Work v Play: The Digital Nomad Lifestyle Requires Self-Discipline

Dear Travel Diary,

Last night I booked a room in the Lisbon area. My month here in the North of Portugal is nearly done. I haven’t been to many places or done much during my time here because I spend my weeks working. The digital nomad lifestyle requires discipline. I only allow myself the luxury of sightseeing on the weekends.

I think a lot of people don’t understand how the digital nomad lifestyle works or how much self-control is required when you are a nomad living at a location other people consider a holiday destination. Sometimes when the weather is nice it can be very tempting to stop work and enjoy, but that’s a slippery slope that can ruin your business.

When I lived in Valencia, I needed a lot of self discipline. It was okay when I was in my room writing. It always felt pretty cool inside. Things got harder if I went and stood on the balcony and when I made my daily trip to the shops. There was a supermarket underneath, the apartment, so I didn’t need to go far. I’d walk down the stairs, open the door, and… suddenly it was summer. Seriously, as far as the weather goes, Valencia has a better climate than any place I’ve been so far.

It’s been a nice day here today. There hasn’t been many of those since I arrived, but I was good and kept working. Then the parents of the man who owns the apartment came to check on me and see I was okay. They are a nice couple. The guy is always inviting me to eat with them or do other activities, even though we can barely communicate because I don’t speak Portuguese and he doesn’t speak English. I have to rely on the similarities between Spanish and Portuguese and try and get by with Spanish. Today he opened the doors, stepped out onto the balcony, spread his arms to the sun and said, “Sol!”. Then he pointed to the chairs and tables in the courtyard below. I’d seen them before but never really thought much about it. The apartment is above a cafeteria and the courtyard is the outside seating area. “Café ,” he said pointing down. “Café! Vamo sa!” I’ve refused so many invitations in the past, I didn’t want to be rude, so I went and had a coffee with him and his wife. He wanted to buy me something to eat, but I wasn’t hungry, and the offer of a francesinha was particularly unappealing. I ate francesinha in Porto, didn’t like it, and vowed never again.

He and his wife were going for a walk on the beach. They wanted me to go along, and he emphasized the word their intent with a marching action. I replied by doing a typing action with my fingers and said, “Necesito trabajar.” It would have been nice to walk on the beach. It’s so close I can always hear the sound of the sea when I’m in the apartment. I’m often tempted to take a stroll, but weekdays are workdays for me. I can be a little flexible if I want, but I only skip work for special events that don’t happen at weekends.

The Gouda Cheese market is a good example. It’s only held on Thursdays. Last year I wanted to go so I took a day off and went. That was an exception and, although there have been others, they are few and far between. It can be hard to sit behind a computer all day when the sun is shining brightly in the sky, but I will have plenty of opportunities to walk on the beach on the weekends. The digital nomad lifestyle may not be one big, long holiday but every day is a day in a different culture and that can be an exciting thing in itself.

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