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Over the past few years, digital nomadism has become increasingly popular. More and more people seem to be announcing a desire to explore the world on a full-time basis, choosing to abandon their desk job, find freelancing work, and set off around the world with no definitive end date in mind.
There’s no doubt that digital nomadism has its benefits, but for many people who may be inspired by such stories, there is an immediate concern: is it possible to be a digital nomad with kids?
The age factor
When considering if it is possible to travel the world full-time even with a family, perhaps the most important factor is the age of the child (or children) in question. For those with preschool children, digital nomadism is usually a more attainable goal – there’s no school authority to deal with, and traveling will enrich their children’s lives as they grow.
For those with children who are of school age, the problem is more complex. One way to manage the situation is to essentially “home school” from various locations across the world; an undertaking that is made possible by the plethora of materials such as math worksheets and even practice exam papers that are available online. Such a strategy can be combined with regular tutoring at various destinations; a move that many digital nomads with children find to be very successful, and which can ensure children are able to reintegrate into the school system as and when required.
Teenagers, however, can be more difficult to travel with. By the age of 14 or so, teenagers will usually be expected to sit exams, which can make consistently travelling around the world far tougher. However, tutors in various cities can also help to offset this; a child does not need to be enrolled in a school to take standard exams, so this remains an option.
Ultimately, we can conclude that it’s possible to be a digital nomad with children of any age – though the older children are, the more work may be required to find suitable tutors across the world.
The judgement factor
One thing that all digital nomad parents seem to have to deal with is judgement for their choices. Most people are socialised to see the standard schooling method as the only way to educate a child, and that outside of formal education, learning is next-to-impossible.
Dealing with this judgement can be challenging, but it is something more digital nomad parents learn to overcome in time – especially when their children are clearly flourishing, managing well with parent-led teaching techniques and study sessions with tutors across the globe. It is just helpful for anyone contemplating this kind of lifestyle switch to be aware that others may not see the decision as sensible or understandable, and to be ready for any criticisms that they receive.
The earnings factor
Unless an individual has independent wealth, digital nomadism is always reliant on the ability to earn money on the go – and it’s fair to say that digital nomad parents have to earn more than their childless contemporaries. Wherever you are in the world, raising children can be expensive, and families that intend to return to their home country at a certain point will also need to accrue and maintain a nest egg that will allow them to resettle when the time comes.
Anyone contemplating digital nomadism thus needs to think about the amount of money they will be able to earn while travelling the world. For most, this means transitioning to a freelance income for a few years before selling their home or giving notice on their rental property in order to travel the world. Whatever type of freelance work is chosen, a strong and sustainable customer base is crucial, as is the need to develop a reputation that will keep work flowing in.
As a result of the above, it is unfortunate to have to say that only those who work in certain occupations can realistically consider digital nomadism. While a huge number of jobs can now be done without a fixed location, some – such as retail – remain solidly rooted to a certain geographical location.
There is, however, hope. If you currently work in an occupation that requires you to be on-site every day, then freelancing-reliant digital nomadism may be a stretch right now, but it might be a feasible choice in the future. You could assess your existing skills and decide how you could market those skills as a freelancer. For example, if your day job has allowed you to develop your way with words, freelance writing could be worth considering, or anyone with tech prowess could look into coding or web development. As your experience and expertise grows, you can then look to build a business that would allow you to transition to a digital nomad lifestyle.
The start-up cost factor
Finally, transitioning to life as a digital nomad tends to be rather expensive, so most digital nomad parents tend to advise that parents should have “backup funds” that can be used during the first few months. This can mean a long period of saving is required before setting off on your worldwide adventure.
However, the same advice is also offered to any digital nomad – regardless of whether or not they have children. You may want to have a slightly larger amount than, say, a childless couple would need, because you have at least one other person to consider, but for those committed to digital nomadism, this is rarely much of a concern. Perhaps it means a few extra months of saving, but then they can be completely ready to embrace an entirely different type of lifestyle.
So, is it possible to be a digital nomad when you have kids?
As we have seen, there are a number of factors that any parent considering digital nomadism will have to consider, with schooling and the ability to earn while travelling perhaps the most significant. However, as many digital nomad parents have proven, it is possible to enjoy this popular lifestyle along with their kids, and many go on to note that they feel life as a digital nomad has been inherently beneficial to their children’s development. If you feel it is right for your family, and you can make the logistics work, then it is absolutely possible to be a digital nomad when you have children.