100 little things that happen when you become a digital nomad
Location Independence, Musings

100 Little Things That Happen When You Become a Digital Nomad

Upon making the decision to become location independent and join the ranks of digital nomads, your life will undoubtedly change.  Some of these changes you might see coming; others will be surprising, scary, even painful.

I’m a firm believer that the good things about this lifestyle far outweigh the bad, however.  All ways of living come with their struggles, but not all of them offer quite so many rewards.

Here are 100 little things that are bound to happen when you become a digital nomad.

Travel

1. With your whole life now fitting into a single backpack or suitcase, you realize how little you actually need to be happy.

2. You become an absolute pro at figuring out a new city’s public transportation, and you prefer it over taxis.

3. You have an ever-growing collection of small bills and coins that you forgot to spend in each of your destinations and that were too small to exchange.100 little things that happen when you become a digital nomad

4. Hostel dorms become your arch nemesis.

5. You start to resent the average traveler just a little bit, but only because you’re jealous of how footloose and fancy-free they seem, free from responsibilities and able to do whatever they please each day.

6. You feel nostalgic for that kind of travel, but quickly remember that you’d never trade in your digital nomad lifestyle for a few weeks of carefree travel here and there.

7. You learn how to say “Hello,” “Thank You,” and “Cheers” in at least 10 languages.

8. You have your packing game down pat, and your things fit neatly together like Tetris blocks.

9. Your entire carry-on bag is now reserved for electronics.

10. You learn that most things can be worn more than once between washes, so long as they pass the smell test.

11. You know that the same rule does not apply to underwear.

12. You begin avoiding any and all destinations where the WiFi might be questionable.

13. In fact, just the thought of going “off the grid” for a couple of days causes your chest to tighten.

14. On those rare occasions when you stay in a nice hotel, you will feel like a goddamn queen and milk it for all it’s worth.100 little things that happen when you become a digital nomad

15. You rarely have more than three months of your life planned out at any given time.  Sometimes you don’t even know where you’ll be sleeping in a week.

16. In fact, you prefer not to plan too far ahead, in case an amazing opportunity (i.e. cheap flight) comes up in the meantime–spontaneity is your middle name.

17. You realize how silly “bucket lists” are and that it’s the quality of your travels that matter, not the quantity.

18. Once you realize that travel is now your lifestyle and you’ve got all the time in the world, you’re okay with revisiting places you’ve already been.  You know there is always more to discover.

19. Slow travel becomes your drug of choice (and the only way you’ll get any work done).

20. You stay long enough in each of your destinations to really get a feel for the culture, to learn your way around, to find your favorite places, and to make a few local friends.

21. You make no great effort to visit the “must-sees” of a new city.  You figure you’ve got plenty of time, and if you don’t see them all…who cares?

22. You go gaga for farmer’s markets and love feeling like a local when you visit the neighborhood grocery store.

23. Whenever you head out to explore, you bring your laptop with you just in case you stumble upon a great cafe to work in for a few hours.100 little things that happen when you become a digital nomad

24. You learn that travel burnout is a very real thing and that it’s okay to take breaks every now and again.

25. You realize that having a home base wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Relationships

26. Your friends and family won’t stop asking you how your “vacation” is going.

27. And not a single one of them, no matter how many times you explain it, actually knows what the f*ck you do for a living.

28. They’ll also be frustratingly cavalier with the word “lucky,” when you know your lifestyle has nothing to do with “luck” and everything to do with busting your ass on the daily.

29. When you’re around family, they assume you to be unemployed and routinely ask you for favors throughout the day.

30. You come to terms with the fact that any new relationship you develop will involve long-distance in some capacity.

31. You learn that sometimes, your old friends from home just won’t get you, and might even fade from your life altogether.

32. You learn that sometimes, that’s actually for the best.

33. You realize just how special those people are who love you no matter where you are or how long it’s been since you’ve spoken.

34. At times, you feel more alone and misunderstood than you’ve ever felt in your life.100 little things that happen when you become a digital nomad

35. Other times, you’ll be surrounded by your people, your tribe–and you’ll feel more at home with those people than you ever have in any one place.

36. When you attend your first digital nomad meetup or conference, you’ll realize that not only are there a LOT of us, but that we’re pretty awesome people to boot.

37. Some of those people will become your best friends in the whole world.

38. You still love meeting new people, but you are slower to form deep connections knowing you’ll inevitably just have to say goodbye.  You choose your confidants more carefully.

39. You have clocks on your computer’s dashboard that show every important time zone–i.e. the places where you have family & friends, clients, or a significant other.

40. You have friends in many major cities around the world, and you know plenty of people who would put you up in a heartbeat if you happened to be passing through.

41. Conversely, there will also be people who hate you for reasons you will never understand (or because they’re jealous–it might just be that).

The Art of the Hustle

42. You’re all too familiar with the terror of having a bank balance that’s near zero while not knowing when you’ll get paid next.

43. You know every potential hiding place for a power outlet when you enter a new cafe, and your searching has been known to draw attention a time or two.100 little things that happen when you become a digital nomad

44. Your electronics come with a variety of plug formations because you’re inevitably forced to pick up replacements in different countries.

45. As a result, you never go ANYWHERE without your universal power adapter.

46. You thank god each and every day for noise canceling headphones.

47. You try that old working on the beach cliché at least once (for the photo op).  You get sand in your laptop, the glare on your screen fries your retinas, and your electronics all quickly overheat.

48. Co-living and co-working spaces become your new best friend.

49. Your schedule looks a little bit different every day now that you’re not at the mercy of an alarm clock and a 9-5 job.  You might work for 14 hours one day, and 4 hours the next.

