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One of the Most Annoying Things You Can Say to a Digital Nomad

Our lifestyle is pretty unconventional and as a result we get some strange and sometimes funny reactions from people we meet along the way.

For most people, job and travel are completely separate. They work at a full time job to save up money, then they go on a vacation or a longer term travel adventure and have full time fun.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but we do things a little differently. I am a full time freelance writer, which doesn’t require me to work from any particular location. So, I spend my time slowly moving around the world, working on my writing career and sightseeing in my free time. I have a great work life balance and I have a lot of amazing experiences in my downtime, including recent adventures such as rappelling down waterfalls in Ecuador, piranha fishing in the Amazon Jungle and drunkenly cycling around wineries in Argentina.

This is what I do when I am not writing.
This is what I do when I am not writing.

My freelance writing career is an actual job and I have a decent volume of work that I do for my clients around the world. I love my job and I find it interesting, challenging and exciting. Depending on the week I probably work between 30-40 hours. However, unlike most people with a full time income I have the freedom to earn that income from anywhere in the world, which is what makes it possible for us to travel.

Some people get it – but some people really don’t. Which is why I get this question a lot:

Have You Been Sitting in Front of that Computer All Day?

Why yes... yes I have.
Why yes… yes I have.

I think it’s the fact that I am doing my work while sitting in a hostel or a hotel that confuses people.

They see me tapping away on my keyboard on a workday from 9am until 5pm. But instead of assuming that I have a non-location based job, they assume that I am on a holiday like them yet wasting my adventure time on Facebook or Reddit.

If I had a dollar for every person who has made a comment about how I am always sitting there typing on my computer – well I could probably retire.

“You’re still on that computer? It’s a beautiful day!”

Yup – and tomorrow on my day off it will also be a beautiful day and I will go to the beach and relax because my work for the week is done.

“You’re always sitting here, typing away… when will you go out and explore?!”

I will have fun in my time off, just like anyone else with a full time job.

“You’ve been working for the last three days? When are you going to get to take some time off?”

*sigh*

Don’t Feel Sorry For Me!

I don’t know what to do when people say these things. I explain to them that I am a freelance writer and digital nomad. I explain that we are travelling slowly around the world and have been working remotely and backpacking for 4 years. I explain that it is my freelance writing work that allows us to go wherever we want, for as long as we want. However, often this information doesn’t stop them from making these comments.

Some people understand, but others still seem to feel sorry for me. It’s bizarre and frustrating when people give me a look of pity while I am living my dream life.

“Awww… you are still working? It’s a shame you have to work!”

No, it’s not a shame. It’s awesome that I get to work in a job that I enjoy and that allows me the freedom to work from anywhere.

Please don't feel sorry for me - this is what awaits me when I finish my work! (Boracay Beach, Philippines)
Please don’t feel sorry for me – this is what awaits me when I finish my work! (Boracay Beach, Philippines)

 

To better understand how annoying this is, imagine you have a great job that you love and you are in your office at 11am on a Tuesday morning happily getting along with your work. Now, imagine someone standing there feeling sorry for you.

“Poor you, you have been there for two hours already just typing on that keyboard. It’s a beautiful day, aren’t you going to go relax?”

Freelancers and Digital Nomads Have Real Jobs!

I don’t really blame people for not getting it, most are unfamiliar with the concept of working in this way.

It’s already a common misconception many people have about freelancers, even those who work from one location – so I’m not surprised that it happens even more to me when I am working in a location where most other around me are on their holidays.

Working in Borneo
Working in Borneo

I’ve heard many freelancers say that their friends and family assume they are free at all hours of the day to meet up for lunch, run errands, have long phone conversations, etc. Since they don’t work in a cubicle, it’s hard for people to understand that freelancers are very busy! We may be flexible with our hours, but we still need to get the work done. My workday needs to be just as productive as anyone else with a full time job, even though I am doing my work from a café in Lima or a hostel in Kuala Lumpur.

So, next time you are in a hostel and you see someone typing away on a computer, consider that they might have a full time location independent job – rather than assuming they are some weirdo who travelled all the way to Bangkok, Berlin or Bogota just to surf the web and never go outside.

Digital nomads – do you get these comments when you are working and travelling? How do you respond?

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About Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

3 comments

  1. Haha I know what you mean! I can’t believe people give you a look of pity but I honestly don’t think most people have any idea what travel blogging demands or that you’re living you’re dream job.

    I’ve been a freelance writer and photographer for the last year and I have a similar frustration when talking to everyday people. “So how’s the blog? What else do you do with your time?” they ask me. It doesn’t register with people that this is my job!! I don’t bother explaining the life of a freelancer so it just sorta repeats….lol.

  2. It’s true that many people still don’t understand what being a digital nomad is all about. It’s a lifestyle decision. We choose to be responsible on a daily basis, earning money, so we can travel and take vacations whenever and wherever we want to.

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