Being a full-time traveler/digital nomad is like the deep ocean. Many people assume but they don’t see beneath the surface of what it’s really like to be one.
Whenever I post a picture of my travels, I get envious reactions:
“Wow! You’re traveling to a different country already?”
“I can’t believe how cheap that dish is.”
“How are you able to afford such a nice place?”
All of which usually ends with something along the lines of: “You’re lucky. You’re making bank. I wish I had that kind of lifestyle.”
But in truth, the reality is different from people think. As with all things, there’s always another side, a side nobody else sees.
“No matter how obvious something may seem, there are two sides to every story.”
The photos I post on Instagram and Facebook are merely a glimpse into what my life is like and are often the most memorable moments of my day, because let’s admit it, who wants to see continuous photos of me writing non-stop every single day?
Or dirty, cockroach infested Airbnbs that I’ve stayed at like this one?
The photos I post are reminders to myself that despite obstacles, despite setbacks, despite not having reached even a tenth of what I want to accomplish, the life I’m living right now follows my passion. It’s a life of my own choosing, at my own terms. The last thing I’d want to do is remind myself, through pictures, of the bad times I’ve had.
Being a digital nomad is heavily romanticized by the industry — we’re portrayed as young, successful millennials who live a carefree life wandering from country to country without a schedule or commitment, lounging by a beach or pool with a Mai Tai in hand. That couldn’t be farther than the truth.
Most of us can’t afford to live that kind of budget lifestyle; we lack the stable income to do so. The food we eat, the flights we fly, the places we live at are often heavily budgeted in advance, without any backup plans. Most of the day we spend working and what we earn is usually volatile. Some months I’ve made no more than $426 while other months I’ve made over $1,500 — neither of which is enough to live off of back home in San Francisco Bay Area where rent prices are at least double, if not triple that of my earnings. I often find myself overworking, stressing out more than I should be, because of money.
The only reason I can keep up with, tolerate, the digital nomad lifestyle is because my passion lies in the exploration of different countries. I live to travel. It’s what keeps me going, keeps me motivated in pursuing my passions in writing, traveling and making videos despite the more apparent than real difficulties that comes with being a full-time traveler/digital nomad.
It’s difficult to see how much goes on beneath the surface of someone’s life. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies. It’s not always exotic foods, tropical jungles, hidden caves and breathtaking waterfalls. Most of what we do is just like the average Jane, except instead of working in an office, we’re perpetually working out of coffee shops.
There are always tradeoffs to every lifestyle, pros and cons. That’s how it is. The other side of the pasture is always greener.
The only thing we can do is aim to focus on doing the things we’re passionate about, rather than to aim for the kind of lifestyle we’d like to have. Doing things we’re passionate about adds substance to our lives; it makes us happy, but doing things for the sake of maintaining a lifestyle? It’ll give us nothing other than to provide a temporary high.
Choose your passion and your lifestyle will follow. Or choose your lifestyle, and your passions will suffer.
You make the choice.