50. Sometimes you will put in a full day’s work and still feel like you got absolutely nothing accomplished.

51. You learn to use every moment of travel time to your advantage; you work during airport layovers, you edit photos on bus rides, you use flight time for writing.

52. You try every productivity hack known to man and can skillfully navigate just about every online organizational tool there is.

53. But none of that matters, because your To-Do list only ever grows longer, not shorter.

54. You’ll have your elevator pitch down to a tee, because you’ll inevitably have to explain what it is you do to a new person every single day.

55. You master the art of writing polite-but-firm emails asking your clients to kindly send you your goddamn money.100 little things that happen when you become a digital nomad

56. You’ll be ghosted by a client or duped out of a payment at least once, a painful mistake you vow never to let happen again.

57. Until it happens again.

58. You realize why contracts are so important–not because you’d realistically be able to take legal action, of course, but for the scare factor.

59. You learn what it means to stand up for yourself and how to command what you’re worth…because no one else is going to do it for you.

60. You start signing off all your emails with “Best” to seem more professional, and you avoid smiley faces at all costs…unless the other person does it first.

61. Your inbox regularly mocks you with its staggering number of unopened, unanswered, or neglected emails.

62. You learn how to say “no” to the opportunities that are not worth your time or that will cause you more stress than anything else.

63. You learn the hard way at least once why you should never, ever burn bridges.

64. You also learn the hard way at least once why you must ALWAYS BACK UP EVERYTHING.

Personal Growth

65. You’ll learn so many new and useful skills for free on the internet you’ll begin to wonder why you ever paid for a formal education.

66. You’ll discover new passions and hidden talents you never knew you harbored.

67. You will get to know yourself on a more intimate level than you ever thought you could–what you like, what you loathe, your travel style, your tolerance for risk, the depth of your resilience, your darkest fears, and your hopes and dreams for the future.100 little things that happen when you become a digital nomad

68. You’ll encounter cynics and critics, the naysayers who don’t believe what you’re doing is really feasible.

69. You’ll learn to handle these people with grace.  They don’t know what you know.

70. You learn how to handle setbacks, big and small.  Because things are bound to go wrong on a near-daily basis, and more often than not, they will be beyond your control anyway.

71. You become a much more patient version of your former self, and you learn how to go with the flow.

72. You’ll develop incredible self-control when it comes to buying material things because you’ll always equate the price to what you could buy for the same amount in another country, or how many flights you could buy.

73. You learn to tell the difference between your wants and needs and weigh each and every purchasing decision carefully.

74. You realize that failures are just part of the game and that each one is simply a new opportunity to learn.

75. You’ll also realize that you’re capable of much more than you initially gave yourself credit for–it’s just a matter of believing in yourself.

76. You learn that the road to success is a long and winding one and that it’s vitally important to celebrate your small wins along the way; otherwise, you’re sure to get discouraged.

77. You learn that progress is far better than perfection and that if you wait until you’re “ready” for something, it will never get done.100 little things that happen when you become a digital nomad

78. You’ll begin to regularly practice some form of meditation because it’ll be the only thing keeping you from losing your goddamn mind.

79. You’ll develop a mindset of gratitude because you will appreciate the things you already have (your health, the freedom to design your ideal lifestyle, a limited number of possessions) and the things you once took for granted (your free time, your family) more than ever before.

The Pitfalls

80. You won’t make as much money as you might have in a traditional job–at least, not at first.  But the freedom you now enjoy makes the trade-off more than worth it.

81. When you’re traveling like a lunatic, you would KILL for a routine.

82. When you’re in a routine, you want nothing more than to be on the road.

83. You do all manner of things to save money, things that you never thought you’d be doing at this stage of your life–crashing on friends’ couches, living in your parents’ basement, subsisting on dinners of ramen noodles.

84. You suffer from “shiny object syndrome”–you want to chase after every new opportunity and find it difficult to focus and commit to just one project at a time.

85. You set goals, and you don’t always reach them.  You are your own harshest critic, especially when you’ve let yourself down.

86. Dating is hard.  It’s hard and it sucks and it’s STUPID.

87. You’ll miss your family and friends, and you’ll sometimes regret not being around for big moments in their lives.

88. Staying fit and eating healthy become major challenges.  Limited space, limited food options, and cheap and plentiful alcohol do nothing to help your cause.100 little things that happen when you become a digital nomad

89. Your eyes will feel strained, your back will hurt, and each new environment will present new challenges for working ergonomically.

90. You’ll come to know the struggle of finding the right toiletries in new countries.  You’ll learn quickly that “feminine hygiene” means very different things in different parts of the world.

91. You might never experience a true “vacation” ever again.  Your work now travels with you, making it hard to unplug.

The Future

92. The term ‘settling down’ has no meaning to you anymore.  Marriage?  A house?  Staying in the same place for more than six months?

93. The concept of home will also take on a strange new meaning.  You might feel at home in a number of cities, or you might feel at home in none.  You might feel most at home when you’re surrounded by people you love, no matter where you are.

94. You’ll come to realize just how uncertain the future really is–that we can never truly know what will happen next.  This realization will allow you to embrace that uncertainty rather than resist it.

95. You give up on the idea of a 5-year or 10-year plan and instead choose to focus on the here and now.

96. Instead of trying to predict the future, you will craft it through the actions and choices you make every day.

97. Just about every day, you will wonder if you’re working hard enough.

98.Just about every day, you will think about quitting.

99. Just about every day, you will wonder if your old job would ever take you back, or if you’re even qualified for a “real job” anymore.

100. Every single day, from the depths of your soul, you will summon the courage to continue.

What other changes take place when a person decides to become a digital nomad?  Share your thoughts in the comments!


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