To put it simply, digital nomads are people who travel while they work online. Online jobs have become more and more prevalent, and people across the globe have found the benefits of seeing the world while doing work they love.
Why Become One?
Digital nomads have something many say they wish they had — more time. If you are someone who loves to explore new places, or you have big travel goals, this might be the way of life for you. This extra time can also be used for productivity, that is, being productive regarding your own interests. You might find yourself feeling more creative, and you’ll learn to adapt to new situations better over time.
What Jobs do Digital Nomads Have?
There’s a wide range of jobs you can have online. Some of them involve hobbies or creative skills, like offering your own services on freelance websites. In fact, freelancing is one of the most popular ways digital nomads earn a paycheck. Any digital job counts. Some skills to bring to these types of jobs are writing, technological literacy, consulting, teaching/tutoring, customer service, marketing, or creative thinking. The possibilities are endless, and there may be work opportunities that align with your current career path.
How Do You Become One?
“Nomadding” requires a healthy amount of planning, but the motivation of freedom should help you get through it. First, you’ll need to create some sort of budget that will keep you in check. This lifestyle can come with uncertainties, so allocating money to food, shelter, and other necessities is vital. Also, it’s important to have a financial safety net in case something goes awry. More often than not, this is in the form of a savings account.
Next, let’s chat about non-necessities. These are the fake emergencies of physical objects, the things infomercials or fancy ads or magazines convinced us we had to have… for what? There are lots of resources that explain how to recognize the difference between the stuff we need and the stuff that takes up space. Some popular sites are The Minimalists and the KonMari method.
After that, you’ll want travel insurance. This step is often overlooked, but it’s important because it gives you a sound mind in case you need to cancel your trip. Maybe it’s because of weather, or a death in the family, or major events in the city you’re headed toward… but things happen, and travel insurance makes sure you’re reimbursed. It’s relatively cheap, and it also protects you in case you have a medical emergency on your trip.
Since you’ll be working remotely, having a dependable internet connection — both your cell service and a Wi-Fi connection — must be a priority. This is how digital nomads make their money while traveling. You might consider investing in some sort of hotspot, but some can get by on public Wi-Fi if that’s what you prefer. In that case, try to use a VPN and practice safe public Wi-Fi habits.
So Now What?
Energized, excited, and eager to embark on a new way of life? Hooray! Just make sure to have a concrete plan: that’s budgeting, prioritizing necessity, finding insurance, getting internet, securing a job (or several), and mapping out your travel plans. The world is yours to explore, so go forth and be amazing.
Note: This essay has been edited from its original format as an academic assignment. I thought it fit for my blog. All citations are below – because this was written for a class, they are in MLA.
Imagine for a moment that you make a six figure salary. You can afford five-dollar lattes, designer clothes, and a half-a-million dollar home. Do you feel happy? Maybe not. Keeping up with material demands creates guilt, shame, and anger. You join a machine you didn’t design, and you wake up regretting it. With no other option, you choose minimalism. You give up the pursuit of stuff and accept the pursuit of life. This shows why people find minimalism so attractive. Creator of “The Minimalists” Joshua Fields Millburn decided not to take part in a corporate setting. “I realized working 60–80 hours a week to make the money to buy more superfluous stuff didn’t fill the void I felt inside. It only brought more debt and anxiety and fear and loneliness and guilt and stress and paranoia and depression” (Millburn). A minimalist lifestyle improves financial stability, increases emotional well-being, and contributes to healthy habits.
Picture it: you can’t deal with the mess in the house. You break down and decide to go through the closets, kitchen cabinets, couch cushions, and basement shelves. You might get tired, but the reward of decluttering goes beyond having a clean house. When decluttering, you can find lost things, save money by not needing to re-purchase found items, and make money by renting extra space or selling items you don’t need (“The Psychological”). You can sell found items or bring them to second-hand stores. Selling items like furniture or baby gear takes time, but it blesses someone else (“The Psychological”). Not only does living with less reward you, but for many, it offers a sense of financial freedom.
One blogger who desires to reach financial independence asked an intriguing question. “What if you had nothing? How much simpler would life be? Nothing to clean, nothing to fix, nothing to solve. Just you and your time to do whatever you want. How much more time would you have to pursue your dreams?” (route2fi). Some might gasp at eliminating responsibility and ownership. Have you ever heard a homeless person say they like homelessness? Someone in a comfortable $300,000 home might not fathom that. It may seem far-fetched to live with nothing, but people do it. Imagine what could happen if all your belongings sat secured in one backpack. With fewer bills to pay and less worry about debt, you might find more time to focus on the things that matter.
