Living the dream or escaping the nightmare?

I have just come back from a 6-month trip around East Asia and the Pacific, where I was lucky enough to visit ten countries, something that sadly not many people have the opportunity to do whilst working.

In my case, I was travelling whilst setting up a new online business, so It felt like I was travelling with a purpose. However, I was often surrounded by other travellers who were simply seeing more of the world, wanted to escape their old life or were trying to find themselves……I know, very cliché!

My underlying agenda was to explore what it is like to be a digital nomad and whether the optimal work/life balance can be achieved.  For those of you that don’t know, a Digital Nomad is someone who can work remotely and chooses to travel around the world and work from different working environments. A trend that is becoming increasingly popular due to things like improvements in technology, millennial workers coming to power and a more positive employers mentality to remote work. Although, when you boil it down, Digital Nomad is just a modern day word for a freelancer, mainly used by millennials.

Jungle Fish, Ubud, Bali
Jungle Fish, Ubud, Bali

Throughout my time travelling, when I would meet a new person, I was often asked “what I was doing travelling and what I do for a living” I responded, “I work and travel simultaneously”. the response would normally always be, “wow, your living the dream then”. Now that I have finished my trip, I think it would be an opportune time to analyse that statement and conclude my findings thus far.

Firstly, I cannot stress enough that digital nomadism is a lifestyle choice, not a profession and like any lifestyle, there are pros and cons and it won’t appeal to everybody. That being said, there is no reason whatsoever why anyone can’t at least experience this lifestyle for a period of time to test if it’s for them. With advancements in technology and fantastic coworking spaces all over the globe, working remotely whilst travelling the globe is much more accessible than it used to be. The detailed practicalities of being a digital nomad is worthy of a separate blog itself, which I will try and write in the future as I believe it is important for any budding digital nomad to enter this lifestyle eyes wide open!

I think most people would agree that having the ability to travel and work simultaneously will expose us to more experiences, cultures and sceneries compared to working and living in the same location all the time. In essence, it takes us out of our routine which forces us to de-activate auto-pilot mode and put’s us firmly back in the driving seat. This has a profound effect, which actually feels like time is stretching, rather than wasting away too quickly. Brace yourself here comes the science! This is because our brains are constantly processing new environments, so we are more focused on the present.

It’s unfortunate that we have become used to only visiting new places when on holidays during the precious annual leave allowance our employers impose on us. As a result, we only have a finite amount of time to absorb the new environments and because that period of time is usually two weeks max, we tend to rush everything and get anxious if something goes wrong. Furthermore, when we have these two weeks we often just book holiday resorts and spend most of our time pampering ourselves, relaxing and drinking/eating too much. Therefore although we are in a new country we are very much stuck in a holiday bubble, which of course is very nice but doesn’t give a good representation of the country we are in. I would argue this is not striking the right work/life balance.

Anyway, back to my experience. Was I living the dream? In my opinion, yes I was. But that had always been my dream to be an entrepreneur and travel the world so it was very personal to me.  The traditional working system of working 9-5 and having a limited period of annual leave to use often with conditions such as not being able to book all at once was my nightmare. It felt like I was a machine, repeating a circular sequence over and over again without any real contentment, like constantly treading water to stay afloat and working tirelessly to retain a rigid employee framework set by my employer and the system accepted by our ancestors. This inevitably lead to anxiety and unhappinesses. Then I read an inspiring quote “the definition of insanity is doing something over and over and expecting it to change”. That was it. I  needed to drastically change my environment and escape the system! So that’s what I did and I can honestly say It was the best decision I ever made, I have met so many amazing people whilst travelling and unlocked countless new experiences thus broadening my mind and feeding its insatiable curiosity, I was set free!

Coworking, Da Nang, Vietnam
Coworking, Da Nang, Vietnam

Okay, I can hear you shouting. “There is no way I can travel with my work” or “I have responsibilities and commitments at home, I cant just up-sticks and leave” or “Yes I want this life, but how the hell does one get paid and travel the world!?” All very valid questions, which I will attempt to address using my own opinions and experiences.

Firstly, there is no doubt the majority of remote jobs are In the tech industry – programmers, web-developers and designers have been working remotely for many years. That being said, most industries are now allowing their workforce to work from home temporarily proving that their job can be done remotely at least in part. Therefore, ask yourself can I perform my job away from the office for a month at a time, If I arrange all my face to face meeting before I depart and then tell clients I will be available by video conferencing when remote? Obviously, this wouldn’t work for some industries like surgeons or shop owners, but you get the point.

Secondly, the biggest commitments and responsibilities are usually family and property. I would encourage people to travel with their family, as I think it is important for children to see more of the world, and there are some great homeschooling options available now which could be implemented on a temporary basis i.e. for a month or two. However, the educational system is unfortunately even more archaic than the working world, so it is difficult for young children to be taken out of school for a long period of time. Hopefully, this will change in the future. With regards to property, you can easily Airbnb your house and make money whilst your away these days. Your making money and travelling already!

Lastly, remember your not getting paid to travel the world (unless you are a travel blogger I guess) but instead being paid to do a good job remotely. Therefore you need to be serious about the work and not just treat the travelling as an extended holiday. This is why coworking is so vital as it creates a productive inspiring environment for you to get on with the task at hand. In terms of finding remote jobs, there are plenty of websites now which list remote jobs such as letsworkremotely  angel list weworkremotely alternatively, speak to your employer about getting us at Based to design and organise a remote working package around your company, you would be surprised how many corporates are adopting this nowadays as it saves costs, promotes innovation and increased well-being in the workforce.

Now, all this may or may not resonate with you. I can only share my experiences and reflection on what I have noticed working for both a large corporate based in a major world city and travelling the world as a digital nomad.

In summary, based on my experiences in both worlds I think the optimal work/life balance can be achieved but in order to do so, you have to think outside the box and perhaps get out your comfort zone to explore new countries and opportunities. Ultimately it comes down to your personal goals and life dreams but believe me, once you act on your dreams and escape your nightmare you will be surprised on what can happen and with a little patience and conviction I have no doubt good things will come leading to greater self-fulfillment.

If you want to get in touch with me about this article or working remotely please feel free to email me at matt@basedcoworking.com