After three years on the road, living the so-called Digital Nomad life, I want to share with you the two main reasons that led me to pursue this lifestyle in the first place.
You might have seen the pictures and thought: “Wow, I want that too!”. But you might also have doubts and conflicting feelings about it.
By sharing my story, I hope I can help you decide whether this lifestyle is something you actually want to pursue or not.
To give some context, I started to work remotely in June 2017. Before that, I had only worked corporate jobs. None of my colleagues were digital nomads, neither were my close friends and family members.
Being a nomad didn’t really feel like a viable way to live. The lifestyle menu I had said: get a job, a house, get married, and so on and so forth.
However, unlike most of my friends, I was deep into personal development and I was reading lots of books. One of them was The 4h Workweek by Tim Ferriss, which explains how to leverage technology to work more efficiently and live a better life.
The book planted a seed in my head that travelling and working from anywhere was indeed possible. But even then, I still didn’t take it seriously.
I thought that nomads were outliers: yes, they might have a great time in Thailand, but they live on the margin of society. They are, in a way, escaping from it.
I remember reading a blog of a girl living in Bali and thinking: “Man, this sounds like a great life. But (talking to myself) how long do you want to keep enjoying life? When are you going to grow up and become a responsible adult? Be serious about your life!”
So I decided to settle, and I started to look for apartments to rent in my hometown. I went to see dozens of places, I even decided to book one. But eventually, I didn’t.
Although I tried to rationalize my decision, it never quite felt right. I saw society changing too fast for me “to sit down and stop growing”.
So I kept reading about these nomads, and one day I stumbled upon a YouTube video that changed my life. It was a 2015 presentation on Digital Nomadism by Pieter Levels, a software developer from the Netherlands. At the time I watched it, it had 77 views.
In the talk, Pieter shares his (very) optimistic vision of the future saying that by 2035 there will be 1 billion digital nomads by 2035. He said that “we won’t care about status, marriage, ownership”, instead we will leverage technology and mobility to work from anywhere and have a great life.
When I watched this video something clicked in my brain. I realized that this was not just a possibility, but in some respect the future we were all heading towards. These nomads were not rejecting society, or avoiding growing up. They were leveraging existing technology to adjust their values and upgrade their lives.
That made a lot of sense to me. The traditional way of living didn't seem so solid in my mind anymore. Rather, it looked like the Titanic: about to hit the iceberg of change.
This is why I became a nomad: I wanted to become more resilient in the face of change and embrace a more modern lifestyle.
But this wasn’t the only reason.
Another important push was that, in my hometown, I didn’t feel supported to grow as I wanted. I felt a huge contrast between the dynamic internal process of personal development I was going through, and the static external environment I was living in. I wanted to have good conversations, talk about the future, and discuss ideas. But there was never a time and place to do that.
For a while I made the effort to persuade people around me that deep conversations are better than gossip, that personal growth is not for weird people, and that we need to talk about the future. But it didn’t work.
I realized that if I wanted to fulfill my potential, I had to leave and find a better ennvironment.
So I bought a ticket to Bali, and left.
That was probably one of the best decision of my life. Although it hasn’t been all rainbows and flowers, the past three years have been by far the best years of my life. From Indonesia to Portugal, I have plenty of great memories to look back to.
But the value of the nomad life is not simply in new experiences. It’s in the skills you build, the values you embrace, and the people you meet.
💪🏼 The nomad life is a gym to build resilience. Plugging yourself in a foreign environment every few months forces you to digest and process a lot of new information. How do I rent a place? How do I renew my visa? Do I need insurance?
You have a lot of new decisions to make on top of doing your job, taking care of your needs and so on. The extra uncertainty either overwhelms you or makes you more resilient.
💡 The nomad life opens your mind to new possibilities. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure I could work efficiently with my colleagues from another continent. I thought it might create problems because of the time difference or bad WiFi. But everything worked just fine. If anything, I was more motivated and inspired to be proactive at work.
All my doubts were dissipated when one day at 3 am in the morning I co-hosted a webinar with my colleagues based in Italy for our audience in the US, which went smoothly. I remember thinking: “YES! This works! Let’s all meet in cyberspace!”
Another thing I was doubtful about was personal belongings. I left with a 40L backpack and I wondered if I had enough "stuff", if it was sustainable long-term. It turned out it was, and I have been living light since then. When I really need to buy something I get it on the spot. I love the freedom to pack my stuff in twenty minutes and being able to move elsewhere.
⭕ The nomad life is about finding your tribe. Without a doubt finding community has been the biggest benefit of this lifestyle. The first thing I did when I arrived in Bali was to go to a coworking space not just to work, but also to meet other “digital nomads”.
To me a nomad is someone who is excited about life, someone who is curious, learning and questioning things by having new experiences. Ultimately I think digital nomads are not defined by the travelling or the online work, but rather by a growth mindset and modern values.
When I finally met other nomads in Bali first and in Lisbon later, it felt great. I finally found people who shared my same interests. People I could grow with.
I felt like a fish who found the ocean after living in the forest. It was a huge life lesson: the environment you're in has the power to either shrink or expand your potential.
In conclusion, if you desire this lifestyle to look cool on Instagram, don’t do it. It's more a hussle than anything.
If instead you want to build important life skills, test a new way of living and find like-minded people around the world, then by all means go nomadic!
You're going to love it.