Lately, I see a lot of blog posts and YouTube videos of people announcing that they have failed with their new lifestyle and are going back home. They were disappointed, often broke and now have to find a way to get back into their former “normal” life. I can only imagine how frustrating this experience must be. The nomadic lifestyle is indeed not as easy as it may seem. I want to show you the most important reasons, why digital nomads fail and how you can avoid this from happening to you.
Why Digital Nomads Fail With Their New Lifestyle
Many people love the idea of a digital nomad life. They want to enjoy the freedom and location-independence, that other people have, too. Motivated by all those great success stories on the internet, they are quick to quit their job, sell their stuff and leave with a one-way ticket to their biggest adventure ever.
Don’t get me wrong, some people are lucky, talented and smart enough to make this work. But the majority of aspiring nomads will struggle, often fail. If you want to do better than that, have a look at the following common mistakes and be prepared.
1. Leaving without a plan
People tend to get really excited when they hear about the great advantages of a digital nomad lifestyle. Maybe they’ve just read Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Workweek” and are convinced, that this would be the perfect thing for them. And it sounds so easy! Seemly everyone can simply pack their bags, move to a digital nomad hub and everything else will fall into place.
In the beginning it might be great to just hang around with like-minded people for a while and relax the day away. But after a few weeks they realize that they need to generate income somehow. But it is not as easy as they thought it would be. They start to struggle with this lifestyle.
How to do better:
Don’t rush into this! You’ve got all the time in the world. Sit down and make a plan how your next couple of weeks and months are going to look like. How are you going to make money online? As a freelancer you could start looking for clients while you are still employed. If you want to start your own business, make a proper business plan.
Set yourself goals and rough deadlines. What do you want to achieve until when? What’s your ultimate goal? Think in terms of finances, workload, destinations, and social aspects.
2. Leave without enough information
That goes along with the first reason why digital nomads fail. If you don’t have enough information about this lifestyle, you might end up hating it. Maybe you’ve expected the wrong things from it. Maybe you thought you can quickly get rich with this lifestyle. But the reality looks different.
Often people have no idea about the legal part either. They don’t organize a visa in advance when they should. They don’t get a working permission when it’s necessary. They don’t get a bank account with good conditions for long-term travellers. They don’t get an international health insurance and, in worst case, end up with high hospital fees. And they are shocked when they find out that they still have to pay taxes in their home country, although they don’t live their anymore.
How to do better:
There is so many information and blogs for aspiring digital nomads out there. Read them as if there’s no tomorrow. Make sure, you know what you are getting yourself into before you leave.
Check all visa requirements for the countries you are planning to go first. Are you allowed to do your work there? Get a bank account that allows you to do international money transfers and withdrawals for little or no fees. Organize a health care coverage in case of an emergency. And check your tax situation. Get professional advice if needed.
3. Not having enough savings
Some people rush to their new lifestyle too quickly, thinking that they will soon earn lots of money. After the first couple of weeks they still haven’t earned a single dollar. But, of course, they have to pay bills. Rent, food, transportation etc., that all needs to be paid for.
With no savings they are forced to end their digital nomad career because generating income is not as easy as they had expected it to be.
How to do better:
Start saving money early enough. Months, or even years before you want to start your digital nomad lifestyle. Sell things that you don’t need, like electronics or furniture. Calculate how much money you will need each month to cover your expenses. Put money aside for extra costs, such as investments.
Make sure you have enough savings to keep you alive for at least a couple of months with no income.
These articles will tell you how much money you need to save before stating a digital nomad life.
4. Having no budget control
Another reason why digital nomads fail is because they are terrible with money. They might have savings when they start their new lifestyle, but they spend it on the wrong things. A nice Airbnb room or fancy apartment, eating out every day, comfortable day trips every other day, or expensive electronics which they actually don’t need for their job.
Some also invest a lot of money in expensive online business courses that teach them how to make a lot of money in little time (often these courses don’t live up to their promises at all). Others invest in setting up a business, which will never be profitable. They spend all their savings and end up being broke.
How to do better:
Make a budget plan before you start your digital nomad lifestyle. See what you can spend every month at most and track your actual expenses. There are apps that help you with it, e.g. Trail Wallet. Stay within your limits!
If you want to make investments, check carefully if they are really worth the money. Adjust your budget plan accordingly. It might be hard in the beginning. But in the end it is a crucial factor for making it or failing as a digital nomad.
5. Not having enough skills
People often change their career path when they decide for the digital nomad lifestyle. They choose a completely new type of work, either because they need a change or their old job can hardly be done remotely. Although, this is in general not a problem at all, they don’t acquire the necessary skills before they leave, which can be a reason why digital nomads fail.
Another risk factor are the personal skills you need to have to be happy and successful with this way of living. Many people are not very productive when they work remotely or struggle to stick to their own schedule. They also hesitate to make new friends along the way, which leaves them lonely and disappointed.
How to do better:
Of course, you can learn a lot with online courses on various topics, when you are traveling. But it makes things harder. Plus, you need to stretch your budget even more because you can’t start working straight away. Start to learn everything you need for your new job before you leave.
