10 Obstacles Preventing You From Becoming a Digital Nomad

Some of our friends and readers are envious of our lifestyle as digital nomads. Many ask how we were able to do it. The biggest question we've gotten is how we afford it, which we've addressed in an article about our occupation and another article about our expenses.

The freedom we have to travel or live anywhere seems exotic and exciting to most suburbanites. Admittedly, it is pretty awesome, but it's not without challenges and sacrifices.  And these challenges extend beyond finances.

Our dream to break free from the rat race didn't happen overnight either.  It took years of planning and more years of action to prepare for such an independent lifestyle.

Because we continue to get inquiries about how to transition into becoming a digital nomad, we felt it necessary to outline some of the obstacles we had to overcome to make this dream come true.

Career: Since we did not want to wait until we were old and retired to have this adventure, we had to figure out a way to make money from anywhere in the world.  This is possible for anyone who has even the most basic computer skills, but it required planning, goal setting, tons of research, discipline, and lots of hard work. Others may be lucky to find a 'job' that allows them to telecommute. In either case, transitioning from a normal career to becoming a digital nomad is a challenge.  But it is a transition well worth doing!

Get out of the rat race now!
House: A lot people feel trapped by their mortgage, especially now that home prices in many areas are less than what is owed to the bank. We were lucky enough to sell our home in 2006 right before the real estate collapse in the US.  However, we know MANY digital nomads that simply walked away from their underwater homes to discover a huge weight had been lifted off their shoulders. Worrying about a damaged credit score is not worth a life of perpetual servitude. If you can't sell or rent your home out to achieve your travel dreams, don't be afraid to say goodbye to a life on credit.

Bills: Bills are another false fear that keeps us locked into our jobs. Yes, car payments, insurance, credit cards, food, electric bills, cable TV, and so on are all real, but fear of them is an illusion. Further, all of these bills can be reduced.  It's simply a choice about what is important to you, and only you can make that decision.  For us, we got rid of credit cards, downsized to one car that was paid for, planned our grocery trips in detail, etc. Now as digital nomads, we don't own a car and only have our basic living and travel expenses to be concerned with, but we do spring for a budget car hire from time to time.

Stuff:  Along the same lines as bills, living as digital nomads doesn't require lots of stuff.  We got rid of many things we once thought were important and now we literally own only what we can carry.  We don't regret it.  It's quite liberating to simplify in this way. We got rid of TVs, unneeded appliances, clothing, shoes, toys, books, and even boxes of sentimental knickknacks.  It seems scary, but if you sit down with each item and ask yourself how it benefits your everyday life you usually will see that most "things" don't offer much benefit at all.  Keep the things that do and donate the rest!  Go slow, it can be a tough emotional process.

Schooling: Thinking of living a travel lifestyle with kids can be daunting. Leaving a good school district can be very difficult for some parents in pursuit of the unknown whether it be homeschooling or foreign schools.  You just have to trust that the rich experience you'll be giving to your kids is worth every bit as much as the good school district could give them, if not more.  There is always a trade off in life.  To pursue a nomadic life means that sports and cub scouts may not be a possibility, but elephant rides and global awareness are possible.  It's all about what the priorities are for each individual family.

Family & Friends: Leaving family and friends can be very painful.  But you're not dying, you're just going on an adventure.  Furthermore, the cure for homesickness is available to everyone that has a computer or smart phone, so just about everyone these days.  The Internet provides all of the cheap communication we need to video chat with loved ones from anywhere.  Also when we assimilate into new surroundings, we meet new and amazing people who we'd never know existed without traveling the world.

Some of my best friends I have met while traveling!
Gear & Knowledge:  Leaving your familiar life to become a digital nomad requires a lot of planning. Luckily there are many people out there, right now, doing the very same thing and writing about it in order to make the process easier and more inviting for you.  Plan out the basic structure of your first few months but don't be too rigid, leave open the possibilities to take people up on their suggestions along the way.  You'll also need to purchase some basic travel gear that makes your trekking as comfortable as possible.  First try to decide what type of travel you are looking to do, then research how others do it, read their packing lists to give you an idea of what you may want to purchase, and hope for the best.  You can always research more or buy things along the way.

Worries & Doubts:  Perhaps the biggest obstacle of them all are the worries that go through our minds.  Worries about all the things listed here and more.  Doubts about whether this is a sane decision or not.  I am not going to pretend that changing your life in such a big way is no big deal, it is a big deal and it's normal to have some worries and doubts.  The trick is to recognize them as irrational and know that in the end you can always turn your life around yet again to work better for your situation.  Nothing is permanent so push the worries aside and focus on all the amazing things you will be seeing and doing.

Naysayers:  No matter how hard you try (and I suggest you stop even trying) you will never please everyone all of the time.  In making a big life transition, that falls outside of the box of conventional ways to live your life, there will be many people telling you exactly how awful they think your decision is. It can be difficult to deal with especially when you are starting out and maybe having doubts of your own. The way we deal with it is to be honest and have thoughtful responses ready for any inquiry.  Let them know that you aren't sure it will be the best thing ever, but you won't have to live with any regret that you didn't at least give it a shot!

Stability & Security: Security is something we all need, but it is also one of those things that is just a state of mind.  What is the difference in having enough income to support a roof over your head and food on the table in America versus a roof over your head in Malaysia?  The answer is, nothing. There's no difference.  Everyone's level of security is different, but it's smart to maintain a nest egg that is for emergencies.  Perhaps it is enough money to return to your home country if things don't work out, or enough money to jump to a different location that may provide more comforts, etc.  Additionally, for peace of mind, health insurance and other medical considerations should be figured out prior to becoming a nomad.  These are real issues but nothing that cannot be overcome.

There are many mental blocks to starting a new life as a digital nomad, these are just the most prevalent ones.  But most of those blocks are in our minds only and simply require making the decision to let it go and let your true priorities rule your mental space.  The best advice I can give is to follow your passion, research as much as you can before leaving, and go for it!

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  1. some times we need break from all the things. the article is best.

  2. really happy you guys are making it happen. there are ways out of the system, which you have proven.