The psychology of being a digital nomad

By Darian Mavandad
May 17, 2022
6 min read
Van in front of ocean

I was one of the first graduating classes to enter the workforce during a pandemic. Upon graduation, I found myself in a very different corporate landscape than 2019 graduates, and navigating this brave new world was a bit different. I won’t go into the challenges of entering the workforce during a pandemic in this blog, but I will share my experiences with being a digital nomad, as travel slowly opened up in late 2021 and early 2022, and my job at IC remained remote.

Pre-pandemic, being a digital nomad was something reserved for a very small portion of the working population (around 6%), but obviously, that number is exponentially larger now (around 33%). Both employees and employers need to understand the many benefits, and roadblocks, of the digital nomadic lifestyle for workers to really take advantage of the modern-day work environment. Let’s dive right in and outline a few of those, as I share a bit of my own experience. 

What is a digital nomad? 

A digital nomad is someone who is untethered to a physical location to perform their job. With a laptop, a phone, and a good wireless connection, they are able to telecommute in to work from anywhere in the world and perform their duties just as efficiently and productively. One of the first instances of digital nomad-ship I saw in the real world, was this article in Refinery29’s “Money Diaries” blog, about a totally remote salesperson who performed her duties from Lisbon. I was 18 at the time of the article’s publication, and dreamt that one day I’d be able to have a similar experience…little did I know…

My experience with being a digital nomad 

When I first started at IC, in late 2021, travel was slowly starting to open up, and I wanted to take advantage of both remote work and the newly re-found ease of travel. Plus, having been a student for the last 4 years, I knew all too well how to work productively out of public spaces, such as libraries or cafes. 

Soon after falling into my routine at IC, and becoming self-sufficient at completing my tasks, I packed my laptop, phone, and a change of clothes, and flew down to the Bay Area. My friends and I rented an Airbnb just north of San Francisco, in a quiet coastal town, where each of us had our own little space to set up our traveling workstations. For the next 3 weeks, I would work from 9-5 (what was nice about this trip was that I was in the same time zone as the rest of the IC office, which is also on the West Coast), and spend the evenings exploring San Francisco, Marin, and the beauty of Northern Cali. 

During my 3 weeks of being a digital nomad, I learned a few things. One, I really missed my 27-inch monitor (looking at large spreadsheets on a 14” screen is a bit cramped), two, I didn’t feel like I was really missing out on anything even though I was miles away from our HQ, which brings me to my third point: IC’s decades of experience in the internal comms space meant the company knew how to make me feel like part of the team even with the physical distance between us. 

My remote workstation is set up on a park bench!

Could you be a digital nomad? 

Digital nomads usually have white-collar occupations, where the labor is more computer-based. An electrician, for example, might not be able to use Zoom for his appointments the same way an HR Analyst might. 

There is, also, of course, the matter of your employer’s expectations. As of this blog’s publication, many companies are transitioning back into a hybrid or onsite work model, and the loss of totally remote work has led to a slew of resignations; most notably, the Director of Machine Learning at Apple citing the loss of remote work as the reason for his resignation

Finally, consider your own psyche. We’ll get into the benefits and disadvantages of being a digital nomad in a second, but think of your own values. Are you someone who benefits from a structured daily routine? Is the stress of travel overwhelming? Do you enjoy your in-office days and seeing your team in person? If you find yourself answering “yes”, this lifestyle is not for you—at least not permanently. 

How internal comms empowered my digital nomad experience

With our intranet, called ICONIC at IC, I could share my team’s victories with everyone in the company, and felt like was constantly “in the loop”. Furthermore, with excellent use of Teams and Slack,  I was reachable to my team and vice-versa. I could efficiently and effectively communicate to my boss and coworkers—and, being the extrovert that I am, was even able to have community-building small talk with various IC teammates and really get to know all my coworkers on a personal level. In terms of community and culture, I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything while working totally remotely…however, there are some cons to consider when deciding if you want to have your own digital nomad experience. 

Some things to keep in mind as a digital nomad

First and foremost, the biggest barrier to entry for becoming a digital nomad is cost. There are a lot of costs, from accommodation, to travel, to international cell phone plans, to the simple fact that being away from home = more frequent dining out. Of course, here are some great resources for being a digital nomad on a budget, and I urge you to check them out if costs are your main point of concern. 

Additionally, not everyone’s organization has a structured internal comms plan that ensures that remote workers won’t feel isolated. If you think you are part of an organization that falls into that category, hope is not lost! IC not only provides state-of-the-art intranet software solutions, but by working with us, you also gain access to our team of internal communications experts who are eager to guide you through the way to better internal comms. And once your executive teams see how much money you can save them with IC’s solution, they’ll be more than happy to let you live that digital nomad lifestyle! 

Take the first step and book your free demo here today!

By Darian Mavandad

Darian has a degree from McGill University, and joined IC to empower internal communicators by creating content that inspires. In his free time, he loves traveling, reading, and skiing.