I first heard of the term digital nomad while I was still living in Buenos Aires when I went to a meetup and thought I’d never be able to do it.
Race was one of the main reasons why I had my doubts. Most digital nomads are white. They tend to be more open-minded because traveling expands the mind, but they still don’t understand life in my shoes. Seeing oppression isn’t the same as experiencing it.
I know there are definitely white people who deal with class issues, disabilities, chronic diseases, etc. But that’s not the same as being a DN as a person of color. Let’s just leave it at that.
I’m not sure what people really think of what it’s like to be digital nomad, but below are a few myths I’m trying to debunk. Life isn’t all sunshine and roses, after all.
You spend your day around awesome sights!
That happens too. I’ve seen a lot of awesome things, but I also have deadlines to keep up with and clients that have to stay happy. You’re not just a freelancer, you’re being a freelancer somewhere else. A lot of people think that being a solopreneur means you spend all day in your pajamas.
Freelancing just means you’re a one-person business. You have to take it as seriously as you would a 1000 person enterprise. At least I do.
This sometimes means you won’t get to cross items off your bucket list. Recently I went to La Paz, Bolivia, and Brazil. Though I was able to check out a lot of cute cafés in La Paz, I didn’t even have time to get on the teleférico. Seriously. I needed to work as much as I could and I lost a lot of time upon arrival.
After months in Chile, the altitude at the Bolivia-Chile border crossing did a number on me. I needed to rest and worked from my bed. I was behind on work and needed to turn things in on time so I could get to Salar de Uyuni and Death Road. So I saw cool things, but I couldn’t explore the city much.
You have 0 problems
Everyone has problems. Personal issues, taxes, student loans, family issues, and other inconveniences. Digital nomads are often lucky we may be closer to a beach, or a town we always dreamed of seeing
In extreme cases, you may be a victim of theft and other serious things. These could happen anywhere, of course. But as a digital nomad, you are putting yourself in vulnerable situations on purpose, so you have to have your wits about.
I was assaulted twice in Argentina and was able to fight off the perpetrators. Not everyone is so lucky.
You have tons of money
Some people might. I didn’t.
On November, I remember waking up with only US$11 in my bank account in Chile. These things happen and I got by and still had fun by walking to the beach and eating a lot of pasta until the next gig came along.
Most digital nomads would probably say that I should’ve gone home, but I’m no traditional DN. I’m a member of the working class and a Latina. This was bound to happen at home too.
Suffice it to say that I do my best not to spend excessive amounts of money. I do check out cafés and splurge occasionally.
I spent my 32nd birthday doing the Salkantay Trek in Perú, and try to see as much as I can. I’ve known some DNs who can save thousands before starting off, but that wasn’t my case.
This often means that I’m in hostels where I’m sharing a room. I tend to find places with a living room and work as much as I can.
There have been occasions when I can splurge on a private room, but they’ve been few and far between.
The digital nomad community must be really supportive, right?
This is true for the most part. I’ve been able to find additional work through Facebook groups created by and for digital nomads. Women FDNs have been the most supportive in my experience.
Generally speaking, women have created a more welcoming environment. Many do their best to understand that WOC have special challenges, but there are racist people everywhere. Let’s leave it at that.
Being a minority in any setting means often being angry. However, at the end of the day, I’m a U.S. citizen and am able to get various jobs. Many Latina, Asian, or African DNs have a harder time just getting started because they may carry a passport that’s considered “weak.”
People from certain countries have to pay for visas almost everywhere. I only ever met one Indian couple that was backpacking around Perú and they explained that they had to pay for a visa to enter most South American countries they visited.
This is just another obstacle for FDNs, and women who carry “weak” passports have a harder time becoming digital nomads. They deal with other things I don’t, but thankfully DNs are talking about privilege in larger numbers.
Many of us try to share opportunities with each other, help each other meet deadlines, figure out finances, share strategies to deal with male harassment in various forms, and try to provide solutions to various problems that arise.
I could go on about other myths. What I can tell you is that it’s been worth it to try to visit as many countries as I can and chase this dream. I see myself being a DN for at least 1 or 2 more years and then moving to Chile, but that’s another story.