You can’t travel with a desk literally hovering over your lap but don’t have to swear off your career to visit the places you want. There are countless ways to see the world, if you’re one of the privileged few who can, as there are endless ways to earn a living. Traveling the world doesn’t have to be the antithesis of a job you hate despite a popular narrative which can be discouraging, especially if you love your profession.
Living On The Fringes
People often assume I left to travel 6 years ago to free myself from a cubicle I was metaphorically chained to. Ironically, leaving my job was the hardest part of a journey that began as a subtle series of circumstance, one that has lead me to a unique lifestyle with its own limits. Being a digital nomad isn’t freeing yourself from society, it’s simply repositioning yourself within it.
You can’t have one without the other – you need pilots to fly planes, network engineers to maintain Internet connections, and Palermo’s a good example of happens when there’s nobody around for regular garbage collection. Most professions aren’t portable but they don’t need to be, so long as you are from time to time.
Freedom Is Sitting Between Your Ears
Traveling has a profound effect on the human brain, reducing stress up to 4 weeks after a vacation and can even result you earning a higher income. However those benefits don’t exist in a vacuum – people who like their jobs have been shown to be physically healthier with few better indicators of mental health than job satisfaction. So, doesn’t it make most sense to try and do both – travel and have a job you love – whatever the specific ingredients of that blend happen to be?
For some of us, that’s writing while living in various cities throughout the year. Picking apart computer code for clients who don’t care where we are physically so long as we’re available digitally. For most, the line between home and office is more clear cut, if you work in an office at all.
Judge You On Your Terms
Our DNA leads us to believe we’re better than everyone else so it’s not completely surprising that many digital nomads, location-independents, whatever you want to call them, think ours is the superior way to vacation with vocation. It’s important to remember that most of life’s limits aren’t physical, so if you see traveling and work as a multiple choice dilemma, you’re missing the point of both.
As someone who’s employed by a corporation and sits in a dreaded cubicle, thank you! There seems to be an air of superiority from digital nomads. While I agree that what they’re doing is commendable and inspirational, that doesn’t mean I want their lives. My job sends me all over the world, I work with interesting people, it’s challenging and (sometimes) fun, and I make a lot of money. I still manage to take epic vacations and always make the most of my business trips. At this point I’m not interested in giving that up to become a budget backpacker. It’s what works for me, and rather than encourage people to do what I do, I urge people to do what works best for them!
You’re welcome and I’m happy to hear I’ve struck a chord with you and many of my readers. It sounds like you’ve got a great balance I’m sure many other digital nomads might be envious of (quietly) but importantly, like you say, people should choose the path that works best for them.
Even though I am traveling and living overseas for a long time(15+ years), when I meet people on 1-2-3 week vacations and they say how lucky I am, I ask them what they do for work and if they enjoy it. If they enjoy their lives back home then I say how lucky YOU are!
I am happy traveling and being ‘location indepandent’, but that does not make it perfect for everyone. If you like travel but have a good life at home, then just appreciate those few weeks of travel you have as much as possible.
As long as life is good then keep on smiling.
And if your not happy at work or home and dream of traveling, well…. digital nomad time? 😉
With a few clicks we could probably modify this theme:
Nice post. Too many people trying to define what’s better or worse and right or wrong. To each their own I say. I manage my travelling by taking short extended weekends off. There’s always so much to see around you itself.
They’re often the most neglected travel spots – the ones right around us people come to see from far away 😉
Great post, Anil. I like to say that it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters whether or not you’re happy. And for a lot of people out there, doing whatever they do – which has absolutely nothing to do with full-time travel – is what makes them happy.
I don’t want to see everyone live like we do, or even try to live like we do. I want to see them doing what makes them happy. That might be sitting in a cubicle all day, being a garbage collector, or whatever. Who cares, as long as you have the choice to do what you want and have the vocation you want and live your life how you want.
The only things I really think are important are:
1) For people to realize that they can do and be they want, but they have to actually have the motivation to act on it.
2) More vacation time (mostly applies to Americans).
Other than that, it’s your world. People often say they’re jealous of us. It’s probably the most common reaction to what we do. And I normally scoff at that because:
1) They know they can do what we do if they want to.
2) They really only like the “idea” of doing what we do.
Most people are much more comfortable doing what they already do. They simply like the idea of doing something else, the same way that a housewife likes the idea of having a formal dining room for dinner parties. She doesn’t actually want to have dinner parties. She just likes the idea of being able to have them. (Got that from a sitcom.)
The one and only thing that makes us better than *some* people is that we are literally doing what we want (and we worked our asses off for it). Most people are too lazy or too “comfortable” in their 9-to-5 lives to actually act on doing anything else.
The idea is to have the freedom to do what you want. Not to do what we do, and not to do what someone else does. Not even to do what you think you want to do even though you really don’t. It all boils down to creating the freedom to be able to make those choices for yourself. And that takes ambition, motivation, and hard work.
But yes, we are no better than most everyone else, other than the above. We always say: Don’t talk about it, be about it.
Thank you Ryan. Travel doesn’t have to be a sole focus in life and everyone should follow their passions. And of course, not every one wants to travel *everywhere* – it’s a matter of focus on your specific desires as you mention.
This post sums up what my blog is actually all about.
I love to travel and I love writing about travel, but I’m perfectly happy sharing an apartment with my boyfriend and being able to visit my parents whenever I want.
I do want to grow in my way of traveling and blogging, but for me that doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to go nomad.
It’s good to hear someone else say this as well and I think I might have to be even more open about it in 2014.
I think for most people, a more conventional life makes sense and of course our minds, needs, and desires change at various points.
It’s simply repositioning yourself within it, but don’t talk about it, be about it!
Whether you travel full time as a nomad or you can take the standard 2-4 weeks off (depending on your job) does not matter. What matters is that if you want to travel do it! Do it for a week or more more take leave or do what ever it is to get yourself out there if you really desire to travel. Because no matter the length of time we travel facts prove that money spend on travel boosts happiness more than money spent on material goods.
I’m always looking for new things to read, if you’ve got links to any specific studies, feel free to post them.
Thank you for this post. I think sometimes people forget how many different avenues there are that will allow you to travel while also working! Obviously making travel affordable is often the most daunting task — but it doesn’t have to be. Some people are lucky and get corporate jobs that allow for travel. Others find ways to make money while abroad. But it certainly isn’t impossible, and everyone wants something different out of their travel experiences.
You’re welcome. We travel to expand our horizons, so I don’t see why we should limit how we see travel.