The Most Common Mistakes Of A Digital Nomad

It is funny to see that every Digital Nomad go through most of the same mistakes over and over again. I travelled for 3 years before I became a Digital Nomad. I felt that I had to accomplish something before the age of 30 (like most people do). 

My accomplishment as having my own company, before the age of 30. Yes, I accomplished that, I registered at the Chamber of Commerce, but I didn’t make some actual money from the start. That only came later in the process.

In this process of accomplishment I lost sight of what I liked in life and why I wanted this lifestyle of a Digital Nomad. It was (and is) because I like experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and doing what I love all on my own terms. However, I worked so hard to get started and get my projects running, that I lost sight of why I wanted this lifestyle. I like to meet new people but sometimes I didn’t see anything besides my laptop screen when I was in a lovely new country.

This, and many more mistakes I, and so many people around me, have made, is what I would like to tell you about. Hopefully you will learn from these mistakes and take advantage of the opportunities you have at your disposal as a Digital Nomad. So you don’t make the same mistakes as I did, especially in your early stages.

Mistake #1: Not Knowing Yourself And Why You Want This Lifestyle

I think this is a problem with most humans in general. Why do we make certain decisions? As I said in my introduction, I really like to travel. The reason I like to travel is because I get to experience other cultures, meet new people and have a certain freedom.

As I didn’t notice this from the beginning, I didn’t focus much on connecting with people in different countries whenever the opportunity was available. I wanted this life so I could go kitesurfing whenever I wanted, but I haven’t been on my board in months as my priorities changed. I had work to do, things to finish, money to make.

Most Digital Nomads  have a lot of interests from various sections of life. It is your responsibility to identify what your drive is forcing you so you can focus more on that to enjoy your journey.

Sportive company retreat / active workation watersport kitesurfing with colleagues

Mistake #2: Over-planning and Over-preparation

My biggest mistake was taking too much time to plan and prepare rather than to just start. It took me forever (and still does) to get certain things done. Not because I don’t work, but because I don’t focus on the most important things.

Many of my friends kept on telling me to stop the planning and preparation and just start and see where it’s going, but I was too stubborn to listen. I always had that ‘I’m a perfectionist and want to do things my way’ excuse. But especially with this pressure from friends I really got things going and finally started to earn money with the things I had been setting up for so long.

I was always postponing to earn some actual money for some reason. Maybe I liked the way things were, as isn’t that what we all do. We’re all afraid of bigger changes in our life, we like the familiar. It was hard for me to leave my perfectionist-comfort-zone.

I never seemed fully prepared for it. Yet, no matter how long I prepared, I will still not be 100% satisfied. Finally, when I made the decision to pick up the phone and started calling stores, I realised that I should have done that a long time ago. I finally got money on the bank account, and it felt good!

Don’t make this same mistake, if you are certain that this lifestyle is for you, just do it and don’t wait too long with making money, before it’s too late and you are forced to go back to your ‘normal’ life.

Mistake #3: Not Saving Enough

Do I really need to explain this point? Well, in case you do not know, you will spend quite an amount of money on your Digital Nomad lifestyle. Although 90% certain, it will be less than your expenses back home! But as you won’t earn your dream salary right at the start, keep in mind your expenses might be more than your income, so savings are wisely.  

Of course, housing in most cases will be cheaper, but there are always costs you don’t think about. In a lot of countries you won’t be able to drink tap water and suddenly you end up spending every day a few euro’s just on water, something you most likely don’t pay for in your home country.

And don’t forget the flights you will take to your new country, as well as the daily expenses like food and coffee. Business expenses like coworking spaces, hosting, websites and so on. You need to make a minimum amount to survive as a Digital Nomad as everything requires money.

It is important that you make the needed inquiries and have an idea of how much your stay in a country will cost you. Nevertheless, this should not slow down your decision making as you can adjust your lifestyle to suit your needs. It’s important to have it in mind.

