Alyssa, I wish I had a plug nickel for every Millennial (or Boomer or X-er, let’s be fair here) who “wanted my gig” but only because of what they imagined it to be.

Two things here. If you and I are not willing to learn how to run a business (being a digital nomad is a business, period, not a permanent vacation) and sell, then, as I am fond of saying, there are plenty of mail room jobs open.

I’m a serial entrepreneur and a life-long writer. Four decades of writing, Fortune 100 consulting, and sales training have given me the kinds of chops that people pay for in my world. To your point, this is my industry, my lane, and I know how to add value. That’s what gets me published, and what gets me work.

Being a digital nomad because DUDE, it sounds so cool to live in Ubud for, like, months isn’t the point. If you can’t add value to someone, you don’t work. If you can’t sell your skills to people who need you, you don’t work. If you don’t know how to run a business, you don’t work.

You don’t work, you’re coming home, broke and in desperate need of a basement or a couch.

I am weary of the perfect Instagram shots of people lazing at the pool, Mai-tai in hand, soaking up the sun as though being a digital nomad was effortless. Come on in, the water’s fine.

There are plenty of sharks in that water because there are so many folks who want to do the same thing. That means that the competition is brutal, and if you aren’t really good at whatever it is that you do, your nomadic life is likely to come to an abrupt end.

Can someone do it? Yes. But just for the sake of it, or because photos of bare feet at the pool look a shitload more fun than where we are right now? NO. It’s extremely hard to get up and running, establish yourself and get the kind of steady, dependable income that allows you to live life.

Because this: if you run out of cash you might have to work under the table for the local currency and save up to get home. Right now the Indonesian rupiah is trading for 14,136 to the US dollar. It would cost you about $900 one -way to get to LA from Denpasar. That’s $12,722,400 rupiah.

That’s a lot of tips if you’re stuck waiting tables, DUDE.

That happened to me in New Zealand more than thirty years ago. I got really good at cleaning toilets and picking nectarines. Not what I imagined, but I did it. The NZD was forty cents to the USD. That’s a lot of fruit, folks.

So yes. Can you do it? Of course. But not if you don’t have highly-competitive, marketable skills, not if you can’t sell, not if you can’t run a business. The stakes are a wee bit higher if you find yourself stranded overseas with maxed-out credit cards.

I heartily agree that to leap over to trying to become a digital nomad is a fool’s errand without serious consideration, solid preparation and a commitment to your clients. Clients that you’d be wise to have in place before you get on your first flight, if you’re smart.

Again, not impossible. Not at all. But more likely if you’re willing to do what it takes to build a marketable skill, learn to sell, and how to run a business.

I strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with Tim Leffel, who is my travel writing coach. He specializes in writing about this very thing. He blogs on it, offers classes on it, and is the perfect living example of what this kind of life looks like when it’s working. I succeed at what I do because I invest in my skills, hire good people, and work my butt off, I know how to sell, and I deliver results. That’s how we “get” to do what we do. There’s no office where we apply. We carve it out day by day. Leffel is great at interviewing nomads all over the world and helping you understand what it takes, and what life is like for people living what you think is a dream.

It might not be. But it might. The only way to find out is to take researching it seriously. To that I absolutely encourage dreamers to take this on. If it’s the right fit, you will be in heaven. Working your ass off, but you sure will enjoy the scenery.

Written by

Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store