Can he actually see the screen in this beautiful weather?
If you’ve ever read a lifestyle, digital nomad blog, or ebook you will no doubt be jealous of the author’s awesome lifestyles. Lying on a beach, cocktail in hand, laptop rested on their board shorts, hot girls running around. Leveraging currencies. Working a few hours a week. Sauntering around the world as if they were James bond.
The stories and images are always positive and aspirationl. But what you are seeing is filtered. The bloggers and authors (you know who you are) only ever tell you the positives because they are businessmen.
They paint a vision of a dream lifestyle which is all so achievable if you just buy their ebook, join their academy, or go to one of their conference. They are salesmen and profiteers. They preach a message and get people excited with the sole purpose of obtaining the very same dream lifestyle for themselves.
If a blogger wrote about the annoyances and negatives of being perpetually in motion would you be as willing to buy his ebook? Would you sign up to his Digital Nomad academy? Of course not. It seems to me if you want to have a four hour work week your best bet is to write a book explaining how you can have a 4 hour work week.
It somewhat bothers me that I never hear about it from any of the lifestyle business folks I follow. They seem to all be “I got a macbook pro, a 3G usb adaptor and a pair of sunglasses” and I’m like “but in the sun you can’t read #$%!#$ mate”. Seriously, unless I’ve missed some new piece of technology even the most advanced screen is almost unreadable in the sun, working outside is a pain no matter what. Not to mention that the battery won’t last forever either! – Spike Morelli
I’m officially calling BULLSHIT.
If you are a digital nomad whose income doesn’t come from selling the dream of being a digital nomad the reality is very different. I have now been on the road for 9 months working as a freelancer. It’s time to set a thing or two straight.
The joy of travelling.
The joy of travelling is the complete freedom and abundant free time which enables you to meet fascinating people and make spontaneous decisions which ‘real’ life doesn’t allow. People connect with travellers because their lives are exciting. They act on impulse. Their time is their own. Partying every night. Hitting the beach because it’s a Wednesday. They are the masters of their universe. They are free.
A digital nomad is not a traveller.
Unlike our travelling counterpart a digital nomad needs to work. They require some level of regularity. They often need a home, placing them in an unique situation. They don’t have the endless time and absolute freedom of a traveller yet they never reap the benefits of being connected to a single location like a local. It’s an unsatisfactory position between the two camps. All disadvantages of both lifestyles without fully enjoying the advantages of either.
Working from a hotel room is hell.
Great for checking emails, but you can't do a day's work like this.
When I was living in Albarracin, a world class bouldering area, I wanted to rock climb everyday but needed to work. My hotel room became my office. And a less than satisfactory one; no large tables, monitors, or ergonomic chairs here.
Putting in a full working day was a frustrating experience. In fact it became comical.
I decide to try lying on the floor. Perhaps this will be more comfortable than the chair? Yes this works great; 20 minutes later I need a position change. Lets try the bed. Yes the bed is definitely the best. However I soon realise it’s flaws. Over time the bed slowly slides forward and I gradually sink into the the growing gap between the bed and the headboard. From lying in the bed, till feeling myself falling takes on average 20 minutes. I can increase this time if I perfect the the pillow arrangment.
Then there was the cleaner who wanted to clean my room at 9 every morning. That’s great, everyone likes a clean room, but every single day? Sure what’s odd about that. After all it’s a hotel. People don’t normally stay for 3 weeks.
I moved hotels 5 times in one week during a Spanish festival. My criterion was the internet connection. Now that’s not easy to access before taking a room.
“Would you like a sea view sir?”
“Nope, just give me the room with the best wifi reception please.”
Nowhere was ever perfect:
- The hotel wifi which cut out sporadically.
- The hostel where my laptop refused to join their wireless network.
- The cafe which had one power socket. Usually taken.
- The wifi which didn’t allow SSH.
My life became a Goldilocks like quest for the perfect internet connection (if anyone wants a breakdown of the best hotels and room numbers in Albarracin ranked on internet connectivity give me a shout). After a lot of searching I finally struck gold and found a connection that was just right. But it turned out to be short lived. I could only keep the room for 2 days. I could come back next Monday but the hotel was fully booked for the weekend. When I came back my great ‘internet room’ was taken and I got a different ‘slower’ room. Enough was enough. This just wasn’t working. I wasn’t an empowered digital nomad. I was like some weird local who dabbled in the travel community. I needed my own place.
Lets try renting an apartment.
I rented an apartment in the South of Spain, again near (20 minute drive) a world class climbing area. I picked the apartment unseen out of necessity. I had a large project kicking off so didn’t have the luxury of time. It turned out to be far too remote. I worked from my apartment (living alone), satellite connection dropping out every now and them, and started to get cabin fever.
All the climbers in the area were travellers. None were residents, making it tricky to network. The friends I made would disappear after a few weeks. Luckily I found some great long timers. But I felt cut off from the rock climbing scene I came out to be a part of. When I finished the project I banked the money moved out and into my tent. I started to live like all the other climbers. And I loved it.
What about my clients?
Working on the road changes the projects and clients you can handle and take on. You can deliver a project to a deadline but can’t guarantee to be around during normal working hours. I had to manage my clients expectations carefully.
I ended up saying good bye to a couple who were after a service which I could no longer provide. One unseen benefit though was that my client list became very low maintenance. Perhaps I wouldn’t of dropped them myself but I wasn’t particular sad to see them go.
Wow your getting me down. Tell me about the good stuff.
The major benefits of the relocation stemmed from the lower living costs. Working on a London freelance wage I could afford to go part time. The extra free time opened up all sorts of creative avenues and ideas.
When I settled into a pattern and stopped trying to work as if I was still in London things started to click. I met some amazing people, improved my Spanish, formed a writing habit, became a minimalist, developed a life ethos, improved as a rock climber, and become super fit and healthy. I met some great girls and took two fun holidays to England (it is interesting that I think of my native country as a holiday destination now) to catch up with friends, family, and clients.
The view from my apartment's pool in the south of Spain. I can think of worse places to be.
I never felt the stress of London. I never had the feeling of being on merrygoround that I couldn’t get off. I used to feel however much money I made the city would swallowing it up. I always needed, or more accurately wanted, more. In Spain everything is cheaper and the rural lifestyle I was living was less consumption orientated. It was hard to share the stress of my London clients, living in the Spanish countryside with glorious weather day in day out. I escaped the British winter, and was enjoying 20 degrees when friends back home were freezing (literally).
What does the future hold for me?
When I left England in October 2010 I decided I wanted to find a place to call home. A place where I could follow outdoor pursuits such as climbing, mountain biking, surfing, snowboarding. I said I would stop and throw a stake in the ground when I found somewhere or someone worth staying for.
In April I came to England for a short 18 day holiday. This has ended up ballooning into a 4 months. I realised how much I enjoy it here. I guess it takes distance to appreciate what you have. Or maybe I am just changing. When I came back everyone’s lives seem to be developing. I could see friends nesting. On previous travels I never really missed friends or family, but now things feel different. I don’t want to be a distance relative. I want an active part in people’s lives.
I can always see travel being a large part of my life. It inspire, excites, and feels like a large part of who I am. I have mountaineering and rock climbing aspirations that I want to pursue whilst in my physical peak. I am young (24) and want to see and do as much as possible whilst I am responsibility and commitment free.
But this 9 month experience has shown me that perpetually being on the road is not desirable or sustainable for me. In my ideal life I would have a base in London and go on numerous trips throughout the year. It’s am ambitious dream. I’m excited to see what the future holds.