Digital nomad life can be glamorous, frustrating, inspiring, and sad simultaneously. Thus, you need to be aware of digital nomad advantages and disadvantages before embarking on this journey. Do not believe everything you see on social media. Nomadic life can bring out the best in you. But it can also bring out the worst sometimes. Here are the pros and cons of being a digital nomad.
Digital nomad statistics
Before embarking on the digital nomad lifestyle, knowing what company you can expect is a reasonable idea. Digital nomadism has become increasingly popular over the years. So before we break down the digital nomad advantages and disadvantages, here are some digital nomad statistics to learn about and get your journey started.
According to Nomad List, here are some general demographic statistics:
- 45% of digital nomads are from the United States
- 54% of digital nomads are men
- 46% of digital nomads are women
- 61% of digital nomads are white
- 34% of digital nomads make between $50K-$100K (USD) per year
- 46% of digital nomads are full-time workers
- 17% of digital nomads are freelancers
In that same Nomad List reports that men and women prefer to go to different countries and cities too. The top 5 places men choose to be a digital nomad are (1) Tokyo, Japan; (2) Medellin, Colombia: (3) Chiang Mai, Thailand; (4) Split, Croatia; and (5) Buenos Aires, Argentina. The top 5 places men choose to be a digital nomad are (1) Lisbon, Portugal; (2) London, England; (3) Chiang Mai, Thailand; (4) Canggu, Indonesia; and (5) Oaxaca, Mexico.
Is it work being a digital nomad?
Yes! Even though it looks glamorous, being a digital nomad has challenges and can be as annoying as any other job. Many assume that because you do not have to work in an office, it is not considered “work.” And while some work from beaches, most digital nomads work from cafes, Airbnbs, co-working spaces, etc.
Becoming a digital nomad requires a lot of planning and preparation. On top of working, you have to plan out your next adventure often. So let’s dig further into the advantages and disadvantages of being a digital nomad.
The disadvantages of being a digital nomad
You are away from your loved ones
One significant disadvantage of being a digital nomad is living far away from home. As a digital nomad, you are always on the go, which means you may not go home frequently. So when you are sick or during the holidays are vital times when you may miss your family.
You go through the culture shock stages often
Culture shock is a unifying phenomenon for anyone who has gone abroad. You can be excited to be in a new place one day and frustrated the next. Culture shock is hard in the moment. Yet it is a necessary process to help you adapt to life as a digital nomad abroad.
Culture shock is possible even with your temporary stay as a digital nomad. So one thing to consider is how frequently you go to new places. It would be best if you thought about how you handle learning new languages, customs, and cultures as that will influence your culture shock reactions or triggers.
You can negatively impact the local community
Community impact is arguably the most important of all the digital nomad advantages and disadvantages. Rising housing costs in digital nomad hotspots such as Lisbon, Bali, and Mexico City concern local communities. Housing is becoming more expensive for locals and they are being pushed out of their homes.
Digital nomads often flock to places such as Indonesia, Thailand, and Mexico for the lower cost of living. As a result, due to the travel privileges many digital nomads possess, locals worldwide have become frustrated with digital nomadism. This phenomenon is particularly true for low-income countries in the Global South.
But the increased demand for digital nomads with US salaries in a low-income country has priced out locals. Understanding our impact as digital nomads is essential. Consider why you choose a country aside from “it’s cheap.” Currency privilege – how much your currency is worth in other countries – is real. We need to be mindful of how our presence impacts the communities around us.
You can burn out more easily
One of the biggest misconceptions about being a digital nomad is that it is a never-ending vacation. And if you treat it like that you will burn out eventually. Likewise, trying to do everything while adjusting to a new life and work style will leave you exhausted.
Burnout is a reason why many digital nomads spend a month or more in places as slow travelers. You should spend at least a month in one city or country if you want to be a digital nomad long-term. Traveling every week or two weeks will eventually make you resent the digital nomad lifestyle.
You are still working more than you’re traveling
When you are a digital nomad, you have to balance working a nine-to-five or to be an entrepreneur with your travels. Unless you are a full-time travel influencer, content creator, or blogger, you will not be traveling for your 9 to 5. It is critical to understand that traveling is a perk of being a digital nomad, not the entire experience. But to support yourself, you still have to work and find that balance.
