October 22


11 lessons learned in four years as a digital nomad

By Johannes Völkner

October 22, 2014

I’ve been travelling the world while working online for over four years now and I’ve learned many lessons along the way. Sure, as awesome as this lifestyle is, we run into many problems as well. The good news is that there are solutions to everyhing.

This is a small recap of the most important things that I’ve learned over the past few years as a digital nomad.

Good internet is almost everywhere.

I’ve heard people complaining about bad Wi-Fi so many times. However, you won’t have a problem finding a good connection in almost any tourist region of the world. Today, for many people, Wi-Fi is more important than a pool. Guesthouses and hostels are aware of this need but internet can be slow because everybody is sharing it. That’s why I also take my time to walk around any new destination and find a quiet café or public space where I can keep my focus and share the connection with fewer people. That said, it’s still a good idea to organise a mobile backup option on your first day, just in case.


I’m not a backpacker.

This one took me a long time to realise. I’ve always loved to travel and it was my main motivation for starting the life that I now live. But with time I discovered that it’s really difficult. Travelling backpacker-style is a part time job in itself. I would constantly lose focus and not have time to explore any new destinations.

That’s why I began to travel slowly, and stay longer in amazing cities like Rio de Janeiro so I could really appreciate the lifestyle that my work has allowed me to live and pursue my goals in a more realistic way.


Don’t start long stopovers with work

Many times when I got to a new city I just jumped on my laptop and continued to work on my projects without really taking the time to explore first. I thought I would have enough time to see and take in everything because I was staying longer.

I realised that I would have a much better time if I began every long stopover by getting to know the place, connecting with people, and organizing apartments before diving into personal projects.

good internet

You’ll have the best experiences if you get off the beaten track

One of the best things about being a digital nomad is that I can really take the time and get off the tourist track, because I’m not tied down to a 14 day vacation. Doing this doesn’t only mean that I’ll be able to have amazing experiences and really get to know a different culture but also save a lot of money.

The truth is that you don’t need to be rich to rent your own island for a week or experience amazing safaris. All you need to do is to be a bit more adventurous and find these kinds of opportunities to reap the rewards.


The best way to work and travel is to do it with other digital nomads

At the beginning of my travels I hardly ever met anyone who was on workation. While I met hundreds of great people on the road I found it difficult to juggle work and my free time.

This changed when I started Webworktravel. I met many nomads and we’ve been working together in many places around the world ever since. I found that the best way to fully enjoy this lifestyle is to travel with other nomads. Being able to bounce ideas off each other and work things out together is an incredible advantage to everyone and after we can do great things in our free time. I’d like you to experience the same which is why I’m inviting people to come on workation in Tarifa.


Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans

There have been many times when I was busier thinking about the next place I wanted to visit rather than actually enjoying the place I was visiting. While we should obviously make some plans about where to go next, I try to not think about it too much these days and actually enjoy all the advantages of this lifestyle.


Low Seasons in Europe rock

Coming from Europe I always had the feeling I needed to leave the continent to really enjoy my travels and had the knowledge that I could still check out Europe when I’m older. Only after travelling the world extensively did I become interested in seeing more of it, but I think I should have started to travel here much earlier. It’s full of amazing places and has an unparalleled diversity. It’s so easy to get around and in low season there are some great deals to be had. In the future I’ll make more use of what is on my doorstep so I don’t need to jump on the plane for 10 hours to attend a friend’s wedding.

pool pm

Sometimes life as a digital nomad just sucks

Everybody gets tired and feels terrible now and then, no matter who you are. Life on the road isn’t perfect every day, especially once you arrive in a new destination and need to build up your network. I’ve learned to accept the fact, knowing that it sometimes takes a few weeks until you can really feel comfortable, meet great people, and begin to enjoy being in a new city. If we accept that being a digital nomad isn’t always about fun but that there are hard and challenging times as well it will make things a lot easier once you’re there.

get off the track

Even a digital nomad needs a home base

How can you leave your comfort zone if you don’t have one? I think we all need one place we can call home. I didn’t have that place afer leaving Cape Town in 2010. In the beginning I just had too much fun on the road living a very minimalistic lifestyle but eventually this got tiring. After three years on the road I realised that I needed at least one place where I could always feel comfortable, a place I could call home. I thought that Berlin could be that base, so I moved there last summer. It didn’t quite convince me so I checked out Tarifa this year and liked the small town feel and things to do around the place a lot more.

tarifa sunset

Only visit places you can afford with a 30 hour work week

What’s the point of spending a workation in Bali if you don’t have the time to really appreciate where you are?  I think that the best way to enjoy our lifestyle is to not work more than 30 hours a week. A good work-life balance is important so I’ve chosen to only visit places where I can afford the quality of life I’d like to have.

life is what happens

Don’t overthink. Just do it.

Where shall I go next? Bali, low season in Spain, or Cape Town? Making decisions on where to go next can be tough once you have the freedom to work from anywhere you want.

I learned to not overcomplicate my travel decisions because at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter which amazing place you’ll be heading to next. It’s probably all going to be good whatever your decision is!

do it pm
You can’t buy happiness. But you can always buy a plane ticket.

Johannes Völkner

About the author

Founder of WebWorkTravel magazine

  • Thank you for the insights, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experiences. Did you ever come across families doing what you are doing?.

    All the best

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