The possibility of feeling fulfilled while living with less may surprise some, but route2fi agrees. He said he traveled to places where the villagers seemed happy, even while living on $3 a day (route2fi). People below the poverty line often feel more joy than a person making six figures. These people live happy lives because they get what they need. That makes common American complaints like your McDonald’s order taking too long seem ridiculous. If someone with so little can experience joy, why can’t we?
When trying to see this joyful quality of minimalism, some try to create it by purchasing new items. Buying more to look like you own less doesn’t make sense. New minimalists make this huge mistake often — they throw out all their clothes and go out and buy a whole new set that looks more minimal. How about wearing clothes that make you feel confident and comfortable, which you already own? “Reducing a wardrobe down to a few painfully elegant cashmere-cotton blend tops is only really possible if you can put down at least $1,000 in one go for the creation of your ‘capsule wardrobe’” (Fagan). Americans started 2019 with over $1 trillion in debt, and the average American household in 2020 carries $9,000 in credit card debt (Comoreanu). Our culture perpetuates wasting money. To see how, visit this infographic to see how a person could spend 8 ½ years of their lives shopping (“Why We Need”).
Not only does materialism damage your wallet, but “people scoring high on materialism are more prone to compare themselves to wealthier others, this may lead to envy and a sense of inequity and anger, which also leads to diminished life satisfaction and happiness” (Lee, Michael S. W., and Christie Seo Youn Ahn). Retail therapy? It doesn’t work, at least not for long. The idea of purchasing something seems more attractive than the purchase. Buying stuff doesn’t make us happy. Often, we buy things because someone else did. Keeping up with the Joneses never ends — consumerism makes us insatiable.
As human beings, most of us want to stay in a positive emotional state. That desire to achieve true happiness can become entangled with the desire to compare. In his New Yorker cartoon, “Only the rich can afford this much nothing,” artist Mick Stevens illustrates that desire well. You don’t need to buy minimalism: how counter-intuitive. Minimalism encourages contentment with current possessions. People will get rid of their stuff to buy designer stuff, replacing it and showing Instagram. Even if they feel like minimalists, they take part in hidden consumerism. They still keep up with the next guy. The minimalism decor trend became so pricey and fancy that people with low income think they can’t participate— but minimalist Sophie Handy said in an interview that she sees this in a different light.
On her minimalist journey, “I realized that material goods just made me worry more. I have learnt to let things go. Things are to be used, and if they break, it’s okay, you can let go” (Handy). Letting go of objects clears the mind of clutter and lets you breathe easier. Think of commitments to clubs, events, responsibilities… Now imagine that every time you decide to own an object, you make a similar commitment with your mental and physical space. Letting go of useless things alleviates stress and commitment, leaving space for more important things.
Now, anyone new to this lifestyle might make a few common mistakes. Youheum of Heal Your Living said (in this podcast episode) to focus on emotional as well as physical clutter — she believes that emotional change makes minimalism valuable (Heal Your Living). Our mental health declines when we do anything for the wrong reason, and that includes throwing out everything you own because you feel like you should. If you want to become a minimalist for the right reasons, then make sure you aren’t throwing out the wrong pieces of yourself for the sake of looking good.
So, is minimalism anti-materialism? In my interview with Sophie Handy, she said, “Minimalism is an anti-capitalistic way of life. It’s about making good with what you’ve got, not buying more, hoarding more just because this is today’s norm” (Handy). Handy chooses to avoid the status quo because minimalism helps you appreciate the things you own without adding more. Buying something because it makes us look better has nothing to do with our desire to own it and everything to do with our desire to appear put together. However, no one with incessant desire feels put together. Minimalism teaches you to practice joy, not hunt for it, because consumerism causes an addiction to discontentment.
Like any addiction, quitting consumerism requires a replacement. Quitting alcohol cold turkey without a replacement habit might lead an alcoholic back to the bottle. Replacing time spent drinking with an evening workout or a good book helps curb the habit. Joshua Fields Millburn, for example, “developed new habits I love, habits I look forward to each day, habits that make me happy: exercise, writing, reading, establishing new connections with people, and building upon existing relationships” (Millburn).
