Tag Archives: digital nomad

Is being a digital nomad or downshifting for me?

What does being a digital nomad or downshifter entail? And how to overcome the obstacles to a happy work-life balance

Digital nomad living in Chiang Mai, Thailand Photo: Stefan Fussan
Digital nomad living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo: Stefan Fussan

There are many ways to skin a cat, the saying goes. None of which appeal to cat lovers I’m sure. And many paths to being a digital nomad. But if you love your pet or your spouse, then you have already encountered your first obstacle in becoming a digital nomad. Sadly, society has groomed your spouse to value setting down roots. To be a responsible corporate employee, with all the shiny trinkets a steady salary can buy and having enough closet space to store said trinkets in. There is no time like the present to start wearing down her defenses though. Try asking her if she wouldn’t rather be lying on a beach in Bali when the London weather is at its gloomiest. Or to picture a ferry ride in Budapest whilst stuck in Atlanta traffic.


Single folks have it much easier, but how to deal with loneliness on the road being so far away from family and friends? Of course there is Grindr and Gawker, but you still won’t have a dedicated audience to tell your knock-knock jokes to. Still, there is the question of financing your globe-trotting lifestyle on an income of one. Plus, you have to tell Mom that despite many years and dollars spent in college, you don’t fancy the idea of a traditional office job.

Never fear, the internet economy is here. And many do choose the digital nomad life before being entangled in married life, kids and bonds. Fiverr has your freelancing gigs sorted. Your AirBnB host may crack a forced smile for your knock-knock jokes. And Mom is but a Skype connection away. So if you are single, you could mingle across the globe. Thailand and eastern Europe are the trendy spots to mingle for now. No wonder Thailand is popular, with furnished apartments from only $200 per month in Chiang Mai.


I’m not sure how the more family-oriented amongst us do it; the cost of flights will add up and the apartment in Chiang Mai will be a squeeze. I have heard tales of families hitting the road in their RVs, reducing the airfare costs for sure. Pity my folks didn’t fall in that camp. I’m sure there is a lot to be said for being house-proud and teaching your kids the most optimal way to mow the lawn (…away from where plugged-in for those using electric, never from the furthest point). But, I would have preferred life on the road and all the RV experiences, good and bad, that would have entailed. Granted, I didn’t have any argumentative siblings my age to torment me from the RV bunk bed above. Possibly the size of the family is key.

“But will my luck know where to find me if I am globe-trotting the world?” you may ask. It is tough to argue with logic like that; being a digital nomad may not be for you. It is possible though to experience a new lifestyle by downshifting. And if downshifting occurs in an affordable exotic location, you can still have the benefit of an improved work-life balance and new cultures to explore. Yes, you can downshift to a less trendy part of the city that you live in already. But I’m not sure where the fun is in that. My advice is cheap and cheerful; when luck finds you, your lotto millions will stretch even further.


Time is the currency of choice for downshifters. Time to take a walk on the beach. Time to binge-watch Game of Thrones. And for some, time to tend to the vegetable garden and fetch eggs from the chicken run. My folks left their legal careers for farming outside the city. Annoyingly, the cows would jump the fence on Xmas day and having the neighbouring farmer swear you as a result does ruin the festive cheer. I find myself more partial now to downshifting destinations with fast internet coverage and Chinese takeaways. But happiness can be found from many modest lifestyles with rich experiences and less stuff.

Passive income is just the solution to give you this work-life balance. The IRS defines passive income as coming from rental activity or trade in which you do not materially participate. If you can crack the proverbial passive income nut, then being a digital nomad or downshifter will be far easier to achieve. Options include rent from a property, dividend and interest income, royalties from a book or patent or internet advertisements. This former risk specialist will tell you: the more diversified your income stream, the better. I wouldn’t have been able to escape corporate without some rental income to cushion the jump.


The desire to make radical change and escape corporate may be a factor of life stage. You’ll be unlikely to become a digital nomad or downshifter if you are happy with where life finds you. A UK based study conducted in 2016 by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that middle aged people between 40 and 59 are the least happy and most anxious. The downward slump in happiness starts at 35 and the trend only reverses after 60. Is this a good time to suggest investing in the alcohol industry to fund your new lifestyle?

Certainly, there are many reasons to be nomadic or to downshift and even more different lifestyles led by those making the leap. You may be under 35 and enjoying the city view from your office viewbicle, that flashy car and strategizing your next leap up the corporate ladder; but eventually downshifting will appeal to you.

Compared to downshifting, the appeal of being a digital nomad must be far broader still. What is not to like about travel and working remotely from a tropical location? As technology takes over the workplace, surely there will be many more taking up these lifestyles; you could soon be part of the movement. First, it will take some planning and thorough consideration and it is well worth connecting with other digital nomads and downshifters before following the dream.

@nomadicyou What is the best route to nomadic life or downshifting? What are the difficulties and practical tips to overcome them? #nomadicobstacles

Nomadic Me: Rudolph Escaping Corporate

Escaping Corporate and dealing with layoffs; My journey from anxiety and CFS to being a digital nomad in the gig economy

Rudolph Escaping Corporate
Rudolph Escaping Corporate

After 14 years of corporate life, I should have felt quite content and accepting of my lot. I was a risk specialist working at a large corporate and I had a nice home, a seaside apartment and a German car in my garage. Sure, dragging myself out of bed on Monday mornings took some effort and I would have more dreams at night about work targets than about frolicking with my favourite Hollywood star. But life as a 38-year-old Johannesburg pen-pusher was decent.


