As the future of our digital age continues to grow, more companies allow their employees to work remotely, and entrepreneurship opportunities arise, you may want to ask yourself if a location independent lifestyle is for you. Whether you decide to stay at home and work online, or carry your laptop with you around the world as a digital nomad, there are a few mindset shifts you need to make prior to taking the leap.
Hell, Carrie Bradshaw wrote a column in her New York City apartment for 10+ years, and whether anybody watching knew it or not– she was location independent. And her life certainly was uncertain.
Technically speaking, it isn’t for everyone, but deep down inside, as long as you have an open mindset, and accept this personal challenge into growing into a new lifestyle, anyone can achieve freedom as a digital nomad.
Prepare to live a life full of uncertainty
After a full year of traveling full time, I’ve realized that this is the sole reason why I love this lifestyle so freaking much: the uncertainty of it. This alone would keep others up at night, but this notion simply lulls me to sleep. Plan to live without a plan. Wild right? This is a large pill for most to swallow and mindset shift #1.
But once you allow yourself to accept the notion of not everything in your life is probably going to go as planned anyways, you’ll enjoy a much fuller life.
It’s similar to not setting high expectations to then get disappointed. And quite frankly, it’s much easier to live this particular lifestyle, without a plan in place.
Being in a destination and only having your airbnb booked for 3 weeks with no next steps in place is an exhilarating feeling, but it comes with practice. You may have a couple future destinations in mind, but no bus, train, plane, or lodging booked. You are truly living off the cuff. I’ve even landed in an airport, and called a hostel on the way to baggage claim and booked myself a bunk.
Surely not all digital nomads live this way, and you certainly don’t have to either– you get to live however you want to. That is the beauty of it, and honestly, the whole point! Whether you want to stay situated in one place, or travel full time, you have absolute freedom to roam about the planet as you please, literally. You CAN live three weeks at a time, three months at a time, to even just live right at home with your own home office.
This is something I had to get used to when I first took the leap, but traveling outside of the United States, or even not between rush hour times, and in the off-season, allows you to be last minute and go with the flow. I used to book my lodging six months out, and have a perfectly planned itinerary, and something pretty needed if you’re pinching your PTO (paid time off). But when “vacation” sort of turns into “life”, you plan less and live more.
Besides the travel lifestyle, you need to understand that work could also hit the fan at any time. You could open your inbox to find out your potential client you’ve been pitching over the last two weeks chose to move in a new direction. You could get a call from your HR department that there’s been a huge company layoff. And you could also wake up to an inbox FULL of new inquiries when you have a 42 hour travel day coming up and still need to pack.
My advice to you? Understand and accept that living with uncertainty is a must, and one of the best perks about being a digital nomad. Roll with the punches, and above all, keep a positive mindset.
Don’t forget to actually work
Have you ever experienced FOMO? Fear of missing out is magnified when you have all the freedom in the world to do what you want, wherever you want. Self discipline and focus is crucial to succeed, for your funds could run out, and depression and self doubt set in.
This is very common within the first year taking a leap into the digital nomad lifestyle. It’s sort of like being kids again in the candy store. There is SO much to see and do, and time feels unlimited. It’s easy to push work tasks and adulting off to the side until a later date, and possibly never get back to it until it blows up in your face.
DON’T put off tasks for the last minute. If you’re someone who already is a big procrastinator this will take some major discipline and adjustments. It’s ok to take full days off, as long as you work full days to balance it off. Think of when and where you’re procrastinating, and what you do when you procrastinate. If it’s something like cooking, cleaning, or going for a run, kill two birds with one stone and listen to a podcast that can help in personal and business development.
To make sure this doesn’t happen when you’re on the road, work and travel with intention. Ask yourself what are your objectives while in this new destination, as well as what you wish to accomplish work wise while you’re here. It’s important to have balance, and harmonize your workflow with your new lifestyle together.
