Being Location Independent: a dream or a lesson?
Digital Nomads aka Location Independent People
Location independence is a lifestyle. Being location independent provides great freedom to those who achieve it. They can work from practically anywhere in the world, as long as they have access to the internet and a laptop to keep in contact with clients and employers. Digital nomads can be found working in most industries in the knowledge economy: marketing, web design, IT, writing, media, tutoring and consulting, among others.
Many location independent people live in different countries around the world for extended amounts of time. Developing countries are popular locations for digital nomads, as they can provide a high standard of living at very low costs compared to the ‘western world’. However, location independence is not about traveling. It’s about the freedom to move if you feel like it.
Most digital nomads are either freelancers or entrepreneurs. Some are both. Freedom to be your own boss, freedom to travel and experience new cultures, schedule work around peak concentration times (e.g., the middle of the night), and awesome new life experiences. These are some of the advantages of being location independent. Being able to control your career and to decide in which country you want to stay for a while, feels liberated.
Travel the world. Build cool things. Meet awesome people.
About two years ago I read about digital nomads for the first time. It was Hackerparadise that inspired me with their slogan "Travel the world. Build cool things. Meet awesome people." I always dreamed about traveling the world; just go where the sun fits my clothes. Two months before I would go on a planned holiday to Egypt, I decided to stay there and to start my online business. I sold everything I had and packed in my diving stuff, my laptop and some clothes – a total weight of 30kg in 1 suitcase – and left the Netherlands for Dahab, Egypt. Now, 13 months later, I am happy that I made that decision; every day again.
All that glisters is not gold
Following digital nomads on social media platforms, you see beautiful images of their travelings: amazing views of nature, pictures of themselves while working with their laptop in a hammock or on a beach (imagine what sand will do with the devices ...), and selfies with fun people while having 5-stars dinners. Often it looks like they live in paradise and have found the perfect way of living.
For some it is true. They know how to manage their work and their free life. But for a part of these people, a life of being location independent in a strange country is not what they expected to be. Beth Altringer, a lecturer on innovation and design at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, conducted a huge research in which she wanted to figure out if being a digital nomad was a viable career lifestyle, a subsidized holiday, or a relatively high-risk financial and career gamble.
Work, work, work
Starting a new life in another country, get a place to live and an internet connection, setting up an online business, connect with people to keep your network healthy, do the research, marketing, PR, analytics, maintain contact with your clients, write proposals, do the actually work, study to learn new skills, write blogs to keep the online presence up to date, do more work, and keep yourself healthy with food, sports, and some good contacts in real life: not everyone is viable to do all this. There is no shortcut (unless you have money enough to hire other people to execute some tasks). For a start-up or an entrepreneur that starts from scratch: these are the tasks you have to fulfill consistently.
So, while you can see on my social media accounts some nice pictures of the things I do, like snorkeling, socialising, and so on, the hard work behind the screens is not visible (unless you would have a look at my website, see the content and the portfolio and realize that is just a small part of what I did within a year). Even if you are not moving around the world, it takes a lot of time, consistency and dedication to set up a business, become an (serial-) entrepreneur and/or work as a freelancer to earn enough for a living.
This way of being independent goes for most digital nomads. According to Altringer's research, the hard work, the responsibilities, less time to spend with family, friends and colleagues, the insecurity of not knowing how much money you will earn in the following weeks, the control of their own agenda, the willingness to keep the brain and skills in perfect form: for some it is too much. Some people need the comfort of predictability. They go back home.
I think these people are brave: they dared to take steps to see if their dreamlife can become reality and if it's still the life they were looking for. They don't have to regret something they did not try.
Even though I never wanted to give up this location independent life, I have had my moments that I had enough of the desert heat, the lack of quality of stuff, the poor choices you have to prepare a healthy dinner, and especially the animal torture that appears to be 'normal' for some local kids. But this is the lifestyle I have chosen to live and it fits me perfectly. I thrive on the unknown and being totally independent motivates me more than anything in the world, to see what I am capable of, to deliver what my clients need and to make a success out of my business.
I encourage people to live their dream life. But no matter what that dream looks like: be realistic, know thyself enough or give yourself a chance to find out what lifestyle makes you happy.
Do you want to start a new life (whether it's location independent or not), and want to start your own online business and need a website to get a good online presence? Contact me by filling out the contact form or contact me through Skype. I'm looking forward to being in touch with you!
If you want to make sure you won't miss a thing, subscribe to my biweekly newsletter!