Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done. Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.
By now everyone has heard of digital nomads, you might be thinking that all that travel doesn’t really sound very appealing. Which is why so many are now talking about digital nomad vs. digital slomad. I’ve been on the border of digital slomad and expat for well over a decade and want to share with you 8 reasons to be a digital slomad.
Table of Contents
- First, What’s a Digital Nomad?
- OK, So What’s A Digital Slomad Then?
- 1. The Pandemic has Made Being a Digital Slomad Easier
- 2. Spend Less Money With the Digital Slomad Lifestyle
- 3. Slomadding Helps the Environment
- 4. Slow Travel Will Help Maintain Your Routines
- 5. Make Deeper Connections as a Slomad
- 6. You Have More Time For the Language & Culture
- 7. Less Is More: Travel Slower But Explore More
- 8. Slomad to Recover From Burnout
- Final Thoughts – Look For The Longer Visa
First, What’s a Digital Nomad?
The nomadic way of life was used by shepherding and herding communities for millennia, allowing animals to graze on grasslands and then moving on when the land was depleted. Swap out the sheep for laptops and the skin tents for cozy accommodation and you have a digital nomad.
A digital nomad is location independent, meaning they can work from any location, this frees them up to travel as much or as little as they like.
Most digital nomads make their living online, either as a remote worker, a freelancer or business owner.
OK, So What’s A Digital Slomad Then?
A digital slomad is a digital nomad that isn’t in a hurry to get from place to place. This usually means they spend longer stretches in one place, they may stay in one town for a year or more before moving on to the next place. It can also mean they travel more slowly, opting to take a few months moving from one location to the next staying in different places along the way rather than flying directly to their next location.
1. The Pandemic has Made Being a Digital Slomad Easier
This report on the effects of the pandemic on air travel published April 2020 reported that 80% of flights were cancelled globally. Though the situation has changed a lot since then, we are still seeing less flights, less passengers and various restrictions on who can travel.
All of this means that until we are completely out of the pandemic and life is back to ‘normal,’ travelling will continue to be more difficult than it was in the past.
And that’s just the starting point, the truth is that with the constantly changing rules over quarantine on arrival, visas, vaccine & testing requirements etc. now is just not the best time to be constantly changing location.
Luckily though there is a great alternative, slowing down and taking a bit more time to stay in one place can be just as rewarding as staying on the move. You just need the right frame of mind.
2. Spend Less Money With the Digital Slomad Lifestyle
Digital nomads have many of the same expenses as everyone else, they have to pay for food and accommodation and other typical living expenses. But the constant travel can be a drain on the digital nomads funds. Flights, trains and taxis, they are rarely budget friendly.
Choosing to stay in one location for a long period can help to mitigate this. First, the fewer places you travel to the less you need to spend on flights etc. You could spend two months in a country and move on, that would mean at least six international flights a year. On the other hand you could spend a year in one place and it would mean only one.
Moving more slowly can also be more cost effective, rather than taking a flight, you might be able to find a bus route that will take you over the border. Other slomads may even decide to walk or cycle part of their journey, setting up camp or finding guesthouses along the way. Nothing beats walking when you’re on a budget!
I recently made a comparison of the monthly expenses living as a digital nomad in 3 different locations. Deciding to become a digital slomad would see these numbers reduced as you saved money on travel.
3. Slomadding Helps the Environment
According to this report by the ICCT
- Air travel accounts for 2.4% of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere each year.
- Prior to the pandemic (which saw flights grounded for months over 2020 and 2021) CO2 from air travel had increased 32% over 5 years.
As even the shortest of flights dump close to a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere, anything we can do to reduce the number of flights we take each year can make a real difference.
A flight from London to San Francisco for example, gives off more CO2 than the average family car, although trains are an even better choice.
Adopting a slomad, rather than nomad lifestyle, will naturally reduce your carbon footprint. Less travel equals less travel. But can slomadding be better than that? Does being a slomad allow for more time to make better decisions about how you travel?
Let’s face it, the actual traveling is probably the least fun part of being a digital nomad of any kind. Packing, buying tickets, getting visas and rushing to the airport to be squeezed into a plane for a few hours. It’s understandable that most people just want to get it over and done with as quickly as possible.
They get online, find a cheap flight, book it and put it to the back of their minds while exploring what few days they have left where they are.
But if we slowed down, could we make better decisions?
Rather than rushing to book that flight while the wifi is still working, what if we took some more time. If we had enough time we could get to know locals who might offer good suggestions of places nearby that don’t require a flight. There may be a train service that goes somewhere you had never even considered, or a boat that takes you to a neighboring country.
In China, I spent some time in Yun Nan, south China. There are a few places that the tourists and the foreigners tend to visit and it was tempting to just follow the beaten path and spend a short time in each. Instead though we decided to take our time, we found a nice spot to stay in the old-town of Dali. While we were there we heard about Lugu Lake, one of the last matriarchal societies left on the planet and a stunningly peaceful place to stay.
