Picture this. You’ve booked a one-way flight to a foreign country, don’t speak the language and have absolutely no idea where to go once you land because your Airbnb reservation got canceled last minute.
Welcome to traveling full time. A beautiful, adventurous and transformative experience that will never cease to amaze you.
Six months ago, Cameron and I packed our bags, quit our jobs, sold all our belongings and bought a one-way ticket to travel the world. You can read more about our story here! While we had read many blog posts about what to expect and how to make it all work, nothing could have prepared us for the reality that this digital lifestyle brought.
Being a digital nomad, or in other words – someone who uses the internet to work from anywhere in the world – might seem extremely enticing, easy and fun at first…but it’s far from that. It takes hard work, commitment and a willingness to constantly let go of what you thought life once was.
While we’re strong advocates of creating a location independent lifestyle, we also like to keep it real. We hope that these eye opening truths will create an awareness of the challenges that being a digital nomad presents, as well as the infinite opportunities to learn, grow and expand your view of what’s possible!
Truth # 1: Your mattress and your pillow won’t always be comfortable.
Your neck may be sore from staring at the screen for hours, your fingers fatigued from typing the next best blog post, and your brain exhausted from the constant learning. But you’ll wake up every day knowing that you’re living your dream. That’s right, your dream and no-one else’s. You’ll wake up with gratitude knowing that you chose this: to explore the beauty that the world has to offer, to share your experiences with others and to sometimes sacrifice comfort for growth.
Our Solution: Daily yoga. We practice simple postures every morning and make sure our body is well nourished, loved and taken care of. This daily practice keeps us strong and flexible. Don’t have a yoga mat? That’s okay, neither do we. Bath towels work great!
Truth # 2: Life can be uncertain, and really exhausting sometimes.
While the highs are high, the lows can be very low. This lifestyle can be portrayed as being easy, relaxing and vacation-like…it really isn’t. It’s actually quite the opposite. You don’t have a 9-5 to rely on for your bi-weekly paycheque, your friends and family are thousands of miles away and most people you meet everyday speak a completely different language.
The constant change mixed with the importance of working to be able to generate income to sustain this lifestyle can make things very tough. The upside? It’s fun. Honestly, the challenges are really fun. And once you get through the eye of the needle, you are a completely different human being. These experiences build character, and an unshakeable trust in yourself – knowing that you are the kind of human being who can do anything.
Our Solution: We stay in touch with the people that are important to us. This helps keep us grounded and supported. One short phone call a week has a positive impact on our well-being.
Truth # 3: You think your accommodation includes WiFi? Think again.
While searching for a place beforehand with “reliable” WiFi seems like the best thing to do, things aren’t always as they seem. When they advertise WiFi, what they mean is slow WiFi. And we mean slow. Slower than the public library down the street. While this may be great to check an email (if you’re lucky), good luck updating your website, sending files to your clients or even Facetiming your mom. With that said, limited WiFi also means more downtime. You actually get to give yourself a break, explore the town, go for a walk, or simply take a nap. Remember – there are upsides to everything!
Even in times of WiFi crisis, we have solutions: We usually take a walk down the street, bring our laptops and end up discovering places with great WiFi that aren’t listed on Google maps or search engines. This could include coffee shops, restaurants, hot spots by the beach and even co-working spaces!
Truth # 4: You may just live on rice and beans for a month.
There are many travel bloggers out there who saved for years before making the leap to traveling full time. We didn’t. We pretty much decided less than a year ago that we wanted to do this, learned the skills that we could use along the way to make money, and took a leap of faith. It’s not always easy, and sometimes it can be unsettling to be unsure about where the next flow of money will come from.
There’s also something to be said about having faith, and trusting that things will always be provided for us as we need them. We’ve met incredible soul-friends, explored our spirituality deeply, miraculously had places to live in towns where people said it was impossible and had clients pay us exactly how much we needed and when we needed it. The bottom line? You have to start somewhere. Whether that’s with $500 or $50,000. Either way, you have the power to make it work.
Our Solution: Meditate daily. The only thing that will give you the headspace and heart-space to take on these challenges with faith and determination is meditation. In our experience, when we begin our day with even a short meditation (5 minutes), we feel incredible. When we don’t, there are tons of tears and opportunities for meltdowns. If you’ve decided to travel with minimal savings, just know that you can totally do it. As long as you’re secure in yourself and accept whatever is, life will keep giving you incredible opportunities to grow and succeed. New to meditation? Here’s a great resource to start meditating.
Truth # 5: People usually won’t understand what you do.
When we first told our families that we wanted to travel the world full time and work from our laptops – they thought we were crazy. We don’t blame them. Our families came from completely different generations, where having more stuff meant more security. Now, people are experiencing how to be secure in themselves.
They are learning that their identities are not defined by their possessions or how much or little money they have in the bank account. There are more and more people from all walks of life discovering that there is more to this existence than simply clocking in and out. People are craving freedom, they’re opening up their eyes to what’s possible and thinking outside the box.
Our Solution: It’s not important for people to understand you or your life. The most important thing is for YOU to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. When you’re connected to your ‘why’ and lead with your ‘why’ no matter what you do in life – you’ll always attract the right people everywhere you go. Check out this fascinating video by Simon Sinek, who believes successful people and organizations always start with why.