As with any lifestyle, minimalism receives misconceptions. Chelsea Fagan of The Guardian complains, “The hyper-curated minimalism really only conveys one thing: ‘I wanted to take the very safest route to chic, cut away every possible misstep or risk . . . Time to reduce my look even further until literally every item I purchase tells people I could get something more interesting, but I have enough money to choose not to’” (Fagan). The author overlooks the key point: mindset, not glamour. A marble kitchen counter with one container of the finest bamboo utensils and a Bath & Body Works candle doesn’t define minimalism. It describes a decor choice. Home decor stores capitalized off of a movement that wanted to refuse capitalism. They’ve said, “Oh, the public wants crisp white walls and a single plant for decoration? We’ll sell it to them. Make the white paint expensive. Make the plants hard to find.”
Back to Fagan’s criticism — the media provides only a brief expectation on how minimalism should look. “The premise of minimalism in this way is very vague, and ever-shifting to accommodate the tastes and stomach for consistency of the individual practitioner, but the overall theory is the same: by paring your life down as actively as possible, you are almost guaranteed to appreciate what remains more” (Fagan). Fagan gets it right here. Minimalism doesn’t need rules. You don’t need a fancy magazine or influencer to tell you that, although it might help to poke around those resources. No one expects that you’ll uncover a magical life change after “converting” or whatever. It’s a lifestyle, the way some people drive a Jeep and some drive a Honda.
Minimalists fall into different categories, but there sits a fine line between avoiding wasteful consumerism and appearing on Survivor (Lee, Michael S. W., and Christie Seo Youn Ahn). When people first hear about minimalism, they assume it means maintaining a set number of items. A true minimalist doesn’t necessarily maintain a set number of objects . . . at least, no one made a Minimalism Bible. So many discrepancies exist about what defines “minimalist enough” that many try not to define it. You may not want furniture — some appreciate a dining room table or a bed or a chair. Forget the right and wrong here: focus on intentionality.
At its heart, minimalist design does not equate to a minimalist lifestyle (Heal Your Living). What a silly way to look at something! If you look at photos of a courtroom, does that make you want to practice law? No. If you look at a veggie dog, does that make you want to eat vegetarian? No — and frankly, as a vegetarian, I don’t want to eat a veggie dog. To know if you want something, you can’t just look at a few sparse living rooms. You must ask yourself what makes the most sense for you.
Focusing on feeling rich rather than being rich may seem hard for some, but it can happen (route2fi). Joshua Fields Millburn said that although his life may appear more fulfilling, “We all have the same 24 hours in a day. We all have one life to live, and that life is passing by one day at a time. The only real difference lies within the decisions we make and the actions we take” (Millburn). We owe it to ourselves to look at our lives, decide what we want, and decide our priorities. Minimalism can decrease financial troubles and help the world feel a little bit healthier… and a whole lot happier. So do you want stuff? Or life?
Lee, Michael S. W., and Christie Seo Youn Ahn. “Anti-Consumption, Materialism, and Consumer Well-Being.” Journal of Consumer Affairs, vol. 50, no. 1, Spring 2016, pp. 18–47. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/joca.12089.
Social media is such an easy way to hide in our shells and pretend we’re close to our friends and family during the winter. At family gatherings, it’s easy to ignore the awkward silence that comes (because we don’t know how to make conversation) and stare at a video game.
When we wake up in the morning and don’t feel like getting up, the little portable device on our bedside table can distract us and convince us to stay in bed. It’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s easy to stay cuddled up with a Netflix episode… but that’s just not practical, nor is it healthy.
Sitting with our devices prevents us from getting sunlight, exercise, social interaction, and motivation. So how about, this winter, we take a minimalist approach?
back atcha with the list format: six ways you can reduce screen time
Change your phone setup: This has been the easiest one for me. It’s a lot easier to stay off my phone if my phone tells me to put it down: my lock screen literally says so. “Put the phone down.” If that’s not a deterrent, then we go to phase two: the minimalist home screen. I have an app called “a decluttered launcher – minimalism & productivity,” which is still in its beta testing, but the launcher allows you a total of 6 home screen apps, Google search, and a swipe feature to search for any other apps. When I open my phone and see only Gmail, Messages, Spotify, and Notes, I’m going to quickly find what I need and lock the screen again.
Have a place for your electronics: You can’t be tempted to use them if you don’t see them! This is a seemingly obvious but fool-proof trick. If you carry a purse, backpack, or just have big pockets, you can slip your distracting device into a specific spot. Sounds stupid, right? But as long as you don’t have it in your hand, you’re not going to think about opening the lock screen every two seconds.
