What are the digital nomad challenges and how to overcome them

Living the digital nomad lifestyle has great benefits - free to go anywhere you want and not bound by work. Along with these benefits, come a set of challenges. In this article, we highlight the top 7 digital nomad challenges and tips to overcome them.

Working From Anywhere
 Min read
May 12, 2023

The life of a digital nomad sounds like a wonderland. Being able to work at exotic beaches and exploring new places while getting paid to do what you love—or at least this is what social media has shown us. 

Ask any digital nomads and they will likely say, “that’s just 10% of our life.” Well, what about the rest of 90%? What is the behind-the-scenes of a digital nomad?

If you’re considering being a digital nomad and not sure what to expect, or if you’ve been a digital nomad for some time and looking for tips and tricks to navigate the international waters, you’ve arrived at the right place.

This article highlights the hidden challenges of a digital nomad that social media don’t usually show and provides some practical tips and tricks to help you overcome them. 

Let's get the most annoying one out of the way first: taxes.

Challenge 1: Managing Taxes

For most parts of the world, digital nomads are not required to pay taxes—except for the US. It is the only country, along with Eritrea, that tax citizens and green card holders no matter how long they live outside of the country and regardless of the country they reside in.

There is, however, one exclusion that American digital nomads can take advantage of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE). If your annual earned income is less than $105,900 (for the year 2019), your earned income can be tax exempted, if you’re qualified. 

To learn more about FEIE and how to apply, this comprehensive ultimate tax guide can help

Challenge 2: Keeping Finances In Check

Airplane tickets, room rentals, co-working space rentals, food expenses, and sightseeing can accumulate into a huge sum of expenses before you know it. 

Before jumping on the airplane, you might want to check the cost of living in hundreds of cities using services like Nomad List, Expatistan, or The Earth Awaits. This way, you can decide how much you need for living expenses and savings. 

Even though digital nomads earn while traveling, most of them would look for ways to enjoy the country at lower price points. Try looking for cheaper alternatives when it comes to accommodation, sightseeing, and food. But never compromise on your work environment, which brings us to the next point.

Challenge 3: Ensuring 100% Delivery No Matter Where You Are

52% of digital nomads said finding a strong wi-fi zone is their biggest logistical challenge. However, poor wi-fi, stolen laptop, or travel delays are not excuses for work lapses. 

Digital nomads need to make sure their work meets or exceeds their client’s expectations. To achieve that, they need a productive work environment that allows them to focus. If you have to pay slightly more for better infrastructure, please do it. 

When digital nomads are on the road, they also risk being targeted by thieves. Laptops (91%) and phones (88%) are their primary equipment for work, and it can be troublesome to buy new ones in foreign countries. 

What digital nomads do is lock each of their belongings, including luggage and backpacks, before taking their eyes off them.

Challenge 4: Facing Loneliness and Homesickness

Humans are social creatures. We need a community or a person that we can lean on whenever we need emotional support. But most solo digital nomads lack this fundamental need. 

As a result, 9 out of 10 digital nomads reported feelings of loneliness, with half saying homesickness was the primary reason

This is why digital nomads form communities all around the world. Simply Google search “digital nomad community in [place name],” and you’ll find established Facebook groups and able to mingle with like-minded people. 

Also, schedule time to keep in touch with your friends and family back home. With modern technology, you can easily reach someone on the other side of the planet—if the timezone is right. Sure, it’s different than grabbing a beer with friends but these subtle connections help keep you sane in the long run.

Challenge 5: Ever-Evolving Routine

It is fun to travel to new places, taste new foods, and immerse in a new culture. But when you have to combine it with work, it might get a little hard. 

You have deadlines to meet and yet still want to discover new places. This means it’ll be very difficult for you to get into a fixed routine that optimizes your productivity. But science shows that routine helps to reduce stress, promotes a better quality of sleep, better health, and increases productivity

So, how can you create a daily routine when you’re constantly on the go?

The trick here is to select activities that can be done anywhere like walking in the park, working in a space free of distractions, exercising in the morning, or hitting a daily work target. 

According to Mason Curry in his book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, daily routines are essential to foster one’s mental health and help stave off moods' tyranny.

Challenge 6: Non-Existent Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is almost a legend for a digital nomad. For a third of digital nomads, their biggest digital nomad challenge is to shut down at the end of the day. Your client could message you at times you don’t want to work. 

These are sacrifices digital nomads have to make in exchange for a work-travel lifestyle. 

However, you can block off time in your calendar for work and play. Inform your clients that you may not be able to reply immediately but you will get back to them within 24 or 48 hours. 

Yes, there will be times your reality doesn’t follow the schedule, but that’s okay. You can adjust your upcoming schedule to catch up on that trip to the beach next time. 

Challenge 7: Constant Travelling Wears You Out

The flip side of the coin of traveling is commuting. Either by plane, bus, cab, or motorcycle. The constant motion can easily wear you out, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Especially at times when the plane or bus didn’t arrive on schedule, and you had to spend a few more hours waiting. 

If you notice you’re growing tired of moving around, you can either fall back to your home country and settle for a few weeks to months, or stay in a country you feel comfortable in for longer periods. 

Also, do rejuvenating activities that re-energizes your well-being, like aromatherapy, massages, play with pets or friends, immerse in nature, or simply take a few days off and do what you love. 

Summing It Up

Living a digital nomad lifestyle is often associated with freedom and happiness. You are free to go anywhere you want and not bound by work. In fact, 90% of digital nomads were highly satisfied with their work

While this lifestyle sounds like a dream for many people, it does come with its cons. 

The top 7 digital nomad challenges are:

  1. Managing taxes (if you’re from the US or Eritrea)
  2. Keeping finances in check
  3. Delivering at 100% no matter where you are
  4. Loneliness and homesickness
  5. An ever-evolving routine
  6. Non-existent work-life balance
  7. Continuous traveling

For every problem, there is always a solution. You can always learn tips and tricks to navigate around these challenges and fall in love with this nomadic lifestyle. 

All you need is time and experience, and we’ll be here to support you in your adventure. 

For more tips on how to be a better remote worker, check out our resources below:

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