For years, digital nomads have been praising the lifestyle and telling others that it is the way to live while posting fantastic photos from impossibly beautiful destinations. This was definitely the general consensus when the digital nomad lifestyle was aspirational and not attainable for most. But now that the remote work revolution has made it more accessible, the conversation is changing.

If you go online today, you will still find hundreds of articles explaining why the digital nomad lifestyle is so beneficial, but also quite a few talking about the downsides, for both individual digital nomads and the communities that welcome them.

As with all things in life, there are both positives and negatives associated with being a digital nomad. These need to be weighed for you as an individual when you decide what approach is right for you.

With that in mind, in this article, we are going to take an honest look at the digital nomad lifestyle and discuss the five major pros and the five principal cons. Hopefully, this will help you evaluate the digital nomad lifestyle as a life choice for you.


5 Major Pros of the Digital Nomad Lifestyle

Based on many different surveys, interviews, and studies undertaken with people who actively engage in the digital nomad lifestyle, these are the five main benefits of becoming a digital nomad that everyone tends to agree on.


1. Work from Anywhere

If you choose to become a digital nomad, you must adopt a “work from anywhere” approach to your job; though you don’t have to be a digital nomad to adopt this approach.

There are so many benefits to not being tied to an office space, or even a specific city or country. You don’t need to waste time commuting to get to work, ever, you just hit the on switch on your computer. You aren’t forced to live within a certain radius of your work, which means that you aren’t forced to live in areas with issues such as a high cost of living, shortage of affordable housing, high crime rates, and so forth.

You also aren’t limited in who you can work with, so you can follow what interests you rather than what is near you. Of course, you are limited to people who are willing to work with fully remote partners, contractors, or employees. But as remote and hybrid work becomes the norm, there will be an increasing number of opportunities.

Plus, regardless of whether you travel or not, studies show that remote workers are 20% happier than their location-based counterparts.


2. Travel When and Where You Want

Many people choose to become digital nomads because they want to travel. They want to see the world now rather than wait for some mythical day in the future when they are retired and “have the time”.

As a digital nomad, you are free to travel when and where you wish, at least within what is allowed by your passport and visa possibilities. This means that you can travel full-time if you want, though many digital nomads don’t, they might travel for six months of the year or some other alternative.


3. Expand Your Horizons

Everyone agrees that traveling is an essential part of self-growth, expands your horizons, and can expand your professional horizons by boosting your passion and creativity.

Seeing new things and experiencing new places is stimulating and helps us break down some of the preconceptions that we carry with us and see the world in a new and bigger way. Breaking down world preconceptions also helps us break down our personal preconceptions and see ourselves in a new and clearer light. This tends to make people more creative and more likely to believe that more is possible.

Traveling, especially alone and without the safety net of knowing that you will be home in two weeks, also teaches self-reliance and adaptability. This not only develops genuine life skills but builds confidence as many people realize that they are capable of so much more than they imagine.


4. Autonomy and Flexibility

When you choose to live as a digital nomad, you choose to live outside often arbitrary rules and expectations that govern day-to-day life in different cultures. These often limit the autonomy with which we live our lives. They place limits on basic freedoms such as when we wake up, when we work, what and when we eat, and what kind of place we live in.

When you live outside these expectations you gain more freedom to choose what is right for you rather than what is “normal” or “expected”. Not only does this let you craft the life that you want and is more suitable for you individually, but studies show that having the autonomy to choose is a key factor in individual happiness.

As a digital nomad, you do sacrifice some autonomy. The most obvious example is that you are often limited in how much you can personalize your short-term accommodation. But you quickly realize that choosing the exact shade to paint your walls is a less important manifestation of autonomy than how you choose to spend and manage your time.


5. Work-Life Balance

The digital nomad lifestyle, at its core, provides a better work-life balance. This is because traditional working models result in you building your life around work. Where you live and how you organize your day is all about when and where you need to be in the office. Even how you spend time with children and other family members is often dictated by work. The need to prioritize “being in the office” often fosters a live-to-work rather than a work-to-live mentality.

As a digital nomad, you don’t build your life around your work, rather work is something you do as part of a bigger life. Sure, you need to ensure that you have Wi-Fi and a computer and that you don’t miss important calls and contact hours, but you don’t need to make 80% of your life decisions with “being in the office” in mind. This can lead to a mindset shift in your attitude towards work, resulting in a better work-life balance.


What About Cost of Living?

Many digital nomads will point to a reduced cost of living as one of the key benefits of the digital nomad lifestyle, so why haven’t we included it in our top 5 list? There are two reasons.

First, it forms part of the other benefits already mentioned. Being able to work from anywhere, travel when and where you want, and have autonomy over how you build your life all give you the ability to create a life with a lower cost of living.

The second is that it is inaccurate to assume that it is always cheaper to live as a digital nomad. How much you spend depends on so many factors. It depends on where you choose to travel, the cost of travel and associated expenses such as international health insurance, and decisions such as whether you decide to maintain a house in your home country or not.

