The 3 Reasons I'm Becoming a Digital Nomad... and you could too.
Do you ever look at those photos on Instagram of bare feet and toasty brown legs, topped and tailed with a laptop on the bottom of the shot and the beach and sea on the top of the shot and think “What a w*@ker”?
Me too. There’s something highly provocative about some lucky dude who has managed to find a way to live somewhere beautiful, combine their work with a lifestyle that makes us all green with envy and get an even tan (no sign of mosquito bites ever!).
But why shouldn’t we all have this opportunity? What if we do?
How I became a digital nomad
About a year ago I was watching an episode of Grand Designs where a family had bought a plot of land somewhere gorgeous and cheap. We saw them frolicking in the local swimming hole on a Wednesday afternoon. A Wednesday afternoon I tell you. That’s known as Hump Day to the rest of us. But rather than feeling the bile of envy bubbling up inside me, I thought “I’m just going to do that”.
For years I’ve been working my tail off to pay for my mortgage, my pension, my daughter’s school fees, my car loan and an occasional Chai Spiced Latte. Not surprisingly I wasn’t enjoying my life much. I mean, I loved my work. Running my business is fun, I believe in what I do, I care for my clients and I make a good living by any standards.
But it was routine. Every year the same worries, the same patterns, the same challenges. I looked ahead to my 50s and 60s and thought - Is this it? Is this how I’m going to work and live until I retire? If I can retire!
With a 9-year-old daughter, it was going to be at least another decade until I wasn’t a full time, hands-on parent and that’s on the basis that she ever moves out. And why would I want those 10 years to rush by just so I could have some free time or a change or lifestyle?
I want to enjoy those years, to suck the marrow out of life, not wish them away.
So a plan was hatched
Firstly, start to homeschool. A big decision and something I will write about in a future blog. But homeschool means freedom from the routines of school and a chance to rethink how my daughter learns and grows. Big tick in terms of shaking up the status quo.
Secondly, sell the house and liberate the equity. My house value was static and leaving the money in property wasn’t the best use of it. Investing the equity and renting instead seemed like a far more astute choice for us.
And thirdly, become digital nomads. After all, I reasoned, if we’re going to rent a house we could rent anywhere. Why not France? Or Spain? Or Italy? And why pick just one place? My business is very mobile. I fly to see most of my clients anyway unless I’m working with them by phone and Skype. What difference does it make where my plane departs from? I can just as easily fly from Paris to Milan than from Heathrow.
PLUS, and here’s where the idea really started to make sense, I’m the Future of Work lady!! I stand on stage warning corporate audiences that the Industrial Model is dead and the world of work is going to look radically different in 10 years time so we’d better start re-thinking how we work and the role business plays in the world.
It makes PERFECT SENSE that I should test these new ways of working myself. Do you need to work 9-5 to be a success? Do you need to put work and business above all other priorities in your life? Can work blend much more effortlessly with family and hobbies and staring at the sky? Let’s find out!
And that’s why, on Friday, my daughter, our two dogs and I will set off in our campervan for a year long digital nomading, worldschooling, van-lifing adventure - to see if we can find a blend that works for us and shake up conventional notions of what work looks like.
But you couldn’t do that...could you?
Being a digital nomad means being location independent and using technology to enable that.
For some people that’s their full-time life. They’re constantly on the move either because their work requires them moving (I know of photographers and journalists who live this way) or because they just like to roam and their work is all online (digital marketers, social media gurus, bloggers, designers).
Some have completely redesigned their life (like the guests on my podcast this week, right) in order to become digital nomads, creating a new business, taking their kids out of school and saying goodbye to their old life.. It’s a big step but, if you’ve got a decade or two of work ahead of you and are feeling like life’s got to be better than this, it might be time for such a big leap.
But I also know people who just take as many opportunities as they can to work abroad. They might take contracts in other lands for 6 months or 2 years. They might ask for a posting abroad. They might work for 6 months to make the money to travel for 6 months. They might just negotiate a working week that means they only need to be in the office Tuesday to Thursday or the first two weeks of every month. The rest of the time they work where they want.
And it’s appealing to more and more people because commuting to the office, sitting in a cubicle, breathing in air-conditioned air, drinking canteen coffee and taking a 20 minute “break” to pick up a meal deal at Boots isn’t that inspiring.
Not only that but as more and more people demonstrate that they are as productive and creative (maybe more) when they work from home and, ironically, that they are just as connected to work when they’re on annual leave in the Maldives as when they’re sitting in office 249B, it’s more acceptable to ask the question - why do I need to go to the office every day?
Pictures of “Tanned Legs on Beach with Laptop” may be irritating but they also show us that people are doing it. If they can, why can’t you?
Clearly, it won’t work for every job every day. Not yet, anyway. We still expect our doctors and nurses to be physically present at hospital. That might change in future, but right now I’m not running through my symptoms to a Bot-Doc.
But, for most of us, much of our time in the office is wasted and not as productive as if we were elsewhere. We’re distracted by concerns outside of work (children, elderly relatives, the gas man coming) which could easily be addressed if we could work from home that day. Writing a report at Coffee #1 is just as easy as writing it in your cubicle and people aren’t bothering you all the time except to ask if they can take your cup and wipe down your table. Lovely.
If working from home or the coffee shop is OK then why not working from a Gite or a taqueria?
Becoming a Digital Nomad - where do you start?
Not everyone has itchy feet. I didn’t until I saw the Grand Designs family splashing about in a pond. There are plenty of ways to re-think work and find a blend that works for you without leaving your beautiful house, your friends and family or buying a campervan. I will write about those in future blogs.
But if you are looking longingly at #vanlife, #myofficefortheday or #imbetterthanyoubecauseigettoworkfromthetopofamountain maybe it’s time to consider your options.
How bold do you want to be? Do you want the security of a full-time job while you travel or are you looking to take a big leap? Take a temperature check on your appetite for risk.
Where do you want to be? Are you drawn towards Asia? The USA? Europe? When you picture yourself as a digital nomad are you picturing beaches, mountains or cityscapes?
What are the logistical constraints? We all have obligations and restrictions. These might be financial or related to family responsibilities or something else. What are yours? And how could you overcome them?
Just considering these 3 sets of questions will give you a bit of clarity about what you really want and what you need to work around.
Sign up with your email address to the A Brilliant Gamble and receive a free three-part "Gamble Guide", full of helpful insights and tips to start your journey to rethink work and design a life that works for you.And while some of the constraints might seem impossible to surmount I can tell you that there’s always a way. It just depends how willing you are to question the ties that bind you to having to live and work in a particular way.
In future blogs I will talk about some of the attachments we’ve had to let go of in order to make this a reality and we’ll hear in the podcast about what compromises others have made and what assumptions they’ve let go of in order to design a working life that’s more blended with who they are and what they want.
But for now, just muse! And when you feel irritated by all those Instagram posts - do one of two things - put the phone down, or ask yourself “Do I wish that was me?”
Sign up with your email address to the A Brilliant Gamble and receive a free three-part "Gamble Guide", full of helpful insights and tips to start your journey to rethink work and design a life that works for you.