Last week, we had a bit of a celebrity moment! Our story was featured on CNN Travel. We even made the homepage of CNN! Overnight, virtually the whole world knew about our life as working nomads. We had friends sharing our video on Facebook, and we even had messages from families who saw our story and were wondering how they could become a digital nomad family like us.
Quite honestly, I am loving the attention (though it’s pretty much died down now that the story has been out for over a week). I enjoy being able to represent families who are leading a digital nomad lifestyle. And most importantly, I love the fact that we’re showing the world that families of color are doing these types of things too! For me, it’s validation that our location independent life isn’t just a weird thing that only a few families are doing. Many families are choosing this type of lifestyle nowadays.
The ups and downs of being location independent
Being location independent may seem like a dream lifestyle. But in reality, the life of working nomads has MANY ups and downs. My husband is blessed to be able to continue the job he had while we were in Seattle (albeit in a smaller capacity than before). This certainly helps us have a bit of steady income as we travel. But with the flexibility of being location independent comes some level of insecurity.
Every time we move to a new location, it’s somewhat of a crap shoot whether we’ll have solid internet connection. For a digital nomad family that depends on reliable internet for our livelihood, this can be problematic. Spending a week with extremely SLOW internet speeds, like we did in Costa Rica, can greatly diminish productivity. Something that takes a few hours to do with fast internet can take the whole day.
Since we ARE working nomads, we have a few backup plans in case we are ever in a situation where there is no WiFi whatsoever in our hotel or vacation rental. Before we left, we purchased a TEP, which offers us a mobile WiFi hotspot (although I have to admit, the WiFi with the TEP is unbearably slow!). Our most often used backup plan is to use our mobile phones as hotspots. But this option can be quite costly, as we burn through a lot of data in just a few days by doing this.
For our location independent family, the highs of being able to experience a new place are always always countered by the lows of struggling with internet connection.
What it takes to have a digital nomad lifestyle
In all actuality, having a digital nomad lifestyle depends several factors. By far, our most important consideration is to have a reliable internet connection. But aside from internet connectivity, we also need to have consistent cash flow to support our traveling lifestyle.
Although the cost of living in many of the locations we choose tend to be cheaper than the cost of living back home, we still have costs that we need to cover. Since we didn’t start off with a big chunk of savings when we set off on our trip, we constantly need to make sure that we have money to continue traveling. Our backup plan in this case is our credit card. If we absolutely run out of cash, then there’s always enough on the card to purchase a ticket home.
In addition to internet connectivity and cashflow, the other important factor to ensure our digital nomad lifestyle is time. Many of the traveling families we know travel fairly fast. They’re hopping from one country to the next every few weeks. As working nomads, we can’t travel that way. There would be no time to work! We need at least a month in a city to adequately establish our work and schooling routine.
Anytime we’ve traveled fairly fast, we find it’s difficult to stay on top of our work and school schedules. It ends up stressing us out! For our family, we prefer to take it slow when it comes to travel. Time is one of the most important things we need in order to make our life as working nomads work.
What life is like for working nomads
Ironically, our day to day life as working nomads resembles our life back home quite a bit. We usually spend Monday through Friday doing work, and the weekends are reserved for exploration and play.
Since we don’t have day care to rely on, my husband and I split up our work days. So while one parent works, the other homeschools the kids. My work days are Monday and Friday, while my husband’s are Tuesday through Wednesday.
As with anything that has to do with travel, though, this schedule often gets shifted or changed. On days when we travel, sometimes one of us doesn’t really get a chance to work. Alternatively, sometimes we’ll schedule an excursion on one of our work days because that’s the only time available. In these types of moments, we try to fit in our work in other times throughout the day.
On a typical day, we’ll wake up and make breakfast. We do our morning routines (we try and do five minutes of meditation each day, much to the complaints of our kids!) and then we go into the schedules for the day. School time for the kids is a mix of focused class time (math, writing, reading, language arts) and field trips.
Around six in the evening, we all get back together for dinner, either at home or somewhere out on the town. In the evenings, we either have individual free time or watch a movie or TV show together. We’ve recently been obsessed with binge-watching episodes of The Flash on Netflix! Bedtimes are around 9 pm (because I can’t seem to get the kids to go to sleep any earlier!), and then we do the same thing again the next day.
Balancing work and play for our digital nomad family
I thought that by becoming a location independent digital nomad family, my challenges of balancing work and play would miraculously go away. But in reality, work-life balance is just as much of a challenge for me as it was back home.
I’m constantly struggling to balance all my work tasks with spending time with the kids, spending time with my husband, and spending time for myself. I feel like there is never enough time in the day to do all the things that I want to do. Admittedly, even working nomads struggle with work-life balance.
Perhaps in a year or so, we’ll have a better balance. But one thing I do enjoy about this digital nomad lifestyle is that it really has afforded me more time to spend with my family. Even though we’re working just as hard as we were back home, the fact that I can see my kids throughout the day makes the work much more bearable.
I am enjoying watching experience the world. I love seeing how they learn and interact with the new things they are experiencing. And I’m even appreciating the time I get to spend with my husband. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade this life for anything!
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