like any life, it has its ups and downs. It might be perfect for you. It may not be. That’s not for me to say.

Instead, this article is about making you aware of some of the realities of setting up a freelance life on the road. It will discuss the things you need to know – like what you should do before you leave, what you can expect, and how you can make things easier for yourself.
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How to Pack Effectively for the Digital Nomad Life

For the last four years, I’ve had two bags and about 30 kg (65 pounds) to my name. This includes my clothes, my toiletries and my entire freelance ‘office’. I could take more, but then I’d have to carry it. And, after an 18-hour bus journey where they once again dumped you miles outside of town, the last thing you want is more weight. So I’ve learned to pack effectively – taking what I need and leaving the rest behind.

The truth is simple. On the road lots of things you think you’ll need you won’t. While other things – things you haven’t considered – turn out to be essential to the travelancer life.

I learned this through trial and error. I’ve seen a lot of puzzled faces. Sometimes it was because I was offering people in some far-flung place my perfectly good hand-me-downs. At other times, because I was looking for something they didn’t even know existed until I asked for it.
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Freelance Abroad From Sucre, Bolivia

It’s hard to be working on projects while you’re folded up around your laptop on a 24 hour bus ride without a wifi signal. Similarly, you’re going to struggle to work when one eye is watching your bags and the other is scanning when your plane boards. For that reason when you freelance abroad, you’ve got to stop and go.

The question is: Where can you go to stop a while?

For if you just pick at random chances are you’re going to end up in some horrible dingy motel without any windows. The veteran travelers know the kind of place I’m talking about. Those locales where the internet is even flakier than the paint on the walls. The kind of places where it is a running question if you’ll manage to finish your article before the bedbugs have finished with you. (When I’m in one of these places, I always worry all they’ll find of me after a night is a mummified husk).

Of course, you can follow the suggestions of other travelers. Sometimes they’ll point you true. The thing is, they don’t freelance abroad. Instead, they are therefore focused on completely different things like hikes and adventure. And so, they often steer you wrong despite their best intentions.
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