In October 2018 I packed my bags and moved 8,000 miles from my former home in the U.S. to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I’ve been living since. The decision to pack up and head out came relatively easy for me, and was inspired by a handful of things, but mostly, I moved because it was something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Growing up I didn’t have the chance to visit any countries outside of the U.S., and as I got older, my interest for exploring places and cultures that seemed vastly different from my own, grew and grew.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to a few countries while I was in college including Mexico and Ireland, and I even studied abroad in India for 3 weeks at one point, but I wanted more. I craved new places and new people, and I wanted to be thrown outside of my comfort zone. Choosing the digital nomad life wasn’t something that I contemplated for very long. For me, it felt inevitable.
According to Urban Dictionary, a digital nomad is defined as “one who derives income remotely and online, rather than from commuting to an office. This enables the digital nomad to not need a permanent home base, and they can travel anywhere at any time. Often find them couchsurfing, living in hostels, with friends, or in countries where rent is relatively cheap.” This, in a nutshell, is the life I have been living for the past 9 months.
With the rise of the internet and of social media platforms, remote work has become a phenomenon that is blossoming all over the globe. No longer is this seemingly “lush” life of sipping coconuts by the beach on a Tuesday or island hopping in the most beautiful places on Earth something that is reserved for the wealthy, social media influencers, and jobs that are centered around traveling. With an increasing amount of ways to make money with merely a laptop and an internet connection, the term “digital nomad” has found its way into popular lexicon, and it looks like it’s here to stay.
Having lived in this way for almost an entire year, I have learned a lot. Maybe most importantly, I’ve learned that every beneficial aspect of this way of living, also comes with a counter balance; a negative aspect, that many people living in a more traditional, 9-5 working pattern, may not have considered. Like many things in life, the grass tends to appear greener when you’re looking in from the outside without any of your own experience to reference, and I’ve found this to be especially true with digital nomading.
As I’ve gained more time and experience as a nomad under my belt, I’ve been mulling over a lot of things, trying to figure out how exactly to articulate what I want to say about my time living abroad. With this article, I hope to paint a more realistic picture of my life as a digital nomad outside of the four sides of a cell phone screen because for many, social media is where you discover the perception of what it looks like to live and work abroad. I want to pull back the curtain a bit, and explain the most important things I’ve learned so far in my time as a digital nomad.