Honestly guys, I’m getting kind of tired of seeing all these sponsored posts on Facebook telling you that “I quit my job and now I get paid to travel the world – learn how YOU could do it too!”
They make it sound so easy; like you could just quit tomorrow and be on a plane next week with a guaranteed income to keep you going for years and years and years. Now to you and me, I’m sure it’s obvious that it’s not that easy – but it all sounds so possible if allllllll these people are doing it, doesn’t it?
Here’s why I’m not actually interested in the increasingly popular lifestyle that these people really lead.
It’s bloody hard work
Sure, being paid to travel the world (usually untrue) sounds like the dream, but the truth is, you’ll have to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life if you want a chance in hell of actually living a good life at the same time. A bit of a paradox, you’re probably thinking – and you’d be right.
Full-time travel is a myth.
Or at least, highly romanticised. The majority of people are not “paid to travel” – they are earning money through freelance and odd jobs online which allows them to be location independent; i.e. they can be wherever they want to be in the world, as long as they have an internet connection. (see my next point)
And the truth is, unless you hit really lucky, it’s a real hard slog to earn enough money in the first place to actually make a decent living – and even once you’ve crossed that massive bridge, you’ll be working a lot more than you’ll be travelling or seeing the places you’re in.
I see it all the time from real people in real situations doing exactly this. Lauren from Never Ending Footsteps lived in Saigon, Vietnam, for a month and rarely left her apartment. Adventurous Kate had a breakdown in Bulgaria because actually, finding a balance between travel and work is bloody hard. Countless people get holed up in Chiang Mai for months and virtually live in coffee shops on their laptops. What a dream, huh?
I have more travel freedom not working online
Do you know what I like about not working online? Being able to book a place to stay and NOT worry about whether there’s free or working wifi. Being able to go on a road trip where my laptop wasn’t charged up for almost a week and not have to panic because I have deadlines to meet. Being able to travel anywhere without thinking about the timezone differences between me and a client.
And don’t even get me started on social media. People who have time to post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat on an almost daily basis while they travel and hold down a freelance business at the same time have my total respect. I love writing on this blog, but when you have five or more social networks to also garner attention on, it starts to be a bit of a chore. (then again, that’s one major draw of the digital nomad card – lots of companies feel the same way and outsource their social media management to travellers for that very reason!)
I have more fun travelling without working online
I’ve spent half of my life glued to a computer screen, so you’d think the idea of working online in beautiful places would be something I’d love.
If only. The problem I have is that when you turn a passion into a career, it becomes just that and you can lose your passion. I’d be terrified of that happening to me. Can you imagine anything worse than sitting in paradise and realising you hate it? Can you imagine how over-privileged and ungrateful you’d feel as a result? Travel burnout is a very real thing, without throwing consistent deadlines and pressures and work into the mix.
As a class A workaholic, I know I’d be one of those people guilt-tripping myself into feeling like I need to be working harder before I can earn those five minutes of sun, or turning down drinks or an awesome activity or perhaps even the reason I wanted to visit a place, just because I’ve got a deadline to meet even though I have a plane to catch the next day. I fear that the concept of travel and fun would quickly lose all meaning to me, and the lifestyle of working in front of a laptop screen for 15 hours a day would consume my life. I’d be going to all these places for the sake of travelling and not actually doing any of the things you should be doing when you travel. (You know, seeing the place you’re in, perhaps.)
It doesn’t mean I can’t travel long-term
Don’t get me wrong. I travelled for 18 months and loved (almost) every minute. I worked for 12 of those months, but it wasn’t online. I wasn’t entirely location independent; but equally I wasn’t confined to my laptop or, as above, confined to somewhere with wifi. I had the freedom to move around without worrying about amenities everywhere I went. I could get a stable hourly paid job for six months and not worry week to week about pay cheques and late payments from clients.
In fact, getting an offline job just adds to the experience of travel! I wouldn’t have quite so many memories if I hadn’t worked on a farm or in an outback pub in Australia. I had an absolute blast working on a summer camp in the USA. I realise that I’m very privileged in the fact my passport allows me to get working holiday visas in various countries, my language allows me to teach English in many more countries if I so wish, and, at the moment at least, I have the option to work anywhere in Europe. I’m very lucky to have choices available to me that mean I can live a travel lifestyle without having to be a digital nomad.
It’s actually nice to be stable sometimes
I had the best time for 18 months, but I was more than happy to come home at the end of it. Could I imagine leaving for that length of time again? Sure I could – in fact, I might be planning on it! But could I imagine travelling constantly from place to place for another year or even three after that? I’m not so sure. Incidentally, both bloggers I mentioned before have now settled down and travel from a base.
Routines scare me, but sometimes even I have to admit they are also essential to a happy life, especially when you’re working. And you know what, I like seeing my friends and going to a familiar pub and going round to my parents’ for dinner every now and then. I even like having a home, although Ash can’t seem to make me admit to that.
Apart from that, what about hobbies? If it’s hard enough fitting in travel and work, when the hell are you going to have time to do something that’s fun? (alright, travel is fun, obviously, but also… I can’t believe I’m saying this… travel isn’t everything) Again, kudos to anyone who has got the balance right, because I sure as hell couldn’t see myself making it work the way my dreams envisage I could.
I’m not saying you wouldn’t be happy doing it
Plenty of people thrive on being a digital nomad. That’s absolutely fine, but there’s no point pretending that it’s the solution to everyone’s problems. Before you delve into that world, ask yourself if it would really make you happy. Ask yourself if you have other options to work and travel – maybe you could apply for a working holiday visa in Australia, teach English in Asia, or even work for accommodation on your travels to save a buttload of money? In fact, ask yourself what you are even looking for to make yourself happy. Because after all, perhaps what you’re not happy with where you are won’t change just because you’re somewhere else.
All I’m saying is – it’s not for me. And although it’s something that has crossed my mind – and still does from time to time – I’m totally okay with that.