After my college graduation, I just couldn't stop moving. I never made it a whole year anywhere. I daydreamed about having no apartment at all and traveling. It wasn't that I disliked my location; I just disliked staying in one place. I didn't know what a digital nomad was at the time. But the moment I learned about the lifestyle, I knew it was for me.
Digital nomads are just what I described: people who come and go as they please while working remotely. They may couchsurf, sublet, or stay in hostels or Airbnbs. They have all different professions, from software developers to graphic designers to freelance writers (like yours truly). What they have in common is that when someone asks "where are you based?", they generally can't answer in one word.
Here's the story of how I became a nomad. The short version is, I put it off for months out of fear that I couldn't handle the stress of constant travel. Then, I went to Ibiza and fell in love with a German man. My desire to go to Germany was the motivation I needed to give up my apartment, give away my stuff, and explore the rest of the world while I was at it. I still spend about half my time there, so perhaps I'm not a pure nomad. But I also travel for work about once a month and often visit my friends throughout the U.S.
When I used to confess my desire to be a nomad to friends and family, I'd often encounter unfounded fears ("isn't that dangerous?" — as if there aren't enough safe places in the world to go) and confusion ("what would you do with your stuff?" — which I didn't really need anyway). I wish I'd had more encouraging, positive messages. So, that's what I'm providing here. Being nomadic has its risks, but it also has plenty of advantages. Here are some.
1A Constant Change of Scenery
Now, unlike in the past, I never get bored with where I live. When I start to get bored, I go somewhere new. That's a lot simpler than finding people to sublease my apartment and buy my stuff every single time I want to move.
2A Wide Range Of Friends
Typically, people settle in with a group of friends in the city where they live, and those are the only friends they really see. But I get to see my friends all over the world. When I’m in their city, they make time for me, since they know I won’t be there for long. In that way, I feel more valued by my friends than ever.
3Unexpected Work Opportunities
I used to rarely meet colleagues in person. But now, every time I travel to a new city, I contact people there who I’ve worked with, which often leads to unexpected opportunities. I also have access to events that the typical New York-based journalist doesn't, letting me cover everything from bars in Houston to music festivals in Germany.
4(Potentially) Lower Costs
This will depend on what locations you travel to and what your living arrangements are, but I've personally saved money by being a nomad. I couch surf with friends in many of the cities I travel to within the U.S., and outside the country, much of the world is cheaper to live in.
5Practice Handling Stress
The chance to experience stress may not sound like a good reason to do something. But all the crazy predicaments travel throws you into can do wonders for your attitude. Though I'm a generally high-strung person, situations like being stuck without WiFi when I have a job to do and having forfeit a non-refundable plane ticket because of a schedule change have forced me to forego my perfectionism and chill out. I've made peace with the fact that my plans are bound to fail and that's OK.
6A More Open Mind
By throwing yourself into unfamiliar, uncomfortable places and situations time and time again, you provide yourself with opportunities to meet new people and experience different cultures. You learn different ways of thinking and question the way you think.
Being a nomad isn't always as exciting as it sounds (or looks based on these curated photos). A lot of my time is spent in front of my computer. But when you're traveling, even just a few minutes away from your screen can end up being life-changing, since they give you the chance to explore a new place.
Being a digital nomad is a privilege: It requires you to either have remote work or enough money to take time off work, and it takes either money or social capital to ensure you always have a safe place to go. That said, I know a diverse array of people who live this lifestyle. If it sounds like something you might want to do, here's a curated list of tips from people who have done it themselves. Life is too short to put it off for as long as I did.