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I recently wrote about the downsides of being a digital nomad, so anyone considering this path has a realistic sense of what it entails. Now I want to focus on the amazing benefits that come with this lifestyle.
Most digital nomads work online, leveraging technology to make an income without being tied to a specific location. Because “going to work” simply means getting online, they can work from anywhere with WiFi.
As a result, a lot of digital nomads head to far-flung destinations like Bali, Chiang Mai, Budapest, or Medellin. Driven by curiosity about the world (and possibly a soon-to-expire visa), many stay on the move, filling up their passport with stamps as they explore this “pale blue dot.”
While this exciting lifestyle has tons of benefits, here are seven that stand out to me.
1. Be free to work where you want, when you want
Being a digital nomad means you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to your work schedule and preferences. You can work from wherever you’re most productive, whether that’s a cafe, a coworking space, or at home at your desk.
If going to the same place day in and day out gets boring, you can mix up your environments. And unless your job requires set hours, you can also work when you’re most productive.
You might start early in the morning and use the middle of the day to exercise, meet with friends for lunch, or take a yoga class. When you’re at a traditional office job, long breaks in the middle of the day might be looked down upon or completely prohibited.
But when you’re a digital nomad, you can work when you’re productive and recharge when you’re not. Just make sure to set boundaries between your work life and personal life so you don’t find yourself connected to your computer at all hours of the day and night!
2. Design your lifestyle on your terms
Getting to choose where and when you work is part of an even larger benefit of working remotely: the freedom to design your lifestyle on your terms. Sometimes, it’s easy to feel like outer forces are shaping your life. But as a digital nomad, you get to take ownership over major life choices, like where you live and how your spend your days.
With a flexible work schedule, you can make time to indulge in hobbies that interest you and volunteer with causes you support. You can make travel a regular part of your life, instead of saving it for two short weeks per year.
As Tim Ferriss discusses in The 4-Hour Workweek, most people don’t want to be millionaires to see six zeroes in their bank account; they want to access the experiences and lifestyle that they associate with being a millionaire. He writes,
People don’t want to be millionaires — they want to experience what they believe only millions can buy.
But you don’t have to be rich to incorporate unique experiences and world travel into your day to day when you’re a digital nomad. Instead, you can design a life around the things, people, and experiences you love.
3. Get inspired by new environments
Not only can travel feed your soul, but it might also make you a more creative and productive professional. When you get into routines, it can be hard to innovate or think outside the box.
But when you disrupt those patterns with new environments, you have to think on your feet and adapt. Pattern disruption has been shown to enhance creativity and lead to innovation.
Plus, you might find yourself making unexpected changes or discovering new career opportunities you never could have predicted.
If you’ve ever had to spend a lot of time in a cubicle, you know staring at those walls day in and day out can be a bit soul-crushing. But by filling your senses with new sights, sounds, and colors, you can find inspiration on a daily basis.
4. Meet people from all over the world
The tribe of globe-trotting digital nomads is a very international one. Not only will you meet residents of the country you land in, but you’ll also meet fellow digital nomads who hail from countries all over the world.
You’ll get a chance to forge friendships with people you otherwise would never have met if you’d stayed home. You can learn about different cultures, languages, and ways of life.
Plus, developing skills of cross-cultural communication could make you more successful in your career if you work with multi-national clients.
5. Pay off debt and save money
Not only will becoming a digital nomad satisfy your wanderlusting soul, but it could also be a financially savvy choice. If you move somewhere with a low cost of living, you could save tons of money.
Compare the cost of living in Hanoi, Vietnam to Boston, MA, for instance. According to Numbeo, rent prices in Boston are nearly 200% higher than in Hanoi. For $2,000 per month in Hanoi, you could enjoy the same standard of living that would cost you $6,200 in Boston.
By moving somewhere inexpensive, your expenses could get cut drastically from month to month. You could work less and still get by, or you could use that extra room in your budget to save money or pay down debt.
If you have a lot of student loans hanging over your head, a year or two in another country could be the strategy you need to get rid of that debt way ahead of schedule.
6. Eliminate stressful commutes and traffic jams
If you’ve sat in traffic on the way to work or squeezed into crowded subways during rush hour, you know commuting to and from work can be stressful. When you work remotely, you’ll never have to commute again.
No more fumbling with the car radio to find songs that will distract you from a long and frustrating drive. Never again do you have to feel like a sardine in a packed subway car, sweltering beneath lots of layers and wondering if it’s worth it to peel off your down coat before you reach your stop.
According to various studies, commuting can be a serious drain on your well-being. It cuts into time you could spend engaged in healthy activities, aggravates feelings of social isolation, and increases psychological stress.
So if you say goodbye to your commute, you could be happier and healthier as a result.
7. Say goodbye to freezing winters
Although there’s not a lot of data on how many digital nomads are congregated where (they’re a slippery bunch), the most popular digital nomad cities tend to have warm climates.
After all, if you can work from anywhere, your first choice probably isn’t a place with subzero temperatures and only a few hours of daylight for long stretches of the year.
(Having grown up in Boston, I added this last point for anyone else who’s suffered through months of snowstorms and icy roads!)
Sure, winter has skiing, and snowfall around the holidays can be magical or whatever. But after month 4, the cabin fever is real. There are only so many candles you can light and crockpot recipes you can try before you admit to yourself that winter is the worst.
But if you’re a digital nomad, you can leave those icy, dark months behind and spend January and February on a beach in southern Thailand, instead of shoveling snow from your driveway.
Taking ownership of your life as a digital nomad
For much of your life, you have forces in place telling you where to be and when to be there. From school to college to your first office job after graduation, you have a clear structure for how to spend your days.
But when you become a digital nomad, you leap off that grid. You get to decide where to be, when to be there, and how to balance your time. All this responsibility can be tough to get used to, but it also offers enormous freedom.
Plus, you’ll have tons of opportunities to step outside your comfort zone. While you’ll inevitably encounter some discomfort, you’ll also open yourself up to waves of transformation.
As a digital nomad, you don’t have to sacrifice a fulfilling and challenging career to travel the world, or vice versa. With one of these digital nomad jobs, you can enjoy the benefits of this lifestyle while building a career you love.