We traversed the most dangerous mountain roads I had ever seen through thick fog and heavy heavy rain to get there. The driver was silent with his nose up against the windshield and we were tense in the car, straining to see the edge of the mountain or cars coming the other way through the fog.
When the clouds broke the first thing we saw was the sun shining off a still blue lake. The view was unbelievable and the a huge relief to us all. We stopped the car and took photos before finishing the journey there.
The options are always there but sometimes we have to slow down to see them.
4. Slow Travel Will Help Maintain Your Routines
I love my routine! If I don’t have my routine I just don’t feel right, and every part of my life suffers for it.
Slow Down And Improve Your Working Routine
When I’m in a new place the first thing I want to do is to establish a new working routine. Staying productive is the key to being able to maintain a digital nomad life and so a strong work routine is essential.
That might mean finding a great cafe nearby with good WiFi, accessible power and great coffee, though it could just mean setting up a working space in your place to be productive.
Traveling Less Often Means A More Consistent Workout Routines
Working out is a key feature of my everyday routine, it needs to be planned for, a workout that needs a last minute decision, usually doesn’t happen. You need to know where the local gym is and how and when you’re going to get there. If you run you need to know have a good idea of your route so you don’t get lost. Or if you workout at home you need to have any equipment prepared in advance.
I have 8 great workout ideas for digital nomads in this post if you need some inspiration.
Sightseeing Routine – Slow Down And See More
One of the reasons for digital nomad travel is because you want to see the places you visit. You don’t want to spend 6 months in Beijing and realize that you never saw The Great Wall.
Aside from work, there are other routines that need to be maintained such as hobbies or new skills you are learning. Moving to a new place can sometimes kill my juggling practice if the ceilings are not high enough, it can take a while to find a suitable space and get back into my routine.
Each time you move around these routines get reset and need to be recreated. Slow travel makes this a whole lot easier.
5. Make Deeper Connections as a Slomad
Maintaining relationships can be hard as a digital nomad. Staying connected with friends back home can be challenging and making new ones on the road even more so.
Slowing down and taking more time to get to know the people you encounter along the way can help to remedy this. When you stay in one location longer you give yourself a better chance of making a lasting relationship. Relationships are built on trust and time. If you meet someone one night and are moving on the day week, there is no way you can build that trust, because trust takes time.
For the slower digital nomad community however, we get to see someone again and again over the course of a year (or how ever long) in one place, there is time for a real friendship to grow. You’re more likely to stay connected with them after you have moved on too.
Being a slomad gives you that possibility of creating friendships all over the world which gives you good reasons to travel back to those places in the future. Nothing beats seeing an old friend after some time apart.
6. You Have More Time For the Language & Culture
After 3 months in Tianjin I thought I had a handle on the culture. I could speak enough Chinese to get by and no longer felt lost and disorientated as I did when I first arrived. After 6 months I realized how little I really knew at 3 months but was sure that I then had a good understanding of how things worked.
Fast forward 5 years and I finally accepted that regardless of how much I got to know the people and the culture here, there was still so much more to learn.
The same is true where ever you go, if you’re interested in learning about the language or culture of a place the only way to do it is to slow down and take some time. Talk to the people there and read. Make some real connections instead of surface level smiley miscommunication nodding all the while. You can do it but you need to put in the time to make it happen.
If you still haven’t made up your mind check out Should I Learn the Language to help you decide if it’s time for you to learn the language.
7. Less Is More: Travel Slower But Explore More
Traveling slowly means you don’t see as many places but you see more of each place you visit.
A week is great for a holiday but if you really want to get a feel for a place it’s going to take time. Say you want to go to Phuket, Thailand. A week wont even give you enough time to see the tourist spots, let alone everything else there. The beaches, the islands, the old town, the Big Buddha, the markets, the restaurants and bars, the countryside, mountains and shopping.
If you really want to see what a place has to offer you need to slow down and take your time.
8. Slomad to Recover From Burnout
Traveling is stressful, buying tickets, getting visas, taking planes and trains, finding new accommodation and the endless cycle of packing and unpacking. Constant travel can take a toll and lead to burnout.
If you feel that you are less productive, feeling stressed or anxious or just not enjoying the nomad experience, it may be time to slow down. Find a place you can stay for a while and settle in for the winter (or summer.) Becoming a digital slomad can help you reset. You have time to relax and recharge mentally. Time to become productive and time to reassess your priorities and what you want for the future.
Final Thoughts – Look For The Longer Visa
I hope this list for the slomad lifestyle has made you consider it. Of course, finding the right visa is key if you want to stay somewhere long term. I am currently creating a comprehensive guide for the whole travel community including visa duration, safety index and other factors to help you make the best decision on your next place to stay!