Top 20 Pros & Cons of Being a Digital Nomad

by | Last updated Jan 23, 2021 | Digital Nomad | 2 comments

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Living and working in exotic places, meeting new people, embarking on a journey of full-time travel — there are certainly many perks of the digital nomad lifestyle. But as with everything else in life, there are always a few disadvantages to balance out the advantages. The pros and cons of being a digital nomad are just that — a delicate balance that needs constant adjustment and fine-tuning.

At the heart of it, being a digital nomad requires stepping outside your comfort zone. And that means sacrificing a few things in order to gain X, Y, Z. Most of the time, what there is to be gained as a digital nomad overwhelmingly outweighs the risks and sacrifices.

There is also a ton of misconception about the digital nomad community, what remote work we do, and so on. For example, while Instagram might portray a very glossy view of digital nomadism and the laptop lifestyle, behind the scenes most digital nomads are working regular hours, if not longer hours (and spoiler – sometimes on weekends too). Most of us are working toward building something long-term, or at least something that will eventually generate passive income so we can keep traveling and living all over the world.

For some digital nomads, location independence is simply rewarding enough and therefore they do remote jobs that allow them to live that lifestyle. However, many nomads are creating their online business while living abroad, which is never easy, but especially not so when you’re life plans are constantly changing along with your internet connection. Sprinkle in the unfamiliarity of immersing in a new place and culture while juggling your remote work so that you can make this “dream life” a reality, and you got yourself quite a dizzying schedule.

Paul and I have been slow traveling as digital nomads for the past 7-8 years. And what we’ve learned is that this nomadic lifestyle gives more than it takes, but that there are just as many pros as there are cons of the digital nomad lifestyle.

Here are our top 20 pros and cons of being a digital nomad!

The Pros of Being a Digital Nomad

girl and cat in roadtrek van | digital nomad lifeMe and Yoda during van life as digital nomads in Canada

1. Getting to Travel & Work From Anywhere in the World

I am not exaggerating when I mean you can work, live, and play from nearly anywhere in the world as a digital nomad. As long as you have some form of wifi or internet connection to get your work done, you can make it happen.

Want to live on an island? Go for it! In a wildly different culture other than your own? That’s a given! How about traveling to several new countries each year? Definitely!

I think the number one pro of being a digital nomad is the advantage and privilege of travel itself. Never before have people been able to jet off across the world and live in multiple countries and experience other cultures as modern digital nomads do today.

And we have an incredible amount of resources now to make this happen — special digital nomad visas, coworking spaces, cafes with wifi, increasing remote work jobs, and an ever-growing digital nomad community to support you on your journey. Traveling the world while making money online is actually an opportunity anyone can seek out now and that thought alone is mind-boggling.

So, if your heart is burning and your feet are itching to see the world, being a digital nomad and earning your income online is your ticket to do just that!

RELATED: How to Live Abroad & Travel the World Full-Time

2. Being My Own #BossBabe & Tapping into Financial Freedom

As a freelance writer and travel blogger, I am my own boss. I choose when to work and how much I want to work. But because the digital nomad life isn’t a given – I have to work “regular” hours to keep my bills paid on time. I usually wake up around 6:30 AM and start writing or blogging and do that pretty much until 6:30 PM at night, with a 1.5-hour lunch break (+ 20-minute nap haha) to spice up the day.

Of course, there are days where I take my mornings or afternoons off, or sometimes the entire day if I’m not feeling well or just can’t seem to get the productive flow state going. That means I can also choose my own vacation days. Having only 2 weeks a year of vacation isn’t the lifestyle I want to be stuck with.

That’s what I love about freelance work as well as nomadic life. I can choose when to work as I am my own boss!

Speaking of being my own boss, I know not every digital nomad works for themselves. Many nomads are remote workers for companies back “home” that hold down a strict 9-5 schedule. That’s entirely doable too and many nomads make this life work while juggling a full-time online job.

3. Having a Better Quality of Life

As a digital nomad, I feel like I am able to pursue the things I really enjoy or am curious about in life. In that regard, I feel like I can choose to have a better quality of life. What that may look like depends on every individual, but for me, that means being able to choose my living conditions, environment, activities, and social interactions.