Create a new routine, adjust, adapt, and then recreate it all over again
With an ever changing time zone, climate, and landscape, you’ll have to change up your routine possibly with each new destination you travel to. Sometimes you’ll start right at 9am and work a full 8 hour day, sometimes you won’t start until 2pm or 4pm and work everyday but less than 8 hours a day. Depending on your work situation whether you run your own business, have a remote 9-5, or freelance, you may have to totally adjust your work week – every week.
Having this flexibility allows you to understand your strengths and weaknesses better. If you’re someone who needs to get a daily work out in, plans their schedule around intermittent fasting, or a night owl– you’ll figure out your work pattern soon enough, but it definitely takes practice.
Typically, my routine changes every new lodging accomodation I’m in, even if it’s in the same country. This is mostly because, due to your location and what’s around (like co-working spaces and coffee shops) to who you’re living with (by yourself, roommates, or a romantic partner) you’ll adjust to a similar schedule to theirs. When I’m traveling by myself, I end up in bed before 10pm and up at 8am. If I’m with someone who’s working 12 hours ahead of their company, I may not be going to sleep until 3am.
Play on your strengths. You finally don’t have to go into an office and work a 9-5 so embrace it! Wake up and do a free walking tour before clocking in, or take the entire day off and get up extra early to start your daily grind the following day. You’ll surely adapt to a routine, but be flexible with it, and adapt important habits you carry with you no matter where you are– that is KEY.
Be able to know yourself, and accept yourself
This is a biggie. I know I have a poor sense of direction, so when I’m traveling, I’m sure to have my Airbnb location starred on the map, a downloaded google map, and possibly a hand help map too. Accepting that I tend to get lost easily, and changing my location often, has actually allowed me to gain a better sense of direction, because I am always paying such close attention.
If you like to work with an extra screen, consider bringing an ipad with you for a second monitor. If you’re a sticky note person, white board person, or live strictly to a calendar–bring it along. And I mean the small packable white boards just to be clear.
If you know that you’re someone that needs a routine to function, then make yourself a routine! Maybe you’re someone that will be up all night cause your bunk mate is snoring…pack earplugs! And if you’re the type to need physical exercise, then pack a jump rope. Afraid of getting homesick? Then pack a sense of home with you. For me, that’s my pillow, other’s a sound machine.
Being able to understand who you are and all your flaws and accepting them is only going to help you travel better, and work better. This is a part of the planning that is the utmost importance to succeeding as a digital nomad and have a positive impact in all other aspects in life as well.
Truly know yourself, your needs, and pack accordingly.
Roll with the punches
Just like anything in life, things could totally hit the fan at any given moment. On the flip side of that, being flexible, having a positive mindset, and be able to roll with the punches is what this lifestyle is all about. Location independent = spontaneity.
You could miss your bus. Flights get cancelled. You lost a client, or maybe even your job. Power outage, a deadline, and no wifi. Your phone got stolen and there’s no Apple store in sight. Rainy season hit early on the only two weeks you allotted yourself in that destination. The point is, these are all things out of your control, and they happen EVERYWHERE.
DO NOT get down on yourself or blame yourself. You are most likely not the cause so don’t let your self worth plummet for things out of your control. CoronaVirus? We all had to make the best out of a world pandemic that showed up to our door one day, and a lot of these punches that come our way is just another learning experience to add to our book of life.
No matter where you are, location and in life, the show goes on. Being able to roll with the punches, accept that this comes along with living a location independent lifestyle, will make or break how successful you will be living as a digital nomad.
Anyone can achieve the digital nomad lifestyle, if that is desired, but it’s up to you to take the leap. With an open mindset in anything in life – you can truly achieve anything you put your mind to. In all, the best comparison I can make to being a digital nomad, is being a freelancer like our dear friend Carrie. There are certain qualities that the two require: a life of uncertainty, self discipline, ownership over your habits and mindset, and be able to roll with the punches. If you can accomplish that, you can accomplish anything.