This is a guest post by Rhonda Delameter.
Most digital nomads (us included) usually only talk about the amazing things about being location independent. We do it because we want more people to question the status quo and we want more of you to rethink how you’ve been told you should live. It’s not for everyone, but for some of you, we know it’s an eye-opener – the same way it was for us.
But location independence and managing a business while you travel comes with its own set of worries too — especially when you’re first starting out. We had them too. You love your life and panic about it in the same breath. It’s an occupational hazard but not many of us seem to talk about it so I’m glad Rhonda wrote this beautiful and honest post about the ups and downs that come with the territory. Don’t tell us we didn’t warn you!
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Over to Rhonda
Location Independence. Digital Nomad. Terms now frequently bantered around the internet. Everyone thinks that if they could just have the courage to throw caution to the wind, that suddenly they would be sitting at their laptop a mere 2 hours a day, overlooking a turquoise sea, and spending the rest of their time drinking tropical adult beverages. The reality is that it just isn’t quite that simple.
In 2007-2008, my husband and I sold our house, quit our jobs and backpacked around the world for 14 months. And it was glorious. Life Changing. And far too short. What we realized was that our general feeling of unsettledness was not going to be as simple a fix as merely taking one, single, extended trip. No, we knew we would never be the same again.
We buckled down, bought another house, went back to work. We planned and plotted and spent hours reading about others life “out there” with envy.
The digital nomad journey
Once again, we sold it all. But this time, we truly sold it all. As I type this, everything we own fits in our Toyota Tundra & Adventurer Camper. Everything other than a couple of boxes of travel mementos and family treasures. We dealt with the negativity of some friends and family. We spent our last few weeks in Oregon stressed out, divesting ourselves of our remaining possessions, questioning just what the hell we thought we were doing. The reality is; many of those around you will question your sanity, and most likely so will you!
We’ve now been fully nomadic for ten months. Ten amazing, inspiring, breathtaking months. But even now, even as I sit looking out over Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, I am racked with worry. For as challenging as it is to decide to sell it all and face life out in the world, it is even more challenging to create a sustainable life for yourself once you’ve taken that leap of faith.
Being a digital nomad comes with its own set of worries
Our reality is that we are out here, without a safety net. We have taken this leap of faith, confident that by working hard and putting it out to the universe, we will succeed. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t damn scary! You see, I don’t want to go back. Yes, if we end up running out of our savings, and our projected increase in income doesn’t live up to our expectations, we can drive back to the United States. We can, once again, enter the 9-5. We do have that option. But that idea terrifies me beyond almost anything I can imagine.
And so we work. I take a moment to look up from my laptop at the view in front of me, a glorious lake, surrounded by volcanoes, in lush Guatemala. I lament the fact that I don’t feel as though I am truly enjoying this place as much as it deserves, haunted by the knowledge that our first Amazon product is not flying off the shelves, and that while I am earning money as a freelance writer, it is not enough to keep us going.
The reality is that we should have planned better. We should have put a few things in place before taking that leap. All is clear in retrospect, of course, and I while I am still confident we will create the location independence we crave, a part of me acknowledges that life would be easier now if we had spent more time preparing for it early on.
But, I push those fear aside. I apply for another job. I write another blog post. Jim works on changing our website theme, on Amazon, on keeping our digital world up and running.
There can be some dark days
I think back on these last ten months, filled with happiness but also heartbreak. I think of our accident at the border as we first entered Mexico. I think of camping on deserted beaches in Baja, just us and the sea and sand. My eyes fill with tears remembering saying a final goodbye to our beloved Porter in La Paz. My heart soars watching Aspen splashing along the shore searching for the perfect coconut for fetch. The reality is; life keeps happening. Pets pass away. Accidents are sometimes unavoidable. Magic occurs regularly, interspersed with illness, and bad weather, and arguments. After all, life on the road is still just life.
Memories abound, of friends and family visiting. Of meeting new friends, and creating a whole new traveling family and community. Memories of perfect sunrises and mountain hikes, and shared meals with a network of friends from around the world.
For this, ALL is the reality. Life is not perfect. We would never have considered ourselves prepared “enough”. I take a deep breath and move past the fears and challenges we face, realizing that is important is to live in the NOW. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. We don’t know when our time is up.
The challenges of being a digital nomad, whether based in a foreign country or truly living on the road as we do, can be frustrating. In our case, it means constantly chasing the internet. Travel days, which can be as often as several times a week, are exhausting. The need to constantly be looking ahead, researching road conditions, border crossings, and campground possibilities time consuming.
Traveling across borders with our black lab, Aspen adds an entirely new layer to the considerations we face.
And yet… it’s all still worth it
And yet, my soul is at peace. In moments of weakness, I question nearly everything about this path we have chosen. But luckily, these moments are rare. I remind myself others are out there making it work. Others who are not any smarter, or braver, or more competent than we, are making it work. I push my fears aside and focus my energy on the path ahead and on the power of the universe pushing from behind, and I keep in mind one of my favorite quotes:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs
My advice for aspiring digital nomads
And so we move forward. My best advice for someone wanting to become a digital nomad is to really focus on your skills while thinking outside of the box. It’s vitally important not to think “well I’ve never done that before” and instead think “I know how to do this and this, and the rest I can figure out as I go”.
Those individuals out there leading the life of their dreams all share one thing in common; the ability to push past the cant’s and focus on the cans. Yes, I wish we had spent fewer hours reading others blogs or watching Netflix and a few more hours preparing for the challenges of the freelancer. And yet, a part of me believes we are right where we are meant to be. Having to really work for this life is what makes it so very sweet.
Written by: Rhonda Delameter.
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I am Rhonda Delameter. My husband, our dog, and I are on a quest for a life less ordinary. After spending too many years traveling the world on short vacations, we sold our house in 2007 and backpacked around the world for 14 months. Out of money, and back in Oregon, we saved and planned and, on December 26, 2015, once again hit the road.
This time, we are driving the PanAmerican highway, exploring every country in Latin America on the way. This time, we brought along our Labrador, Aspen. This time, we are working as we go, creating a location independent lifestyle. Follow us along on our blog at The Next Big Adventure, or Facebook and Instagram.