That means if I think “living at the beach” would bring me more happiness and fulfillment, I can make that happen. I’d say that’s definitely one of the biggest pros of being a digital nomad. I know people would LOVE to live at the beach and the crazy thing is that you can make that a reality if you’re a remote worker or a digital nomad.

My vision of “having a better quality of life” might not be at all similar to what you envision as a quality life – but I think you get my point! As a nomad, you can experiment, customize, and personalize how you want to live.

ALSO READ: The Perfect Packing List for Digital Nomads

4. Living in & Learning from Diverse Cultures

Besides all the financial freedom talk, one of my favorite advantages of being a digital nomad is actually getting to learn, live, and experience all the colorfully diverse cultures of the world.

I have always felt like my heart belonged in other languages and cultures, and to be able to really immerse myself for long periods of time in a different country fills my heart with gratitude, awe, and adventure.

I know of a few nomads who live around the world in search of a better, cheaper cost of living without much regard to the culture they’re integrating into, but for me, I think it is one of the biggest perks and privileges of this lifestyle.

The world and its people are so beautiful and mysterious that I couldn’t imagine not being able to explore it – or trying – as much as I possibly can. It is also my belief that the true depths and complexities of humankind reveal themselves on a journey of discovery in foreign lands.

RELATED: 11 Best Digital Nomad Cities Around the World

5. Meeting Other Inspiring Like-Minded People

I am both an introvert and extrovert, but what doesn’t seem to change as time goes on is how I try to be a people person. And there’s no better way to meet new people from all types of histories and backgrounds than by living and traveling abroad as a digital nomad.

There is something wildly refreshing about chatting with new people that don’t believe what you believe and those that do, or hearing about people’s crazy life stories and adventurous experiences you didn’t think was possible.

Making actual friends as a digital nomad can be super tough, though. People are always on the move, so friendships hardly last (or have time to solidify) beyond a few months. But then every once in a while, you find like-minded people and fellow digital nomads that truly resonate with who you are and your mission.

boy putting holi powder on foreigner in kathmandu nepal during the holi festivalCelebrating the Holi Festival in Kathmandu, Nepal (2016)

digital nomad girl in marseille franceOn a weekend trip in the south of France (2017)

6. Growing as a Person & Global Citizen

I am 100% certain that a life of travel has shaped me into becoming a better person. A good person with a more wholesome worldview. A difficult person that questions things and doesn’t conform to broken ideologies and social norms. An entrepreneur person that can contribute to the world in a positive way with learned skills and given gifts.

The digital nomad lifestyle has opened up so many doors, including the opportunity to be a global citizen by thinking critically in a way that allows me to better understand the world and its diverse communities, and the active role that I play in it.

It has also taught me how to gain skills in an ever-growing digital economy in which things like affiliate marketing, social media, and my travel blog are highly valued.

7. Ridding Yourself of Material Possessions

It’s not possible to be a globetrotting digital nomad AND keep all your material possessions. A life of work and travel means unburdening yourself with all that which no longer serves you.

When I moved abroad for the third time to begin my master’s degree program in Europe, I sold my car and donated a half dozen black trash bags full of clothes and items that I couldn’t take with me.

Ridding myself of material items taught me what I really needed, and didn’t need, to thrive.

I now travel and move to new countries with a 40L backpack and a small 20L day bag for carrying my digital nomad gear. I don’t have much to my name which also means I don’t have unnecessary bills back home weighing me down, like a car payment (well, actually I am paying a monthly fee to store our van until we can get back to Canada and recommence van life).

Bottom line – the less you have, the more you can have as a digital nomad.

ALSO READ: What Is Slow Travel and 7 Reasons Why You Should Do It

8. Being Able to Pursue New Hobbies & Interests

As a roaming digital nomad, I can explore whatever sport, hobby, and activity that interests me. I once tried aerial silks and trapeze arts in Mexico for 6 months and even got to perform for the community and everything. I absolutely loved the experience and the power that it brought to my mind and body.

Another example: For the longest time, I dreamed of scuba diving and eventually earning my PADI certification. Well, guess what? Just this past year, I was able to do just that. And you know why? Because opportunities like that are wayyyy easier to pursue when you get to decide where you want to live.

