I’ve been working remotely for a company for over three years now. Something I’ve never planned to do but turned out to be just the right way of working for me. Over the years I lived in different countries, made great experiences and changed my view on life.
In this blogpost I’m sharing some reasons why I love being a digital nomad. The nomadic lifestyle is quite hyped on the web and goal for a lot of people. I want to share some insights to either inspire you to work remotely as well or … to show that the grass is not always greener on the other side. It’s okay not (wanting) to be a digital nomad. Also be whoever you want to be – I’m not the biggest fan of labels anyway. For this blogpost though, I needed a general term.
Flexible work hours won’t be part of this review as I’m employed and therefore not as flexible as freelance nomads. My job requires me to be available during German daytime.
What is a digital nomad?
The term digital nomad has become more and more present over the past years. According to Wikipedia they are “people who live in a nomadic way while working remotely using technology and the internet”.
Basically this description applies for myself really well. When I first started my job I was working from home in Germany. After six months I started traveling around the world. My home was changing regularly. Sometimes I was at a place for only a few months, sometimes for almost a year. I only brought the most important things with me and was able to pack them into a suitcase or backpack.
My housing situation, social circle and the climate I was in changed frequently. What always remained constant were my job, my workspace and personal routines.
1. Free choice of location
The best part of working remotely for me is that I can choose where to live and move on when I want to. During my studies I travelled a lot and got to experience different cultures and countries. Over the years it made me realize that I’m not ready to tie myself to a place by getting a long-term apartment and office job somewhere. I didn’t want the “exploring the world” part just to be a thing I would have time to do on holiday. Also, I didn’t want my job being the determining factor for my home base.
The perfect length for me to stay in places is 2-6 months, depending on visa limitations. This gives me the chance to experience a country from a local rather than a tourist perspective. For me, being a digital nomad doesn’t mean to move places every few weeks, that’s exhausting! But I have the freedom to move on when I want to. And stay somewhere for longer if I like it.
Summing up: The fact that you get to live in different countries and make friends all over the world is probably the most special advantage of being a digital nomad. You can basically look at the world map, choose the next country you’re interested in and just live there for a while. Exploring a culture while working and managing your daily life is priceless!
Where I’ve been so far
Over the past few years I worked from Paris, London, Tenerife, Thailand, Italy and Germany. Paris and Tenerife were a rather short stay with one and three weeks. I realized that I definitely want to go back to Tenerife as the energy and atmosphere of the island was matching mine. Paris was nice, but not my place to be.
London and Thailand, especially Koh Tao, were places I deeply connected with and stayed longer than I intended to. In total I spent a year in each place. I had the freedom to stay longer and also can come back any time.
How do I find a home?
Personally, I find it quite exciting to change my home every few months. When I was younger I used to rearrange my room on a regular basis, this habit is still present now in a way. To find a place I either research for colivings online or I’m also a fan of the platform sabbaticalhomes.com. I don’t really like living in Airbnb’s as the equipment is not always the best and it can become quite lonely.
For solo travellers I definitely recommend to look for colivings, as you get to live and work with other people. Social time is therefore not limited to after work hours. Personally I can’t work from cafes due to many video calls and to be honest: I think it’s not the most social place to work from as everyone is kind of doing their own thing. Colivings are an amazing concept & I love how many interesting people you meet and connect with.
2. Comprehensive learnings
You can read books about certain things, take a language class or watch movies about spectacular places. But experiencing something in real life, through your own eyes, is totally different. It will broaden your horizon in a unique way. On the weekends and on my days off I usually have a lot of time to explore the surroundings and dive into the new culture. As I’m also engaging in social activities I get to share experiences with other people. All these encounters taught me a lot so far.
Conversations & experiences
Over the years there have been a lot of small moments which had a great impact on my thoughts and behavior. Here are a few examples: I was invited to a local project in Italy which gave me an insight into the specific problems of the Southern region and showed me how passionate the team is about their project. It inspired me to focus more on the tasks that make me feel passionate.
Through volunteering in several dog shelters in Thailand, I learned about dog language, behaviors and the process of getting a dog adopted abroad. It also showed me how much I love spending my time with dogs and how peaceful it can be. Thanks to staying in colivings I got to know many different jobs and lifestyles of people from all over the world. A lot of them freelance and it’s amazing to see how their business model works for them. This encouraged me to think about services I could offer on a freelance basis.
Challenging & uncomfortable moments
I will never forget all these moments, when I struggled first and felt really uncomfortable but found a way to overcome the feeling or challenge in the end. Arriving in a new country, trying out new tasks, having to approach foreign people to ask questions – those are all things where I learned to just do it! To go through uncomfortable feelings & to be brave. Thus, I grew.