The advantages of being a digital nomad
You have more travel opportunities
The biggest perk of being a digital nomad is the number of travel opportunities. As a digital nomad you can hop around more often, work remotely from different places, and have the freedom to choose where you want to go next. Flexibility is the most significant advantage of being a digital nomad and the primary reason why it’s ideal for people who love to travel.
You have more independence and freedom
Speaking of freedom, you also gain more independence as a digital nomad. You are not bound by a lease or paying rent. While you have to pay for housing as a digital nomad, you do not have to sign a year-long arrangement. This makes it easier for you to pick up and go when you feel moved to leave a place.
However, you will be traveling solo unless you travel with a significant other or strangers who become your friends. So before embarking on your digital nomad lifestyle, you must know if you like traveling solo. If you do not like being alone for extended periods of time, then the digital nomad lifestyle may be difficult for you to enjoy that freedom.
You can learn new languages
The best way to learn a new language is to be immersed in it. For digital nomads, it is more likely that you can learn multiple languages as you go. However, you may not be fluent depending upon how long you are in a place and how much of the language you knew beforehand.
Yet, the digital nomad lifestyle is an excellent opportunity to work, travel, and take language classes as you adjust to your new lifestyle. You can learn the language in a class and apply it immediately to your surroundings. It could also help you overcome culture shock!
You unlearn ethnocentrism
Ethnocentrism comes from the perception or assumption that your culture’s way of life is correct or the “right way” to live. When you decide to become a digital nomad, you can learn about many new places, people, and experiences. Thus, the idea is that you unlearn this ethnocentric mindset.
In reality, this is not true for everyone. Amongst all the digital nomad advantages and disadvantages, this is one of the most disappointing if not (un)learned. If you cannot go anywhere without thinking your country is better, the digital nomad lifestyle will be difficult and it’s best to stay in your own country.
Problems digital nomads face
Local community outrage
In addition to the rising housing cost mentioned above, there are also other ways digital nomads affect local communities. While traveling can broaden your horizons, that is not the case for everyone. Many locals often say that tourists and digital nomads are disrespectful and rude when they don’t speak English. Others have reported that digital nomads move to their country and assume it should change to accommodate the luxuries they have at home.
Though there are many digital nomad advantages and disadvantages, being rude to locals is never acceptable. We are guests in their homes and should treat them with dignity and respect. If you have the privilege of a digital nomad lifestyle, use it wisely. Do not mistreat others on your journey.
Finding good wifi
Searching for good internet is a big challenge for digital nomads. Though we are in a more digital and online age, finding Wi-Fi in some locations is still hard. And for a digital lifestyle this is critical to funding your travels and maintaining your livelihood.
For those digital nomads who prefer staying at Airbnbs, message your host to see if they can do a speed test. If you stay in hostels as a digital nomad, many list their Wi-Fi speed on their FAQs. You can also always send an email and ask if it is not listed.
It is also imperative that you have a VPN such as Surfshark. You must protect your information as a digital nomad from city to city and country to country; you must protect your information. A VPN can help you with that and get a portable hotspot. Every town and country is different, so research to discover what digital tools you need to thrive as a digital nomad.
Understanding cultural appropriation vs. appreciation
One of the most significant issues with travelers, and even digital nomads, is understanding cultural appropriation vs. appreciation. Just because digital nomads visit for longer than the average tourist does not mean we are entitled to more of their culture. Being respectful and knowing which traditions are and are not for you is a thin line to understand as a digital nomad.
Will being a digital nomad make you happy?
The only person who knows if becoming a digital nomad will make you happy is you. You can go abroad and find out how much you enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle. Many have done it and thrived, building new lives for themselves.
However, no matter where you go, there you are. Using digital nomad life as an escape can and has worked for others, but that is not guaranteed for everyone. There are many pros and cons of being a digital nomad. It’s up to you what you want to do!
Good luck and safe travels.
Considering working from hostels as a digital nomad? Check out this hostel guide to find the right one for you!