Ask 100 digital nomads about their routine and you’ll get 100 different answers. Your routine as a digital nomad will depend on many things:
- What sort of work you do
- Whether you’re an early bird or night owl
- How you choose to travel
- Whether you work from where you live, a co-working space, a coffee shop, etc.
- Whether you work, then travel, or work and travel.
Just to complicate things a bit more, your routine will necessarily change as you travel. Sometimes this is a small change, but other times it’s a larger one. I’ll talk a little about my routine in a minute, but let’s start by looking at some other digital nomads and their routines.
Travel there, work here
Bradley Williams blogs at Dream Big, Travel Far.
Though this is meant to be about our “typical routine”, we don’t actually have a typical routine! Some might consider that a bad thing, but for us it seems to work well. When we’re away we aim for at least 4-5 hours of working a day, and sometimes that will come first thing in the day and sometimes at the end of the day, before eating dinner and after a busy day spent exploring.
Along with my partner Cazzy, we run our travel blog aimed at budget backpackers and type 1 diabetics. When we’re back home, we aim to work upwards of 8 hours a day, in an attempt to catch up on any content production we fell behind on when away. But I put heavy focus on 2 things I really enjoy when back home, which I don’t get to do when away. The first is seeing friends and family, and the second is hitting the gym.
A good point to make is that we know longer look at a work week in the way we used to when living and working back home in England. There are no such things as “weekends”, as we’ve created what we to be the perfect lifestyle and I don’t live for the weekend. Instead, we work hard and play hard 7 days a week and absolutely love it! We started more than 2 years ago and have recently gone full time at the blog as its making a sizeable income, which is awesome! But prior to this we spent a year supplementing our income as freelance travel writers. I’d say that on average we now spend up to 9 months of the year travelling.
All about those bases
Daniel James from Layer Culture is a cultural traveller born in the United Kingdom who dedicates his time to exploring and learning about life in Latin America.
When I first began to travel with my backpack and work from my laptop I was travelling so randomly that I could never get into a routine. I’d tried many random digital nomad jobs and after finding my forte; the biggest pet peeves I have has become 1. Finding the best Internet connection – it has to be fast, and 2. If in a hot country, looking for a cool place with good ventilation – if it’s too bloody hot, I can’t get into work mode.
The rest for me is just plane sailing with my laptop. After a year of ups and downs running an online service business on the road, I decided to travel more strategically. So now my overall routine consists of three to four set bases that I go back to every year. I see this as a routine which helps me work on set projects or specific areas of the business. Random travel is something for backpackers. As a digital nomad once I got past the honeymoon phase, I began to realise that some locations are just not adequate for my online endeavours.
Work at night and sleep during day
We all have pivotal moments in our lives. I had mine almost seven years ago when I got fed up with climbing the corporate ladder. I always dreamed of traveling, so why not make it permanent? Luckily, my husband fully supported the idea.
First time in SE Asia, I was shocked and the first couple weeks were far from happiest time in my life. Gradually, things got better. Having a freelance background is a massive advantage for transitioning into a digital nomad. The big help was settling into an everyday working routine. Our daily schedule stays the same regardless of geographical location. However, beginning and end of the working days do fluctuate. Since the client’s site doesn’t change, moving, for example, between the Americas and Asia means that our working day slides up to 12 hours. Result? An “upside” schedule: we work nights and sleep during the day. Hence, we both prefer to work from home.
Eventually, we adopted a slow travel nomadic lifestyle: staying in one place for 3-4 months, working 5 days, exploring our temporary home country or region on weekends and after work. Perhaps, it’s not for everybody, but I love it and would never go back.
‘Roughly 9 to 5’
Renee travels to a new country every month and runs a digital nomad blog called Renee the Wanderess to give advice about the nomadic lifestyle.
I generally do paid work or other “productive” stuff (like planning or booking my travels) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on a roughly 9 to 5 schedule. I spend the rest of my time on day trips, outings, or generally wandering and experiencing whatever location I’m in, and those days are different every single time! I think keeping some days special for travel and others for work helps maintain the work/life balance and make it possible to travel and work long term– and be satisfied in both areas, without feeling like you’re missing out or forgetting to do something.
‘Whenever I feel like it, for the most part’
My first draft of this piece talked about the ‘9 to 5’ and the irony of keeping to that schedule when I’m completely free to set my own.
I don’t work from 9 to 5. I get up between 11am and noon, make some coffee, then get started on whatever needs doing. Most serious work is done by dinner time, and after that it’s time to make some stuff or get creative. Sometimes, the best creative work is done after midnight, but really it’s whenever I feel like it, for the most part.
In general, my wife and I will both work Monday to Friday, leaving Saturdays and Sundays open for exploring where we are. We’ll change it up sometimes to fit the places we want to visit — not every place is open on the weekends, as one example. For out-of-town trips, we’ll carve out a three-day weekend to explore a different city.
Over to you
What does your digital nomad routine look like?