Trade-offs we make as digital nomads

“Everything is a trade-off I suppose,” said the gal on the phone. I was perched on the edge of the bed in an Airbnb while she spoke softly behind the closed door of her office. She wants to be a digital nomad too, and we were talking about how to make it happen.

We talked about trade-offs a lot in that conversation. I thought about trade-offs when I posted this photo the other day.


Florida Keys office

Our office for the day at Long Key State Park in the Florida Keys. Beautiful, but humid and filled with bugs. And our time-sensitive work got interrupted by a (super nice) couple from North Carolina who wanted to chat.


Everyone knows you have to give things up to get what you want. For Chris and I, we want to be able to say:

If we found out we only had one year to live, we wouldn’t change how we’re living our lives.

That’s the goal we’re always striving toward, knowing it’s not 100 percent attainable. (If I only had a year to live, I wouldn’t give an eff about calories, for example.) So you make decisions, and trade-offs, with that goal in mind.

Does this [purchase / gig / investment / pause / detour / wild idea] bring us closer to that goal?

This takes discipline. And it’s not always easy. So I thought we’d share some of the trade-offs we’ve made to become digital nomads in the spirit of honesty and helping others decide whether this is the path for them.

Trade-off #1: We’re isolated from our peers

Many of our friends are climbing the career ladder. Or if they’re not, they just have different priorities and lives. While we can listen, we can’t really commiserate about public transit fails or lack of PTO or office politics.

We’re even isolated from non-peers: older people don’t understand how we can work without sitting in a cubicle and just think we’re unemployed.

But here’s what we get: a different perspective, especially since we’ve done time in a traditional work setting too. We get to help other people figure out how to break out and learn from us, which is really rewarding. It’s nice to be the friends you get in touch with when you need a totally different viewpoint.

And, to be totally honest, it’s nice to not say, “Oh, same old, same old,” when people ask what we’re up to.

Trade-off #2: We don’t just take work home, we take it everywhere

When everywhere is your office, everywhere is your office. When we get to a new place, we can’t just be tourists. Which is why we had our laptops out while on the beach in the Keys. I’ve flipped the car around mid-route because I needed cell service for a scheduled call; Chris has had to reroute product deliveries multiple times because we keep changing locations. We’ve speed-walked through the end of a hike in order to make it back to meet a deadline.

But here’s what we get: the ability to do a conference call while strolling by Art Deco buildings in South Beach.


Art Deco 4


Art Deco 2


Art Deco 1


Art Deco 3


We don’t have to commute, and we don’t have to worry about business attire. We also don’t have to worry about face time in an office: we carve out the time needed to do work, and then we’re done.

Trade-off #3: Our work is less predictable

Anyone who is self-employed will say this, even if they’re not nomadic. Our cash flow and the number of hours we work in a day ebb and flow. Sometimes we’ll have a fun activity planned for the day, and a call will get rescheduled right in the middle of it. We’re learning to go with the flow and that it’s just part of the territory.

But here’s what we get: the ability to be in new places all the time without taking time off. We also have the benefit of variety — no work day is the same. And during the slower times, we have the freedom to experiment with different projects.

For us, the trade-offs are worth it. But everyone is different! We hope this is helpful for anyone trying to decide if being a digital nomad is right for them.

As for being a digital nomad while living in a van, that’s a post for another day…


Holly smilingHolly says hi. She’s still kickin’, although she’s starting to slow down. The fact that we’re spoiling her with too many treats might not be helping.


Gator swimming to shore

Why did the alligator swim to shore?


Gator hostage

To scare the crap out of this family!


Gators sunbathing

A couple gators napping in Paynes Prairie Preserve


Manatee smooch

Showing some love to a gentle giant, the manatee


Manatees Blue Spring State Park

A couple manatees in a spring; they all had scars from boat propellers 🙁


Spawning fish

Spawning fish


Holly snuggled with Chris

Our snuggle dog


Frog on Red Delicious

Red Delicious made a new friend!


Long Key dinner

Tacos and beer at our campsite in the Keys


Long Key State Park 1

Long Key State Park


Big Bug

A big, weird looking bug


Holly and her bone

Holly prefers to stay out of the sun and chew her bone in the van


Chris fire

Chris is the official fire-tender


Anastasia sunset

A foggy sunset at Anastasia State Park



Washed onto shore



Hello, Georgia!

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