Digital Nomad Lifestyle: How to Work and Wander in the Modern World

What’s the digital nomad lifestyle? 

Is it something you learn? Something you buy? Or perhaps it’s something you earn?

What’s the digital nomad lifestyle? 

Is it something you learn? Something you buy? Or perhaps it’s something you earn?

Hi! I’m Julia, and I started my digital nomad lifestyle journey around 2018. 

The point of this confession isn’t to brag about my digital nomad life but to show you how it’s possible. It’s not magic, and it had nothing to do with the “privilege” given to me by my family. 

I want to point out some of the things that I did that helped me achieve this type of lifestyle. 

Before we dive in, I want to point out that this is not something that will fit every person out there. Being a digital nomad requires a specific type of personality and some radical life perspectives. 

But this might be YOU, so keep on reading. 

If it feels like you, then you have a starting point. 

If it’s not, then you’ll know that it’s not for you and that you’re not missing out on anything. 

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What is a digital nomad?

I consider a digital nomad to be someone who is location-independent of their job and any other physical activities.

A digital nomad is not the same as a remote worker, but there are situations in which these two terms may be confused.

After the 2020 pandemic, many have transitioned into a remote position.

However, the nature of these work contracts stipulates that the employee resides at a specified address, although they are not obliged to present themselves physically to an office. 

The way I see it, a digital nomad is under no obligation to maintain a certain residency or spend X amount of days in a certain city or country.

Of course, each individual should always follow regulations when it comes to visa and residency laws that may apply to their citizenship. 

But I’m not talking about those fundamental laws of how many days you’re allowed in a place based on your visa or passport. 

In that sense, I see a digital nomad somewhere between a tourist and a remote worker, where you get both of those benefits. Of course, there are some disadvantages to embracing the digital nomad lifestyle. But I’ll leave those for the end. 

Honestly, I haven’t Google “what is a digital nomad” because I intend to speak from my personal experience only. 

I do not wish to adhere to someone else’s opinion or identify with another digital nomad’s perspective. 

You’re here because you want to know what this thing is all about. 

And that’s exactly what I’ll give you. 

Digital nomad lifestyle

What’s the digital nomad lifestyle?

I pick a place (where I’ll be legally allowed to travel to), I find a place for a longer period of time (usually one month or more), and then I live there. 

I did this in Morocco, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, and Portugal. I also did a bunch of road trips in Europe longer, some up to 4 weeks, while doing my digital nomad thing.

To support my digital nomad lifestyle, I also work while I’m there. 

So it’s not a holiday, but a lifestyle, because I’m working while travelling. Sounds like a teenager’s dream, but it’s more serious. 

Before you go crazy about tax issues and other stuff, know that I do pay taxes in the country of my residency, where I meet all conditions imposed by local law. 

In my case, this is Romania. 

However, each country has different taxation laws, and you should really know what applies to you so you don’t run into trouble. 

Also, that’s why so many are interested in digital nomad visas. They are individuals who come from highly taxed countries and wish to declare their income in another country where, hopefully, taxes are lower. 

It’s more serious than a teenager’s dream, as I already said. 

The first thing to know about being a digital nomad is that you need to finally get a grip on how the financial and taxation systems work in your country. 

Then, you need to assess your situation and find out how to legally find another country that will grant you a visa (if needed) and how to declare your activity and pay taxes there. 

More often than not, you will need an accountant. 

Now, let’s talk about some realities of this lifestyle and why I rarely tell people I’m a digital nomad. 

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Misconceptions about being a digital nomad

“I want a digital nomad career.”

Being a digital nomad is not a career! It’s a lifestyle. A career supposes that you’re a professional in your field of work. But as a digital nomad, you can perform any kind of digital work. 

While I work as a freelancer content writer and travel blogger, you might be working as a computer science engineer. We might both be digital nomads, but it’s obvious we have very different careers. 

“What’s the digital nomad salary?”

Another common misconception is that digital nomad is a job in itself (it isn’t) and that it has a set range of salaries (there is no such thing). 

As I said before, we could have very different jobs (YouTuber, Freelance writer, computer engineer, etc.) and still be digital nomads. 

As you can guess, all these jobs may have different salary brackets, which has nothing to do with your location. So, in this case, instead of asking, “What’s the digital nomad salary?” you should be asking, “What are the highest paying jobs I can do as a digital nomad?”. 

“I can’t be a digital nomad because I have a family.”

It’s not going to be easy, but it’s possible. 

To have a digital nomad family, you would need to have a life partner who is also embracing the digital nomad lifestyle. 

And if you have kids, then you have to look into homeschooling. 

Why did I become a digital nomad?

Behind every digital nomad is a strong and motivated individual who can’t deal with conventional working hours and office rules. 

Since I was in college, I was looking at my peers who were getting intern jobs at big companies and corporations and never felt the need to follow that path. What’s more, I even told myself I would never work in a corporation, although I had never experienced that before. But something deep inside was screaming, “No”. 

Later on, I got my first job in an office, and it really felt like my life was over. 

I was 24. 

Then, I started to look for opportunities to travel and do whatever I could not to have to return to a physical office ever again.

Whenever I was there, at my office job, I just prayed the day would go on faster so I could leave. It felt like the end of my life, and, trust me, there was no desire to live left inside. 

