3 things I wish I had known before I became location-independent
I spent a very long time thinking about becoming a digital nomad. I did a lot of research, read countless articles, and started to make plans. During the planning phase, I thought I had it all under control and there was nothing that could throw me off, because I had a solid plan. Boy, was I wrong! What I wish I had known was the fine print of my plan.
Yes, my plan was awesome and I was excited. Indeed, it was a very good one. However, only a few tiny details, which hadn’t come up during my research, proved my digital nomad journey challenging, with some ups and some serious downs.
Of course, you cannot expect a brand new experiment to work out perfectly on your first try. As such, there were 3 things that never occurred to me during planning to change my life. The devil truly lies in the details!
Not that it makes any difference in my decision-making, now that I come to think about it. Even if I had known better, I would still have gone for it. However, I still wish I had known those things, because I would have been a tad more prepared, if I had.
Traveling all the time is debilitating
It’s true. Before you embark on this journey, you are usually super-excited about this new life of constant traveling. The problem is that you base this enthusiasm on past travel experiences, which were much shorter and… pure vacation!
This time though, traveling will be constant, moving from one destination to another will be the new normal and it won’t be holiday! Well, it may feel like holiday, especially at the beginning, but you’re expected to do some work as well.
There will be times that your energy levels will be depleted, unexpected uncomfortable situations will arise and you’ll find traveling simply exhausting.
Fun unexpected-uncomfortable-situation personal fact: I’m on a tiny greek island at the moment. I broke a toe 2 days ago. Now I find it a bit difficult to walk around. It’s been an exhausting couple of days, aaaargh!
However, even under these conditions there are plenty of awesome solutions, to take exhaustion away. I’ll just mention 2 very effective ones:
- Think about staying at one location for longer than you expected. Try to set up your life there and don’t think about your next trip for a while. Give your brain and body time to relax and adjust to that environment. Then, when you feel all pumped up and ready for the next adventure, just go for it!
- Go back home. It’s always a good idea to go back to your base for a while, to unwind and clear your head. Leave traveling aside for some time. Connect with your loved ones and spend time with them. If you’re anything like me, after a while, you’ll want to get back on the road again!
The more you travel, the crazier your working hours can get
Digital nomads sometimes crave destinations that are very much unlike their base. For example, if you live in a big US city, you may want to visit an exotic asian location.
That said, the location you choose to move to may seriously affect the work you do. As a digital nomad, you’re free to go wherever the hell your heart tells you to.
However, imagine your current client is based in a completely opposite time zone and it’s crucial to spend some time online together, to go over some important aspects of your project. How is that gonna happen when you go to sleep at the same time your client starts work?
Inconvenient, right? Unfortunately, the obvious solution to that is the most inconvenient for you. I’m afraid, you are the one to adapt your schedule around your client’s. That means you may have to work super-weird hours, that could throw your inner clock way off, but you gotta keep the cash flowing.
I have been in this position countless times before. At one point last year, I was based in Europe working with a client in Australia. It was very hard to keep up with him, but I did my best and scheduled my whole day around that project. Eventually, it was a success.
It can happen, but it’s not always gonna be like that, if it’s any consolation.
My point here is that it’s a tough situation, but over time you’ll get used to it, you’ll learn to adapt to it and eventually master the skill. For what it’s worth, I’m still trying.
It can feel very very lonely
For most digital nomads, the journey to location-independence is a lonely one. There will be entire weeks that you’ll spend on your own. Not necessarily by yourself, depending on how sociable you are.
For me it was a very weird feeling. In my first ever trip, I was completely alone and found it a bit too hard to start socializing. It was like the first day at school. It was scary and overwhelming, being surrounded by so many people, but too shy to talk to anyone.
I learned to embrace this feeling and tried to get the best out of it. Soon I realized that I had to start making friends. Well, the first friend I made was that feeling of loneliness (how poetic!), which wasn’t so scary, after all.
I came to realize that loneliness is intertwined with inner peace. Loneliness gives you that nudge you need, to find it. Once you do, loneliness feels like the opposite of what it used to be.
As far as I am concerned, I wish I had known that loneliness is not that dreadful feeling I always thought it was. If I had, I would have taken the risk much earlier in my life.