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Misconceptions about digital nomads

Living as a digital nomad is not a unique lifestyle choice anymore.

With more and more people being drawn to digital nomadism, it has gradually become mainstream.

According to a recent study, 4.8 million workers describe themselves as digital nomads in America, and 17 million people aspire to be digital nomads someday.

These numbers suggest that a large proportion of people aspire to be “location-independent” for work, however it is not always as carefree as it is romanticised to be.

There are many misconceptions about digital nomads to know before taking the plunge into living and working nomadically.

Here are some key misconnections about digital nomads we have identified:

1) Always on vacation

For many, their impression of a digital nomad is someone who is almost on a “working” holiday, with more time to play and less time working.

While digital nomads are often found in countries famous for their tourist attractions or nice weather, they are most likely working as many hours as someone resident there - and with less free time to enjoy the sights as a tourist would have.

Like most professionals, digital nomads must also earn their keep. They have responsibilities at home and away. A scroll of their Instagram accounts might suggest that they are spending their time exploring but this is certainly not all digital nomads get up to when working in a new location.

2) Every day is the weekend

For many of us working the Nine to Five, there is a smile on our faces the closer we get to the weekend. It’s a time to visit family, friends and catch up on life outside of work.

In contrast, digital nomads don’t follow a typical Monday-to-Friday routine.

On weekends they can often be found sitting at a screen, tackling a project or working with a new client. There are no fixed holidays for digital nomads nor is there a standard weekend.

3) It's easy to make friends

It is not easy to make friends in a different country, especially when the local language isn’t in your repertoire. What’s more, digital nomads can change locations frequently, which means they are forever “new” to a city.

Working as a digital nomad can lead to loneliness and the risk of feeling isolated. If you are okay with being a lone wolf that chooses when to have the company of others, then welcome to the world of digital nomadism.

4) Stress-free

Working within a company or organization, it is common for employees to receive medical insurance to cover the cost of any health issues they encounter.

However for digital nomads, it is a different scenario. Medical insurance isn’t as standard and is not supplied by their clients.

It is possible however to be a “location-independent” full-time worker with medical health insurance, it just means finding a company that offers the freedom of working anywhere, with the perks of an office job.

For digital nomads who don’t report to a larger company and work for themselves, having medical insurance is a necessity, and this means paying for medical cover from their own pockets.

5) Citizen of the world

The digital nomad lifestyle offers opportunities to explore different countries and local cultures.

But moving across borders to new countries can mean having to register and establish temporary residency there. Getting the paperwork right in these new home countries can be challenging. There are countries that are known for their bureaucracy and even some that have yet to digitalize their processes, which means a lot of early morning queuing and paperwork filing.

It can be easier to move around the European Union (EU) for digital nomads if they’re already a citizen of one of the EU-member countries.

man standing over travel bag holding bank card

6) Banking and compliance

Paperwork is not the only thing digital nomads have to deal with. Banking also presents a challenge for digital nomads.

Digital nomads are often living in temporary accommodation and due to the limited time they might intend to spend in a country, they don’t have bills in their name. Or maybe their registration documents haven’t been produced by the local government office yet. If a digital nomad decides to open a local bank account in their new home country, they will often need to provide a proof of address as part of the Know Your Customer (KYC) criteria that is a key part of any banking processes.

Not having this proof of address can mean a longer delay in opening a local bank account.

7) We have a shorter working week

One misconception of digital nomads is that they are always out enjoying the local sights and working less hours than us “corporate types”. They might be getting out to enjoy local cuisine - but it is most likely a working lunch in a café to meet their deadlines for multiple projects and briefs. Their clients may be in a different country and time-zone so the work hours of a digital nomad are as varied as their locations.

However working over 40 hours per week is balanced with the flexibility offered by digital nomadism along with the chance to travel abroad.

8) Extravagant living

The digital nomad lifestyle is not all about living extravagantly abroad.

Digital nomads often can be seen moving where and when they need to, in order to live cheaply and save money.

It is all about priorities. Maybe living in budget accommodation and eating from market or street vendors is cheaper than trying renting an apartment with top cooking facilities to prepare meals every day at home.

Digital nomads have left home to explore new places so they often try to avoid spending money on the unnecessary extras of long-term accommodation and aim to live cheaply.

shot of man relaxing on balcony drinking from coconut

9) The ultimate in work-life balance

A typical office job will most often end sometime after five, but digital nomads don’t have the luxury of this structured schedule. They often have to communicate with overseas clients either later at night or early in the morning.

There is also the risk of being online and seeing a client’s urgent email right when they are about to log off. The struggle for digital nomads lies in finding that work-life balance when work can be anytime, anywhere.

10) You're always earning

Digital nomads don’t have a fixed salary – unless they're doing a full-time remote job. Their earnings mostly depends on their clients’ work and they need to have a steady stream of projects coming in so that there is no gap in their earnings.

There are unexpected life events that can break up their income stream.

From a sudden illness to clients not paying invoices on time; a digital nomad carries all the risk and faces taking a financial hit in the absence of any work or in the event of them not being able to work.

11) Everyone can be a digital nomad

The digital nomad lifestyle offers many perks, and digital nomads can enjoy their lifestyle despite the difficulties they may face.

Meeting people from different cultures, communities, and countries can bring growth and a new perspective.

However, the digital nomad lifestyle is not for everyone. For anyone who enjoys the security of a office job and the comforts of home, the digital nomad lifestyle may not be for you.

Living a digital nomad lifestyle is not as easy as it can appear to some people. The above are just some of the many misconceptions people have about digital nomads.

What about you? Do you want to share any misconceptions about digital nomads? Let us know!

The information contained in this article should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional advice in individual cases. Future changes in legislation, tax level, and practice could affect the information in this site. The information shown is based on date or information obtained from sources believed to be reliable but CurrencyFair makes no representation and accepts no responsibility as to its accuracy or completeness and will not be held liable for damages arising out of any person’s reliance upon this information.

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