Why I Avoided The “Digital Nomad” Title For So Long

Writing from 24.628° S, 25.923° E

I’ve been going through a pretty big life shift over the last month, and it’s had me all kinds of messed up in the head.

The struggle of coming to terms with the direction my life is heading in and how different it is than the path I had always imagined for myself has been one of the biggest internal battles I’ve had in a long time. It’s forced me to spend a lot of time alone — reflecting, planning, and scheming — but I’ve finally gotten to a point where I’m ready to say it:

I am becoming a digital nomad.

Doesn’t seem like such a big deal, right? Well, for me it is.

For those of you who don’t know, a digital nomad is someone who works remotely from anywhere, giving them the freedom to travel as much as they like and still have an income to support themselves. A term often used is “location-independent” — some digital nomads have a home base, and some (like me) just keep hopping around.

I like to refer to myself as “happily homeless.”

This is my friend Steph! Also a digital nomad, also happily homeless.

So, why was I so reluctant to use this term as a descriptor for myself? I’ve been away from the US for over six months and have been working remotely for clients the entire time, with six months left before I come back to the US for a temporary visit. I should own up to what my lifestyle is becoming now.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t feel like I’d earned it.

For those who have heard of or met other digital nomads, you may have noticed something that almost all of them have in common:

Some sort of discontent led them to quit their 9-5 job, find a way to work online, and start traveling.

They wear it like a badge of honor (as they should). They were unhappy with their current way of life, so they took action and made a change. They took an unconventional way out and turned it into a lifestyle with immense professional and personal freedom. They found a way to turn their love of travel into a full-time gig, and now they have the world as their office. There are some truly amazing stories of how people made this happen for themselves.

But a recent university grad becoming a digital nomad with minimal “real world” experience? No way. That’s about as unheard of as it gets.

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I’ve avoided calling myself a digital nomad for so long because I didn’t feel like I had that common story: I didn’t quit a 9-5 job and leave stability and security behind to fend for myself as a full-time traveler. I chose never to take that path in the first place, so I thought I couldn’t be part of the “club.”

Along with that, I always wondered if “digital nomad” gave off a pompous vibe, which obviously would never be my intention. I live out of a backpack and sleep at budget hostels every night, so my life is by no means glamorous. Honestly, it all comes back to a lack of confidence in certain situations and worrying what others will think.

I’m working on that.

My close friends and family have known that I’ve been working toward this point over the past several months, and I’m excited to finally embrace it completely so I can focus on what’s important to me: my people, my travel, and my work.

And, as hard as it is to believe coming from someone that consistently posts pictures from exploring new places, believe me — I work a ton. I’ve never worked more in my life. I do at least some work every single day. I easily meet or exceed the typical 40-hour work week, I just don’t do it all at once from a desk.

After running around Stellenbosch for a day — surprise! — I worked 3 extra-long days to catch up.

Sometimes I work at a cafe from open until close, and sometimes I work from my bed at 2 in the morning. Other times (like right now in Botswana) I go to a new country for five days and only get to explore for one of them because I have too much work to do. Every day is different!

It’s exhilarating, terrifying, and exhausting running my own business at 23, but getting to work with clients from all over the world is so fun I can’t imagine ever wanting to quit.

 


 

The question I get a million times a week is “When are you coming home to get a job?”

I hope this answers that.

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