Living The life As A Digital Nomad: Bullshit Or Truth?

So you read the 4 hour work week. And your mate is insisting you must read ReWork.

You’ve minimised, streamlined and redesigned your life so that you can travel and work. You even rolled your life into a 40 litre rucksack, stocked up on USB chargers and bought some new Havianas (hopefully in Brazil, where they’re £4 as opposed to the £20 you’ll pay in Urban Outfitters.) And you’ve bought a flight to Bali. Or you know someone who has. Sound familiar?

There’s this trend at the moment, the trend of this enigma called the ‘digital nomad’. It’s been around a little while now. But who (or actually what?) is a ‘digital nomad’? What does it do? Are they just travel bloggers who want to fasttrack to the Daily Mail? Do you have to be permanently on the move? Is this not just freelancing but doing the work overseas? Or being an ex-pat who works for themselves?

So many questions!

And where does this tribe of collective like-minds gather? Which beaches are they typing furiously from with furrowed brows, as their sunglasses slip sweatily down their noses. What “hubs” are they hooking up in, and rocking out nomadically to?

We did a talk on this new, exciting and incredibly sexy Digital Nomad thing on our latest social entrepreneurship bootcamp in Sri Lanka. Now our team are heading off for the weekend on Thursdays – at the moment they’re hooking onto someone’s wifi in the Maldives whilst writing business strategies for their social enterprise clients.

But you have to practice what you preach – so approximately two weeks ago I went off on my own little nomadic adventure, wondering if it were really true – can you travel AND work? Don’t get me wrong – I know its possible. I’ve been working out of cafes, homes, guesthouses, hotels and co working spaces for over 18 months now and its totally do-able. But usually I find somewhere that works for me, a place I trust, and then stay there until its time to move onto the next.

A fortnight ago I decided to put this to the test, once and for all and hit the road and properly travel, armed with only a small bag and my macbook air. I slept in 6 different beds, showered in the same number of differently advantaged watering holes, rested on several beaches in two different countries, I rode a scooter for a day visiting pristine golden beaches, watched the sunset yesterday after a one hour hair raising climb up a Unesco World Heritage site dating back to 500 AD, took several rides on a handful of  luxury speedboats, visited a “floating bar”, spent $100 going onto a resort island in the Maldives and ate more jumbo prawns, octopus and cuttlefish that I probably ever will again in a 14 day period.

It doesn’t sound like I did much work does it?

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I reckon most days I pulled in an average of 6-7 hours solid work. I was quite motivated to get shit done. Way more than usual! The lure of an adventure really helped me to wake up early and have a powerful start to my day.

6-7 hours might not sound like much to your average co-founder of a start-up, and admittedly i’d usually average more like 10-12 hours a day but that’s not always ideal. Burnout is a real threat people! Plus if you work in an office (home or otherwise) once you extract commute times, lunch breaks, making tea and office gossip (or catching interesting stories on the Wright Stuff on TV in the background for those who work at home 😉 I reckon you have a good solid day of work crammed in there.

In London I might spend a whole evening watching catch up TV as a treat to help me relax – here in Sri Lanka I was buying Octopus off a stall on the side of the road and then watching it get cooked on the beach whilst I drank a cold soda!

But how did I do it?

I started work most mornings around 7 or 8 (easy when your curtains let in the light – and the lure of an adventure forces you out of bed) and I continued to 11 or 12. I ate breakfast and drank coffee whilst I worked. I did the things that required me by a computer in the morning – such as checking and responding to emails from the day before, updating mine and the business finances, and any other project work. Then I would go off and do interesting, fun or relaxing things till early evening once the sun had gone down, and then fit in another 2-3 hours of team catch ups/Skypes or other urgent tasks before I went out for a few drinks and some dinner before bed.

Not enough sleep? You can catch up on sleep on the beach!

So if you’re a freelancer back in the UK, USA or anywhere around the world and you’re aching to do something different but you still have to work, I have proven that you can do both. You can travel, see the world, have fun and live your life. I’ve just done it! And you only get one shot at being the version of you that exists right now, in this moment.

Digital Nomadding – it might be a new buzz word, and it may morph into something else or be around for a while until it has a few more converts. But what is a movement I really buy into is lifestyle design. You don’t have to be traditional with your approach to how you live your life. You can create, cultivate, even manifest a life that works for you.

There really is no excuse – I have a decent data package on my phone, a back up dongle for when nothing else works, and I am finding that most places have semi-decent wifi depending on the time of the month. Even the train I took today from Kandy down to Colombo had wifi in the 1st class carriage that cost me £7. Two hours later and i’d caught up on emails. When nothing works, my attitude is that the universe doesn’t want you to work right now!

Reckon you could handle it?