8 Problems Only Digital Nomads Understand
Being a digital nomad — someone who works remotely and has no permanent location — is an amazing thing. You get to go wherever you want and constantly experience new things. But there are also some problems most digital nomads can understand, commiserate about, and laugh about.
A digital nomad is "someone who doesn’t have a fixed address home and travels while working online and making money at the same time," according to the Digital Nomads Forum. "A digital nomad lifestyle is an excellent way to experience extended travel without having to look for jobs at physical locations, or pause travel to get a job to fund your adventure. To sum it up: No Home + Travel + Remote Work = Digital Nomad."
Some nomads are freelancers, and some have full-time remote jobs. Some move from place to place within the same region or even the same city, and some cross national borders frequently. Most of us don't have our own apartments, and we rely on friends' places, Airbnbs, hostels, hotels, Couchsurfing, and any other creative solution we can think of.
While I know a handful of nomads, we're still a relatively unknown group, which means people don't always quite "get" us — and the world isn't exactly tailored toward us. Here are some problems that'll sound way too real to anyone who's ever been nomadic.
1. Being Asked Where You're Based
I have yet to come up with a succinct answer to this, because the majority of people still don't know what a digital nomad even is. And if they're asking with a specific motive in mind — to, say, see if you can make it to an event — they're often not pleased with that answer. If you're a nomad, you've probably tried everything from "I have no base" to "well this month, I'm in Boston" and gotten more confused looks. Hey, at least it gives us an aura of mystery, right?
2. Clueless Concern Trolling
"But are your parents OK with this?" "How do you stay safe?" "Don't you get distracted?" "Won't you go broke?" People who know very little about the nomad life — or travel in general — will project all the fears they can onto nomads, especially female nomads. Sometimes, they're really just trying to justify the fact that they're not doing this themselves, because our lives are giving them FOMO. Still, I think we can all agree that explaining how your parents feel about your life should not be a part of your 20s (or 30s or 40s). Can we please leave that behind in our teens?
3. Losing Wifi At The Worst Possible Times
There needs to be a word for the specific kind of stress that results from being stuck in a train, plane, cafe, or room where you thought you'd have Wifi, not being able to connect or do your work, and feeling totally powerless. You try troubleshooting a million times, guess the password for every network that pops up on your screen, ask everyone around you if you can borrow their hotspot (even though you know you're not getting phone service either), and then eventually resign yourself to the fact that it's hopeless and your colleagues will have no idea why you've ghosted them. On the bright side, if you can get through that train ride or plane ride without suffering a nervous breakdown, you can get through anything.
4. Perpetually Lacking Clean Clothes
There's nothing like the nomad life to teach you how many times a bra can truly be reworn. Who needs laundry when you can spray your clothes with some perfume and call them clean?
5. Working With People In Different Time Zones
It seems totally rude for someone to give you a quick-turnaround assignment at 8 p.m.... until you realize that for them, it's only 2 p.m. As it turns out, it's possible to work until the wee hours of the morning, but you may have to do it in total darkness while trying to chew as quietly as possible because someone's trying to sleep next to you.
6. Encountering Some Real Characters
Don't get me wrong: encountering characters is one of the best parts of traveling. Until they keep you up until 5 a.m. with stories about how they were almost the next Michael Jackson. Or decide that because you're American, you're super sexually adventurous and will be down for whatever they propose. Meeting new people is great and all, but let's just say there are those who cross the line.
7. Being Unable To Plan For The Future
A few months ago, a friend asked me if we could get together over the summer. Um, depends what country I'll be in, I thought. When you're a planner, the idea of playing everything by ear goes against your very nature. But always being on the move is also a great way to learn how to roll with the punches.
8. Leaving All Your Friends Soon After You Make Them
When you're constantly coming and going, you have to say a lot of goodbyes. You don't have a "core group" of friends like many do. But you do have a diverse group of friends from all over the world. You just may not see them in person a lot.
Some of these things are a headache to deal with, but the truth is, being static comes with its own set of problems, too, and I'd take these ones over them any day.