Cons of being a Digital Nomad
I’ve been an on-and-off digital nomad for about 6 years. There are lots of pros when you start off and not much emphasis on the cons of being a digital nomad.
I’ve always read about it and saw cliche Instagram posts of people by pools and the beach with a laptop. Living my routine life in my hometown was boring. So when I got an opportunity to travel to see family in Turkey, I took it.
I won’t go into how I went from making $200 a month as an English teacher on accident to 2k a month in 1 year in this post. Basically you get good at something and start a business, which takes a lot of hard work.
However, when you live in Turkey where a furnished apartment is $300/month in a great location with several huge pools that resembles a water park and access to other great amenities; $2,000 can give you a decent life.
I would argue that $2,000 in Turkey goes as far as $4,000 in the US, not LA or NY city (source). Also, I have no dependents, but I’m still paying off student loans.
Could being a digital nomad be right for you?
As mentioned, there are many pros that bloggers scream about. Therefore, I wanted to solely focus on the negative aspects of being a digital nomad. The reality is that it’s not for everyone. I’m not here to stop you, I still do it. I go for extended periods of time, before COVID, to far off places for a month or 6.
That being said, I have capital to do it now. Which means if I didn’t, I wouldn’t.
Which leads me to my first con of being a digital nomad.
It’s expensive to travel. A ticket from NY to Paris costs over $1,000. A can of Coke is $4 USD (source). That’s the extreme case and you may know this, but what about the hidden costs?
Travel expenses, getting sick, things you forgot, and of course the locals who try to swindle you (hello taxis!). Things just pop-up unexpectedly. Whatever your budget is, make sure you have at least a 50% cushion on top of that.
Be honest with yourself. Can you manage the expenses? What if you lose your job or a client bails? Worst comes to worst, you can go home…make sure you have enough for a ticket back.
Some countries speak more English than others. Don’t make the mistake thinking everyone will speak English. Some countries, like France, know English but don’t like to speak it. Germany too.
Learn their basic language if you’re going to stay there. They will appreciate you more. Many times they got fed up with my crappy skills and reverted to their superior ability of speaking a second language to hurry things up.
Other countries don’t speak much English. Especially when you veer off the beaten track.
I’ve always been a loner. Never keeping friends longer than a few years since I changed schools a lot growing up.
Are you comfortable being alone?
When you’re a digital nomad you’re always saying goodbye. Especially since it’s so hard for me to somewhat trust someone enough and get along with people in the first place. You’re far from home, meet a friend, and then you gotta get up and go.
You’re also away from the comforts of US life. Your family, friends and familiarity with the way things should work.
Know yourself. Can you bear traveling alone for long periods of time?
One of my first IELTS students was a young girl wanting to pass the exam to study in Paris. She would ask me about places I’ve traveled and she talked about places she went. Her eyes would shine so bright with enthusiasm when talking about traveling.
Fast forward to 2020, her first year of college in Paris. She doesn’t like it as much. She has to do everything herself and she never has enough money. She comes home to Turkey any chance she gets to be with family.
If you have a job or boss, you have to stay on top of that or you may literally be unable to pay rent. It’s not like when you’re home and go get another job, because you need a work visa.
In order to become a successful digital nomad you must be able to balance work & play.
The Beach & Pool
This is one of the biggest cons of being a digital nomad. There is always that picture of someone at the beach or by the pool on their laptop. Every day on the digital nomad thread on Reddit. Drives me mad (if you couldn’t tell).
Here is a reality check: It’s hot and your laptop will overheat. Thankfully the Apple products give you a warning. You can’t read a book on an iPad well, make sure you bring an umbrella.
Then there is the screen. Gotta keep your screen on full brightness. Even if you can somewhat see your screen your battery won’t make it long.
The pool in my complex is amazing. So amazing that there are kids there everyday running around like banshees.
Put your feet in the pool with your laptop. Brilliant idea. Not sure about other products but there aren’t Apple stores in every country and they will not replace a water damaged computer, even with Apple Care+. Trust me, my “water resistant” phone fell in the pool while recording. Even though there is a nice Apple store in Istanbul, they wouldn’t accept it & repair was almost as much as the phone. Expensive lesson learned.
Did you know that sand runs havoc on your laptop? A little spec or 2 gets under the keys and then it doesn’t press as smoothly (source).
I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s just a terrible, terrible idea.
There are many more cons but these are the main ones. For me, the pros outweigh the cons. For other friends of mine back in the States they couldn’t do it for more than 6 months. I’m going on 6 years now. Don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
Therefore, it’s important to emphasize that everyone is different. How do you handle inconveniences? What do you do when there is no hot water for a day? Does getting overcharged or some other nuance ruin your whole day?
If you still feel like you can do it, I highly recommend trying it. Perhaps not such a big jump across the pond, and stay closer like the Caribbean Islands. Just keep in mind that Instagram reality is just that.