The Pros and Cons of Working From Anywhere The digital-nomad lifestyle is increasing in popularity around the world.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The idea of being able to work from anywhere was something I romanticized and worked hard toward for years. Following the corporate ladder and tolerating an uninspiring job to retire when you are old is a worldview not held by digital nomads, and this is why most of them are self-employed, freelancers, consultants, developers and/or entrepreneurs. After selling most of my possessions, booking a one-way flight and living abroad for more than six months, I learned there are also some incredible benefits and challenges with this lifestyle.
With the advent of strong internet connections and the post-Covid "officeless" world, the number of digital nomads has increased significantly in recent years. According to data from MBO Partners, between 2019 and 2020, the number of digital nomads increased by a staggering 49%. Today, there are more than 10.9 million digital nomads from the U.S. alone, and new data shows there are in excess of 35,000,000 across the globe. Before taking the plunge, aspiring digital nomads should do a cost-benefit analysis and decide if this lifestyle is right for them.
Advantages of being a digital nomad
1. Location freedom
Most of us spend the majority of our lives at a specific geographic location, and the biggest benefit of being a nomad is going where you want to go, when you want to go there. Being able to do business anywhere is living life on your own terms and means that you can escape freezing winters and go where you are treated best. The freedom attached to this lifestyle and the experience of actually living and working in a foreign place outside your home country is simply priceless.
2. Lifestyle freedom
Another benefit is the lifestyle freedom of being able to prioritize your life to do the things you love. As a digital nomad, you are able to create your work around your lifestyle and not let your work take over your life. Not having to commute, dress up, adhere to a 9-5 conventional schedule and avoiding the distractions that come with a conventional office can actually boost productivity and performance.
3. Cost-of-living savings
Digital nomads can actually save money and live a better lifestyle, depending on the country they are staying in. Geographic arbitrage means you can earn in a strong currency and spend in a weaker currency. Taking advantage of a cheaper location's low-cost structure, all while still earning as if you live in a more expensive location, can increase your quality of life and standard of living, allowing you to save more money.
4. Learning from different cultures
By immersing yourself in new cultures, you have the chance to learn new skills. More importantly, you will learn more about yourself. Developing a different perspective allows you to understand that there is more than one way of thinking and that many people are extremely happy due to their values and the fundamental ideas of their society. The stark contrast of seeing the majority of people living in poverty when you have lived in a Western country most of your life helps you truly appreciate how blessed you are. That gratitude is certain to improve your happiness.
Disadvantages of being a digital nomad
1. Missing friends and family
The biggest drawback of being a digital nomad is not being able to see your favorite people in person, skipping important life events and witnessing changes in your relationships. Living abroad helps you recognize what you truly look for in a relationship and teaches you that not everyone is meant to stay in your life. Genuine friendships don't only count when they are face to face, but being away from home for a long period of time tests a lot of relationships and is quite lonely. When you don't know anyone or the native language, you truly learn the importance of friends and family.
2. Missing a conventional office environment
Dodgy internet connections, loud co-working spaces and a false perception of you "being on vacation" by your colleagues can make digital nomads yearn to come back to the office. A conventional office environment leads to improved collaboration, and having an ergonomic desk and chair with a double screen increases productivity and reduces back pain.
2. Lack of products, medical care and poor safety
Many developing nations that are hotspots for digital nomads come with problems. Some food products are non-existent, some cities have blackouts and water shortages, and some hospitals are using medical devices that may be older than you are. As a digital nomad, you also have to be on the lookout for criminals and scams, which can be very stressful at times (depending on where you go).
3. Traveller fatigue
Too many months of constantly being on "alert" while you travel leads to fatigue. Having to not only deal with your work, exploring new places and getting accustomed to new cultures, digital nomads also need to arrange accommodations, co-working spaces, and flights. What once felt exciting can sometimes start feeling like a chore. The jet lag from switching time zones leads to sleep problems, and accomodations with no kitchens to cook in can lead to weight gain.
For some, the pros outweigh the cons. For others, some of the disadvantages are big red flags. In my case, being a digital nomad for half a year was a temporary lifestyle that helped me learn, grow and truly appreciate my home country. Personally, the stability of my community and routine at home are too hard to give up forever but are certainly worth replacing for a temporary digital nomad lifestyle in the future.