While we’re tethered to desks, digital nomads are off blogging from Micronesia or sending emails from Croatia. They’re always off somewhere, impossible to pin down for longer than a minute — except for the rare times when they pause to answer our many questions about their enviable lives.
After 12 years of traveling while working, journalist and author Mike Elgan recently hosted a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session wherein he detailed his experiences as a digital nomad and advised other people on ways to make their peripatetic dreams a reality.
Those who want to be digital nomads must first decide whether or not it’s practical for them. This includes balancing their fantasies of travel with fantasies of income. Although it’s possible to make a good living while traveling, it’s also possible to make much more while rooted in one place. “I could work as an editor in New York and make twice what I make as a freelance opinion writer. But my costs would be three times higher, and I’d sit in my office dreaming of traveling someday,” Elgan said.
According to Elgan, one of the most common misconceptions of being a digital nomad is that work somehow becomes more exciting when it’s happening out on the road. “You sit down at your laptop and forget about your surroundings, and it’s not that much different no matter where you are,” he wrote.
But for all of the hassles, Elgan said he hopes to continue his life as a nomad for “as long as I can get away with it. Hopefully at least another 20 years.”
And of course another 20 years on the road would mean even more experiences to keep track of. When asked how he retains all the good memories from his trips, Elgan said: “It is hard to keep up and keep track. The single best tool for memory I think is Google Photos. I just take pictures on my phone constantly, it gets automatically uploaded to Google Photos, then I can later either browse or search. I always find memories in there that I had forgotten.”
And while the flexibility and exoticism of becoming a global nomad may be enticing, Elgan said that the most important change that happens when you do actually get out there and do it is that you adapt to new global perspectives.
“Our sense that certain places are ‘home’ and that others are ‘foreign’ or that certain people are ‘us’ and other people are ‘them’ is a powerful delusion,” Elgan wrote. “When you live in enough places around the world, every place becomes ‘home’ and everyone becomes ‘us.’”