Mistake #4: Having No Plan or Schedule

If Over-planing is bad, guess what: no planning is worse. I am sure we all know that. Yet, it is a very common mistake that Digital Nomads make often. We are so excited to begin our journey that we barely have time to think things through before leaving. For instance, most Digital Nomads do not gather enough information about the country they are visiting. This would help them to know how they can live and survive in these countries. Also, most Digital Nomads do not plan their travel fully. They simply don’t know how much it will cost them to live in the country they are visiting to know how long they can stay.

In terms of schedule, some Digital Nomads do not plan their daily work.  The obvious result is that they end up not achieving all the goals they may have set. However, by setting goals, Digital Nomads can know what to work towards (goals) and not just “go with the flow” with no service goals like other Digital Nomads do.

Mistake #5: Having The Wrong Business Mentality

What differentiates a Digital Nomad from a Tourist is the goal of visiting a country. Tourists may be there basically for entertainment purposes, but Digital Nomads are there to work and enjoy their life in the meanwhile. The fact that you moved from your home country to another country does not mean that you are there just for pleasure.

However, some Digital Nomads still think like tourists instead of an entrepreneur. They visit every sightseeing possibility and go everywhere their money can take them. They drink their beers at night and sleep in the morning. They check up on their social media and catch up with friends, but in a lot of cases, they don’t do too much work. Not because they already earn enough, but because they don’t have the business approach. If you want to make it, it is important to focus on work while you are away as much as you should enjoy yourself as well, as we only live once of course.

“The road to success and the road to failure are almost exactly the same.”

– Colin R. Davis

Mistake #6: Having Too Many, Too Few or The “Wrong” Clients

As I said in the previous point, every Digital Nomad should know that they are there first for business. For this reason, clients are very important. However, if you have very few clients, you will be less productive. Also, you may not be able to get enough revenue to run your business or sustain you. The best option will be to look for more clients to help you generate more revenue. But, that comes with difficulties as well.

Having too many clients means that you have too many people to serve and report to, which will get you tired and stressed often. After all, part of the reason for leaving your 9-5 job was to “be your own boss” and not serve a lot of bosses. When this happens, you finally do not feel excited to work though you will eventually earn more.

The worst under this list is having the wrong clients who do not appreciate your work or are always asking for discounts. That is simply a “death penalty” to your business because these clients simply do not value your services that much. They will only waste your precious time and energy.

This is a huge mistake to have and keep clients who don’t value your work that much. There is no point in keeping them for long.

Also, It is important to have systems to promote your business enough when you have a few clients as well as leverage your skills when you have too many clients.

Mistake #7: Lacking Discipline And Productivity

This is a big one. You may be the most excited and motivated Digital Nomad ever. But, if you lack discipline, you will never achieve much. This is because, your entire life as a Digital Nomad is so full of adventures and challenges that you can easily get lost in the wrong activity easily. You are either checking or replying your emails, finding or serving clients, working on your project or business or enjoying a hobby to get entertained.

All these are very important things and they all need to be done by you. It will take a lot of discipline and hard work to schedule your time to know where to focus on at what time. When you are not disciplined enough, you will always be less productive which will also affect your business.

This is when systems come in handy. It is advisable to design a system (routines, procedures or actual systems to help productivity / focus. More of that in another blog post though 😉 ) to ensure you are really putting out your best.

Mistake #8: Not Packing The Right Items

This is easily overlooked by many Digital Nomads. I don’t mean you should carry everything you own with you everywhere you go. Seriously, who does that? If I don’t travel with my kite gear I only have hand luggage, so I’m a big fan off not carrying too much, but carrying the right things.

So, you should never forget to pack the very basic necessities. “Oh okay! My PlayStation is very important. Should I come along with it?” Maybe. It depends on how much you will “gain” from it – whether you will be selling it off or playing it all day (which then won’t be coming in handy if you want to focus and be productive). But, some things such as your medication (if you have any prescriptions from your doctor), toiletries (especially sanitary towels for women, and shaving accessories for men), and most importantly, your devices (laptop, smartphone, internet modems, etc.) are things you don’t want to forget for a lot of reasons. They will make you “waist” money (if they are expensive in the new country) or simply render you “less useful”. So, before you think of packing those favorite candies that will only melt under the hot sun, check to see all your valuable items are taken care of first.

