I was living the Digital Nomad lifestyle for almost 2 years before COVID-19 hit. I classified as one of those Digital Nomads that would travel at a very fast pace and I probably visited over 30 countries in the last 2 years whilst building up my online business at the same time.
What prompted me to write this blog post is that every day someone will ask me – “how has this crisis affected you and is your business doing ok?”
And to be honest with you I almost feel guilty to answer this question – daily life hasn’t changed much for me. And whilst I find myself with much more time on my hands than back when I was travelling full-time, I’ve taken this extra time to expand my skills, enjoy the slow-paced life and grow my business – and I’m fully enjoying this new source of creativity.
This is why I’ve decided that instead of feeling guilty over the fact that I’m actually doing really well during this COVID-19 crisis, this is my time to openly share which skills and habits that I’ve learnt during my life as a Digital Nomad are helping me on a daily basis to deal with the current situation.
# Focus on self-care
If there’s one thing I had to learn quickly during my Digital Nomad life was that the only constant is change. I didn’t have a home anymore. All I owned was in my 8kg backpack (I only travel with a carry-on) and so I was forced to find home within myself. How did I do that? By diving fully into self-care practices such as journaling, meditating, practicing yoga and cultivating a positive and grateful mindset.
To put it simply, while everything around me kept changing – different countries, food, accommodations, languages, people – the only moments where I could find stillness was when I made time for myself and looked inward. Taking care of myself meant that I was able to then face all possible challenges that full-time travelling brings about and simultaneously grow a business, remain accountable and responsible, and maintain my productivity.
# You can work from anywhere as long as you’ve got an internet connection
Digital Nomadism also taught me that if you have to be productive and get work done, it can be done from ANYWHERE. I’ve had to work from my bed because there was no table in the hotel room, I’ve had to work from party hostels with blasting music next to me, from the beach because that is where I had the best 4G connection, a park bench, coffees, restaurants – you name it.
The Coronavirus crisis has taught us that businesses have been forced to put trust into their employees and make them remote workers for the time being. While some people might get distracted at home from the presence of their family and others might not have a proper office set up and the kitchen bench or the bed is currently serving as their workspace, I’m here to tell you that you can work in any condition if you really have to.
# Your business needs an online presence
A lot of Digital Nomads are self-employed and a lot of us have online businesses. This means that we’re forced to have an online presence for our businesses because having a website and a social media presence is how we promote our business and eventually make an income. In fact, most of our businesses run fully online and we’ve never met our suppliers, contractors, clients and co-workers.
During COVID-19 many traditional mortar and brick businesses have been forced to create their websites and online social media profiles in a rush. I personally think it is a great thing and it will help businesses in the future to be more directly connected with their customers and speed up communication.
This brings me to the next point:
# Get accustomed with online working tools
One of the most important things I’ve had to learn during my Digital Nomad journey is how to maximise my productivity as I may sometimes only have 3 hours at my disposal to work because the rest of the day was filled with exploring new places and travelling. If you want to find out what tools I use on a daily basis to keep me accountable and help me stay organized check out this blog post I’ve written a while ago.
Gone are the days when online work meetings were held via skype and WhatsApp. There are so many more tools, apps and software out there that allow you to share your screen with viewers, record calls, have multiple participants within a call and so many more integrations that I probably still haven’t figured out yet by myself.
Most of these tools are super user-friendly and once you’ve made use of them, you’ll become proficient in them. My little tip is to always watch a short 3-minute youtube tutorial before you have an important meeting with a tool that you might never have used before.
# You can actually live on a low budget
Oftentimes, Digital Nomads live on a low budget. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we don’t have cars or houses or any fixed bills. Once you start living out of your suitcase, you’ll quickly realize what is essential and what costs can be cut out and what subscriptions you can cancel because you don’t even have the time to use them properly.
In my case, I didn’t even have time to do weekly grocery shops but instead always just bought food on the go, when I was hungry. You’d be surprised how much money you can save when you don’t have a fridge.
It doesn’t mean that Digital Nomadism will force you to live ‘poorly’. In fact, quite the opposite is true. There are many Digital Nomads out there that earn six- or seven- figures. It’s simply that we’ve chosen this minimalist lifestyle and enjoy getting the most out of our money which is why we oftentimes chose to live in cheap countries.
