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The Limits of the Digital Nomad Revolution

Everyone is selling the dream of becoming a digital nomad. Let’s take a look at what they aren’t telling you.

Imagine being able to close your laptop at the end of the day and heading off to the beaches of Rio De Janeiro and a week later doing the same, but instead of hitting the beach you explore the streets of central Tokyo. Thanks to modern technology such as instant messaging, collaborative software suites, cloud computing and video conferencing the digital nomad has the freedom to work from just about anywhere.

What is a digital nomad?

Being a digital nomad means you can live and work anywhere, setting your own hours; all the while experiencing everything the world has to offer. It’s more of a concept or lifestyle than a label. It’s a conscious decision to leverage technology to financially sustain a free and independent lifestyle. There is no home, there is no office, there is just adventure and places as yet undiscovered.

The beauty of digital nomadism is that anywhere with an internet connection can become your office: a rented space, a coffee shop, an apartment, a train or even a sun lounger within wi-fi range at the beach. For some people, a virtual office can give you everything you need from a traditional office so why not combine work with travel?

Overheads are low which means more money to travel and with next to no time wasted commuting you can get more done. It’s a lifestyle that can be incredibly addictive and fulfilling but there are limitations.

Poor connection

Digital nomads are often found working over wireless internet which isn’t as reliable as a wired connection and poor connection can make remote working frustrating.

And if you’re backpacking around remote parts of the world or those places largely untouched by the modern world you may even find trouble getting a consistent power source. This can be a real issue if you’re on a deadline or trying to join a conference call with intermittent access.

Do you trust me?

As a freelancer, your lifeblood will be the relationships you have with your clients and suppliers. It can sometimes be difficult to build trust when you’re thousands of miles away or are constantly meeting your clients in cafes. You may be living in a technological revolution but your clients may prefer the comfort of a sterile office with hard chairs and a receptionist.

Distance is often the biggest pain. Difference in time zones will reduce most contact to instant messages and emails which can make it harder to sense tone and easier to misconstrue meaning. And not being able to stay in regular physical contact with suppliers can create issues further down the line – you know what they say, out of sight out of mind.

And worst of all – if you’re always in some exotic location your clients may mistakenly believe you aren’t actually working and are spending the time they believe you owe them out taking in the sights. If only!

Trust is the foundation of any successful business relationship and that can be hard to forge without a face-to-face meeting which isn’t always practical when you’re on the other side of the world. Skype is great but sometimes your clients will just need to look you in the eye to close the deal.

Lonely planet

Remote working and digital nomadism can offer incredible work–life balance but it can also be extremely lonely. Without the opportunity for regular interaction and ‘water-cooler moments’ it is easy to feel a little detached from reality. Interacting with café workers is no substitute for face-to-face engagement with a peer or colleague.

Without that time physically spent in the company of your co-workers and collaborators it is easier to miss out on those impromptu exchanges that inspire new ideas.

The life of the digital nomad is easy to envy when you hear of the locations they visit and the freedoms they can enjoy but it’s not a cakewalk. Digital nomads still have to work hard to enjoy the life they’ve chosen to lead and it’s not without its limitations.`

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