Work Travel Balance and the Digital Nomad: A Commentary
Arna Van Gogh
Contributor. Personal Coach.
Arna mentors our Travel Designers on working remotely while travelling and overall life balance and well-being.
There’s nothing better than stepping out of an airplane and smelling “the smell” of the country you’ve just landed in. This mostly happens to me in Asia: I can tell the difference between Bali, Thailand and Hong Kong… I love it.
And the fact that I know this puts me in a particular group of people, a group of people that are otherwise called travel addicts who live for Pad Thai on street corners… and if you’ve never been to Cafe Luna in Ubud, have you even been to Ubud?
What is a digital nomad?
Before I continue on and make you all super jealous about my extensive travels, I’m going to answer a question I often get asked, “what is a digital nomad?” Because, in all honesty, am I still a digital nomad if I haven’t been in Asia in a year? For me, being a digital nomad means I have the flexibility of traveling where I want, when I want. And it’s as liberating as liberating can be.
Being a digital nomad means spending a week in Portugal: working and also doing wine tours, and also looking at dolphins, and also eating lunch on terraces in the sunshine with a cheeky cocktail.
Being a digital nomad has become a cool thing to do, the alternative way of living an entrepreneur lifestyle while staying a cool hotels (or hostels). And honestly? It’s one of the best lifestyles that’s out there right now. For me. I know that there are some moms and dads that would have a panic attack about the thought traveling with their children. But I also know moms that run their own businesses online, homeschool their children and slow travel around the world.
The only prerequisite to being a digital nomad nowadays is the fact that you are not stuck to one place- especially not to work. There are plenty of digital nomads that aren’t entrepreneurs, that actually work for entrepreneurs or even work for corporate companies. There are some digital nomads that stay in one place and take weekend trips elsewhere. There are digital nomads that aren’t living in a foreign country, and again, relish in the freedom to travel where they wish, when they wish.
Benefits of being a digital nomad
Being a digital nomad isn’t for the faint of heart. It can be difficult at times- especially when you’re ill. In my experience however, being a digital nomads benefits far outweigh the negatives, which is why I still consider myself one. Even though I officially live in the United Kingdom, I have been on three continents in the last 12 months, and that gives me life (and bragging rights).
Now when we talk about work-life balance, what do we really mean? Do I mean that we spend as much time at home as we do at work? Or does it mean that we actually get to spend time creating and developing hobbies that we might not otherwise have if we were just focus on work all the time?
Work-Life Balance Myth
As an entrepreneur, I personally feel the work-life balance theory is a myth. There are schools of thought that say you should only hustle until you get rich. There are other schools of thought that believe you should invest at least 4 hours in yourself every day.
Work-life balance doesn’t come down to whether or not your boss lets you work less, it comes down to what is your priority? While gender roles do play a part in this, I want to take it one step further. Because in my world view, only the story that you are telling yourself is the real block here. I work 70 hours a week, but I feel alive and invigorated. I get up every morning EXCITED to start my day and I regularly connect with friends (albeit online). Does this mean I’m a workaholic with no work-life balance? No, absolutely not.
However, if you hate your job and the commute and the people and… the list goes on here. It is here, when you have so much negativity in your life that you really need to have a work-life balance at all. You need to have more positive in your life, in order to find more joy and happiness in the things that you do everyday. And so, when people are digital nomads, where they work for a business for example, and they actually get to live their best life in Thailand or Timbuktu, that’s true work-life balance.
Working when you want
The benefits of working without a schedule so to speak, is that you can literally set your day up the way you like. If you’re a morning person and you like to get started immediately in the morning and you can get your exercise, get your coffee and watch the sunrise while checking your emails, then you can go ahead and do that. You don’t have to wait till 9 AM to open up your email in order to respond to clients or write reports. Other people, on the other hand, are more night owls. And so they prefer being able to have a lie in in the morning- slowly wake up, maybe pick up a wave or two in the surf followed by brunch before they even open up their laptops in the afternoon. And guess what? Both are totally normal. Both are equally productive and produce great results.
If the coronavirus has taught us anything it’s that we are truly a global entity. We all depend on each other, we are all interlinked. Which means that when we want to have a life that we truly love, some small sacrifices have to be made. No, I can’t have pop tarts all the time because I travel so much and most countries I go to don’t necessarily have pop tarts in their supermarkets. But what I get in return, is amazing watermelon juice, or I drink Pepsi in Thailand (for some reason Pepsi just tastes amazing there).
Experiences shape us
Being able to experience all of these different cultures, all of these amazing things, I am enriching my life and for those around me too. Before I became an entrepreneur, I was a travel agent in the UK. Because of my extensive travel experience, I was able to paint amazing pictures of places for my clients to envision. But imagine if I had been an travel agent actually in Thailand, trying to sell the island-hopping dream? Imagine if I’ve been a travel agent backpacking down the coast of Australia, and being able to share with my clients where I was, what I was doing? I would be able to have a genuine exchange and share genuine experiences with my clients.
When I get to wake up every single day, happy, excited and looking forward to what adventures are waiting for me, I know that I’m going to do my best work. I know that I am going to put my best foot forward; so not only do I get to perform at my best because I have higher dopamine levels, but I also get to share my best self with everyone I interact with. And especially in a customer facing role, that is key and more often than not: the make-or-break aspect of business.
You Do You
I’m not naïve. I know that for some people, the digital nomad lifestyle seems really far away and out of reach. But if you want to talk about how you can become a digital nomad, please feel free to get in touch with me. I offer Power Hour sessions with clients to help them get clear on what they want with their lives, how many want to live it, and how to get there. As a business coach, it has been an absolute pleasure to talk about one of the things that matter to me most: travel.
Arna is a successful entrepreneur and personal coach with a career in the travel industry. She is regular contributor and she is a mentor to our remote Travel Designers on how to achieve that work-life balance and overall well-being. She provides effective coaching and mentoring – click here to request a commitment free “Power Hour” with her.