" - individuals that leverage wireless digital technologies to perform their work duties, and more generally conduct their lifestyle in a nomadic manner."
It is fair to say that the digital nomad lifestyle is a very appealing one. Without doubt, the idea of being able to work whenever you want while travelling wherever you like makes the prospect of doing a normal nine-to-five job seem really quite restrictive and routine.
Becoming a digital nomad
If you are fortunate enough to work in an industry which doesn't require you to be physically based in any one place then chances are you will have thought about giving the digital nomad lifestyle a go at some point or another. However, while it is quite possible (and exciting) to pack a rucksack, charge up all your electronic devices and head off to the nearest airport with your passport and credit cards on a whim, this is not necessarily the best way to embark on an adventure of this kind.
The reason for this is simple: becoming a digital nomad requires you to change your entire lifestyle. Put simply, you need to change the way you look at the world and learn how to adapt your working habits to suit all manner of different environments when working on the road. Adopting an 'in at the deep end' approach will not only reduce your chances of being able to make this transition, it will also increase the odds of you becoming frustrated and disillusioned once the novelty of simultaneously working and travelling eventually wears off.
So, you may ask, what is the best approach?
Why easing yourself into the nomadic worker lifestyle is invariably the best way to go
Let's face it, rookie astronauts don't just jump straight into a rocket when the opportunity to go into space arises; they take a suitable amount of time to train and prepare beforehand, that way they will be fully acclimatised to take on the challenges which await them out in the cosmos. Although slightly less dramatic, the same logic can be applied to wannabe digital nomads.
So how do you ease yourself into this lifestyle?
Going to stay with a good (and understanding) friend for a weekend - and endeavouring to work two full days while you're there - is a great way to test the waters of the nomadic worker lifestyle. This is because working in your pal's home will teach you three very important lessons:
- Working when no-one else is feels odd;
- Working is not an easy thing to do when you have temptations – i.e. the temptation to go out on Saturday afternoon – nattering away in your ear like a devil on your shoulder;
- Working is even less easy when you have a hangover on Sunday.
These 'conditions' reflect those found in hostels and traveller accommodations all across the world quite accurately. If you can manage to get a decent amount of work done while staying at your friend's then chances are you have the mental discipline needed to work effectively in environments which aren't really that conducive to working. If you fall by the wayside and give into temptation without doing much (or any) work at all then take it as a wakeup call. Try the exercise again a month or so later. If you still don't manage to get anything occupational done then it's probably the case that nomadic working isn't for you!
Getting used to working outside your comfort zone
Working in the confines of a familiar property is one thing; working out and about in public areas for prolonged periods of time is quite another. Depending on where you are in the world, you'll not always enjoy the luxury of having accessible Wi-Fi within easy reach of your accommodation, therefore you will have to go out and find a place to work which does. However, it is normally the case that – aside from libraries in big cities – most places offering free Wi-Fi are busy, bustling places like cafes, bars and fast food joints. Needless to say, working in these environs can be somewhat challenging, especially when you're trying to do work which requires a fair degree of concentration.
A good way to get a feel for this is to again go away somewhere for the weekend, this time though you should be by yourself and head for a town you aren't familiar with. Your goal this time is to spend as much of Saturday and Sunday working in public/municipal places and see how much good quality work you can manage to get done. You'll find there are generally more options available on Saturday as more places will be open; however, you will also find that most of the places you go will be pretty busy. The opposite will be true on Sunday.
Over the course of the two days, you should find that flitting between different shops/outlets/venues teaches you three important things:
- You shouldn't feel obliged to make a purchase every 30 minutes;
- Sitting close to a mains outlet is always preferable;
- Even the most inane chit-chat becomes nothing more than background noise after a while.
Do this often enough and you'll eventually pick up an instinctive ability to sniff out a good spot, as well as develop a 'spider-sense' which tingles whenever it's time to leave and go somewhere else (before the barista starts glaring at you). Suffice to say, these are skills which will come in extremely handy when you're out on the road for real.
Although, the aforementioned strategies won't prepare you fully for your first foray into the world of nomadic working, they will give you a decent 'heads up' and help ease you into a lifestyle which, as well as being highly rewarding, can be a little testing at times.