Sitting in Bangkok, working fervently towards finishing my trip to every country in the world, I’ve been noticing a recent trend in the ‘Digital Nomad’ community, one where money comes first and lifestyle and experiences come in a distant second – the complete antithesis of why and how the community began in the first place.
Since working online has become more popular with blogging, freelancing, programming or whatever, a movement began, one that challenged the outdated system of working a set number of hours, arbitrarily chosen by a line manager (who, incidentally, more often than not happens to be your boss simply because he’s been at the company longer, ridiculous). It’s refreshing to see another way of life is possible, and that thousands of people are making a success of it, but getting into with the wrong motivation is a dangerous game.
For sure, the status quo with a grim schedule of 8am to 5.30pm, Mon to Fri, 20 days holiday per year simply doesn’t appeal to the new generation. For better or worse, the millennial generation want it all and with the existence of the internet quite literally at our fingertips, we can have it.
A system where fully fledged adults are judged on the amount of hours they put in as opposed to their level of output is nothing short of insane, in decades to come this system will be laughed at. We should be trusted to judge for ourselves when we are burning out and require a week by the beach, when our productivity is suffering yet we’re still being required to clock in systematically, regardless of the dropping quality of our work. The system is broken and the millennials are quite rightly rebelling. I understand why people feel the need to break free, but do it for the right reasons.
To be free is a beautiful thing. To make more of your life, meet new people, inspire and be inspired but also to create, to produce, to enhance the world we live in. For sure there’s no guilt in wanting financial freedom as an aspect of that, but when that becomes the be-all-and-end-all then we’re back to square one all over again. Why trade one rat race for another?
BLOGGERS AND MONEY
Step in the bloggers, the influencers, the people who managed to break out of the status quo, are living our own dreams, and are forthcoming in extolling the virtues of this ‘digital nomad’ way of life. I’m a huge advocate of promoting a change in lifestyle for those who want it. If you’re getting those Sunday blues earlier and earlier in your weekend (as I was back in the day), dreading that Monday morning with absolute fear, knowing it’s not making you happy, I hope the visibility of blogs like mine give people hope that an alternative is possible.
It is, however, important to note that an online income and alternative lifestyle isn’t all hammocks and cocktails, it can be a hard slog itself, and whilst blogging may be one of the best vocations out there and there is always room for a new quality blog, always, one where someone knows their niche and produces quality content, it remains a fight to rise through the masses and stand out.
In an era where people want to be known just for the sake of being known, when people want more Insta followers, blog subscribers, and retweets just to validate the 21st obsession with social proof, it’s imperative to read between the lines and work out if the people you’re following are for real, and if the lifestyle they so happily promote is genuine. This ‘fake it ’til you make it‘ is bullshit, and it’s dangerous. It has caused a plethora of online fraudsters, pyramid schemes and self-help gurus who couldn’t self-help themselves out of a wet paper bag. People blinded by the online money, convinced that living the dream is measured by how many dollars you can squeeze out of others, and then sell a course replicating that exact model, are not the people to aspire to. They live an empty life, one where they seek income as a way to make up for emotional shortcomings, to fill the vacuum in their life, it’s not the solution. If someone has made 90%+ of their money online by teaching others to make money online, they’re a fraud, that’s not living the dream. That’s exploitation and it’s immoral.
The problem arises when people are drawn to the digital nomad life by money first and foremost, as if giving up a corporate life and working from your MacBook will somehow transform you into a business mogul. It doesn’t work like that. To work online, to be location independent, to become a blogger, or to start an online biz requires something deep in your soul. Not only work ethic, and the ability to self-start, but also to embrace the benefits that the lifestyle affords. It’s not easy to succeed, but if you’re hungry for the benefits that digital nomadism can garner then you stand a chance. If you’re looking to make a quick buck, not so much.
The media picked up my story a year or so ago, Forbes, CNBC, BBC, Lonely Planet, Yahoo, Business Insider etc etc, and they spun it in a way that I couldn’t control. It was all “Millionaire travel blogger“, “Made a $1m, scored a hot gf, and living the dream“, “Works 10 hours weeks, makes $40k a month“. I had been blogging since 2010, chatting about the beauty of a free lifestyle. Explaining how amazing it was to have the opportunity to experience countries, overlanding through obscure places, seeing the world first hand, learning languages, cultures, and having epic adventures in every corner of the world. THAT was my message. But, as it turns out, people are more interested in the $$$ than the lifestyle.
Let me be transparent, I love online business, and I love that I’ve made quite a lot of money online from both blogging and SEO, and long may it continue. Furthermore, I understand that to be free, you need to make money. It’s naive to think otherwise. It’s not evil to want to be comfortable, and having grown up poor, I can vouch for the fact that it sucks, so I’ll make sure my kids don’t have to deal with that. But if you aspire to be a digital nomad to make money, then you’re coming from the wrong place, and success may well evade you.
“Follow your passion, put the money second”
Follow your passion, put the money second, ironically this is the way you’ll generate far more revenue in the long run anyway. From day one, it’s been my dream to travel the world, to inspire others, to show people that you don’t need to come from a wealthy upbringing, nor have hard-core tech skills, to succeed online. Also, I want to live in comfort, fly around the world, experience all the good things this life has to offer, and for that I need to make money, but absolutely, categorically my lifestyle comes first and my business comes second, and that has brought me all the success that has come my way.
So now thanks to the media stories, I get emails all the time asking “How do I start a blog and make money” or “How do make money online”, which are the wrong questions entirely. Focus on creating the lifestyle you want, focus on your passion projects, focus on building friendships with people who push you, you need an upwardly mobile group, friends to be proud of, friends you can rise together with. Dream about traveling the world, dream about living in different countries, learning languages, getting lost. Dream about making a difference in other people’s lives, about producing quality content for your audience or your clients. Dont focus on the dollars, especially not at the start. If money is your sole driver, go and work in finance, and I’ll see you on the road when you’re fat, miserable and burnt out at 50.
Remember, it’s not about the money, it’s about how you earn it and the life you live. I could have doubled my income by opening an office here in Bangkok, cracking the whip with my staff, hiring more sales guys, but then what? My 20s were amazing, fun-filled, I eeked out every opportunity available, late nights, adrenaline filled, crazy friends, and I loved it. My 30s are going the same way too. Would I trade that for an extra couple of million dollars? Absolutely not. Would you? I hope not.
Working online can be a struggle, but being a digital nomad is worth all the effort. They say if you love your ‘job’, you don’t work a day in your life and while that may be a little exaggerated, to find goodness in what you do, and to love the external benefits of your work far outweigh any money you bring in, believe it. So do it, do it to live your dream, but don’t swap one empty lifestyle for another. Beware of the scammers, remember why you’re in this for, and I’ll see you guys on the road. Any questions feel free to drop me a message.