Reality Check: The Downsides of Living a Digital Nomad Lifestyle

If you’ve worked your way through the pandemic and got a taste of remote work style, chances are you have heard the term ‘digital nomad’ before. Now that it has become a more significant trend and more and more people have become location-independent workers, we can really take a closer look at what this relatively new working style is all about.

It is especially worth diving a bit deeper because, as it turns out, a digital nomad lifestyle isn’t all roses and sunshine. Thanks to a study conducted by Passport Photo Online, we’ll be able to find out all the issues digital nomads struggle with and what makes this lifestyle especially difficult.

What’s it like being a digital nomad?

The term refers to remote workers who lead a truly nomadic lifestyle as they look to combine the desire to see the world and experience different cultures with their responsibilities.

The whole trend started for real when remote work became a norm, and travel restrictions were lifted. We took to the skies and told our bosses that we’d be at their disposal, just not at our homes but in different towns or countries instead.

What seems a like a win-win scenario and a superb idea to work while also being able to travel someplace exciting does have its share of disadvantages, however. The study shines a light on the issues that digital nomads face and gives us a fair warning that perhaps it is not for everyone.

Still, however, despite several issues that make digital nomadism a problematic affair, more than 9 in 10 still want to continue on this path.

It affects you on a deeper level.

The first major problem that might as well discourage some from pursuing this lifestyle is that as much as 41% of traveling remote workers admit to struggling with their love life. According to the findings, digital nomadism makes it harder to maintain romantic relationships.

Unfortunately, it makes sense, as being constantly on the move surely impacts your ability to stay in a committed relationship. Perhaps sometimes you could convince your partner to share this lifestyle with you, but not everyone can. There are only so many jobs that can be performed fully remotely, and some of them are not suited for digital nomadism.

Moreover, the vast majority (83%) of committed digital nomads admit to feeling guilty when they become distracted and disconnected from work. Because what they’re doing, in many cases, is mixing work with what can essentially be called a vacation, they fall into the trap of giving in to this holiday vibe. This is something anyone who’s ever had to work while on vacation can sympathize with.

Digital nomads also warn us that this way of living can lead to loneliness, as you’re often on the road and you don’t spend enough time in one place to build meaningful relationships. Thus, if you’re a social person and not only enjoy working with other people but also need greater interaction, you might be better off opting against the idea of digital nomadism.

Digital nomads & their work-life balance

Being a remote worker that’s also frequently on the move from one place to another can realistically affect the quality of your downtime. In this day and age, when work-life balance is becoming an increasingly important benefit, digital nomads may find it challenging to keep the professional and personal spheres of life separate.

According to the study, more than half (59%) work up to 40 hours a week. What’s important, however, is that everyone else in this category needs to invest more of their time, and the role you play matters as well.

  • 42% of digital nomad entrepreneurs work 40-80 hours a week;
  • roughly half of regular remote employees(48%) will work 20-40 hours a week;
  • while most freelancers (64%) will have to accept 20-50 hours a week.

Still, however, most digital nomads don’t complain about long working hours, as 41% believe the amount of work is just right. Apart from that, opinions vary pretty evenly.

What about FOMO?

If you’re not familiar with the term, FOMO means ‘fear of missing out’. It is a form of anxiety that derives from the fear of losing out on pieces of information that may be helpful, interesting, or even crucial for whatever reason.

As it turns out, choosing the lifestyle of a digital nomad will likely lead to developing this anxiety.

When asked about how frequently they check email inboxes after hours, only 23% said that they either don’t or do it rarely.

  • 31% of digital nomads check emails 24/7;
  • 26% of them frequently check for updates;
  • while 19% do it only occasionally, from time to time.

Just like some of the previous negative sides of being a digital nomad, it, unfortunately, makes a lot of sense. As a remote worker far away from your colleagues, managers, and other bosses, it would be easy to fall into the trap of anxiously checking for updates, just in case.

There’s a risk of burnout, too.

A digital nomad lifestyle also comes with a risk of getting tired and disconnected from work. Burnouts can happen no matter what you do and how you go about your business, but the study shows that digital nomads will know that problem all too well.

No matter if you’re a freelancer, a remote employee, or an entrepreneur, current trends show that you will have to deal with burnout. In all of these cases as a whole, no more than 27% admit to not feeling burnt out.

Life on the road—How is it?

If you want to become a digital nomad, the most important part is that you ought to get used to being on the move – that’s the whole point. Jumping from one location to another after a while will become one of the most constant parts of your professional life.

According to the study, even though shorter stays for a month or less are not unheard of, 89% of nomadic remote workers stay in one place for up to 6 months.

Even though it seems a peaceful life to have so much time to enjoy one location before going somewhere else, road fatigue is another issue one should consider.

While only almost 3 in 10 traveling remote workers either rarely struggle with road fatigue or not at all, other digital nomads see things differently.

  • 27% always feel road fatigue;
  • 24% say it’s a frequent feeling;
  • 20% admit that it’s a problem from time to time.

The most common way to deal with road fatigue while working remotely is also the most obvious one. Most just take a break from traveling, choosing to stay in one place a bit longer, while other popular choices include meditation or other forms of relaxation techniques.

What speaks volumes as well is that the third most common way digital nomads combat road fatigue is just by powering through. It would seem that meditation isn’t exactly for everyone.

Get ready to stay financially conscious.

Lastly, one must recognize that the digital nomad lifestyle will take a toll on your wallet. After all, traveling isn’t the cheapest of hobbies, and you will likely need to be prepared to spend big.

In fact, financial stability seems to be the one thing that’s always on a digital nomad’s mind. According to the study, you will always have to keep that thought in the back of your head.

Remote workers are the ones believed to be the most preoccupied with fretting over money-related issues as if pressure from work or checking your digital nomad visas wasn’t enough.

It is especially true considering how the vast majority of those practicing this method of working admit to struggling with tax-related issues. A whopping 84% claimed they had to keep careful watch over all of their tax obligations, which can be challenging for anyone.

To sum up

As you can see, if you want to work remotely and travel all at the same time, you’ll have to endure quite a number of issues digital nomads struggle with. From loneliness, poor love life, greater risk of burnout, or keeping close tabs on your finances, there’s a lot to handle once you choose this lifestyle.

Still, many digital nomads aren’t discouraged by the downsides as they seem to be just as eager to continue on and still mix work and travel.

This article Reality Check: The Downsides of Living a Digital Nomad Lifestyle originally appeared on Wander With Alex. Photo Credit: [@GaudiLab/DepositPhotos]


Reality Check: The Downsides of Living a Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Michał Laszuk

Michal Laszuk is a writer at PhotoAiDand a massive travel nut. Having seen most of what Europe has to offer, he now looks to the east. A big fan of culinary experiments and adventure, he loves visiting less popular, often regarded underrated places.