Unfortunately, many people’s income has been affected by COVID-19 and many are forced to now learn how to live on a budget which brings me to the next point:
# Don’t rely on just one income stream
Most Digital Nomads are in fact entrepreneurs. As with most start-ups, a lot of the time financial forecasts are hard to determine, and we can’t exactly predict how much money we’ll make by the end of the month. It can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars per month.
This forces us to not only rely on one income stream but instead to build up multiple revenue streams by expanding our skills, and possibly offer more digital products and services, tapping into completely new revenue streams such as investments in the stock market, property rentals, etc.
This means if one of our income streams isn’t doing well, we haven’t lost it all and we can still rely on all other income streams without having to worry about how to survive the next couple of weeks. Especially, when you are travelling and discovering new places, the last thing you want to be constantly worrying about is money and whether or not you can afford that entry ticket to a tourist attraction when you don’t know when you’re going to be back in that country.
# Keep a positive attitude – no matter what
Life as a Digital Nomad can be tough. I’m talking constantly adapting to unknown situations, missed flights, buses, trains, miscommunications with Airbnb owners because you don’t speak the language, being scammed, being robbed, losing your phone and wallet, dealing with a broken laptop on the road, bank cards being sucked in by foreign ATM machines.. the list of things that can go wrong is endless.
But no worrying in the world will help you on a daily basis. And if you start worrying then you are likely to attract it. I’ve definitely had to learn that the best way to enjoy this Digital Nomad lifestyle is to just have a positive attitude – always. There are so many things that can go right and will go right – always. When you focus on the good, the good becomes truly better.
There are new places to be discovered, new experiences to be had, new connections to be made with great people (local and foreigners). I can’t even put into words how many unique experiences the Digital Nomad lifestyle has provided me with and even though so many things could have gone wrong, I truly believe that everything is figureoutable and will work out in the end.
# You can in fact build an online community and stay connected with your family and friends online
You’d be surprised to hear how many Digital Nomad forums and Facebook groups there are out there. Most people who are within those online communities have usually a similar story or lifestyle to mine which makes it easier to reach out and ask questions when I need help with something. I’ve also embraced joining these communities to discover where everyone prefers to work from, or which restaurants in town are reputable. It’s like we are all part of an amazing, huge, worldwide community, all coming together in one place – the internet.
I’ve also made real friendships in those online communities with people who I’ve never met in person before but who I can’t wait to meet in real life one day.
All the online tools that we have available these days really help to expand your network whether it’s business-related, or you simply connect with someone because they are doing and living with similar values as yours. Friendships are formed much more easily through a thoughtful comment on someone’s social profile, a helping virtual hand, or simply by sharing tips and tricks that have helped in a particular location.
The same is true for your family and friends that are back at home. Just because you are living an unconventional lifestyle as a Digital Nomad doesn’t mean that you can’t stay connected with them. Video calls are an amazing tool to make people feel included and part of your experience. Even a short voice message can go a long way.
# You don’t need to know what’s next
When you are going for a job interview one of the most popular questions is – what is your 5-year plan? What I’ve learnt as a Digital Nomad is that in reality, not even a 3-month plan works out. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have ambitions, dreams, visions and goals but it simply means that we detach from outcomes and surrender to everyday life as it unfolds.
I’m personally a control freak so, this last point has been one of the hardest lessons for me. I used to make detailed travel plans on excel spreadsheets which should have been my entry ticket to a travel agency firm. Instead, when putting it into practice, I quickly realized that things often go way differently than planned. And more often than not, they turn out so much better than what was initially planned.
Most of my favourite memories as a Digital Nomad include unplanned and spontaneous trips, invitations to people’s places and homes that ended up in great friendships, saying yes to a spontaneous meet-up with an old acquaintance that might be in a nearby country. You get the gist. It’s ok to not know what’s next and to simply trust the process while you are on it.
The coronavirus crisis has forced many to adapt to completely new circumstances. This crisis will definitely transform the world. The biggest shift we are seeing is that remote working is becoming a viable solution for businesses to operate.
You don’t need to become a Digital Nomad to have all of the above skills. But I do believe that many Digital Nomad skills are transferrable to the uncertainty of the current climate.
And I’m amazed to be able to witness how people are becoming more self-reliant whether it’s out of necessity or out of the fact that a lot of us have much more time on our hands.
There are so many opportunities out there even in times of crisis and I can’t wait to see what new genius ideas and businesses will be born out of this coronavirus crisis.
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