Turn off notifications: *ring ring* Yep, we all know that noise. And it makes our ears perk up. “Oh, did [insert name here] send me a Snapchat?” It’s monotonous! And don’t even get me started about emails. I’m not proud of this, but yes, I have six email accounts. Six! Is that even necessary? Probably not, but I do use them all. Gosh, I probably get fifty emails a day, minimum. In the working world, there’s a lot of information to be passed around. Can you imagine getting a notification every time you got an email? I did it for a while, and that’s fifty-plus times I was checking my phone every day. But that was only for email. Turn them off.
Set a time to check your socials: This goes for email as well. When you’re sitting in line for McDonald’s, waiting for a movie, or letting your dinner heat up, what do you turn to? That rectangle in your pocket. This is a new idea! Have a set time every day that you check your social media. For me, I allow a thirty-minute window. It doesn’t sound like much (given how much we scroll throughout the day), but all you need to do is see what your friends are posting, respond, and make your own posts. You don’t need to catch up with the Jenners or yell at a heckler on Twitter. Social media should be a tool that inspires you, not tires you. Set a time, and don’t scroll aimlessly before or after that time.
Get really, really bored: Boredom is a recipe for creativity. Get SUPER bored! Lock your electronics in a vault. Give it to a friend (with a passcode if you must). Use an app like Forest, which doesn’t let you use your phone while you plant a tree. Bury it in the ground! Whatever gets you away from the darn thing. Your mind, when deprived of entertainment devices, forces itself to find new things on which to focus. When the apps and games and distractions are gone, where does your mind wander? Mine tends to move toward writing, music, and physical activity. Think of it as an experiment!
Don’t deprive yourself of fun: Sometimes, what we need is some good old-fashioned FUN! What do you love to do? I like rollercoasters, bike rides and hikes, cooking, dancing, exploring the city… You gotta figure out what inspires you. What makes you want to put your phone down? What whispers to you? Maybe you want to serve at a local shelter or childcare center. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try stand-up comedy. Maybe, you and your college roommate haven’t caught up in a while. Just have some fun! We spend so much time in life stressing out and trying to get ahead. Take one moment for yourself to enjoy living.
There you have it! Six small things that, when used, can hopefully help you limit your screen time. Are you going to try these? Let me know in the comments! And a friendly reminder, you can get my posts straight to your inbox (when you do check your email) by signing up in the menu bars above! Have an awesome day.
I talked about minimalism a bit ago and why I made some changes, so I think it’s time I cover it again!
Christmas and birthdays have come and gone, so I’ve ended up with a lot of stuff. Which is okay, because people are very thoughtful to consider me and be generous with gifts. I’m very thankful that there are people in my life who are so giving.
That being said, the things I have recieved are valuable to me. At first I panicked, thinking I was a “bad minimalist” by accepting gifts, but that’s not the case at all! When something adds value to your life, it’s not bad minimalism. It’s a purposeful use of space. It’s a positive addition to the things you own.
We moved recently, and unexpectedly, but I found that doing so helped me get rid of a lot of unwanted, non-useful junk. I had furniture in my room that was never used. I had loads of craft supplies that I never touched. I had yearbooks and artwork and a stencil set and a lamp and just… so many things I never needed in the first place. Things I kept because I simply could.
When we moved, I left about half of the things I owned behind, only keeping the stuff that really mattered. My precious (perhaps obsessive?) notebook and pen collection, camera equipment, books, mugs, clothes I liked. Souvenirs that were special to me.
You see, what I’ve learned from minimalism is that you get better at discerning what adds value over time. You start to value what you own more, and you use those things more because you do value them. And if you slip up and buy something stupid you don’t need or even want in the first place, you get better at knowing how to find it a new home and let it go.
Traveling is so much easier! I used to go on trips and bring a huge bag or even two, put all this stuff in it, not use half of it, and come home with more than I left with. Now, I take the same small suitcase with only one section for clothes, zip it up no problem, with room for a souvenir or two that I’ll actually use. Unless I don’t plan to spend! And that’s okay! I find that I enjoy going to the mall or farmer’s market or a festival without buying anything. Saving money is a lot easier when you’re consciously trying to reduce your material goods, especially when you don’t take money with you everywhere you go!
Also, life is so much richer without so much stuff. What I mean is that I’m not so much focused on what I have, but what I am doing. And that is the most precious value of all: the value of spending one’s time.
Comment one object you own that you value and tell me why.