Is becoming an expat or digital nomad the best thing you’ll do for your personal growth and career development? Probably! Does that mean it’s easy? No, why would it? Travel pushes you far outside your comfort zone, that’s how it forces you to grow. Living abroad as a lifestyle essentially means you are committing to be pushed on a near daily basis. But it is a lot easier with help from the DN who went before you! Read on for the most common mistakes new digital nomads make.
Wanting To See The Whole World Right Away
Of course, we all got into this lifestyle because we want to see the world! But when you first begin your digital nomad journey, it’s better to pick one location to call home for a few reasons. For one, when you move to a new country, it’s common to suffer from transplant sickness (read my post on transplant sickness and how to avoid it here) and too much travel makes it worse. Taking time to settle in somewhere will also help you move through the inevitable homesickness, while developing deeper friendships and connections (not making friends with locals is another of the most common mistakes new digital nomads make!)
Chances are you have never worked remotely or with little to no management before. It’s going to take some time to adjust and find your grove with work. Constant travel will interrupt you every time you start to get in a flow, leaving you feel fried and like you’re falling behind.
Finally, travel is expensive. Settling down, getting into a flow, finding an affordable place to rent or buy long term is going to save you money. When you first get started, cash flow can be inconsistent. Especially, if you are freelancing or starting your own business. There is nothing worse than the stress of travel, compounded by feeling pressed financially and the rigors of starting a new career. Trust me, I’ve been there.
So chill out and stay in one place for your first 6 months to a year. That doesn’t mean weekend trips and holidays are out of the question! It just means you should have one place as home base instead of moving to a new country every week. Sometimes you need to take the time to build a foundation for your dreams before you start living them.
Being Afraid To Invest
When I first became a digital nomad I was working as a freelance writer. I had some background in writing, but not in copywriting, WordPress, SEO, or social media management. All important skills that can help you make a CAREER as a freelancer. If you’re like me and went to a liberal arts college, these are not skills you were taught. I was super resistant to investing much time and money into learning those skills, which means my income basically plateaued and I ended up leaving freelance for a remote job. It wasn’t until much later that I invested money in learning those skills and as a result was able to improve my career & income and start this blog!
But investing doesn’t just mean investing in yourself. Living in an emerging market is a great opportunity to become a first time homebuyer, eventually creating a stream of passive income for yourself through short or long term rentals. As a DN you might find that you’re saving a lot of money compared to your lifestyle before. Make some of that money work for you to create passive income long term through investing in the stock market, both in your home country and in emerging markets.
Choosing An Expensive Location
Becoming a digital nomad is a wonderful journey, but travel is filled with stress, culture shock, and growing pains. The last thing you want to do is add financial burdens to the mix. I know a lot of us dream of London, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, but these locations are pretty expensive as far as expat life goes. Overburdening yourself financially is one of the most stressful mistakes new digital nomads make. My suggestion would be to find a location that is expat friendly, but with a much lower cost of living than where you already are. Some less expensive alternatives might include Cluj, Romania; Porto, Portugal; or Florianópolis, Brazil.
Long term, consider how you can invest the money you save back into your business, skill development, or even real estate, making your digital nomad lifestyle financially smart and viable long term instead of a crazy idea you had in your 20s.
Not Knowing Your Worth
So many people I know who take up remote work are so desperate to leave the 9-5 they settle for any gig that comes their way. Often this leaves them cash strapped and desperate, so they settle for another poorly paid position/gig again. Then again. It becomes a toxic cycle they just can’t beat.
Too many DNs have the wrong perception of remote work. They think if a company lets you work remotely, they are doing you a favor. Wrong. Companies save money by hiring remote because they don’t have to house them in office. Studies have found that remote workers also take far fewer sick days saving organizations big $$$. AND remote workers help companies save money and time because they require virtually no micromanagement.
A recent report from Gartner found that remote work has grown 400% in the past decade as companies realize hiring remote saves them money and helps them attract top talent. Gartner also found by 2021 companies will be able to hire 40% work employees thanks to the money and space saved with remote workers.
A company is not doing you a favor by letting you work remotely. Believing they are is not only a major mistake new digital nomads make, it will make you come across as desperate. Desperation is major turnoff for hiring managers and potential clients. Shift your mindset. Remote work is a win-win arrangement for both parties. 400% growth does not happen as a “favor.”
So all that being said, do not make the mistake of devaluing yourself. Know your worth and work constantly to improve it. Don’t settle for less than you deserve or need to make your lifestyle a reality.
P.S. If you’re struggling with under earning, this book was a game changer for me.
Truth is, being an expat can be lonely. You find that you can’t relate to people back home and new friends are constantly moving away. One of the really common mistakes new digital nomads make (especially before they move abroad) is thinking that being a DN is an endless party. It’s not uncommon to get depressed after the 6 week mark of moving abroad or near the holidays. But even if you are an introvert, don’t make the mistake of isolating yourself.
For me, a hardcore introvert working from home, it was so easy to isolate. It’s actually one of the reasons I moved back to the US. I felt that every time I got close with someone they moved!
But isolating will harm your mental health and your career. One of the hardest things about growing a career as a DN is networking. You need to get out there and meet people every week at events, coffeeshops, and informal meetups.
The best thing I can suggest is working from a co-working space. Not only will this provide a sense of routine and boundaries to your work day, it will also help you to build a personal and professional network. It’s a great way to land freelance gigs as well! When you feel yourself starting to slip into homesickness, depression, or isolation, using a co-working space to socialize and provide structure to your day can go a long way. In the end it is definitely worth the investment.
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