This week on the podcast, I talked with Shannon O’Donnell. Shannon has been traveling and working full time since 2008.
Let that sink in a minute.
For 10 years, she’s been traveling the globe, working as she goes. She’s lived a digital nomad life for longer than we’ve had that phrase in our vocabulary! During that time she’s lived all over the Americas, Asia, and Europe.
She loves being a digital nomad. Is it right for you?
What Is a Digital Nomad?
A digital nomad is someone who travels from place to place, combining work with tourism and adventure.
Some digital nomads move to a new place every few days. Others like to stay put longer — for weeks or even months — before relocating. Done this way, it becomes a form of slow travel.
When you’re a digital nomad, your work and where you live become intertwined like no other work-life situation.
The concept of being a digital nomad has become better known and more popular in the last five years, but when Shannon started out she was an anomaly.
She recounted to me the reactions she got from people in the places she stayed when she was inside working on her laptop instead of going out to see the sights. Today, we can laugh about them, and of course, she doesn’t get that kind of pushback at all any more.
What Kinds of Work Do Digital Nomads Do?
The short answer is, pretty much anything, as long as it’s portable.
Digital nomads can be:
- Small business owners
- Software engineers
- SEO specialists
- Social media specialists
- Travel agents
- Tech support staff
- Life or career coaches
They can be remote workers for a company that pays them a salary, or self employed.
In some ways, living and working as a digital nomad is more complex than working from a settled home. In addition to finding clients and doing the work, they also have to navigate the complexities of travel, arranging for transportation and lodging, learning their way around new places frequently, and constantly meeting new people.
With good planning, a life of endless travel can be far less expensive than a settled life in the US. And the rewards are outstanding. As a digital nomad, you get to experience the world in a way that most people never do.
Is A Digital Nomad Life Right for You?
Not everyone’s cut out for it. You need to be highly adaptable and also disciplined — adaptable, because travel or lodging arrangements can fall apart, and disciplined because you need to actually work.
If you’re already accustomed to working from home or working remotely, you’ll have less of a learning curve. If you’re just starting your portable work or business, learning how to make your business work while also traveling can easily become overwhelming.
If you think you’d enjoy being a digital nomad, see if there’s a way you can try it on for size before you plunge in. Take a month to move around and work within your home country to see how it feels before you add an international component.
For a hefty dose of reality, here’s an article that shares some of the problems with the digital nomad life.
If you’re someone who likes to have a home base or strong roots, it might not be the life for you. But if you embrace change and have portable work, it can a never-ending adventure.