After spending about 10 years working in various capacities for the US government, I started my career as a digital nomad. I ditched my windowless cubicle and daily boredom to live the lifestyle everything dreams about: traveling to the corners of the planet to explore, eat, scuba dive, hang out with elephants, and run my businesses from my laptop as I work and travel as a digital nomad.
Most of the time, it’s amazing. It’s truly a dream life – a life from which you never need a vacation, a life from which you rarely want to return, and a life that keeps you motivated to do more and to grow on a deeply personal level.
My lack of responsibilities is laughable compared to the majority of my mid-30 peers. My only consistent bills are my student loans and the credit cards (hello, travel points!). I don’t have kids, rent, or a car. I mostly avoid insurance, and I think more about where I’m going scuba diving next than I do retirement.
I might sound like a pretty irresponsible person, but I’m ok with that. I did the responsible thing for a long time, and I’m taking a break from adulting right now. I guess that’s the perk of being an adult. I can choose to live the life of a 20-year old on her gap year.
One thing I do that is responsible is work. I work a lot! No, I don’t work 40 hours a week. No, I don’t get up before 8am 9am. Yes, I take random days off to go to lunch or to scuba dive, but I still put in a solid work week.
Working and traveling do cause some problems. Here are 5 problems you might encounter if you are working and traveling:
1. It’s probably hot.
I had a rude awakening when I first landed in Thailand. It was hot. Super hot. I was being cheap and didn’t get an apartment with air-conditioning, and it just made my life miserable.
I had to let my body adjust naturally, and I drank more water than I thought was possible for a human body.
And, just so you know, the heat isn’t forgivable in Bali or Mexico either.
Ugh, the monkeys. People think monkeys are cute, but they are tiny terrorists. There were so many times monkeys would steal things from people’s desks: breakfast items, pens, and anything else laying around. Balinese monkeys carry a special kind of herpes (not kidding!), so if when they bite you, you have to go get that checked out immediately.
3. Time Zones
Time zones are a huge issue when you’re dealing with clients on the other side of the planet. More often than not, you’re going to be waking up at god-awful hours or staying up way too late to have a client call.
In 2016, I was in a different time zone from most of my clients for about 10 months. I was always open and honest about my travels and where I was in the world, so it wasn’t usually a problem, but I had to be very flexible about times we could meet.Always, always cater to your client’s time zone. #customerservice #digitalnomad Click To Tweet
4. Communicating your wants and needs
Traveling to exotic locations is great. Obvs. But, when you never know if you are properly communicating your wants and needs, travel can become exhausting.
If your computer cord breaks, what do you do? If there’s no Internet, what do you do? If you need help formatting a page on your website and no one speaks your language, what do you do?
These can be frustrating situations. It makes you want to scream. Sometimes you have to buy a ticket for tomorrow’s first flight to Singapore so you can go to a legitimate Apple store (not kidding!).
You learn very quickly to take care of your wants and needs independently; there’s no way that you can rely on someone else’s language and culture to give you everything you need.
5. Immersing yourself in the culture
Of course, you want to make yourself as much a part of the culture as you can when you’re traveling. Otherwise, you might as well just stay at home. Seeing how the locals live is an eye-opening experience.
You should take time off work to go to the elephant sanctuary, watch a local parade, or visit UNESCO heritage sites. I hope you’ll make twice-weekly 90 minute massages a priority, like I did. And, yes, please allow yourself the time to go on a diving trip in the warm waters of SE Asia, because you’ll be sad when you have to put on a wetsuit to dive in Mexico.
It’s absolutely possible to work and travel. It’s possible to immerse yourself in the culture while you’re running your business(es) from your laptop. You have to put in the work, you have to prioritize what you need and want, and you have to want it more than you want your current situation.