This is a modified excerpt from How To Be a Digital Nomad and Work Wherever You Want.
In this early section of the book, we call out and address some common myths about digital nomads.
Myth #1 - Digital nomads are all travel bloggers or content creators on Instagram and TikTok
Media commentators who have misunderstood digital nomads perpetuate this first myth. A digital nomad or remote worker can do any job or run any business that allows them to work remotely.
Some digital nomads work for Microsoft, Amazon, Shopify, and Deloitte. Some digital nomads work for smaller companies, too: Project managers. Accountants. Web designers. Lawyers. Doctors (!). Technical writers. Managers. Marketers. Salespeople. HR professionals. Photographers. Data scientists. Mechanical engineers.
If your company has a remote work policy and you can work using a computer-based, Internet-connected setup, you can be a digital nomad or remote worker.
You don’t have to be a blogger or influencer to be a digital nomad.
Myth #2 – Digital nomads constantly travel and live out of backpacks
Actually, digital nomads tend to take it slow. Studies show that the average digital nomad spends months and months in one location before moving on. Some digital nomads may try to travel like they are on a whirlwind trip to see the world, but this is a minority subculture.
The vast majority of digital nomads find places they like to live and work and spend a lot of time rooted and stable in their preferred locations.
Being a digital nomad or remote worker doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping in hostels and living out of a backpack.
Myth #3 - Digital nomads must be entrepreneurs
This myth is a cousin of Myth #1 and seems to be a popular trope within digital nomad content on Instagram on YouTube. Some guidebooks will spend entire chapters discussing firing your boss, leaving your job, becoming a freelancer, etc.
Most digital nomad ‘how-tos’ wrongly assume that everyone wants to be a freelancer or entrepreneur.
If you are an employee with an employer who supports remote work (and increasingly, ‘corporate mobility policies’ will be more and more standard), you can be a digital nomad.
Digital nomads do not necessarily have to support their lifestyle with creativity on social media or entrepreneurship. Any source of income, including a full-time remote job, will do.
Myth #4 - Digital nomads usually work from tropical islands or sandy beaches
This myth is another trope emerging from click-worthy stories in the media and influencers on Instagram: 99.999% of digital nomads are NOT literally working from the beach.
Working from the beach sucks. You get sand in your eyes and the sun in your face, and it’s hard to quickly switch between taking a salty swim and focusing on a computer screen that’s barely visible from the sun's glare.
It is true that warm-weather destinations, especially those with year-round sunshine, are popular. But digital nomads work from anywhere, including places like Tallinn, Berlin, Bansko, Riga, and more!
Virtually no one is ‘working from the beach.’ They work where they are comfortable (and possibly enjoy the beach during their leisure time!).
Myth #5 - Digital nomads must abandon their ‘home residence’ to become perpetual homeless travelers
Most digital nomads do maintain their original residence and citizenship at home. Leaving one’s country permanently or switching one’s residence is a significant life decision, and it may not be what everyone wants to do on their first workation.
Many digital nomads relocate only for a portion of the year and come home for months at a time.
Some digital nomads go out and adopt aggressive tax strategies where they abandon their homeland and officially move to Dubai or Bali for tax purposes. This approach could be what you’re into. If that’s true, talk to international tax and immigration lawyers and accountants with experience in these strategies.
Becoming a digital nomad doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning your home country.
Myth #6 - Most digital nomads do what they do to illegally avoid taxation
Okay, are some nomads hitting the road to lower their tax bill? Yes, some are. Many are motivated by a streak of libertarianism and a penchant for wealth-building.
But not everyone is doing what they are doing specifically to avoid taxation—even though a lower cost of living and a lower tax rate may be a side effect of changing your residence to a different country.
There is a niche community of people who become digital nomads specifically because they want to find optimized tax strategies. You can focus on this aspect of international remote work as much or as little as you like.
Myth #7 - Digital nomads must be young, single, or without kids
Look, uprooting oneself may not be the traditional path for people with families or folks in an age bracket above their 20s or 30s. Still, anyone with a sufficient income, a plan, and a sense of optimism can find solutions to live as a remote worker, ex-pat, or digital nomad—with or without kids and at any age.
There is no right or wrong age or stage of life to be a digital nomad.
Myth #8 - Digital nomads only travel to foreign countries
Not necessarily true!
You can always be a nomad in your home country. Take the Californians who have decided to work in Utah, Texas, and Florida, the Dubliners who head to the Irish countryside to work in a rural villa, or the Canadians who work from a cottage in Ontario or decide to try living in Montréal for a summer.
While this guidebook will focus on how you can start your first workation in a different country, a common form of remote work is staying close to home.