So, that’s why it is not in the top five.


5 Main Cons of the Digital Nomad Lifestyle

While there are so many benefits to living the digital nomad lifestyle, everything work having comes with sacrifices. So, what do you have to sacrifice to be a digital nomad? Based on many studies with digital nomads, these are the top five challenges and drawbacks of the digital nomad lifestyle.


1. Loneliness and Isolation

Probably the most consistent challenge mentioned by most digital nomads is some variation of loneliness. When you travel for extended periods, you create distance between yourself and the people closest to you. No matter how hard you work to stay connected, you do lose those seemingly meaningless, in-person day-to-day interactions with your nearest and dearest that we need as social animals. Add to this guilt around not being there and fear of missing out, and loneliness is a major problem for digital nomads.

It can be easier when traveling with a partner, but this is also fraught with difficulty. When a single other person comes to occupy such a huge and important space in your world, it leads to co-dependency. Because the relationship is so important and also under so much pressure, it can become fragile, and you can become susceptible to being overly affected by small problems.

The other side of this is that it can be very challenging to make new connections where you are. Social norms mean that making new friends as an adult is challenging in general, the add language and cultural barriers, and the fact that you might not be in one place for long, and it is easy to find yourself isolated.

Many digital nomads cope with and adapt to this way of living, but it is not for everybody.


2. Lack of Stability

Another thing that you sacrifice as a digital nomad is stability. This comes in a variety of forms. For some people, the nature of their remote work means that their income is unstable. For others, it is the security threat that comes with any form of travel, the danger of staying in unknown accommodation booked unseen, the risk of being turned away at a border despite having a visa, and the worry of what you will do if you lose your passport, or your computer is stolen.

For others, it is not knowing what you would do if disaster struck. What would you do if you found out that you were sick and needed long-term treatment? What would you do if you learned that something horrible happened to a family member and you were far away? While digital nomads should have emergency plans in place, too few do.

It is now well-known that low-level stress over extended periods is bad for our mental and physical health. This can happen to anyone, no matter their lifestyle. Work stress and financial stress are common culprits. But as a digital nomad, you aren’t escaping these stressors, and depending on how organized and prepared you are, you can create new ones.


3. Healthcare

While access to health is part of the lack of stability issue, it is a big enough problem that it deserves its own point.

Digital nomads should travel with international health plans, which means that they can access care wherever they go. But just having the plan does not make accessing healthcare easy. You could be traveling to a country where the quality of healthcare just isn’t great.

You can be discouraged from accessing healthcare for things you would have checked out back home because of the unfamiliarity of the system and barriers to access. Trying to discuss personal health problems with unfamiliar vocabulary and in a language that you may not be fluent in is challenging. As a result, many digital nomads see the doctor much less than they should.

Add to this that many digital nomads aren’t the best at taking care of themselves as moving around can make it hard to maintain a workout regime, and there are just so many good things to eat and drink.


4. Travel Fatigue

While traveling is one of the best parts of being a digital nomad, it can also be one of the hardest. Constant visa applications, flight bookings, and accommodation requests can be challenging. Add to this the physical and mental discomfort that comes with sitting in planes, trains, and waiting rooms for hours on end.

Then there is the need to constantly adapt to new places. While, again, this is one of the pleasures, when you change location frequently, while you get better at it, the process can also become tiresome. Living with the lack of stability already discussed can also be draining, and lead to travel fatigue.

According to consensus on the digital nomad Reddit, for most, this kicks in at about the two-year mark. Many choose to stop traveling or change their travel mode at this point, spending more time in one place. Others push through and find a fresh wind.


5. Work-Life Balance

Wait a second, didn’t we put work-life balance on the pros list? We did, but it is also a con. While the digital nomad lifestyle blurs the lines between work and leisure which can help you become less focused on work, it can also result in people becoming more focused on work.

If you have grown up in a productivity-focused culture, if you have no set work hours, any moment that you aren’t doing something productive can feel wasted. On top of this, digital nomads often don’t have clear lines between living and work spaces. Not only are they often working from their accommodation, but they also often use the same computer and phone, so those work notifications can be a constant intrusion.

If you are in a new place where you don’t know many people, it can be easy to retreat into work rather than put yourself out there.

Learning how to adapt to the digital nomad lifestyle and not allow these things to happen takes time and active effort.


Is the Digital Nomad Lifestyle Worth It?

Considering the pros and cons of the digital nomad lifestyle, is it worth it? This is an individual decision and depends on what you want from life and what you value. It is important to take a cold hard look at the benefits and drawbacks before making a decision.

However, while it might not feel that way since it is the default for many people, staying where you are and not becoming a digital nomad is also a decision you make daily. You should also weigh the cons and a traditional work lifestyle when deciding what is best for you.