RELATED: The Complete Guide to Scuba Diving in Tulum, Mexico

It’s also a win-win cycle, the more I try different experiences the more I can learn from them and apply them to the overall human experience. I am better for trying it, even if I don’t enjoy it or stick with it long-term. I believe they call this “broadening your horizon” which leads me to the next advantage of being a digital nomad…

9. Becoming More Open-Minded & Breaking Biases/Stereotypes

I’m sure by now you can guess that digital nomadism opens your mind. And here’s why.

As you explore and experience more things in life – cultures, religions, activities, ways of living – you break down existing biases you didn’t even know you had while combatting negative stereotypes that discriminate against various groups of people.

And trust me – we need MORE of that. More people willing to open up their minds to others’ human experiences unlike their own.

10. Living a Freer, Flexible Lifestyle for Less $

Last but not least of this list of “digital nomad pros” is the reality that you can live a more flexible and pleasant lifestyle for MUCH less money than you could in your home country (in most cases, this means in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, NZ, or Europe where the cost of living is higher).

In fact, one of the top reasons why digital nomads live abroad and travel in the first place is to seek out a better cost of living while actually increasing their quality of life.

It’s true – your US dollar or Euro, etc, goes much further when you live in a country where the cost of living is low but where the “reward” is high.

These countries mainly spread out across Southeast Asia or Latin America, are called digital nomad hotspots. I’m sure you’ve heard of the digital nomad paradise island of Bali in Indonesia, right? That is just one example of where you can live and work as a digital nomad.

But the thing is, digital nomadism is spreading as working remotely becomes more and more popular (especially now). There are even countries like Bermuda, Georgia, and Costa Rica that offer special digital nomad visas to encourage young entrepreneurs and travelers to live and travel slowly in their country to boost tourism and economic growth.

So now we’ve thoroughly gone over the top 10 pros of being a digital nomad, now let’s take a look at the less idyllic disadvantages of this lifestyle.

RELATED: The Ultimate Digital Nomad Guide to Mexico

The Cons of Being a Digital Nomad

digital nomad girl swinging in a hammock in st martins, canadaHanging in there

1. Life Plans Are Always in Limbo

It’s hard to make legitimate plans in life no matter who you are, but especially so as a digital nomad whose lifestyle ebbs and flows as frequently as the nearest wifi connection.

Literally, though, it can be hard to plan for more than 6 months at a time, since you never really know where you’re going next due to visa limitations and requirements and forever changing plans.

One day you could be living in Thailand and then meet someone at the coworking space who just came from Malaysia and thus inspires your next trip. Who knows!

2. Being Far from Family & “Home”

Home is a funny thing – is it a place, a person, maybe a feeling? I feel like I have several “homes” in the world; places I’ve lived and deeply connected to. But home in the literal sense for me usually means where I was born or where the bulk of my family resides, which is in Tennesse and North Carolina, USA.

The first time I moved abroad (to France) I spent 14 months away from my family – that was also the first time I ever did that. But little did I expect that to become somewhat the “norm” over the next few years. Although now I try to visit at least 1-2x a year.

Every time I speak to a fellow digital nomad, home always comes up. Where you from? How often do you go? And no matter how different we all are – we always miss home from time to time.

3. Your Expenses & Income May Vary Month to Month

It can be challenging at times as a digital nomad to meet work deadlines so that you can pay your bills. At least for me as a freelance writer, I depend on my own work ethic (which can be a struggle when the beach is calling) so that I can afford the expenses from the month.

And although my income might not vary that much (depending on job offers), my monthly expenses do. Sometimes we eat out more one month than another, or we travel more often in one month versus another – and all those variations combined can sometimes cause stress about not being able to “meet ends meet.”

If you’re not very organized or in control of your finances, this can definitely become a major con about digital nomad life.

4. Sometimes You Don’t Know Where Your Next Bed Will Be

For this next one, you may not feel much sympathy for me, haha. After all, digital nomads choose this path of somewhat instability. But even so, what I mean by “not knowing where your next bed will be” relates to those general digital nomad life plans of not knowing which country you’ll be in next week – and trust me, that can get stressful when the clock dwindles down to t-minus 1 day left before departure.

Yep – our record of “not knowing” where we would sleep or be next has literally come down to hours in the day. Many people tell me that they couldn’t imagine doing that and I totally understand it. But not knowing what’s waiting around the corner is just a part of the process.

