Digital Nomads are SO Tired of Hearing This Question

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 focus on having fun. Then, when they get home it’s back to work.

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 doing cool stuff in my free time.

I have a great work life balance and I have a lot of amazing experiences in my downtime, including 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 8 years.

I explain that it is my freelance writing work that allows us to go wherever we want, for as long as we want. I explain that I have managed to find a way that I can pursue my dream career AND my dream of traveling the world at the same time.

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!

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.

I suppose my job now involves working from hammocks, so I might appear lazy…

I’ve heard many freelancers who work from home 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. Often, the work that freelancers do is invisible and not taken seriously, because it doesn’t happen in an office, during set times, under the supervision of a boss.

However, even though we don’t work in a cubicle, freelancers are often busy as hell! 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?

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.

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12 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.

  3. Maybe you need to hang around more boaters. When I’m working in my cockpit and explain to people that I work while cruising, they respond with, “Hey, that’s neat.”

    But maybe that’s because people who live on boats are always working at something, whether they get paid for it or not. 🙂

  4. Oh wow! Yes, I can see how that type of question would get so annoying. I’m not working nomadically (yet!) but I do work freelance from home and it’s still such a struggle to get people to understand it’s a real job. Just the other day, we were talking with my partner’s family and someone said, “Oh yeah, that would give Riana something to do during the day.” Ugh, it was so infuriating. I work during the day just like everyone else even if it doesn’t look like what you think a real job should.

    https://teaspoonofadventure.com/

    1. Hi Riana,

      Wow, yeah that would be really frustrating to hear people say that you need something to do during the day, when you already have a job you are working on during the day! It really invalidates what you do and the hard work you put in.

      What was your response when that comment was made?

      -Kelly

  5. The one I hate is where do you live…..I say here in Medellin Colombia right now, they say no where do you really live….I live here this month…….but where in the US they say…I say…..I guess I was born in Pittsburgh is the best answer I can come up with thus far, maybe say storage unit of my stuff is in Denver although I dont consider that my home necessarily.

  6. Really well put Kelly.
    I think it’s important to remember just how lucky we are to be able to live this lifestyle.
    It’s a privilege that not many people enjoy.
    It depends on so many aspects that many people don’t have access to; a passport that allows them easy travel, friends or family with squattable postboxes and the cash to hit the road in the first place.

    Always be gracious to those you meet who aren’t so lucky 🙂

  7. I’ve done a handful of freelance job when I was younger before I decided to work on a full time office job.. but those years I’ve spend being freelance are the best years of my life. Maybe I just want to experience working in an office and learning things from other people on the company and It’s challenging yet its fulfilling but I’m still currently doing some freelance job once in a while.

  8. Luckily when I explain what I do I’m usually met with amazement so I haven’t had anyone treat me with pity – maybe women are more likely to not have their freelance work taken seriously? 🙁 But I do get assumptions that I should be touring all the time – like a hotel that insists on cleaning my room while I’m out when I don’t want any housekeeping, and I have to explain that I might not even go out. I find some questions bothersome because they’re hard to answer, and don’t fit into most people’s preconceptions. Like, “where did you come from”, “where are you going”, “where do you live” can get complicated. Also, when I’m scheduling something and the other person is like, “How’s Saturday?” And I have to look up what date that is because I don’t think in days of the week. And they just keep doing it out of habit even when you ask them to use dates. ^^; It can make you feel out of synch with the world.

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