People that tell things as they are are THE BEST. As I was researching for “Work from Home (or Anywhere)”, I read a lot of content about remote work as being the next revolution in working, how it’s the best thing any company could offer, etc. They left a lot out.
And don’t get me wrong, working from home is great. But, I think it’s irresponsible to give an unbalanced, rosy view. You should know as much as you can before you dive in headfirst, like whether there’s a jagged rock or a shark waiting underneath the surface.
I met Peter Hofmann Rytter in Spain earlier this year, at a coworking space. Peter’s been doing this digital nomad thing for a while, running a business while travelling around the world, and we had a refreshingly realistic chat about what his experience has been like.
“They all say you’re living the dream and, yeah, I’m living my dream, but it’s probably not your dream because then you would do it…”—Peter Hofmann Rytter
Peter’s from Denmark, though he only goes back once in a while, and he runs an email marketing business with his girlfriend, where they design and code beautiful newsletters for clients. They’ve managed to find themselves a perfect niche that lets them see the world and earn enough to do so.
For a digital nomad, every day is different
While routine can be comforting to some, anyone who runs their own business knows that two days are rarely the same. You have to be flexible, particularly if you’re travelling and working at the same time. Some days Peter works two hours, sometimes six, sometimes all day. While he plans to takes days off, if an urgent project comes up, he has to be flexible with his weekend plans.
Something that really stuck with me on the trip to Spain where I met Peter is that we, as remote workers, should all treat our workdays as if we’re on vacation. It can be easy, especially mid-winter, to just work and sleep and go out for the occasional movie or drink with friends. It’s good to get out of the house and explore your home city, just as it’s important to learn more about where you are while you’re travelling there.
Running a business from the road can be challenging
There are a few things that can make working while travelling particularly tough at times. Beyond crappy wifi, travelling across time zones can be challenging due to jet lag and client’s expectations of when you’ll be available to communicate with them.
As Peter mentions, clients may even be hesitant to hire you because you’ll be harder to contact and set up impromptu meetings with. I’ve also met people who struggled to work with digital nomads because of communications issues and getting work in on deadlines without any transparency into why the work was late. Overcoming this requires planning and research, and setting client expectations from the get-go.
You’ll meet amazing people, but you’ll have trouble staying in touch
For the past 10 years, I’ve lived in very transient towns where all the friends I made over a year would suddenly move away, leaving me to start fresh. I’ve met a lot of amazing people as a result, but haven’t kept in touch with nearly as many people as I would have liked to.
Peter talks about the other side of this as well—being the transient one. It’s hard keeping up with friends back home when you’re only around a few times a year. While Skype and Facebook messenger are great tools for keeping in touch, nothing beats getting together for beers, for old-times sake.
Not only that, but your life will inevitably start moving in another direction from your friends’. While they’re making their way up the corporate ladder, getting married, starting families, and buying homes, you’re changing homes every three months. Your perspectives change and as a result, your friendships change.
People may also express FOMO around you, feeling like they should be doing what you’re doing…and you may feel the same way about their lives. The grass is always greener on the other side, right?
Remember, your dream is not necessarily someone else’s dream. And vice versa. Your good friends will likely always be good friends. You’ll just see each other less often and have lots to cover whenever you meet up again.
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