What’s it Really Like to Be a Digital Nomad?

February 20, 2019

You don’t need to catch the travel bug to be a digital nomad, rather, you need a passion for being able to work where, when and how you want.

So, whether you’re most comfortable in a library, coffee shop, co-working space, or in an exotic overseas location, you are a bona fide Digital Nomad.

The point is, if you want to indulge in the wanderlust life in search of new and interesting people and experiences, the digital nomad lifestyle lets you pursue this passion.

Either way, being able to work anywhere you please is a pleasing prospect for most. But, like most decision in life, there are perks and pitfalls to embarking on this life(work)style.

What’s a Digital Nomad?

A digital nomad makes a living using the ‘laptop lifestyle’ to carve out a career or business that allows them to travel the world unencumbered by the trappings of domestic life.

Heather Smith, chartered accountant and digital nomad, says she was attracted to this work style because it indulges her love of different cultures and customs, and travel is a natural extension of that.

I was lucky that my parents were quite adventurous travellers, so I was travelling at a young age. I’ve adopted that philosophy – though on a much tighter budget!

“The Internet and travel websites, such as Airbnb, TripAdvisor, and Lonely Planet, make it easier to find out about destinations, plan for your travels and immerse yourself into the culture for an extended period.”

The Internet, instant messaging and FaceTime also makes it much easier to stay in contact with people – as if you were never away, explained Ms Smith.

“I’ve now lived on four separate continents for three years each, and in between travelled extensively. I think it takes about three years to understand a place – but of course, you don’t always have three years!”

What are the Perks of Being a Digital Nomad?  

The best part of a nomadic lifestyle is having friends all over the world, said Ms Smith.

“What’s fun is while I’m moving, they are too, so I have familiar faces waiting in places I’ve never been to.

“People I worked with in Singapore are now in Texas, while people I worked with in Cheltenham, UK are now in Hong Kong.

“I can also catch up with childhood friends. I just met up with my PenPal, in her home town of Tokyo, who I started writing to 29 years ago!

“The nomadic lifestyle has helped me see how businesses operate and how technology is adopted in different parts of the world.”

A deeper understanding of how the world works, seeing problems through different perspectives and the ability to diversify with clients spread across the world are other perks to this profession, said Ms Smith.

What Are the Pitfalls?

“The worst part is when I am living somewhere without my fur-babies!

“I just spent time in the Gran Canaries in Spain, and interestingly, it seems the Europeans can easily travel with their dogs on planes!”

How to Make it Financially Viable.

As a cloud-based management accountant, Ms Smith can work anywhere, and service clients worldwide to earn an income while travelling.

“I focus on helping clients generate useful information that they can use to support the decision-making process in their business.

“Debits and credits are the same across the world – except North Korea! My skills can be applied to clients across the world.”

Online business tools, such as Xero for online accounting, MinuteDock for Time tracking and Receipt Bank for extracting data from bills and expenses are imperative to working successfully as a digital nomad in the accounting world, according to Ms Smith.

“The online accounting solutions generate management reports, but I also like DataDear for extracting data into excel and manipulating it for management information purposes.

“I focus on understanding how these online tools work, so I can implement them, train my clients in how to use them, and efficiently support my clients.”

What are the Important Skills?

According to Ms Smith, there are three essential skills needed to be a successful digital accountant, outside the core accounting skills: communication, adaptability, and technology.

Communication – It’s crucial when working digitally with people or teams, to establish a mode for communicating with them. 

Gmail or Zoom are both good methods that allow you to record all communication.

Also, when working across language barriers, it shows empathy to try and learn key phrases in their country’s tongue.

Adaptability – When things happen differently, it’s easier to go with the flow and work with it, rather than protest.

You may find that you learn a whole new and better way of doing something, that initially you thought would be worse.

Technology – Adopting technology helps you keep in contact with people, work efficiently with clients and maintain independence.

I’ve also found people across the world use technology differently – for instance in Africa they use giant mobile pads! When you train people in how to use technology, it’s good to know about these differences in advance.

So, now you have an idea of what it’s like to be a digital nomad, do you still find it appealing? If so, think about your freelance superpower and figure out how you can use it to make a healthy living while travelling the world.

Haley Williams

Haley Williams is the Senior Content Writer for Australian Online Courses where she has covered a multitude of topics affecting the workplace, including mental health, career development, conflict resolution, management techniques and personal and professional development strategies.

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