I also realized that some people are on my wavelength and we get along without any effort. Whereas with others it just doesn’t click and that’s fine! I got to know my inner guide – my intuition – better and better with each encounter and through these challenging moments.
Minimalism & appreciation
Furthermore I’ve learned to focus on what’s important in life. Too many material things make it harder to pack my backpack and travel to the next place. I learned how to reduce my possessions and only focus on what I really need. Nowadays I barely go shopping anymore and if I do I always ask myself the question “Do you really need this?”. This has saved me lots of money so far.
Regarding the “what do you really need” part I also realized that most of the things I used to own are not essential for my well-being and inner contentment. Every day I’m therefore thankful for being healthy and having all the physiological and safety needs. I started appreciating the relationships to my loved ones so much more. There are too many things in life we take for granted because they have always been there. However they are so essential and shouldn’t only be missed once they’re not there anymore.
Being a digital nomad can sometimes be quite a rollercoaster. I just mentioned a lot of the great sides. The down sides are adaptation periods to new countries and challenges due to different languages and cultures. As the good and bad, the ups and downs are so close together it made me learn to appreciate the good in every day. The digital nomad life shows how precious and limited our time is.
It just happens
I love that being a digital nomad makes it possible to make so many different experiences outside the comfort zone. Through the conversations I had, the challenging moments I went through and all the insights I got into the cultures I lived in, I received the best life education possible. And it just happened by stepping into the unknown.
Thanks to all those life experiences, I developed my personal values and changed my views on life. The knowledge I gained and learnings I made over the past few years are hard to put into words. It’s like a huge puzzle made from many tiny bits of experiences. The flexibility of the digital nomad life made all this possible – another fact why I love being a digital nomad.
3. Personal development & job skills
The learnings I mentioned in the previous paragraph had a huge impact on my personal development. And what I love most about this, is that this development affects much more than just my ‘private’ personality.
Remote working skills
Looking at the business side, I learned to structure and organize my day and to be productive without having colleagues sitting next to me. I learned to communicate & collaborate only through online tools. In my job, communication via video and projects with lots of people are very common. It’s not always easy doing these tasks remotely, but with some adaptation it’s possible. The benefit is that I now know how to motivate myself without having anyone from work sitting next to me, I learned how to be present without being present and how to bring projects forward virtually.
Developing my ‘business-self’
Moving around inspires me and boosts my productivity. I get new ideas and can transfer them onto my job. Through the experiences mentioned above I grew more confident which then reflected in my ‘business-self’.
I also learned to balance work & life. Being a productive and responsible employee is important! But isn’t it even more important to know where your limits are and to not only define yourself with what you do for a living? I learned to work efficiently but also to respect my private time and fully dedicate it to the ‘now’. I realized that work is an important part in life but there is far more. Through gaining this perspective I was able to make more business-focused decisions and to take care of my personal needs. For me, developing a balance between work and life is essential for my productivity and well-being.
Inspiration & mindset
Thanks to being a digital nomad my networking circle grew and I got many insights into other jobs. This inspired me to think about trainings I could do to expand my skills. I’ve never really had an entrepreneur mindset, but it definitely grew a bit by meeting other remote workers and seeing what they do for work. It encouraged me to explore new work prospects and new opportunities I could take.
All in all, being a digital nomad made me grow as a person, develop my remote working skills and inspired me to create my career path in new ways.
Read more about my digital nomad experiences
- Finding a home as a digital nomad through Sabbatical Homes
- My time at Beachub Coworking Koh Phangan
- My experience at Nine Coliving in Tenerife
- My experience at Casa Netural in Matera, Italy
Being a digital nomad in the future?
For the past few years this way of working has been the right fit for me. I love that I can create my life the way I want to instead of having my job determine my whereabouts and life content. No doubt, sometimes the cons were quite present which made me want to go back to the office and live in a long-term home. And that’s okay. Phases come, and go. It’s about what thrives us deep inside and follow that feeling in the long run.
If people ask me about the future I can only tell them, that there is no plan. I learned that lifeplans don’t always work the way we want them to anyway. Have I ever imagined to work remotely? No. Have I intended to do so when I got the job? No. Will I be working remotely in 10 years? I don’t know. Life gives many unexpected opportunities and changes so quickly. And so do our wishes and needs. Until then, I may just make the most of it.
Enjoy the wave while you’re riding it. It might not be there in the future. And when it’s over, look for another one.