Make sure you know what kind of personal skills you are going to need. Check out this list with the most important skills digital nomads need to have. It’s no big deal if you aren’t perfect with everything (I’m neither). But if you are bad with all of them and don’t think you can change it, then you are probably not going to be happy with this lifestyle.
6. Working too much
As already mentioned the beginning of your new lifestyle can be very hard. Some people panic and work day and night, 7 days a week. They are afraid that they are going to fail and want to give their everything to be able to make a living.
But this is in fact another common reason why digital nomads fail. After a while they are burned out and don’t have much energy left. They are disappointed and feel unsatisfied with their digital nomad life.
How to do better:
Yes, this lifestyle can be hard work. If you are starting from zero and want to make it soon, you have to put in much effort. However, make sure you take enough breaks. Take a day off every once in a while and explore the place you are staying in. Get you head free and simply enjoy your life. When you are happy and motivated your productivity and performance will increase, too.
Try to automate processes whenever you can. Use the Pareto principle: 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Forget about the things that don’t have much impact on your income or happiness. Focus on the work that creates the most value.
7. Traveling too much
On the other hand, there are those kinds of people, who focus more on the traveling part, than on the working part. They pack and move all the time. Often they only stay a few days or weeks in one place. After a while they get tired from constantly changing places.
They also struggle to get a working routine, which results in a decreased productivity and less income.
How to do better:
This reason why digital nomads fail can easily be avoided. If you want to be successful as a digital nomad and want to live like that for more than just a few months, you need to slow down. Stay in one place for at least one month, the longer the better. Give yourself time to settle in. Make sure you have a healthy balance between the working and traveling part.
Read more about why the digital nomad life is not sustainable when you are traveling too fast.
8. Not having any travel & remote work experience
Many people love the idea of traveling around the world. Every time they are on their 2-week-annual vacation they wish they could do this forever. So they go for the digital nomad lifestyle. Soon they realize, that this type of traveling has got nothing to do with their usually beach and pool holiday.
They also find out, that they hate working in front of a laptop screen all day. They miss their working colleagues and notice that they perform better with given structures for their working day.
How to do better:
Give this lifestyle a test run before you sell all your belongings and move away. Maybe you can do a sabbatical or gap year or ask your boss to do your current work remotely for a while. Move around from one place to another for a bit. Stay in the type of accommodation you would use when being a digital nomad (which is usually not a 5-star hotel).
Bring your laptop with you and try to work from your apartment. How do you feel with that? Are you ok with living out of a suitcase/backpack? Can you stay productive while working online on your own? Do you think you can enjoy this on the long run?
9. Not connecting with others
Another common reason why digital nomads fail is the fact that they don’t connect with locals or other nomads. They think that they are going to leave again soon anyway and there is no point in making friends for only a few weeks or months.
But even introverts need to socialize every once in a while. When you only stick to yourself you will feel terribly lonely soon. This loneliness makes you so unhappy, that you will give up on this lifestyle and return home.
How to do better:
When you arrive at a new place, go and try to get in touch with others. Your neighbours, people working in a bar, other travellers, people you meet in coworking spaces etc. Don’t think that it’s not worth it for a short period of time. You never know who you are going to meet or what is going to happen.
To make it even easier, there are plenty of offline and online communities out there for digital nomads. Websites and apps help you to get and stay in touch.
Wrong Expectations Lead To Failure
You will only be disappointed with your new lifestyle, if you have to wrong expectations to begin with. Don’t trust the common misconceptions about digital nomads. Optimism is a great thing! Life is so much better when you have a positive mindset. But try to stay realistic, too.
You are very likely not going to get rich as soon as you become a digital nomad. You probably won’t be able to survive on a 4-hour workweek either.
What To Do If You’ve Failed?
Ok, so it happened. You started this digital nomad thing, but soon realized that this is not for you. You won’t be happy or successful with it and don’t want to continue this lifestyle. If you are sure that this is not the right life for you, don’t force yourself to continue. Know when it’s time to end one chapter of your life.
Disappointed? Probably. Frustrated? Completely understandable.
But who says that failure is something bad? I know, I sound very much like a lecturing personality coach guru here. But don’t see it as something negative. Take it as an experience and learn from it. New and even better things might grow from this situation.
Look at what you like and what you dislike about the digital nomad life. Is there any way to keep the good stuff in your life somehow?
Design your own lifestyle. There is no wrong or right. What matters is that you are happy with your choice.
As you can see it is not that easy to be successful as a traveling remote worker. There are many reasons why digital nomads fail. Having no plan and no budget, traveling too fast and working too much are only a few of them.
It is important to know what to expect from this lifestyle. You need to stay realistic. You won’t get rich over night. There are many obstacles in the way. If you find out that this is not the right lifestyle for you, don’t be afraid to end it and start a new chapter. Take it as an experience and learn from it.
However, if you prepare this new way of living accordingly and listen to the above mentioned tips, you have a realistic chance to make the digital nomad life work.
Can you think of any other reasons why digital nomads fail with their lifestyle? Or are you afraid of failure? Let me know!
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