- Remote work has become the norm for many.
- Combining work with travel can improve mental health.
- The digital nomad lifestyle has both advantages and disadvantages.
The pandemic brought about a new way of working for a vast majority of knowledge workers. Working from home became a rising trend well before COVID-19, but it seems to have become legitimized as most of the world struggled to maintain their business workflow despite our collective isolation. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other forms of digital communication have become the norm for much of the world. As companies scan for talent across national borders and time zones, remote work has become the norm for many.
Being a digital nomad is an amplified version of remote work that may not be suitable for everyone. It entails working and living wherever you choose as long as you have an internet connection and a digital device to remain in contact with your employer or client base. It is an ideal solution for freelancers who may work on asynchronous projects that require end results with little real-time input. But even for those who have regular meetings, working digitally can offer a great deal of benefits. Oftentimes people combine their work with travel, thus the nomad component to this type of lifestyle.
According to a recent study by WorkMotion, Barcelona was ranked the best city for remote work among the 85 cities examined worldwide. The top 10 cities for remote working infrastructure included (in ranking order) Barcelona, Dubai, Prague, Madrid, Melbourne, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Sydney, Gran Canaria, and Reykjavik. It appears that as a country, Spain is the most popular place to have a so-called workation.
The pros and cons of being a digital nomad
In a recent email interview, Chase Warrington, head of remote at Doist and a U.S. expat living in Spain, pointed to the advantages and disadvantages of the digital nomad lifestyle.
“Crafting your perfect workday involves working from a place that inspires you, and when you have the freedom to choose that place, it can be an absolute game changer,” he states, but he also highlights the downsides to a nomadic lifestyle.
“The paradox of choice is a blessing and a curse,” he says. “When you have the freedom to choose your location for the afternoon, day, week, month, or year, there tends to be a constant analysis running in the background that's hard to turn off. I know digital nomads who have completely burnt themselves out because they were trying to maximize their location independence, and ended up suffering from overanalyzing their options. This downside is relative and comes from a place of privilege—nobody will feel sorry for you—but speaking with nomads from around the world, I know it's a challenge nonetheless.”
How travel can improve your mental health
If you find the right mixture of work and pleasure while being able to avoid overthinking where you are going to go next, the digital nomad lifestyle can improve your mental health. According to a survey of German travelers conducted by IcelandAir, 37% of those surveyed pointed out the benefits adventure travel has on their mental well-being. Nearly half experienced a confidence boost while traveling, while nearly 44% underscored the importance of work-life balance issues as a top priority in life.
The principles of the Power of Slow include delegating, expectation management, saying "no," and befriending time. What better way to test those principles than engaging in remote work in a foreign country? It may not be for everyone, but one thing is for certain: Travel can open the mind in ways that can add to your joy while building your work experience, no matter where your laptop takes you.