Advice for Anxious Digital Nomads
Obviously, I'm an Anxious Digital Nomad.
It goes without saying but if the thought of living a life with constant travel, uncertainty, flexibility and spontaneity scares you a little, you're not alone.
Since I decided to travel full time, my mind has been flip flopping between extreme elation (OMG I'm going on a never-ending holiday how fucking cool is that) to the familiar state of extreme panic (OMG WTF are you doing? what are you going to do? You can't do it. You'll run out of money and move back in with your parents forever).
Everyone has Anxiety. It's a natural human response and it's also natural to FREAK OUT when you go through a major life change. Especially one as freeing and uncertain as this one!! Incase you haven't read the essay that is my About Me page (I'm an oversharer), I started with a plan to travel for a month while I would be in between jobs. It quickly grew to a year then onto full time travel. As the length of time grew, so did my anxiety. Who in their right mind would leave their stable job and career behind, along with their family, friends and lovely doggos to travel the world?? Me, that's who!
Ever since I came back from my first Solo backpacking adventure in Italy, I've had an urge to travel that has taken over most of my life. I cried on the couch while my mum asked me what I wanted from ASDA. I still think it was a mix of the crash back down to reality from Cloud Nine, mixed with a feeling of something I really wanted, being taken away from me. I imagine that everyone who is aspiring to be a Digital Nomad has had this revelation at some point in their lives. That realisation that all you want to do is travel without restrictions and the temptation of a cushy office job isn't strong enough to stop you.
I'm not going to "put down" people who have office jobs. I totally understand that different people have different priorities in life and nobody can dictate that the path you're going down is the wrong one. Different Folks, Different Strokes! All I know is that I have an urge to take a step back from the normal corporate job and reassess what I want outta life and map out my future for myself. Who knows where it'll take me 🤷
Since I have been periodically drowning in Anxiety since making the choice to go "Full Time Traveller", I took some advice from my counsellor and wrote everything down.
TIP NUMBER 1: WRITE IT DOWN
I made myself a whiteboard and wrote quotes and bits of inspiration down to remind me why I want to become a Digital Nomad & Travel the world. I use it to give myself a pep talk whenever I start to doubt my decisions (aka, slap me back to reality). I found it helpful to write it when I was in a super pumped up mood for Digital Nomad life (if you've had a "I'm 110% DONE" day at the office etc). This made sure I was in the right mind frame to bash out lots of counter arguments for Debbie Downer. Sometimes the "You a Boss Bitch" Post-It is enough to remind me to go out there and kill the game - whatever I decide the game is!
It's along the same lines as positive affirmations. If you place your "whiteboard" somewhere in your daily eye line, you'll see them so much that you'll start to adopt them and subconsciously remember them off by heart.
TIP NUMBER 2: KNOW WHAT YOU'RE GOOD AT
Everyone's advice on How To Be A Digital Nomad is mostly "Find your Passions". When I started, I had zero "passions" so I struggled.
Hearing that saying all that time made me stress about how boring I must be if I don't have a pot full of hobbies that I can just pluck one out and *BAM* have a future career choice. My IT career started because I had zero passions lol. I was sitting at home, unemployed and out of school when my parents told me to go to college. After mulling over what I wanted to study (from Veterinarian Science to Media), I settled on IT Support because I always spent time on my PC when I was at home and was really good at fixing techy things. In reality, I wasn't super interested in processors and hyperthreading, I was just an introverted kid that preferred to hang out alone in his room on the computer than go outside with his pals.
So don't worry if you don't have lots of hobbies to turn into careers, you'll stumble across them. What you should focus on, is your strengths. What makes you good at what you do now? Or, what makes you a good person in general? If you're compassionate and know how to relate to people, look into more social roles (online counsellors, marketing analyst, blogging, anything that will need you to connect with an audience). If you're really detailed and methodical, look into Technical Writing, Web Design, Virtual Assistants, maybe even teaching?
It's good practice to know your personality strengths regardless of it helping your Digital Nomad choices. We can all benefit from a bit more self love, am I right?! ❤✌
TIP NUMBER 3: EVERYTHING CAN BE LEARNED
When I first started out, I kept dismissing a ton of good ideas for remote working because I didn't have the skills necessary to follow them through.
I was too focused on using my current set of skills/strengths that I forgot that I can actually learn new things. Your impatience shouldn't stop you from expanding your mind and reaching that big ole potential you have. If you've been in a "normal" job for a while, it's easy to focus on your current role and expand those skills rather than endure that feeling of starting from the bottom when you pursue something else.
The internet has changed our lives and you have insurmountable knowledge at your fingertips. Use it! If you're interested in becoming a technical writer but you don't know how to, look it up! Google you heart out and watch all those free youtube tutorials. If you want to get into Online Digital Marketing, scour the internet for the best books to buy and courses to take.
As long as you're willing to learn, you can go far.
When you're carving out that Digital Nomad life, you're going to have to be an Entrepreneur of sorts. You're not only learning about your chosen profession, you're also learning about accounting, promotion, maybe some web design and probably networking. Learn constantly and improve your skills - nothing will stand in your way!
