Three years ago, I quit my job to start a business without thinking through the idea very much. Having very little savings, I knew that New York City was not somewhere I'd be able to afford to build my company. So I headed to Spain where I knew I could get an apartment for a few hundred dollars a month in a small village.
Since it was difficult to get a visa in Spain to stay long term, I then moved across borders to other locations like Romania where I knew I could afford to run my business. I stayed abroad for two years and it was an amazing experience, but here's why I've chosen to put down my passport this year.
Stability is important for business.
I recently bought a bathmat for my apartment in NYC and realized my current living situation is the most stability I've had in years--and it felt nice. Digital nomad life was exhilarating, but it was also very stressful and unpredictable. Having to reorient yourself to a new city can be both draining and distracting when you're trying to run a company.
Constantly country hopping can take its toll when you're always having to say goodbye to friends, relationships and colleagues. Each time I'd leave, I'd have a very stressful two week period of tying up lose ends and saying goodbyes. Simply changing locations can eat away your time as you find new apartment and orient yourself to a new local. Instead of having more time and freedom--I started to feel like time for my business was being cannibalized by moves and changes. Not only were constant changes eating up time where I could be focusing on work, but it was also causing uncessary stress. This stress impacted both my productivity and also negatively effected my health--another toll on my business.
If I were to digital nomad again in the future, I'd pick one location to stay for a year and make it my base. Then if I were to travel throughout the year I'd have a stable home to come back to. When building a business, think about how having stability can help you grow your business even further.
Your client pipeline might dry up.
There was a point when I was in Korea where I realized my client pipeline had started to dry up. Though I had been nurturing my network digitally, the lack of physical presence was starting to become apparent.
I love Korea and it's one of my favorite places on earth. But when I was living there it was very hard for me to do business without speaking the language. While there, I tried to learn the language and do business, but I did not have much success as I could never speak at at the level necessary to be taken seriously. Though I romantized the idea of doing business abroad, it was a better decision to come back home to increase my client load. Coming back home was the kick-start my business needed to flourish once again.
If you're able to sustain your current business, customers or clients, then digital nomadism could be a great option for you. But if you're struggling, it might be time to come back home.
It may be difficult to build strong relationships.
Both professionally and socially, having a stable home has helped me gain stronger connections with those around me. When I was a digital nomad, I was always leaving and forced to say goodbyes often. This can take a toll on your mental health when you don't have a supportive network around you.
Since coming back to New York, I've reestablished a community and have been even more productive than while I was traveling abroad. No matter if you're a digital nomad or based at home, it's important for a business owner to establish strong connections in their city. Not having a strong support network again contributed to increase stress that both effected my productiviety and also health.
When I announced I was moving back to New York City many people reached out saying "It's great you're back, now we can work together." Simply having a physical presence back in the states has lead to a number of new opportunities including new client contacts and design projects. I'm glad I've based myself back home this year.
If you're thinking of becoming a digital this year, thinking about how the travel could both positively and negatively effect your business. Then either grab or pack away that passport!