Personally, I don’t see it as so much of a disadvantage as I do an adventure, but I wanted to mention it here in case you’d think that’s a total turn off of this lifestyle!

5. Spending ALL Your Money on Travel – Rarely Getting to Save for the Future

You wouldn’t believe how many times Paul and I get asked, “How do you afford to travel so much?”

The raw truth behind that loaded question is this: 1.) No, we are not rich and 2.) We literally spend our money on travel itself (i.e. flights, moving to a new country, visiting family, exploring new places, etc.).

When you don’t have material possessions sucking your income dry and you can travel cheaply because of the country you’re in, then it becomes very easy to spend all your money on travel.

While most people wouldn’t see this as a con, it can have the opposite intended effect.

Spending money on travel in order to “live” somewhere new is not really traveling for vacation, but rather just how you get about. And that means that you rarely get to save any of your income because you’re going to be country hopping quite a bit which costs money. (As a digital nomad, you can only live in one place for a certain amount of time – based on each’s country’s tourist visa allowance).

digital nomads in mexico | bucketlist briOur second move to Mexico literally drained all of our savings. But it was worth it!

6. Routinely Getting Thrown Into Unfamiliar Places & Then Leaving Right When You’re Comfortable

I know, I know – having “roots” in one place is not something a digital nomad should technically pursue. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be called nomads. But…

From time to time, there’s one place that can really steal your heart which makes it even harder to have to pack up your bags and bid farewell when it comes time to leave. (As in, when your visa runs out!).

Also, as each country/destination is unique, it can take some more time to get integrated and feel comfortable in your new home. But oftentimes due to short stays, apartment/Airbnb rentals, etc, it can be hard to get to that level of comfort before you need to move again. Sometimes it’s also certain aspects of that place you fell in love with, like a favorite coffee shop or coworking space.

As we travel with our cat Yoda as well, we often try to stay 1-3 months in one apartment before moving (more if it’s possible).

RELATED: Ultimate Packing Guide for Moving Abroad (+ Checklist)

7. Loneliness + Friends Come & Go (Goodbyes Always Suck)

I’ve already mentioned how making new friends can be challenging as a digital nomad. But then, once you do solidify a few golden friendships, having to say goodbye and “see you somewhere in the world” can be quite the bummer! As digital nomads, we don’t know when we will see people again.

I’ve said that to a few dear friends in the past and now it’s been 5… going on 6 years since I’ve seen them last. My dearest friend Swosthani even passed away from leukemia before I got to see her again.

So yeah, goodbyes suck. Because it feels like it could be for forever. And then sometimes it is.

8. Working Online Can Be Isolating – Unless You Go to Coworking Spaces or Coffee Shops Every Day

One of the major disadvantages of being a digital nomad is feeling lonely at times.

A lot of nomads start to feel isolated if they aren’t able to connect with a new friend at a coworking space or coffee shop. And even so, how often does that chat continue outside of the workspace?

Chatting with people around the world becomes so frequent as travelers that conversations become very similar. And I find that rarely do those lead to full-blown out friendships where you want to hang out again and again. Plus, digital nomads just know that other fellow nomads have the same lifestyle as them — ever-changing and kinda unpredictable (not quite ideal for making new long-lasting friends).

Luckily, there are quite a few “digital nomad meetups” happening out there in popular locations, but still – even as a couple, we have times where we crave more social interaction and company (barring 2020-present with the lockdowns, of course).

Oddly, one of the “places” where we’ve made the most awesome like-minded friends has been on Instagram. As much as I diss the app, it’s got a pretty stellar travel/digital nomad community.

9. You’ll Face Burnout, Doubt, & FOMO

You will be working way more than you think as a digital nomad. In fact, you always feel like you should be working because you’re around other people who are building businesses’ and constantly working to make that happen. Most nomads I know work weekends as well as extremely long hours during week-days.

We often work ourselves until we face burnout and have to take a few days off because we just overdid it. There’s so much assumption about nomads traveling all the time that we often feel like we have to work more to compensate for it. Or at least work more because we choose to live at the beach and therefore shouldn’t get to have holidays like everyone else?

Beyond burnout, you’ll also face lots of doubt – a bit from others but mostly it comes from yourself. “Can I do this?” “What am I even doing?” “Is this what I should be doing?”

And then there’s FOMO – the fear of missing out. And in some cases, it’s not a fear. You’re actually missing out. Like on big events like special anniversaries, holidays, parties, weddings, etc. But most of the time, it’s good ‘ole FOMO just hanging around telling you you have to be out exploring and meeting new people and going on adventures, even when your work schedule piles up. You want to be here, there, and everywhere and that’s just not possible. It also leads to more burnout if you try (I have).

10. Being Portrayed as Lazy, Not Serious, or “Always on Vacation”

This one’s not so much of a disadvantage as it is a mere side effect of “breaking away from the norm” and traveling full-time while earning an income online. But it connects to a larger aspect of digital nomad life that I think some people would find as a con.

And that is always having some people misunderstand you (more like, just not get you at all).

The number of times both Paul and I have received comments that imply that we may be irresponsible, immature hippies not “capable” of holding down a “real job”, or my personal favorite – that we’re always on vacation – is pretty unbelievable. For the first 1-4 years of Paul building his online business, he received so much doubt from others.

And don’t even get me started on me as a blogger and freelancer. People are still thinking of bloggers as unprofessional hobbyists who keep an online diary of their personal thoughts. It’s only when I tell them that some of the top bloggers make well over $100,000 grand per month from the same monetization methods I use on my own blogs that they start changing their perception of me and my digital nomad job, lol.

Sometimes, it’s our own families who are the last ones that understand why we would choose to live abroad and work online. Why that is, I’m not sure, but it’s literally something every digital nomad we’ve met can relate to. But give them time and they’ll start getting used to it, or at least they’ll come to accept it and start taking you more seriously.

ALSO READ: Lessons From My First Year of Travel Blogging

Final Thoughts

So there you have it! The top 20 pros and cons of being a digital nomad. What do you think? Which side – the advantages or disadvantages – speak to you more? Do you think the digital nomad life is something you’d be happy pursuing?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

P.S. As a friendly reminder, the above pros and cons of being a digital nomad are our PERSONAL report and may or may not apply to you and your own digital nomad journey (if you’re a nomad already), nor does it mean that they will eventually apply to you (if you’re planning on becoming a digital nomad). Every experience is unique! In any case, I hope you’ve found this thorough list helpful and insightful.

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2 Comments

  1. Cyndy Falgout

    me again. This is great. I have a very tactical question. What do you do in countries that require you have a ticket to exit the country before they’ll let you enter, and is that a pretty common thing? I bought a round-trip ticket to Belize and then decided to do a month in Costa Rica before coming home. now I’ve got this RT ticket to Belize I can’t change until I leave the country. Wondering if CR is going to require an exit ticket, too (Haven’t research yet). Just wondering if you have encountered that and what solutions you’ve come up with.

    Reply
    • Bri

      Hi Cyndy! Thanks for reading! That’s a great question. This usually only happens to my partner, Paul, when traveling TO the United States. We haven’t had this happen to us in countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, etc. From what I searched online, Peru, New Zealand, UK, US, Philippines, Indonesia, and Brazil are countries that require onward travel. So you should be fine with CR. Also, be sure to get insurance for your stay in CR. They will only give you an equal amount of visa days according to how many days you are insured. This just happened to my friend who only got insured for like 5 days and then was only granted 5 days in-country, lol. Back to the roundtrip ticket situation, though, Paul usually has to buy a ticket onward out of the US zone, even including Mexico and Belize. He usually just has to fork over the money to get out of the “zone” by buying a ticket to Guatemala or CR or somewhere like that and then he just doesn’t use it. We know there are ways to get around this, like buying a fake ticket and then canceling it, but oftentimes we just play it safe and consider it a part of the expenses of travel. In your case, it would seem more expensive to change your ticket. What I would check is if it would be cheaper to actually fly back to Belize from CR to take your flight back home, or if it’s just as much $ but less hassle to ignore the flight back from Belize and take a return trip back from CR. I hope that makes sense. Feel free to send me an email to chat more!

      Reply

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Hi, I’m Bri! I’ve been slow traveling around the world in search of new adventures since 2013. I have lived in 8 countries on 4 continents including Nepal, Mexico, Colombia, and parts of Europe! I created this blog to inspire others to live a life of adventure, seek out meaningful experiences, and to travel slowly and mindfully. Join me on this journey and let’s tick off our bucket lists! Read my story here.

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