TIP NUMBER 4: TRIAL AND ERROR
Everyone fucks up pals. It's in my nature to care a lot about what I do and to be hard on myself when it goes wrong, so it took me quite a while to realise that when people say "Everyone makes mistakes", that actually mean that "Everyone. Makes. Mistakes". Don't beat yourself up about them - just make sure you learn something from them and move on!
For a while I put myself down and thought I was a Flake/Fickle because I always had ambitious plans that fell to the wayside and were never looked at again. I did it with Mountain Biking, Rock Climbing, Learning Spanish and lots of others. The thing is, we need to try things to see if we like them. When I was younger, I tried a piece of cake and LOVED it. I didn't eat tomatoes and HATED them until a few years ago when I decided to try one. Now I'm mad for them - from my head to-ma-toes.......
I still have doubts about blogging and web design. "It's just a phase and I'll get bored and give it up" Possibly. They're both things I'm really interested in though, so I'll pursue them and see what happens!
If you're lucky enough to have a shining beacon calling you towards your Digital Nomad life, and you love whatever that beacon is, then you've nailed it first go! Amazing. BUT if you don't know what direction to go into, try a few things out. Learn more about each possible thing and create a Pro/Cons list to help you filter out the possibilities. I love a good list.
You might find it helpful to look over some of the jobs that well known celebrities had before they found their calling: https://www.buzzfeed.com/elliewoodward/celebrities-who-had-unbelievable-jobs-before-they-were-fa
TIP NUMBER 5: ITS OK TO STRUGGLE
There's a huge expectation online just now surrounding Digital Nomad life. You're supposed to be eternally grateful for the opportunity life gave you to work from this beach in Thailand while sipping mimosas. Nah, sorry son, you've been duped! The reality is that it's a LOT of work - as is any self-employment venture. You need to GRIND man. There are going to be days when you're tired and can't be bothered to create content, teach another class or read another article. You just want to get into bed, watch Netflix and scroll through Tumblr - I get it.
For me, there were a LOT more Pros than Cons on my list so the days of thinking "I can't do it" are offset by looking at the board from Tip #1 and reminding myself that it's worth it.
Don't feel like you've failed if you are struggling to see the glamorous side of living nomadically. It's not all blog posts on the beach or emails by the pool. It's a really tough thing to do! Most people who aspire to it, don't have the cajones to make the jump, let alone sustain it for a long period of time!
TIP NUMBER 6: THINK ABOUT RESILIENCE
99% of the time, I have at least one backup plan.
My family motto is "Never Unprepared" and my Anxiety helps to cement that into all of my decisions. Obviously one of the major stresses I had when I was trying to be a Digital Nomad was "what would happen if I fail?". Luckily, this stress forced me to think of alternate solutions to that imaginary problem. Not only does having multiple streams boost your income, it also provides redundancy. If people stop booking you for web design, you'll still have your blog. If people stop buying sunglasses from your drop-shipping store, you'll still have the online teaching course as a fall back money maker.
That being said - this is an "ideal" and it's going to take work to build up multiple revenue streams. You'll have to focus on getting one in place before starting on the next. Remember to practice self care, don't spread yourself too thinly and be aware if you're becoming overwhelmed... It's alright to take a step back and dial down the plate spinning now and then.
This also feeds into Tip Number 3 above. While you're spinning these Entrepreneurial plates, you can feel for what you like and what your don't like. If you HATE online teaching and have 3 other income earners, you can focus on building one of them to offset the missing chunk of cash teaching was bringing in.
Also, having the multiple backup plans helps ease my anxiety like eating an Aunt Betty's Ice Cream on a scorching sunny day.
TIP NUMBER 7: TAKE TIME TO ENJOY YOURSELF
When you're working for yourself, it's much easier to fall into a pattern of doing 90hr weeks and constantly being "switched on". You won't have a specific start time. You won't have a strict 1 hour lunch slot to hurry back from. You won't have that "clocking off" feeling of leaving the building at 5pm.
While not having these things can be considered a PRO for working for yourself, it also means that your time management can go to shit.
In the run up to our first year of travel, my family kept telling me to "Enjoy travelling instead of working behind a laptop 24/7". They were right! Ok so, everyone is different and some might like the laid back approach of working but I think that as a human, you can be so much more productive and happier with a routine laid out for you.
I'm the type of person that needs to have a schedule:
Mon - Blog post // Tue - Explore // Wed - Web Design // Thursday - Chill & Take Photos // Friday - Web Design // Saturday - Insta Schedule & Editing // Sunday - Self Care.
That's an example week for effectively splitting time but if you examine each day, you can see a few hours of work in the morning with an afternoon off (or mix days into a full day working etc).
The point is... You need to enjoy yourself. If you're constantly stressing about everything you need to do and spending all of your time "Switched On", you'll never feel truly relaxed. I know as an Anxious Adventurer, any advice to "not think about things" doesn't bare too much weight, but it's good advice to live by lol!
Remember: You can do this. You just have to *want* it.
Working for yourself online/travelling the world is an amazing but terrifying choice to make. You're going to have good days and bad days but don't let your anxiety stop you from achieving what you set out to.
As long as you have the passion, drive and self awareness behind you, you can do amazing things.
Go forth and be the best version of yourself ❤