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On Being a Digital Nomad (A New Series)

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes For nearly a dozen years, the work that I do for a living has allowed me to work from almost anywhere. I can take my work with me anywhere: home, a coffee shop, the bookstore, the gym, my kids’ school, the airport, another country, on a boat, etc.

This post will be the first of several on the topic of working as a digital nomad. My blog, resources, and podcast will focus heavily on the benefits of being a remote worker, choosing your work location, and finding ways to travel while still making income. I hope you find it helpful!

For nearly a dozen years, the work that I do for a living has allowed me to work from almost anywhere. I don’t just mean my employer lets me work from home on occasion. I mean I can take my work with me anywhere: home, a coffee shop, the bookstore, the gym, my kids’ school, the airport, another country, on a boat, etc.

Not being tied down to one geographic location is one of the greatest “job benefits” I can possible think of. For much of my adult life, I’ve been self-employed, and since I work in the digital space (web design, internet marketing and consulting, etc.), all I really need is a laptop and an internet connection.

Heck, these days, I don’t even need a phone: I almost never make or receive calls. It’s just email, screen sharing, and text messages. I literally take my entire office with me everywhere I go, in my backpack. The only difference between working from my home office and on the road is that I’m not sitting at my own desk.

A few years ago, I realized exactly how powerful this freedom was on a random day when I had an epiphany. I was working from home on my computer, looking out the window, thinking “Ugh. It’s snowing again in Colorado. I sure would rather be somewhere warm. Wait—the only thing stopping me from going somewhere warm is me. I can still get at much work done in a warmer place as I am right now.”

So what did I do? I took a trip! I flew to California, and visited a good friend of mine in a much warmer climate. And got a lot of work done in the process. Win-win!

I’ve noticed that a lot of people who travel frequently have digital/remote jobs, so what I do is actually pretty common. In fact, there’s even a term for it: “digital nomad.” That’s a great term that really makes sense.

The problem I’ve seen though, in a lot of blog posts and YouTube videos is that people who digital nomads hype the idea as though it’s the easiest thing in the world. It’s almost an afterthought. It feels like they’re saying “Yay! Go travel the world and follow your dreams and pursue everything you ever desired. All you have to to do it work remotely. It’s that easy.”

I hate to be disagreeable here, but: wrong! It’s not that easy. It actually very tricky. It’s not hard per se, but it involves a lot of complex personal habits, attention to detail, and advanced planning. There unique nuances involved in working across state lines, borders, and time zones.

I think people who prioritize a lifestyle of travel first, then think about what they’ll do for work afterwards are putting the cart before the horse. It’s exactly the opposite.

If you want to be a traveler that can work from anywhere:

First, build up a career that allows you to travel or work remotely.

Then, you can think about traveling, working remotely, and being a digital nomad.

In my podcast, blog posts and videos (lots more coming soon), I promise I will always be honest about the topics I discuss. And this topic is too important to gloss over. So you’ll see as I add more articles over time, that I’m very enthusiastic about living as a digital nomad of sorts (I don’t do it full time). But I’m also very cautious about telling people it’s simple, because it isn’t.

For example, I once launched a new website while sitting in the passenger seat of a rental car, balancing my laptop on my knees, trying to tether to the internet with my iPhone while driving through vast miles of rocky crags in New Mexico with spotty reception, racing to make my deadline. I pulled it off, but it was a super-stressful event. Usually, things work out fine. But sometimes, it’s really frustrating and difficult and can even ruin your travel plans.

But I’ll talk more about that in future posts. Stay tuned for more.

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By Ron Stauffer

Ron Stauffer is an average American guy with a quiet obsession of exploring the world a little bit at a time. Born and raised in California, he now lives in Colorado and is always looking for an excuse to get away for a few days at a time, living as a part-time digital nomad. He has a degree in Storytelling from Metro State University in Denver, and loves sharing his experiences exploring on the road, in the air, and over the sea. He's visited 30 American states, and he's been to 6 countries... so far!