Monday Postcard #13 – What It Is Really Like to Be a Digital Nomad
This morning, I came across the headline “Work where Others Spend their Holidays – Digital Nomads in Bali” in an Austrian newspaper. My Facebook feed is full of pictures of people sitting at the beach with their laptops. And when I say that I work remotely, I hear “Oh, that’s my dream!” most of the time. While I do get why there is this romanticised image of working remotely and being your own boss, I feel that the real sides of this type of lifestyle are most of the time not present in the media.
Start Long Days Early
The romanticised image of digital nomads in the media contribute to people thinking that working this way does not feel like working at all. I do enjoy working remotely and being my own boss but I have to disappoint you: my days do not start at the beach, listening to lounge music and having extensive lunch and coffee breaks. I start my days at 6 am, usually start working at around 6.30 – 6.45 am. I work until 7-8 pm, depending on the tasks, I might sit in front of the laptop for much longer. The freedom I have, however, is that I can choose when to take a break. In an office job, we would have difficulties to justify a lunch break at 3 pm to go to the gym or quickly shop for groceries when these places are less busy. I can do that and I do make use of it.
Most of the Time, I Work Inside
While there have been some days where I worked from a hammock in the garden for 1-2 hours or from a beach lounge, I have to disappoint you and say that most of the time I work inside. This is probably due to the climate as well. In cities like Bangkok or Singapore, it is really tough to sit outside and work for longer than 30 minutes due to the heat. There are days where I do not even leave the house because I am so focussed on working on a certain task (video editing most of the time is such a task).
Adopt a Routine
Even though or maybe because being a digital nomad challenges a “normal” life with daily routines, it is crucial to have certain routines and rituals. This is why I try to wake up every day at the same time and have breaks at around the same time. When it comes to work routines, I start my days the same way: breakfast and reading the newspapers, checking my emails, working on social media postings for the day, then working off my to do list starting with the biggest task to the smallest one. I spend the longest break of the day at the gym – either at around 10 am or 3 pm.
Discipline with Yourself, Your Clients and Team Members
“How can you motivate yourself to wake up and get your work done every morning?” Well, I think it is not too different from going to an office. It is a job and you kind of have to do it. However, I do think those people who cannot motivate themselves to work on projects are better suited to work as an employee. Which is perfectly fine. As an entrepreneur you need to have the passion to work on your “baby”. And on the days where passion is not enough have the ability to kick your own a**.
Working remotely as a team worked out really well for me. However, there are some rules you need to apply to achieve the same atmosphere as working together physically. I try to always be accessible and video conferences have become my best friend. Maybe I should write a separate post about that…
Be Open to Find New Friends
As the word “nomad” suggests, we move around a lot. Which also means starting from scratch again and again. Unless you want to work completely on your own and do not need any social life, it is crucial to be very openminded. Throughout all my moves, I started to meet people pretty much anywhere – in the supermarket, cafés, in the lift. Coworking spaces are also great for meeting likeminded people. And, first and foremost: a smile on your face really helps. (Yep, I have to stress this here, I am someone with a bitchy resting face which does not really help if you want to approach people 😉 ).
Not Everyone Will Get what You Actually Do for a Living
Even though there are many people who admire being an entrepreneur digital nomad, there are, of course, a lot of people who do not get it. I am frequently asked when I am going back to finding “a real job”, why I am always “playing on my phone” and hear comments like “it will be very difficult to start working again”. There are times when I am really upset about these comments. But most of the time, I try to see it from the angle of the person making those comments. Digital nomads are a very new concept. Even though I am sure that remote work will soon be a normal thing – not only for entrepreneurs or freelancers but also in big companies – it is probably quite difficult to understand for people with what is considered a “normal life”.
I do remember how upset my mum was when I came home from primary school with a drawing about her job: I drew a housewife, because my mum was always at home with my brother and me. However, my mother is actually a historian who has been working from home. I just did not realize this as a child. This is probably as bad as people asking me when I plan to go back to a normal life. But similar to my innocent childhood drawing, I think most of the people who make the comments above do not mean it in a bad way. Maybe they are just curious. At least, that is what I tell myself. And in the end, we all need to find what makes us – and not others – happy.
With this, I am leaving you into a new work week. And if you wonder where I wrote this from: a dining table in Bangkok, unfortunately, this time not a glamorous beach hammock in Bali! 😀
Do you want to read more about the real life as a digital nomad and entrepreneur? Would you find it useful to get more advice? I am always looking for new topics to feature on this blog and would love your input on this! Please let me know!
You don’t at all have a resting bitch face! I miss you lots, let me know when you’re next in Singapore or nearby!!
Hahahahaha, maybe not when you’re around!!! 🙂 I will let you know for sure!!