3 Things You Can Uniquely Control as a Digital Nomad
Being a digital nomad frees you up in ways you don’t expect. Here are three things that I love having control over as a digital nomad, that I wouldn’t be able to as a regular person.
I couldn’t breathe in Bali. Not only is there regular pollution, but the island is sprawling with smoking tourists and the island religion includes burning a lot of incense at several points of the day. Not only could I never sit outside for a meal (thank you smokers!), they light the incense inside restaurants as well.
One morning I woke with the smell of pollution and smoke and incense all in my room, and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I looked up places around the world with the best air quality, and booked my flight to New Zealand for the next day, making sure my New Zealand AirBNB was away from a big city to double down on the clean air. Now it’s just me, clean air, and sheep :)
The thing is, when you’re a digital nomad, you can optimize for certain things. My horrible experience in Bali made me realize that I personally need to optimize for clean air. Sadly, that is not an option for those stuck living in one place. It’s also not an option for me some of the time (sometimes I have to work in a city for business reasons). If the air is bad, you have to deal with it. And as the air quality is only getting worse around the world, being a digital nomad is one of the top lifestyle options to ensure health.
I think the biggest mis-conception about being a nomad is that it’s too expensive. That’s because most people (especially in the U.S.) are vacation travelers. When you only have two weeks of vacation, you’re probably going to spend a lot of money to make it super nice. And I don’t blame you! You deserve it.
But being a digital nomad is very different. Instead of paying fixed monthly bills, I have A LOT of flexibility in choosing how much I will spend each month. I can go to Japan or New Zealand for a month, which is very costly. But then I can go to Thailand for three months and pay almost nothing in comparison. Oh, and while I’m in those places, I don’t have to continue paying my monthly rent bills, which makes the vacation money spent on top of fixed monthly bills extra expensive for short-term travelers.
When I fly to other destinations, the plane ticket doesn’t cost me as much since I tend to fly to places near where I am, which means I can take full advantage of local cheap airlines. For example, I’ll be flying to Fiji from New Zealand at the cost of around $250. If I decided to vacation in Fiji while living in Europe, for example, the flight (not to mention the amount of time and exhaustion spent getting there) would be at least $700 one way.
And I have control over the type of accommodation I want to stay in. While I personally like nice AirBNBs, because I work from them, I have friends (mostly guys) who are fine staying in super cheap hostels. But even with the AirBNB, I have a lot more leverage in negotiating huge discounts (35%+) because I stay for a longer time.
And of course, you can mix and match. Maybe you can stay in cheaper guesthouses or hostels in more expensive destinations and live like an AirBNB princess in cheaper ones. Anyway, the point is that you have a lot of control over how much to spend month to month based on your personal finances and needs compared to having to pay fixed rent no matter what your situation is.
I couldn’t imagine getting out of debt and starting my own business while living in San Francisco with a stable job that paid well. But as soon as I got out and became a nomad, I was finally able to do all of these things! Having financial control is one of the most under-rated perks of being a digital nomad.
Not everyone is made for the 9 - 5 schedule. In fact, I would argue most people would be more productive with different hours.
I have a friend who recently became a nomad. He has a stable job and does have to work regular business hours in the company’s time zone. However, now that he’s a nomad traveling in Asia, he found that to be an incredible schedule for him because he’s better at working at night. He wakes up at around noon, does a ton of adventures - goes to museums, goes to the beach, goes sight-seeing, experiences life, then works at night. He feels like this time shift has opened up a whole world for him.
I, personally, have a lot more flexibility since I run my own business. So while I’ve been working the 9-5 for most of my adult life, it’s been incredible to experiment with my natural schedule. One that isn’t dictated by society.
One big thing I realized is that sometimes I’m just not productive. In an office, I would just sit there and not be productive, mentally feeling guilty. Now, when I’m feeling not productive, I take the day off, go on an adventure, and feel incredible refreshed and productive the next day without fail. That time off of adventure and seeing a new place fills my heart with joy, inspiration, and creativity which I use to improve my work. I now work less hours, but the hours I work are extremely productive.
I’m also very sun-conscious. In the summer, I’m a lot more productive than winter. So I optimize for going to places that have the most sun in whatever season it is. I’ve gone to New Zealand and South America during the winter in the Northern Hemisphere to get that summer sun energy. And I’ve even experimented with going to a place where the sun never sets!
Being a digital nomad is about getting to truly know yourself. That includes figuring out your ideal work schedule. And whether you have a job that makes you work certain hours or are more flexible with when you work, you can experiment with different time zones and different hemispheres.