The so-called nomadic lifestyle has been on the rise in recent years. Millenials represent a generation which loves experiences. They don't want to conform to the norm. They love to travel, to go beyond the daily routine and seek new meaning. G and I are millennials. We knew for a very long time that we don't want to work in an office for someone else. The idea of a boring routine seemed counterintuitive. Why spend our lives making someone else rich? Why pursue a career in the name of someone's business? Inspired by the countless opportunities thanks to the digital era we live in, we quit our jobs and created our own business. And so, we began our nomadic lifestyle.
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What exactly is a nomadic lifestyle?
The short answer: anything and everything you want it to be. There isn't a way to define a nomadic lifestyle. When we quit our jobs at the beginning of February 2014, we continued living in Bristol. We had a beautiful house, with an amazing kitchen, a driveway and one large empty room which quickly became our office. I am pretty sure the digital nomad community wouldn't have called us "nomads" at all. After all, we simply quit our jobs to work from home. But the more time passed, the more we realised that our monthly travels were not enough. We quit our desk jobs in favour of desk jobs...from home. Whilst we decided to say no to corporate slavery, we were still slaves of our routine. Slowly but surely, we decided to just sell everything and go on an endless adventure.
We left our home in February 2016. It's been a rollercoaster since. We lived in Portugal, Spain, Japan and Hungary. We are now looking for our next base and we think we're going to go either somewhere in Asia or move to the Netherlands for a while. After 2 years of having this nomadic lifestyle, we learned a lot of things and we can tell you there are a lot of misconceptions about being a digital nomad, working as a blogger or working from home. So here are the things nobody tells you about having a nomadic lifestyle.
It's not easy
I'm going to start with the obvious: it's not easy to transition to a nomadic lifestyle. At least, this was the case for me. G was by far more enthusiastic than I was. I don't have a wealthy background so when I first moved to the UK, I worked very hard for the things I bought for myself. Starting from the coffee machine all the way to our first car. Every single item we had in our house, we worked for. We bought it. My husband and I went to the shop and purchased those items. It was very difficult to accept that they will all be gone. It took me a week of twisting and turning before I said, ok, I'm ready to move. It wasn't an easy decision and one I still question nowadays. It was incredibly painful to see the life we built together, sold and taken away by complete strangers.
Once you decide the nomadic lifestyle is for you, do take into consideration all these, and perhaps, ease into it.
Where will you go?
Once you decided you want to have that nomadic lifestyle, I guess the next difficult part is figuring out where you want to go first. Will you just pick a random place on the map? Will you listen to other nomads and go to a specific nomad friendly location? We wanted to escape the rain and cold from the UK, so we decided to go to Portugal first. It seemed beautiful, quiet enough, cheap. It initially ticked all the boxes. We later decided to move to Japan, then to Spain and so on. Even today, we know it's time to pack again soon, but we aren't too sure about the next destination. Nobody tells you it's actually quite difficult to figure out where to next.
For how long will you go?
Can you afford to travel for a year? Do you want to stay somewhere for a month at the time, then continue? Do you want to take it slow and settle for 6 months then continue your journey? We like to have a base for a bit, that's why we settle somewhere for 3-6 months at the time. This enabled us to properly experience a new culture and learn a lot from our new adventures. It's also really good for work because we can dedicate time to our businesses. It's good financially because we never stay in AirBnBs, but we rent from locals on a long-term basis. Nobody tells digital nomads that it can get really difficult to not have a home for a while. Being constantly on the road is tiring. It can disrupt sleep, work, relationships and workflow. So make sure you decide what type of nomadic lifestyle is best suitable for your current situation.
