Former advertising executive Chrys Tan left the comfort of her home in Singapore and a steady pay check in exchange for a nomadic lifestyle that enables her to see the world, call different cities home, and the freedom to work wherever she lands with her laptop. She founded Women Digital Nomads to share curated city guides, co-working spaces, and local tips for those who are living a similar lifestyle or aspire to. Is it as easy or exciting as it sounds on paper, or is it fraught with challenges? We ask Chrys for the truth behind some common views on being a digital nomad.
1. Being a digital nomad is something only the young can do. I’m in my 40s, I’m too old for it.
I’ve met a lot of digital nomads in their 30s and 40s (some even in their 60s!) – age doesn’t matter when it comes to being a digital nomad. Whether you are 19 or 49, being a digital nomad only requires that you have some form of skills or business that can enable you to earn a living remotely.
2. I must have a lot of money saved up before I can become a digital nomad
My advice is to research, have a plan on how to make a living, and have some savings before becoming a digital nomad. If you don’t already have a location independent job or an online business, you should ideally have 6 months of savings to tie you over while you search for a remote job.
The concept of being a digital nomad is that you are working while traveling, hence you are still earning an income – this is why you ideally wouldn’t need a lot of savings.
3. A digital nomad is someone who is permanently on holiday, they hardly do any work!
The lifestyle does look very glamorous, but in fact many of us work more hours than we would back home. Depending on the type of remote work you are doing, you could either be working during fixed hours or working all the time as an entrepreneur.
Most of us also do not travel quickly from one place to another; instead, we typically base ourselves in one city for a longer period before moving on to the next. This is done to reduce interruptions to our work.
Some digital nomads also do not travel permanently. They live in their countries for half a year and travel for the other half, often times to avoid the cold winter back home.
4. I will lose my friends and become a stranger to my own family as I’ll never be home – it’s akin to cutting off ties.
With technology these days, it is easy to stay in touch with our family and friends regularly. I Skype with my family once a week and regularly chat with friends back home via Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. I won’t deny though, that being away does create a distance between myself and many of my friends. But truthfully, true friends will always stick around even if I am not physically hanging out with them as often as I did while living in Singapore.
5. I’ll have to survive on handouts, volunteer work, Couchsurfing, etc as it will be difficult to have a stable income while on the move.
This would depend on the type of job that you have, but in fact many digital nomads earn the same amount of salary that they would earn back home. Some earn even more! Being a digital nomad is the same as working from your home country, except that you’re not in your home country – if you are not making enough money to have a sustainable lifestyle, it is best to evaluate your income streams.
Many digital nomads also choose to live in cheaper cities in order to have a better standard of living at a lower cost. For example, I am currently based in Mexico City, which is a huge, bustling city with lots of things to do and an international vibe. Yet, my rental is only 1/5th of what I would pay in Singapore, and I live in the best neighbourhood in Mexico City.
Want to know more about being a digital nomad? Meet Chrys Tan at ZafigoX, a three-day event featuring talks, workshops, bazaar and activities for women by women taking place 29-31 August 2017. Chris will be presenting a talk on In Pursuit of Happiness: Why I Left Singapore And Became A Digital Nomad and a workshop on Finding Remote Work: How to Start Into Your Location Independent Lifestyle.