5 Digital Nomad tropes that need to die

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#1 Working from a hammock on the beach

“Let me just use this $2,000 machine above some salt water, 800 miles from the nearest replacement!”

You see this standard stock image on any article or website about digital nomadism – laptop + beach.

But is it true?


Have you ever actually tried working from a hammock? It’s horrible. You can lie down and try to balance your laptop on your thighs and hope it doesn’t slide down. Or you can sit up cross-legged and balance your laptop on your lap, for a killer core workout.

It sucks for a reason – hammocks weren’t designed for work. When the inventor of hammocks sat down to begin their creation, there were only 2 use cases in mind:

  1. Drinking rum out of a coconut
  2. Taking a nap

It’s true that lots of digital nomads live and work in tropical and sub-tropical countries. That’s usually because not only are these countries hot and exotic but because they’re usually very affordable to live in. Asia and Central America particularly are super popular.

And yes….there are great beaches. But laptops and beaches don’t mix well when you have to work hard. There are rarely power outlets and the WiFi is probably super slow if it’s even there.

What’s more, beaches are distracting places and being sat out in the tropical sunshine isn’t going to inspire you to work.

It just inspires you to take an Instagram shot and then go back to the air-conditioned cafe.

But after your day’s work? Yup, you’ll be on the beach!

#2 You Just Need a Great Instagram Account

There are so many Instagrammers who spend their years traveling, taking great pictures and making a ton of money. Often via brand collaborations and a supporting blog, Instagram can be a seriously good string in your bow.

But Instagram isn’t all the strings.

And even if it looks like it is, it almost never is. Even some of the most successful Instagrammers were working their assess off on their blogs and offline businesses before they hit it big on Instagram.

A really great Instagram can do huge amounts for your business. It can draw in an audience and create brand loyalty hard to get on other social media channels.

But don’t think that uploading some exotic shots of your laptop near some turquoise water will send brand collaborations and loyal followers your way. It’s not just imagery, it’s niche imagery with a purpose + a lot of hard work.

#3 All you need is a Wi-Fi connection

‘I can work from anywhere, I just need an internet connection!’

This is mostly true except for two things.

  1. Internet connections are often slow and unusable
  2. You might not be able to work efficiently from anywhere

Right now I’m in the south of England. I’m staying with a friend in a great house with super fast broadband, a comfortable chair and table and an unlimited supply of coffee, electricity and bathroom facilities.

It’s so easy.

There’s even a cat sleeping next to me.

Just three months ago though, I was working from a Portuguese island. The internet was terrible, there was a TV screen playing sport in the cafe so loudly I couldn’t focus and I had to take everything with me when I needed to pee.

In Panama, I had to walk through the jungle every day to get usable internet. In Bali, the word ‘internet’ often meant ‘no internet’.

Working online in another country can be much harder than working in your home country. It can also be more rewarding!

#4 Escape the 9-5!

Too often this lifestyle is advertised as a permanent vacation, but it’s anything but. You still have to work. Maybe you’ve reduced the number of hours, or have a more flexible schedule, but you still need to put in the time. And even when you aren’t working, often work will still be on your mind. I have a harder time enjoying the beach when I have a client deadline in 24 hours.

#5 It’s Easy Street

I can see where this myth comes from. Most of the media around digital nomadism involves an awful lot of cocktails on beaches. It looks like a holiday.

It’s not.

Just like any other work day anywhere else, cocktails come once the work is done and the laptop is sleeping. Midday mojitos are hardly going to inspire the kind of work you need to complete in the afternoon to be successful.

While working in a ‘holiday’ destination makes a lot of people think you’re living the dream, we digital nomads know it’s not true.

We’re usually stuck inside working just like everybody else. In fact, sometimes we’re working at horrible hours because our client or editor is halfway around the world.

Just like most types of freelancing, being a digital nomad is a constant challenge. While you can minimise your financial worries by living somewhere super cheap like SE Asia, you still have the normal worries about finding enough work.

But on top of that? You also need to navigate a foreign culture on a daily basis, including dealing with complex, sometimes corrupt bureaucracy too.

A full-time digital nomad works hard all the time. The upshot? They can grab lunch off a food stall and try cuisines they’ve never had, they can spend the evenings on the beach with a fresh coconut and they can indulge their love of travel.

But they don’t have houses, they don’t have cars, they might not have a guaranteed income and they have to exercise continuous discipline (because…y’know…those mojitos are always nearby).


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One Response to " 5 Digital Nomad tropes that need to die "

  1. […] The things you should read. Now I don’t really like things with the word die in the title. I can often be a sensitive soul and it usually fills me with an inescapable sense of dread. I don’t think I fear my own mortality, it’s probably more likely that I have had one glass too many of wine and have a case of the sads or the fear. Still, this newsletter isn’t for my benefit so I must persevere for you, my loyal readers. All two of you. This is a pretty good article listing the 5 digital nomad tropes that need to d*e. […]