Friends and family
Our friends are scattered all over the world. We mainly keep in touch online and rarely have a chance to catch up in real life. Friends from home don't email us any more or rarely send us messages. We get it, we are never there so we don't blame them. We live different lives and we don't really have things in common anymore. We rarely get invited to major events as they know we are on the other side of the world. Our families can be in different time zones and it's difficult to talk about anything else but travel. Essentially, you grow apart, and the only friends you have, are the ones with a similar lifestyle. Now don't get me wrong, we love, love loooove our blogger friends. They are absolutely amazing and we are so grateful they are in our lives. What I'm trying to say is that very likely you will need to welcome new souls into your lives and see the old ones slowly disappearing. It's not nice, but it's part of your evolution.
Nobody tells you that finding decent accommodation takes time. It's actually difficult to find a flat for 3-6 months which has enough space for your office, has a decent kitchen, a modern bathroom and so on. This, of course, it's down to individual requirements but we are a married couple and we don't settle for just anything anymore. We are not backpackers, far from it. So what you will notice is that you will pay quite a bit in rent depending on where you live. You will very likely have to pay a premium price for a hotel room or AirBnB until you can find your long-term accommodation. This can take up to a month. You need to put down a deposit and pay a month's rent upfront. You need to agree on the bills and other common costs before moving in.
Getting an office
Being a digital nomad means that you can work from anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the internet. That's awesome, but this also means that you need an office. When you move to a new place, you need to make sure the new house has a dedicated space where you can buy your own office equipment or has a dedicated office in the first place.
For the first time in 2 years, I am experiencing a really bad back pain because of the way my office is set up. Because we move every so often, I don't always get to buy ergonomic office furniture as there is no way for me to carry it to a new country. Good ergonomic furniture is expensive. I'm just realising now the importance of having a desk which is suitable for my own body and my own height. Having back pains is pretty horrible and is a downside of transforming any table into an office desk. The chair also plays an important role.
I'm telling you this because I want you to care for your health. After all, we travel to experience new things but we don't want to neglect our health. This is important! Being on the road can be detrimental as it's difficult to find a good healthy balance when it comes to furniture, work hours, food and fitness. If you want a nomadic lifestyle, make sure you commit to a healthy lifestyle.
Tip: try and find second-hand ergonomic office furniture, then sell it just before you move to a new destination.
Nobody tells you that after a while you will miss stability. Ok, this is not the case for everyone, but it's definitely the case for us. We miss having our own definitive kitchen where we can purchase new pots and pans. We miss decorating the house with new things or repainting the walls if we wanted to. We miss having our own furniture and our own desired bed. Sometimes we get lucky and find an amazing brand new apartment, fully furnished to the highest standard. Sometimes, we find a house which makes us hate the place we live in (read the pros and cons of living in Spain).
This is why it's so diificult to make up our mind whether we should move to the NL permanentely or travel 3-6 months at the time.
You will want to slow down
This is such an important thing nobody tells you about the nomadic lifestyle. You will want to slow down. After a couple of years of sleeping in so many hotels and falling in love with so many countries, you will just want to settle down. But you know what else they don't tell you? The moment you settle down, you will get itchy feet. It's an interesting paradox and one I can't wrap my head around. I wanted to slow down, so we got a base in Budapest for 6 months with the possibility to extend the contract for another 6. The first 3 months were bliss. Now? I just can't wait to pack my bags and go somewhere else. I don't know if it's because I don't like the place and I can't connect with the city anymore, or this will be the case no matter where we decide to settle. Maybe once you are a digital nomad, you'll always stay a digital nomad.
You will miss buying things
I don't mean clothes, makeup or other items, but I mean things for your kitchen, for your bathroom and bedroom. I miss buying new plates or a new standing mirror. These might seem silly, but when you know you will leave your flat, all items seem like a silly buy. You know you won't be able to take everything with you so you suddenly don't want to waste money on a new pan which will only serve you for so long.
This is a good thing and a bad thing. It's a good thing because you learn to live a minimalistic life. This helps you get away from the concept of living and working to afford to buy more stuff and then more stuff... which you don't really need. They just make you happy on a temporary basis. So ultimately, they are a waste of money. It's a bad thing because for me, buying small items for my home, makes me feel that I have a home to invest in. So this "don't buy because you waste money" mentality it's a reminder that I'm not settled.
