It’s the biggest cliché of the digital nomad lifestyle – the image of a laptop on a towel or sun-lounger on a beautiful tropical beach somewhere. These glossy images, which look almost like they come from holiday brochures, are plastered all over digital nomad lifestyle blogs. They glamorise the lifestyle and they make it seem like the digital nomad lifestyle consists of nothing but lying in the sunshine, sipping fruit smoothies and occasionally Tweeting a photo of your suntanned legs.
Don’t get me wrong, being able to switch up your working location is one of the perks of the digital nomad lifestyle. I love the fact that I can work in coffee shops, hammocks, beach chairs and trains all over the world. I adore the flexibility that allowed me to spend the last week in Edinburgh enjoying the Fringe Festival – just because I wanted to.
However, have you ever actually tried to work on your laptop on a beach? It’s actually a pain in the neck.
I’ve tried it a few times while I was in Southeast Asia, trying to kill two birds with one stone and work on my tan while writing articles for clients. Working on the beach might be the “dream” that 9-5ers envision when they think of the digital nomad lifestyle, but in reality it’s not so great.
First of all, when was the last time you saw a beach with Wifi access? Secondly, the glare from the sunshine causes everything on your laptop screen to become invisible, so you have to hide under a beach umbrella or squint until your eyes ache. Sand gets in the crevices of your keyboard and the heat causes your poor computer to overheat. Yes, although a beach office sounds glamorous, it’s actually not the best place to work.
However, the sand, heat and lack of Wifi is not the biggest reason why I grew to dislike working on the beach. The major reason is that it puts you in a position where you are not quite working, yet not quite relaxing and therefore not enjoying any of the benefits of either.
Put it this way:
I discovered that thanks to all of the distractions, I usually am about half as productive when I work on the beach.
Let’s say that on a given day, I have three hours worth of work to complete. This means that I could spend six hours sitting on the beach, squinting my eyes at the laptop, feeling anti-social and getting annoyed that I can’t run and frolic with the others in the sand.
Or, I could spend three hours knuckling down with my headphones on in a cafe or in the hotel room, really concentrating on my work. Then I would be able to spend the next three hours actually enjoying the beach, going for a swim and talking to Lee.
Trust me, the second option is a lot better.
Being a digital nomad doesn’t mean that your work is easier or more fun. The work is still work and you still need to do it, or you won’t make any money. The digital nomad lifestyle might appear to others like you are on holiday in Bangkok, Bali, Bermuda or Budapest all the time, but the truth is that you haven’t won the lottery – you still need to work for a living.
Emailing clients, writing articles, updating the blog – my job is the same wherever in the world I am sitting. However, the difference is that when I finish, I can spend the rest of my day exploring ancient temples, eating spicy street food, marvelling at medieval churches, going hiking in the wilderness and meeting new friends. While most people will only get two weeks of holiday on the beach in a year, I can spend as long as I want there while continuing to earn money and build my career.
This is why I resist the temptation to try to work and play at the same time – ultimately doing neither. Instead, I set myself up in the best and most productive working environment I can find and do my best to tune out distractions so that I can get stuff done.
It means that I have to put my headphones in and politely discourage conversation with friendly and interesting travellers while in a hostel environment, or hide away in a hotel room when the sun is shining. However, as soon as hit send on my last email of the day I am free to enjoy every minute of the beautiful destination I am in.
Have you ever tried to work on the beach? Where are you most productive? Let us know your digital nomad lifestyle tips in the comments.