When my partner and I decided that we wanted to start living a Digital Nomad lifestyle, we had many long discussions about what this would mean for us as individuals and as a couple. We also spent a lot of time trying to understand what was motivating each of us to do this and subsequently, how we could get the most out of the new life we planned to embark on and crucially, both be happy. One of the big discussion points we had, was how to achieve travel and work balance as Digital Nomads? Here’s what we came up with.
We planned for around 6 months, set an ambitious date for leaving and miraculously got everything ready to go on time. A few months down the road, we haven’t looked back, but we are still feeling our way through how and where exactly we want to live and why. There is SO MUCH out there. And there are SO MANY different ways to be nomadic. It can feel overwhelming. But I believe that the work we put in before we left, and the discussions we had have helped to guide us on this adventure.
Where you go and how you live is incredibly personal. But based on our experience, this is how we try to achieve travel and work balance as Digital Nomads.
What do you want to achieve as a Digital Nomad?
One of the first things we did together (over a bottle of wine and a cheeseboard), was to agree the principles that we would use to guide our planning for this new adventure. We came up with seven:
- See many unseen places;
- Meet lots of interesting people;
- Create memories and stories;
- Find our passion and place;
- Adventure lots and learn every day;
- Create a home wherever we go;
- Find financial freedom.
The reason why principles are so important is because they create an anchor, something to guide you and to return to again and again when you have a decision to make. This, I believe, is even more acute when you’re making the decision to become nomadic as a couple. Life on the road can be challenging and can put pressure on a relationship. But being able to go back to the principles time and time again, knowing that this is something you both agreed upon is a helpful guide and diffuser of any possible arguments.
Can your principles change? Of course! I’d really recommend reviewing these regularly. Are they still applicable? Do any of them not “feel right” anymore? If so, change them! Write them down and move on!
What rules do you have as Digital Nomads?
We also came up with a list of about 20 “Rules of the Game“. These were more detailed and specific than the principles. From my corporate days, I was quite used to using an OKR method (Objectives and Key Results), the idea being that you set high level objectives and your key results hold you to those objectives. So we used a similar concept to work out the rules that support our principles!
For us, this included the more practical points such as “Collect Amex Points”, and “All Airbnbs we stay in need a good WiFi connection”. The rules could be practical, like ours. They could focus on budget “£20 a day max spend” for example. Or relate to work, such as “Spend 3 hours a day away from laptop”. They could be a reminder to see friends and family “return home once every 3 months”, “never miss a friends wedding”, or simply “call parents every week.” Or, if you’re travelling as a pair, they could focus on your dynamics ” never leave the toilet seat up”, or “take it in turns to cook dinner.”
Whatever the rules are for you, I recommend at least considering this and writing something down, even if you only come up with one or two. This will help with goalsetting as a digital nomad.
How to achieve balance between work and travel as a Digital Nomad?
Once you have guiding principles and a few rules, what next? I’ve produced a model to help support decisions about where to go and how to travel. This really works for me, as it allows me to consider all of the key factors and how relevant each one is to me at a point in time.
This might change month to month, but it’s a useful tool to come back to, particularly if you’re choosing the next location you’ll move to, or planning ahead.
So how does it work? Simple really.
Model to help you find work and travel balance as a Digital Nomad
You plot your factors along the top – I’ve chosen Cost (How much am I willing to spend?), Comfort (Do I want a high standard of accommodation or am I up for more basic?), Movement Frequency (How often do I want to check in and out of accommodation? Do I want to be on the road daily, or weekly?), Hours of Work (Do I need to be on my laptop each day and for how long?), Social Interaction (Do I want to meet lots of people or am I comfortable being more isolated?) and finally Adventure (Do I want a physical adventure, trekking or camping? Or to be somewhere wild and exotic?).
Next, you rank each one based on what you need currently, or for the travel period that you’re considering. Below, I’ve demonstrated that my requirements are for “Low” levels of Cost, and “High” levels of Hours of Work. I also desire “Low” levels of Movement Frequency, i.e. I’d like to be more static for a period.
How to apply this to improve your work and travel balance as a Digital Nomad?
And how does this help me? Well, I have a list of places that I’d like to visit and I can now check this against my requirements. Based on my current needs, I’d pick somewhere that I can stay in relative comfort, cheaply for a month or so, where I can work and meet other Nomads. Tblisi in Georgia and Belgrade in Serbia are both places I’d love to see – so one of these two would fit the bill perfectly!
But if I’d chosen “High Adventure” and “Low Hours of Work”, then I might be heading for Costa Rica or planning to Walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain for example.
This is how you can consciously find a better balance between work and travel as a Digital Nomad.