Making your business work
Nobody tells you that in order to make your business work you need to spend a lot of time doing work related tasks. Take this blog for example. Everyone assumes we just sit down and write articles, take some pictures and travel the world. The reality is super different. We need to be so versatile in our jobs to make a business work. Before we get to a point where we can hire staff, we need to be all the staff in one. For the blog, we need to be UX designers, technical directors, developers, creatives, SEO experts, writers, editors, photographers, post-photo editors, videographers, models, social media specialists, legal specialists, HR, marketing gurus and soooo on. Top it all up with moving all around the world, travelling for long periods of time, networking to bring the business forward and of course, searching for the next best base. It's not easy. However, just because it's not easy it doesn't mean it's impossible. If we can do, so can you.
We just need you to understand that nothing happens overnight and success takes time, patience, determination and financial investment.
You can get ill
Being a digital nomad means that you don't really have a permanent home, so naturally, your residence falls with your last main country of residence. That's also where you pay your taxes and national insurance contributions. We are UK citizens and UK residents. So if we fall ill, we will need to go back to the UK to get treatment as that's where we contribute. However, being part of the EU (for now) it means that as long as we are in EU territory, we can get emergency treatment with our EU health cards. We can also go to private hospitals for various checks, but that, of course, costs money.
You need to take into consideration that your health is the most precious thing in the world, so you want to have a solid backup plan in case things go wrong. Health insurance is important and you should invest in a plan. Same applies for travel insurance.
What nobody tells you about falling ill whilst enjoying your nomadic lifestyle is that you can have a hard time finding doctors who speak your language. This can be a huge issue when you are trying to explain your symptoms. We had this issue in Japan.
Finding the right food
Food can also be a bit tricky. In Europe, is a little easier as most cities have supermarkets which literally important food from other EU countries so that means that you can get the same ingredients (more or less). As you know, we travel vegan, but we had huge issues finding vegan options in Germany for example. Budapest is also really difficult sometimes. So sometimes we are forced to be vegetarian rather than vegan. We also travelled and noted that we insulted some locals by refusing their food because it was meat based. So it's good to remember that when you have dietary requirements, things can get a little complicated. As with everything, it's not impossible, just complicated.
We learned that it's good to eat vegan at home but keep an open mind when we travel and need to experience new cultures. We don't ever want to go back to eating meat or dairy at home, but we are considering loosening the rules on the road when we don't have a choice.
Having a daily routine matters
This is another paradox: you want the nomadic lifestyle to escape the daily routine, but you will miss your daily routine once you don't really have one. We are human and we need to have a purpose. That could be travelling, finding true love, having kids or learning new things. But every purpose needs a bit of a routine and a solid plan in place. We had post-travel mornings when we'd wake up and feel lost not knowing what to do next. Creating a plan for the day or a plan for the week helps a lot.
You will need a routine for health reasons too. Make sure you eat around the same times and pick your food carefully to provide you with all the nutrition that you need. You will need to walk 1-2 hours a day as sitting in front of the computer damages your health. You'll need to exercise every day at around the same time. Routines can be really healthy when used alongside your travels, experiences and unique daily adventures.
It's not for everyone
And finally, nobody tells you that this nomadic lifestyle is not for everybody. It's easy to look at Instagram and think, hey, I want to travel the world, be happy and carefree and get to experience all those cultures. Yes, that is great, but it also comes with several difficulties as outlined above. I'm not complaining, I'm living the life I wanted for myself and I love it. I wouldn't want to change it. But I also understand it's not for everyone and that's ok. If you feel the need to quit this and go back to your office job, that's perfectly fine. You don't owe anyone, anything. Everything you do in this life if yourself. So don't be afraid to follow your intuition and do what feels right.
I hope this helped you understand a little more about what it's like to have a nomadic lifestyle. We think it's epic and we hope you will want to try it. We also hope that, by understanding some of the drawbacks, you will be more prepared than we were when we first started. Don't forget to have fun along the way and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch.