Lessons From A Baby Boomer Digital Nomad
There are numerous articles on the Internet of the pros and cons of being a digital nomad, so I am not going to bother to repeat them, especially as quite often the voice is that of someone far younger than I am. I am a rare breed, being a baby boomer that has chosen to move my tent from country to country with laptop, camera and backpack, somewhat precariously perched on my back. Hence, I have very different views on the subject to that of the millennial generation hopping around the world tapping away on their laptops.
It sounds like the most idyllic work you could possibly do, but the reality is very different, as you have to be a certain type of headstrong person to actually enjoy the life of being a digital nomad. I have now got immune to the question from friends that I am on a constant holiday gig.
I can be whoever I want to be and not confined to what or who my family and friends expect or know me to be. No one knows me wherever I am and if I want to be brought back to earth, I just Skype a friend or one of my kids for a dose of reality.
The world is an amazing playground of people and places; I feel like a glutton at a never-ending feast.
I get to actually savour the tastes of different countries and its people without the time constraint of someone on annual holidays that may bounce quickly from place to place, my only restriction is how many days I can get on a visa.
Playing the hands-on grandmother is not a chore, as it is only once a year. I am the gypsy granny that occasionally sends postcards from exotic places, so my grandkids will never get sick of me this way.
My son-in-law does not have a horrible interfering mother-in-law sticking her nose into everything, apart from when I invade for a week or two annually.
My youngest daughter does not have me critiquing her boyfriend of the moment or wondering where she is or what she is up to in the middle of the night.
I have met some of the most amazing people that I never would have if I had stayed in my own little social circle in my country.
I am not defined by what I own and I am no longer a collector of material "things" that only gather dust or friend's envy. In other words life can be simple with owning less, rather than working your guts out to be an ad hoc shopaholic and pay the taxman ad nauseum for the pleasure of working hard. I guess I have had the best, so now it is not a priority.
I don't need Gucci sandals to wear when I go traipsing through the Moroccan desert.
Make-up is an optional extra that is rarely required when riding a donkey in the Atlas Mountains or hiking through a national park in Laos.
I thrive on the challenge when nothing is predictable and life is one big surprise - good or bad - on a daily basis. It has made me more adaptable, patient and tolerant; lessons everyone needs a dose of occasionally.
Home is within me; it is wherever I am in the world, not an inanimate structure of permanence.
The "Oh Shit" or Horrible side...
The fear of my credit or cash cards not working when I am in dire need of some money in some far-flung place, my laptop or camera being damaged or stolen or not being able to get a flight home quickly enough if one of my children need me.
Living conditions can be anything but what I am used to: sharing bathrooms, learning to mingle with people that are not my type, rowdy and bawdy creatures talking in tongues, or just being in a town that I can't get out of quickly enough.
Riding any four-legged beast requires a saddle, preferably one made of jelly for my boney rear.
When I can't find somewhere with Wi-Fi, or it is so bad that it is impossible to do any work. If I want to print something out, this can be a whole new challenge.
Having to maintain self-discipline when I don't feel like working but I know I should be, rather than wallowing in reading the latest thriller book.
Not having room to pack "fancy" clothes or shoes for when I am asked to go out by "royalty".
Using a designated "toilet" when there is no bush to pee behind can be a mind harrowing exercise and requires dexterity worthy of a contortionist.
When my kids or friends say that they can't store anymore of my "can't throw out" items.
Loneliness can occasionally seep into your soul especially when you are looking at something amazing and all you want to do is share the moment. On the other hand, it may be at times when you just want to chat to someone about what you are working on over a coffee.
When you can't sit on the beach because of the glare of the sun on your laptop screen - it is definitely time to move the office from under the palm tree.
I don't mind the hand washing of my clothes and undies but sometimes the audience for my flying knickers in drying mode from a rickety rooftop or balcony can be a concern.
When I ring my family or friends before checking what time it is in their world and I am told it is 2am and I have woken them up for a friendly chat.
I start blubbering in sympathy when I can't physically hug my kids if they are upset and I am talking to them on Skype.
Would I change my lifestyle?
Not for a moment. It's a good thing I like my own company.
Now for the saving grace for many digital nomads meandering around the world is the number of "co-working spaces" popping up in cities where the working wanderers can gather to chat with like minded people, have a space where they can conduct business meetings, facilities on hand such as printing, the internet and of course, coffee on tap.
Despite the fact that digital nomads are putting back a four-wall space, there is the freedom of what country those four walls may be in and a changing landscape of people sitting beside you. You can now find most of these brilliant bolt-holes for the misplaced digital nomad who may just have a case of the "blues" listed on a website co-worker.com becoming known as the "Trip Advisor" of co-working spaces.