I can’t say that life unraveled quickly; I was but a toad in a slowly heating pot.  A disengaged toad growing more rotund the deeper I got into my thirties. I stood at a crossroads, faced by a new CEO at the ICT company I was working for. He had a penchant for layoffs to boost quarterly earnings. And I either had to prove myself irreplaceable with some new enthusiasm for my monotonous corporate governance work or imagine myself without a solid paycheck.

At first I soldiered on. Thinking, as one does, that I have proved myself over the years and that it was clear for all to see my worth and intellect. Problem being, ours was not a revenue earning division and all the CEO saw was the dreamy glitter of a new Porsche in his driveway, purchased with his next performance bonus. Half our team was on the chopping block.


Next, I racked my mind for a plan B and plan C—literally penned and printed—I was a Risk Specialist after all and mitigations were my game. My energy went into imagining a new path. My disengagement from the rightsizing corporate grew and my performance slowed to a crawl even though the deadlines were still hurtling at me. My health suffered too. Coughing, body aches and constant exhaustion. All the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

I would drive to work in the mornings distracted by some good tunes and witty banter from the DJ on the radio. But then, on my 5-minute walk from the car park, my mind would turn to looming deadlines and my growing disengagement made me realize I was far from irreplaceable and that I could easily end up in the layoffs pile. Queue anxiety attack and profuse sweating that soaked my shirt just as I got started for the day. This happened repeatedly over a two-month period. I made a sorry sight indeed and clearly things could not go on like that much longer.


I wanted to escape the city, the rat-race and hunker down somewhere far away from all my worries. To sleep away all the emotional exhaustion and quell my anxiety. I knew it would be a hard sell for my friends and family. Most thought fighting for my spot in corporate and the steady paycheck was the smarter thing to do. Looking back, it was quite brave of me to inform my boss that I would not re-apply for my position and that I would opt for a severance package instead.

Did the bravery pay off? Well, not in the way I pictured it would. I bought a plot of land by the sea and imagined myself building a cottage there and hiding away from the stresses of the world. Downshifting sounded pretty good. True, at 38 I was young to be semi-retired. But, with no children to support and with some steady income from my property investments, I had a good shot at a happy life. I didn’t see myself leading a luxury life with all the trimmings, rather it dawned on me that a minimalist existence of experiences rather than stuff would suit me just fine.


Instead, after a couple of weeks outside of corporate, my health improved and anxiety lifted. Reducing stress seems to work remarkably well for CFS.  I had a new verve for life. Energy to want to travel the world and start an online business. E-commerce is growing rapidly and the idea of working from my laptop anywhere in the world with an internet connection seemed mightily appealing. And it seems I am not the only one.

According to Wikipedia, the digital nomad lifestyle is growing in popularity. There seems to be no shortage of paths to digital nomad living; blogging, vlogging, publishing and online business. The world may not be ready yet for a ginger from South Africa to be its next vlogging star, but fortunately there are other online and passive income options and cheap locations like Bali or Budapest to get by on a modest income. And if the flexible working allows me to fit in an afternoon siesta, I’m certainly in!


Yes, there will be sacrifices along the way. AirBnB hosts who work on my nerves. Giving up my car. Selling more of my belongings. Missing family and friends back home. Maintaining a decent diet and fitness program on the road. I may become even more rotund. But from where I’m sitting, the pros far outweigh the cons.

Never in history has so much information been at our fingertips to overcome these nomadic obstacles. Google Maps knows the nearest pharmacy. My cellphone can help me translate. The web allows me to find the cheapest flights. I can access freelancing gigs to finance my way. There has never been a better time than now. Seems that CEO may have done me a favour; I won’t begrudge him his new Porsche. I’ve been the winner in all of this; he can answer to his board of directors while I take my afternoon nap.

So, armed with a Dummies book by my side and some inspiring online lectures I remain enthusiastic and surprisingly free of fear for what the future holds. In the words of Winston Churchill: “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” It seems half the battle is already won with a positive attitude and a brandy in hand. Let’s see where this journey takes me.

@nomadicyou What is the best way to escape corporate? How do you thrive in your new #digitalnomad or #downshifting life?

Nomad City Top 10 Emoji Transit Map

Nomadic You’s emoji transit map gives you a quick overview of the top 10 sights for each nomad city. From sights to shopping and more.

Top 10 Emoji Transit Map Cape Town
Top 10 Emoji Transit Map Cape Town

I love a good transit map; it is so much easier to see the lay of the land and to know where to stay to make the most of your digital nomad trip or long-term downshifting life.



The largest transit accessible shopping mall in the city. Meet the locals, shop till you drop, catch a movie or grab some lunch.



A good selection of pavement cafes and fine food. The place to see and be seen in the city.



Where the city comes to life after dark. Party with the locals and research the local beer and wine.



A peaceful oasis in the city. Catch some sun and have an ice cream or two



Time for some exercise in the city. Somewhere to cycle, jog, paddle or even kite surf



A central location from which to explore the city. We highlight areas close to the city action by transit



The gay village. That part of the city with the best range of gay friendly restaurants and gay clubs.



Some older parts of the city. Take in the architecture and history of the nomadic city.



The main international airport. Enter and exit nomadic city here. We highlight transit routes from the airport.



The main metro or rapid bus stations; We highlight the most important transit line in the city.



One of the most scenic spots in the city. Be sure to look your best for a selfie (and don’t wander into oncoming traffic).

@nomadicyou Do you like to #travel by #transit? What activities are top of your list exploring a #nomadcity?