Returning to a full-time job life has been equal parts thrilling and destabilizing. The job is fascinating, filled with mystery and deeply intense. The job demanded extensive periods of time in Seattle, which thrust me into the world of my former country. More about that later. I’ve discovered that nothing defines your desires better than contrast. My travels behind me, I will be in one place, one country for a while and I have the opportunity for reflection. What is the lifestyle I am trying to create and where is home?
How Many Days Equal Home?
There is a cadence to a digital life, and each person must adopt their own. A gypsy lifestyle, like everything in life, has many definitions and multiple approaches.
When my partner and I were traveling, we had different visions of the trip. I expected weeks in a sleepy town and she envisioned a life constantly on the road. The Digital Nomad lifestyle is like that as well. There are those that are moving through town, those that set up shop for a few months, and those that make a place home for years at a time.
My exploration of this world has led me to understand that you must find your own equilibrium.
According to Mark Manson in his dark commentary on the Digital Nomad lifestyle, life on the road isn’t always a bowl of cherries. Tim Ferriss dubbed us the “New Rich” in his book The Four Hour Work Week because we leverage the internet for a location independent life with a greater wealth of experiences than collecting material possessions. But there are real, tangible, social and emotional tradeoffs involved. The lifestyle is not one size fits all. Fortunately, there are different approaches to what we global citizens brand as freedom.
When we were traveling through South America, we were the drifters. We stayed in town anywhere from two days to a week, always moving on, the most open to new experiences because time was of the essence. Although that may be where the journey begins I have found few digital nomads who don’t have the need to slow down sometime, somewhere.
The “Visitor” Nomad
I met Regina and Mike at Locus Co-working Space, which was my anchor when I arrived in Prague. They drifted through town, offered their wisdom at a digital marketing workshop, and moved on. They advocate the Courageously Free lifestyle through their website, blog and podcasts. Their pace was a few months at a time in one location. If the economics suited them the time could expand. They are now in Phoenix, Arizona on an extended stay for a profitable gig.
This type of cadence is the backbone of Remote Year. Remote Year makes it easy and affordable for anyone to take a year off from their living situation without taking a year off from their life. For a down payment of $5,000 USD and $2,000 a month (for the first 11 months) they arrange and pay for all travel between destinations, all accommodations for the year, workspace with internet, accessible 24/7, and activities and community events. Although they don’t provide the remote job, they will help you “get creative with transitioning into a remote position.” They started with one group per year and now have four, all of which make their way through Prague at some point during the year. We share a home base at Locus Co-Working Space.
Nomad List now has a co-living component for short-term groupings if you want to go somewhere and share a house with other people who are working remotely for a few weeks or months.
The “Looking for Home” Nomad
One of my friends epitomizes the “looking for home” nomad. She has left her home continent, and tried out several European cities. Her barometer has metrics still in formation, but so far Barcelona is a maybe, Prague is a no, and she is yearning for a future in Berlin.
Remote Year can also be a great experience for those “looking for home” nomads. Another common place I’ve found this type of digital nomad is teaching English. It may be subsistence wages, but it’s enough to get to know the people and the place.
The “Plant Your Flag” nomad
I was having dinner out with two other USians, in a very U.S. style restaurant in Prague. My friend told our Seattle visitor, “There are two types of expats in Prague. Either they’ve found home or they haven’t.” It was an apt description of the expat experience here. For some the magic is eternal and for others the love affair is over when the pivo haze lifts. I stopped defending Prague when I realized “I just like it here” was enough of an answer.
There is no way to explain the process that I’ve watched people go through when they arrive in Prague. A process that you know if working around the world. From expats to refugees, there is a discussion in your mind if this is a place you can call home.
My Expat mentor is a woman who was blogging about life in Prague when visa issues forced her to Istanbul. Empty Nest Expat became one of the top bloggers from Istanbul. She landed in a place that became the center of the European news and the life she shares on Facebook is nothing short of extraordinary. Her unexpected visit became a “plant your flag” opportunity.
Based on the belief “the majority of people are reluctant extroverts,”a new, less permanent way to plant your flag has emerged.
Planting your flag doesn’t mean the sense of permanence it used to. “In the future we will all be homeless” according to co-living entrepreneur, James Scott, CEO of London’s co-living start-up, The Collective. Scott believes that home ownership is set to become a thing of the past because socially liberated millennials are more likely to choose “living as a service.”
Roam, a company that’s developing and renting out co-living spaces across the world, lets globe trotters pay $1,800 a month for global access to luxury co-living spaces with maid service. “Roamers” sign a flexible lease that gives them access to all of Roam’s locations around the world.
The model is somewhat similar to WeWork’s communal living project WeLive, which provides renters with fully furnished private rooms and access to common spaces where they can cook or mingle with other WeLive members. But Roam’s model caters more to travelers and digital workers who can do their jobs remotely.
Making Digital Life Work
No matter what form of digital nomad you are, just like more anchored professionals, networking is important for community and connections. Casey Hynes wrote about Digital Nomad networking for Forbes Asia. She explored how to build your network as a digital nomad. Through perseverance and discipline you can build a community of good people who will help you grow your income.
Casey points out that the professional relationships you make as a digital nomad are different from those you’d cultivate in a more traditional work environment. Many of the people you meet in location independent hubs have traveled the world and plan to be on the move again soon. It can be a lifestyle more conducive to happy hour conversations than professional network building, but it’s possible.
I continue to build my digital network with people like Courageously Free’s Mike and Regina. Regina recently interviewed me for an upcoming podcast, talking about my soon to be published travel series, Two Broke Chicas Backpack through South and Central America, Mexico and Cuba, which will be out on Amazon just in time for you to make your New Year’s Resolution to see the world.
The secret to the Digital Nomad lifestyle is no different than the secret to life itself. Do what feels good, make happiness your target, and stay open.