The COVID-19 pandemic completely up-ended the way we work now, with many of us forced into near stir-crazy situations as we work, rest, and play all within the confines of our four walls.
But for some, working-from-home was not such a strain. Rather it was a sweet reminder that we don’t have to be tied to the office to get our work done. And, surely, if we have to work from home indefinitely can’t that “home” be somewhere exotic?
Truth be told, the location-independent lifestyle has never been so easily within reach as it is now. But even if you’re thinking of getting the heck out of lockdown hell to build a life on the road, make sure you’re clued into the realities of what to expect and what – in these trying times – is actually possible.
Myth no.1: As long as I have my mask and my MacBook, I can work anywhere
The above sentence may have been true in a pre-pandemic world. But while border restrictions, particularly in Europe, were relaxed over the summer, many countries have since tightened up travel rules and are refusing entry to folk coming in from hotspots.
Every week, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control updates a map of destinations that are subject or not to a travel ban or quarantine obligation. Use this map to help you determine the locations you plan to land in.
Many workers also believe that because they can’t work at their designated office desk it doesn’t matter whether their new workstation is their current kitchen table or a hotel balcony in Corfu. However, some companies may be obligated to pay different taxes if their workers are based abroad so check in with your boss or HR department and let them know your plans before you start packing your suitcase.
It’s important to realise that nomadic living doesn’t mean not working. (Unless, of course, you want it to and then, by all means, enjoy living in a tent with berries again for supper!)
So, if you don’t have a current job, ensure you know how you’re planning to earn your cash before you hit the road. If you’re setting up your own business, have paying projects and clients already organised before you even get on a plane.
Myth no. 2: Money’s no worry …for a digital nomad
Without regular rent, utility bills and daily commutes to your job (if you were doing that), you may be under the impression that life on the road is as cheap as chips. It certainly may be less expensive than what you’re used to, but even cut-price chips will come with a side order of inter-city travel, accommodation and general living expenses.
It’s therefore important to calculate monthly overheads for whichever city you plan to stay and work in, and to build a backup budget for any unseen costs.
If you’re keeping your options open with regards to countries on your bucket list, you can always use the Numbeo website to check and compare the cheapest cities to live in and start out there first – border restrictions permitting.
Myth no.3: Life’s a beach
Another misconception of the location-independent lifestyle is that working is an addendum to the main business of city-hopping and sightseeing. Unless you are already financially independent, this is dangerously untrue.
For sure, there are some travellers who manage to make a sizable income doing little inbetween mai tais on a Caribbean beach and elephant rides in India. But most digital nomads work very hard to sustain the lifestyle they’ve chosen.
“A myth that I always have to correct for people is that I don’t just skip around the world 24/7,” says Justyn Jen, a well-known working traveller who has touched down in over 70 countries, all while maintaining her travel blog justynjen, and online copywriting business. “I’m always having to remind people that I DO WORK!! My job is working online, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real job!”
Myth no.4: Only a certain kind of person can live a location-independent lifestyle
Everyone who lives the digital nomadic lifestyle is a thrill-seeking, routine-wrecking, 20-something extrovert – right? Well. Um, no.
The truth is, there is no one right way to live a location independent lifestyle. And now more than ever you don’t have to be a college-aged backpacker hanging out in Thailand to fit the digital nomad description.
For instance, according to the RV Industry Association, over one million Americans live in RVs. A large majority are couples and families who changed the meaning of the American Dream from a steady home and pay-pack to working remotely and living large on the open road. And many of these RVers or self-styled ‘Workampers’ have never been to a beach party in Phuket let alone left American soil.
Other working travellers do it part-time, or work from a stable base. Jessica Festa set up the now hugely popular travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, “in order to work from the road and escape having a daily routine.”
“But,” she says. “After years of working on my business while going on multi-month trips, I realized that I was really able to focus and grow it when I stayed in one place.”
Today, Jessie is based in her hometown of New York and she travels a couple times per month instead of travelling full-time. “That’s not to say you have to have a base to see success,” she notes. “But it is something to consider before diving into the lifestyle.”
Living the laptop lifestyle wherever you are or intend to be can be wonderfully life-changing. And without a doubt, there are so many benefits to experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, and learning even a smattering of a new language.
But if this is a lifestyle choice you’re carving out for yourself for the foreseeable future, then do your homework before you leave home.
Make sure you know how you’ll sustain yourself financially. And even if you decide to jump in feet first, have a backup plan of where you can return or retreat to if you need a rest or things aren’t going as expected.
In short – Live the dream; not the myth.