I wrote an entire manifesto on that feeling. You can read it here: 5 Things I Figured Out After I Quit My Job

But my choice to adopt the digital nomad lifestyle was more than just a flick of the moment. 

For me, it was part of my person to become as independent as possible from any job or employer. Better yet, finding a way to earn a living online was a way to give me this freedom I was craving so badly. 

If there is a privilege in this whole thing, it is the privilege of being born in the era of the internet

But the good news is that I’m not the only one who’s taking advantage of this privilege. 

The internet is free for all, inclusive, and sometimes a bit harsh, but it’s still our best chance to reach people from all over the world and work together with someone from the other side of the globe.

In a nutshell, I chose to be a digital nomad, even before I knew this lifestyle was a thing because I didn’t fit into the conventional 9-to-5 job schedule. It was sucking the life out of me, and I had to find an alternative. 

Years later, people are now actively searching “how to become a digital nomad”, but the truth is that if this is for you, you will intuitively find a way. There’s no other option for you. 

What makes a digital nomad lifestyle?

If there’s any confusion left, I will try to point out some of the things that I do as a digital nomad. Others might have a different digital nomad lifestyle, but this is me:

  • I can work from wherever I want. There is no requirement for me to be in a specific location.
  • I have a legal entity which allows me to act like a small business and send invoices to my clients (I’m a freelance content writer).
  • I don’t have a fixed schedule. This is more of a perk of the freelancer lifestyle. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. This means I can work, or not, on any given day as long as I meet my deadlines and the work gets done in the end. 
  • I can travel whenever I want, for as long as I want. Since my schedule is flexible, I can travel on a Tuesday, take a Wednesday off, and wake up at noon if I feel like it. 
  • I prefer to travel for a month instead of only a few days. I’m not a tourist, remember? That’s why I need more time to be able to fit in work days and then use other days to explore a new place. I found that travelling for longer is cheaper in the end and makes me feel less anxious about discovering a new place. 
  • I need a good internet connection wherever I go. I have all my things online (work, banking, insurance, tax stuff, accounting), so disconnecting is not really an option. Also, I don’t want to disconnect, I like this. 
  • I end up working weekends and evenings so that I can take time off when others are at work. 
  • I don’t have a lot of friends, since they all have a different lifestyles. However, I occasionally join digital nomad conferences, where I get to meet other like-minded people. 

I do have to add that it takes a highly independent, self-driven and ambitious individual to achieve this. In the end, you’re the one setting yourself up for success, putting deadlines in place to make sure things get done, reaching out to potential clients, negotiating your fees and making sure everything runs smoothly. 

There are a lot of extra small tasks that you wouldn’t normally do as a simple employee, and not everyone would be willing to put up with this. And that’s okay; we’re all different. I’m here to simply share my experience. 

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Why the digital nomad lifestyle isn’t for everyone?

The truth is that we are all different, and we have different needs. 

Some people may not find themselves in this lifestyle and have no drive to be a digital nomad. 

Here’s the harsh truth about being a digital nomad (some of these things I have already suggested): 

  • I don’t have a lot of physical stuff. I realised I need to see objects as tools for a purpose and not get attached to them. I don’t own a lot of clothes or objects. My lifestyle is pretty simplistic, and sometimes I need to get creative. 
  • I often travel with hand luggage only. That’s right, even for a one month+ of travel, I only have a small laptop pack and a backpack, or sometimes a carry-on on wheels (it depends on location). I know nomads with big luggage that they need to check in when flying, but they only have one suitcase, which is still extremely restrictive. 
  • You need to quickly be able to adapt to change. If you decide to travel, changing the climate, food in your diet, workout routine and other habits need to adapt to the current location. 
  • I don’t see how a highly habit-attached individual can adapt to ever-changing surroundings. We all need stability, habits and a routine in our lives, but there are different degrees of it. If changing any of your daily activities is a deal breaker for you, then you certainly can’t become a digital nomad because it will make you deeply unhappy. 
  • Most digital nomads have a tendency to be sociable and make friends easily. The world is a lonely place, and nobody wants to be lonely. 
  • You need to organise everything. Things like accommodation, transportation, rentals, research places to visit, coworking places need to be researched all the time. This activity tends to drain my energy, but I truly love organising this, so it makes me happy. 
  • You’ll be far away from your family and probably miss some of their birthdays or other celebrations. This is a deal-breaker for some, while others are more independent. 

Digital nomadism is about flexibility and getting detached from physical stuff. 

I’m not perfect at it, and there are so many other nomads doing this much better than I am, but either way, you need to embrace this idea.

Otherwise, it will be hard, if not impossible, to adopt the digital nomad lifestyle. 

Is the digital nomad lifestyle for you?

If these things sound like something you would like to do or are already doing, then great. This can be you. 

I have also known people who did this, discovered it was not what they wanted, and then went back to having a normal job. That’s great, too. 

There is no right way to do your life. 

But if there’s nothing I can’t compromise about, it’s your mental state and happiness. 

Choose whatever makes you happy.

Iulia Vasile

Iulia is a travel expert, blogger, engineer, freelance copywriter, and a curiosity-driven personality. She sees travel as the ultimate tool for self-improvement and personal growth, and that's the main topic of her blog, Juliasomething.com.

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