Truth # 6: You’re not on vacation.
While it’s easy to get into the ‘vacation’ mindset when you’re spending your days traveling the world, it’s very important to remember that this creative venture is also your bread and butter. People around you may be partying, spending all their cash on unnecessary things, eating out, and waking up late – and that’s okay. That’s just not what you’re looking for. And if you are, then being a digital nomad might not be for you (which is perfectly okay as well!).
When Cam and I first arrived in a Mexican town called Sayulita, we fell in love. It was beautiful, we were offered an incredible place to stay with an ocean view…all for free! But then we realized one important thing – we were in a party town. It was so loud during the day and even at night that we couldn’t think, meditate or even have a simple conversation. After 2 days of this, we packed up our bags and left. The goal here is to remember why you left your old life behind and let nothing get in the way of that.
Our Solution: Environment is always stronger than willpower, no matter how strong you think you are. When choosing where to stay, or even planning where to travel – make sure you stay in places that support your growth. If you can’t focus where you’re living and don’t have the means to leave just yet – then find a place where you CAN focus (even if there’s no WiFi -not all your tasks require the internet). This can be a coffee shop, a co-working space or a library. Creating a consistent schedule for yourself is also a game changer. Remember your priorities!
Truth #7: You’ll probably want to quit and go home.
And then you remember that you actually have no home, and everything you own is with you. While this may seem daunting, it’s actually very liberating. You soon begin to realize that home is wherever you create it to be. Whether it’s on a 16-hour bus ride in the middle of Latin America, or in a Spiritual Community for three months. Every space presents an opportunity for you to call it home, and even when you have no physical space – home is always within you. For us, home is no longer represented as a brick and mortar building, a mortgage or having security. It’s defined by our ability to sit down, close our eyes and connect with the expansive energy that creates all things.
Our Solution: When we were living in Canada, we absolutely loved putting up twinkle string lights in our apartment. It made it cozy, warm and comforting. So, we do the same thing when we find a new place to live in! Whether it’s for a week, a month or a day – twinkle lights remind us that we’re already home.
Truth #8: You’ll learn to create more with less space.
Bigger is not always better. In fact, after watching The Minimalist documentary, we downsized our life significantly. In 2018 we lived in a 300 square foot apartment and probably only used about 75% of it. When we shifted our focus to what we truly wanted in life, anything that didn’t align with that reality fell away – including things. We strongly believe that your external environment is a reflection of your internal one. If things are messy and unorganized – it could be an opportunity to do some inner work and let go of what no longer belongs. We discovered that having a small space expanded our creativity and leveled up our focus.
Our Solution: We always re-arrange the furniture in any new space that we’re in. We make it work for us. We even ask for what we want when we want it. When we were doing the Karma Yoga Ashram Program in California, we lived in a tiny room with a bunk bed. We only had one desk in the room. We ended up finding another desk, re-organizing so we could fit it in the space, and voila – a co-working space for two! It’s also important for the space to inspire you. We like to put up quotes, artwork that we create or simply our why statement (you can learn about that in our mini-course).
Truth #9: Eventually, you may decide that this isn’t actually for you.
It happens. Traveling, changing locations every few weeks or months, chasing WiFi and dealing with the constant challenges are not for everyone. There are tons of successful travel bloggers, like Nomadic Matt or Expert Vagabond, who lived this lifestyle for 7-10+ years and have now set up a home-base in one location.
Our Solution: We live in the moment and stay away from analysis-paralysis. While there is mental ease that comes from “planning”, it actually doesn’t help. Plans can change at the last moment, a new opportunity may come up, or we may just feel like heading back to Canada. We do our best to tune into what feels good right now and ask questions to create clarity. Is this location serving us? Are we still growing? Are we happy? At the end of the day, life is full of so many experiences and being a digital nomad is just one of them.
Truth #10: You won’t be able to recognize yourself.
The person who began reading this blog post is not the same person reading truth # 10. You are a completely different human. Your perspective may have shifted, you may have learned something new or your current understanding of this lifestyle was confirmed. You see, you are always shifting and transforming every single moment – whether you choose to or not.
When you sign up to be a digital nomad, you’re basically telling the universe that you are ready to become a superhuman. You’re ready to become a jack of all trades and problem solver extraordinaire. You’ll be planning and organizing your travel, accommodations, doing freelance work, learning about SEO, applying for new opportunities, writing blog posts, watching beautiful sunsets, learning new languages, budgeting, cooking, oh and did I mention meditating?
Our Solution: Just focus on one thing at a time, and one thing only. If it’s time to eat – put away your laptop, clear your workspace and turn it into your dining table. Before you know it, you’ll be able to flow through the different parts of your day with ease. You’ll be talking about things you never even imagined, and you’ll be having a conversation about life in a language you once knew nothing about.
Being a digital nomad is a pretty incredible lifestyle that holds tons of opportunities – personally and professionally. While it’s not easy, it’s totally worth it.
In this post, I shared 10 hard truths that Cam and I have faced, and continue to face every single day. I also provided practical solutions to support you on your journey should you choose to venture down this path.
So, I want to know where you’re at on your journey.
Do you want to be a digital nomad? Comment below.