Back in the day an expat was generally someone living in another country whilst working on an oil rig or teaching English. But those who attend more and more of our expat counselling sessions are Digital Nomads. And no wonder, because this is one case where we can beg the question; what’s in a name?
What is Digital Nomading?
The word digital is defined as something that either relates to or is involved with computer technology. The word nomad defines a person, or group of people that has no permanent home and instead lives their life travelling between places. Combine these two definitions together and voila, you get the concept of digital nomading. Digital Nomading refers to the act of using a computer to work online and earn a living, while at the same time travelling across countries or between continents and living wherever the person’s heart desires.
Thanks to the global Covid pandemic most people were suddenly forced to work digitally. All they were generally missing is the ability to travel. So some Digital Nomads got stuck wherever they were. And an entire new fleet of Digital Nomads was being ‘born’ (without them even realising it). And once you’ve tasted the freedom of working in your pj’s, there’s no going back. So it’s no surprise that independent remote work opportunities are increasing and becoming increasingly attractive to workers. But with the increase in Digital Nomad lifestyles and individuals who need to adjust to life abroad, so has the need for expat counselling.
Living a digitally nomadic life has five major reasons for why people are drawn to this particular lifestyle:
See the world
A major pull for people is that this nomadic lifestyle allows them the opportunity to travel and explore everything the world has to offer. Now is your chance to live under the Eiffel tower for a month. Or catch that Thailand tan you have always dreamed about. We do not know anyone that doesn’t like to travel. And with this lifestyle it is as simple as just packing your bags, booking your ticket and away you go. The world is a Digital Nomad’s oyster.
Experience the ultimate freedom
The next reason people opt for this lifestyle is the freedom it affords you. Freedom not only in terms of where they are in the world, but also in terms of their time and their personal emotional freedom. As long as they have reliable Wi-Fi and a source of power to keep the laptop churning, Digital Nomads will be able to get the job done. There’s no clocking in at eight and clocking out at five. No sitting in traffic to get to the office on time. No office politics. Digital Nomads have increased amounts of flexibility with their time; as long as they get the job done they are free to do as they wish.
Gain a deeper understanding
Both the travel and freedom combined allows Digital Nomads to better understand themselves in a context away from their home environment. It also allows them the opportunity to relate to other people on a level not understandable to those of us who were born, raised and still living in the same sitting. Understanding comes with experience outside of our comfort zones.
Getting that adrenaline fix
Moving to a country where you know no one throws you in the deep end. It also forces you to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. There are no safety nets except returning home. Whilst Digital Nomading can be a wonderful and exciting adventure, most Digital Nomads also experience immense pressure when it comes to surviving and keeping their work-life balance.
Surviving on a budget
That’s where the next point also becomes the saving grace for most Digital Nomads. Digital Nomading doesn’t have to be expensive. If workers choose to live in places such as Thailand and Bali, the quality of life is high, whilst the cost of living is low. Working remotely also means no daily commuting expenses and no need for an entirely different work wardrobe.
What challenges does Digital Nomading bring?
Expectation vs. Reality
It may sound like only sunshine and rainbows to you, and perhaps in the short-term it is, but trust us, being a Digital Nomad is harder than it may seem. Especially when comparing it to the idealistic cocktail filled portrayal of this lifestyle that’s portrayed by the travel influencers plastered all over social media. Being a Digital Nomad actually requires planning and organising. You need to book flights, organise visas, do location research from another country, find accommodation etc.
This can all be very stressful. Yes, living in multiple countries in one year and travelling the world sounds exotically enticing. But the harsh reality is that most Digital Nomads spend the daylight hours glued to a computer screen, trying to meet their deadlines, just like the rest of us. Travelling whilst working is not all that you imagine it to be. Just like the rest of the working world, you’ll find that you are only able to really explore the world around you after hours.
It’s not for everyone
Even though introverts can flourish working on their own and on their own terms and can adapt to a Digital Nomad lifestyle, Digital Nomading tends to suit people with an extroverted personality. You will often need to rely on an outgoing and social personality on your travels.
Digital Nomad is not the answer for “getting away” from it all
Becoming a Digital Nomad will not solve all your problems, it will only change your problems. Got annoyed with admin and paying too much taxes? Well, try to navigate all the admin, red tape and slippery slope of taxation that completely changes within the borders of each country. Didn’t have much of a social life? Well, feelings of loneliness and isolation plague the minds that have chosen this lifestyle as they start over from scratch in each country. It can also be incredibly tricky to maintain deep and meaningful relationships as a Digital Nomad.
Change is all around
Adapting to life in a different country can be hard. The cultures are different, the people are different, the laws are different and the languages are different. Expat counselling can be very helpful in coping with these changes and other any issues they may experience whilst travelling and living abroad.
Don’t underestimate the power of your support system
You miss your friends and you miss your family. More often than not, digital nomads are single working professionals since having to drag an entire family around the globe can really put a damper on the spontaneity of it all. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t leaving people they care about behind. This incredible longing is something that is often expressed during our expat counselling sessions.
You can’t look at things through tourist glasses
Digital nomads need to be careful how they select their nomad destination. Some countries may be every traveller’s dream but might be every worker’s nightmare. A little more effort needs to go into choosing their next country. It is out with fabulous shops, beautiful scenery and 24/7 partying opportunities and in with fast and stable internet connection and constant and reliable power. Sure, in theory, working from a beach sounds amazing but in reality you might not have any Wi-Fi and just be left with sand in your keyboard and a nasty sunburn…
Say hello to different kind of work problems
Digital Nomading can bring different types of problems to your work life too. You are in a new country, you are yearning to get out and explore, so you rush your deadlines and submit work of a lower standard. In other words, you start sacrificing work quality. Depending on your profession it can also be incredibly hard to work remotely. Especially if your job requires teamwork and every day colleague interaction and feedback. Going back and forth via email to solve a problem is tiring, especially when that problem would have been easily solvable face-to-face.
The lack of workplace comradery also contributes to the feelings of melancholy associated with this community scarce lifestyle. Since there are no designated office space and often no designated work hours, Digital Nomads also often find it hard to step away from their computer and truly switch off. This usually calls for strict boundaries to be set in order to ensure that yes, you are completing your work to an exceptional standard but that you are also able to truly turn off and to go out and enjoy yourself. Luckily for Nomads expat counselling can help them in achieving that perfect work-life balance that 9-5 office workers can only dream of.
Do the pros outweigh the cons? We think so. As long as you approach Digital Nomading with the right attitude, it can be a thrilling and fulfilling lifestyle choice. And luckily professional expat counselling ensures that you can work from the comfort of the latest location you call home and make the transition between locations and cultures as seamless as possible. If you or someone you know are in need of some expat counselling, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or simply fill in the form below and we’ll contact you: