Why You’ll Fail Within 6 Months of Being a Digital Nomad.


Six months into being completely independent and I hit a wall. Sitting in my Mexico City apartment, crying, the dreaded truth that I failed loomed over me: I was failing as a digital nomad.

2020 saw me finally fulfill my biggest dream: becoming completely location independent. Like many Millennials and Gen Z’ers in the workforce, I wanted to have it all. If you’re anything like me and hundreds of others, you also dream of being location-independent.

Travel the world full time? Check.

Make a paycheck I could finally live on comfortably? Check.

Start saving for retirement for the first time? Check.

One thing led to another, though, and I found myself scrambling. I was alone in another country — and worse still lonely — with my main sources of income dried up and a depression so deep I had no desire to find a new job.

The truth is that I utterly failed as a digital nomad. You don’t have to follow in my footsteps.

So how can you tell if it's going to all go down the drain?

Wondering how to get wifi on the beach?Photo by Daria on Unsplash

You Don’t Have a Plan.

It is inevitable: logistical nightmares and loss of clients will happen.

You need to seriously consider how you’re making money and be realistic about your spending. Do you know how much you need to survive?

You will absolutely fail if you don’t give yourself a budget, savings goals, and an emergency nest egg.

Perhaps you are a freelancer — how much experience do you have, and are you sure you can land your next client? If you’re a “traditional” employee, do you have a backup plan for if the worst happens?

The truth is that none of us want to think that our financial situations will crash down around us, but it happens. You need to decide before you sell your things and leave the country what you’ll do if you run out of funds.

What is your Plan B?

You Don’t Have a Support System.

Being a digital nomad or location-independent person means you are alone.

Yes, you’ll have other travelers around. Yet don’t forget that your traditional support system will likely be halfway across the globe and not always easily accessible. Doubly so if — like me — you’re literally traveling solo.

What happens when you get sad? Do you have someone you can call? What happens when calling isn’t enough, and you are lonely and out of your depth?

Homesickness, anxiety, and depression happens to the best of us, in the best of situations. That includes when we’re supposedly “living the dream.”

If you’re in a foreign country looking for support and find none, you need a backup plan. For a traditional vacation, you can go home — but what happens when your home is in a suitcase?

Know what you need to take care of your mental and physical health before setting off on your journey.

You Have No Concept of Work-Life Balance

Yes, that means you actually have to work.

There seems to be this idea that digital nomadism and location independence is literally just sitting on a beach somewhere and staring off into the sunset. I’m 100% guilty of this. Whoops.

There is going to be a huge temptation to go on perpetual vacation. Question if you are strong enough to resist that urge and actually do what needs to be done. Yet still, for some of us, it can be just as tempting to overwork ourselves and let the joy of traveling pass us by completely.

The work-life balance is essential no matter what you do for a living. As a digital nomad, it is arguably more of an issue than normal because you have no one really regulating what you’re doing but you.

You’re Moving Too Fast.

Seriously, you need to calm down. The world will still be there next month.

I am so guilty of this — you want to sightsee in 3 days and then move to a new city like you’re on vacay. Woo!

Newbie nomads get so excited that they can finally go wherever they want, whenever they want. Eventually, they don’t stop to appreciate where they are.

Remember, you’re not on vacation. If you operate perpetually like you are, you will end up getting burnout.

It happens to every nomad. If you don’t plan for the inevitable, it will happen to you as well. Moving around from city to city too quickly will be your downfall.

Pick a spot and enjoy it for a while. Paris (or San Juan, or Kyoto, or…) will still be there when you’ve thoroughly explored your first stop.

You Have No Self-Discipline.

Being a nomad has a lot of freedom tied to it — but if you don’t have a modicum of self-discipline, you aren’t going to last long.

As a digital nomad, there are so many things pulling you in multiple directions at once, all the time. What sights to see today? Do you have a big project you need to get done? Do you need to do your laundry? How can you make friends?

It’s easy to get distracted and go with the flow. If you don’t structure your life in some way, you will spin out of control.

The same as if you were still stationary, you need boundaries for work and pleasure. What's the use of setting boundaries, though, if you can’t actually keep them?

What is it for you that you can’t help but indulge in when the chains are loose? Booze, drugs, casual sex, reneging on your diet, or just laying on the beach all day — you’ll find it while traveling, or you’ll find an excuse to take part in it. You have to remember that a good amount of the people you’ll be socializing with are on vacation but you are not.

So if you’re the type of person who makes plans or sets boundaries for yourself and then breaks them — over and over — you might not be cut out for digital nomadism.

You’re Too Impatient.

Give yourself some credit on this one.

This might seem a bit backward, but you’ll inevitably fail as a digital nomad if you don’t give yourself enough time to adjust to the digital nomad life.

No one picks this stuff up in a month. Not even three. If you want to succeed, you’ll need to learn to adapt, overcome, and pivot. Give yourself the space and the time to make mistakes and figure out what kind of travel works best for you.

For instance, a month into being a nomad, I decided to get rid of my biggest suitcase. I had seen so many others living out of a single backpack; I thought it was the way I had to be to succeed.

Then two months later, I realized I desperately wanted my stuff back. RIP cute purse I still dream about.

You need to be patient with yourself and allow yourself the freedom to figure out things your own way. No one knows how you’ll travel best long-term except for you — and unless you’ve done it before, you probably don’t even know exactly what you’ll need in the long run.

So Are You Going to Succeed?

The first 6 months I was a digital nomad, I made so many terrible mistakes. I squandered money, didn’t set a budget, moved too fast, and avoided work like it was a rat carrying a Black Death flea.

If you want to ensure that you succeed as a digital nomad, there are a few simple things to keep in mind:

  • You need to be patient with yourself to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.
  • You need to maintain your self-discipline so that you can stick to your budget, morals, and work schedule. Remember, you’re not on vacation.
  • Take the travel aspect slowly — you can’t really get any work done and sightsee if you’re moving to a new city every 3 days.
  • Do everything in your power to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Yes, that includes actually working.
  • Maintain your support system, and know what you need to stay mentally (and physically) healthy while alone.
  • Make a budget and an emergency plan and stick to it.

Look, you can make it as a digital nomad! The big “but” here is that you need to be realistic about the lifestyle. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but the results can be spectacular with the right prep.

If you’re curious, after realizing my mistakes, I’m still in Mexico City going strong. You got this.

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I am a travel writer and sustainable lifestyle blogger. As a world traveler, I love giving others tips on budget travel, new cultures, and how to see the planet in a sustainable, ethical way. I also write on being a digital nomad, hiking and outdoor activities, as well as living an adventurous lifestyle.

Santa Fe, NM

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