Mistake #9: Under-estimating The Challenges Of The Lifestyle

I have already talked a lot about preparation and planning in terms of finances and work. However, I think it is equally very important to assess the the lifestyle of a Digital Nomad and see if you are really prepared for everything that comes your way.

On social media, the Digital Nomad lifestyle is portrayed as very “glamorous” with a lot of fun, trips and parties. Yet, in reality, this is not exactly how it is, except of those few minutes in front of the camera. The Digital Nomad lifestyle is not as “perfect” as people show on social media. What you don’t see on camera are the many hustles Digital Nomads face in securing the right Visas, flight issues, accommodation issues, robbery and scams.

Another very major challenge is culture, language barriers and friends from back home you might be missing a lot. You will be working almost every waking time and have less “fun-filled” moments than you thought. Working online from a foreign country is not a lifestyle you want to underestimate.

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”

– John D. Rockefeller

Mistake #10: Not Taking Care Of Yourself

The fact that you have moved 1000 miles away from your home country doesn’t mean you should leave your healthy lifestyles behind. A Digital Nomad is always on the go. It is very common to work right from your bed or skip breakfast to get some work done. Sometimes, just eating anything or anyhow, especially local food can affect your health and fitness. You may gain weight or lose too much weight. The change in environment may lead to illnesses and allergies.

Ensuring a proper health and fitness strategy is very important to keep you well and in shape. Proper rest and diet are very important things to note too. That’s why many Digital Nomads do yoga, go kitesurfing or do meditation.

One of the best approaches to tackling this is to look at how the locals do things (especially their foods and lifestyles) and adjust to it. That helps a lot especially in areas like Asia.

Mistake #11: Travelling Too Frequently Or Too Little

If there is one major benefit for choosing a Digital Nomad lifestyle, it is the fact that you have freedom to live almost anywhere you want. But, this freedom can be abused in two ways: travelling too frequently and travelling too less.

The more frequently you travel from country to country as a Digital Nomad, the faster it affects your budget. Soon you become either just a traveller and broke Digital Nomad or an only working Digital Nomad without seeing anything from the country you’re in. It is hard to keep the balance. Not traveling at all or traveling less is dangerous too especially if you are not gaining any positive results in your current country.

The key here is to not move from a country until you have made enough revenue while willing to leave whenever things are not working according to plan.

Mistake #12: Being Crippled By Fear

Often times, when we look at a Digital Nomads lifestyle, we become scared by the possible challenges they may be facing though we admire their lifestyle secretly. Most people are afraid of a lot of things – accidents, violence against them, getting arrested, robberies, diseases they can contract, and so many others. Yet, most of these don’t actually happen or are sometimes more likely to happen in your home country.

It is okay to be afraid of leaving home and not coming back soon. However, once you make the move and become a Digital Nomad, all your fears should be dealt with gradually until you have replaced them all with positive expectations of your life. Yes, you will be taking risks, but think about all the great opportunities out there that you may be missing instead. You don’t want fear to rob you of your joy, do you?

Mistakes, each one of us, including experienced Digital Nomads, make them sometimes. From all the things you’re afraid off, you will learn when it happens. And believe me, as almost all fears I just summed up, have already happened to me. At that moment in time you deal with it, and afterwards you laugh about it.

I have shared a few general mistakes to avoid on your journey as a Digital Nomad based on my personal experiences and experiences of others. However, we should see mistakes as a means of learning and not an excuse not become the Digital Nomads we long to become.

Active Workation helps current and future Digital Nomads like you with our upcoming workations to help you learn more about this lifestyle and to hangout with other Digital Nomads to learn from each other. Check out our upcoming workations, as they are too good to miss out on!

You have any questions or comments, let me know, I’m happy to answer them 🙂

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