Being a Digital Nomad pretty much dictates your laptop as your most valuable possession. We have little time for software updates, bugs or (if you’re faint-hearted avert your eyes now), breakages. As for theft… don’t even make us contemplate that! …Except do, because if we don’t think about it most of the time then the chances are it’ll happen sooner or later.
If you’re travelling with a community, you can be fairly confident that if anything untoward happens someone will *probably* have a backup that you can borrow until you find the nearest Apple or HP dealer // dodgy fake Apple maintenance store // anyone who has any knowledge whatsoever of laptops // someone to mule you a new one from another country.
Joking aside, if you don’t have a working laptop (or someone to lend you one), not only can you not work, you can’t support your team // colleagues // clients, and ultimately you are not going to get paid, and that leads to all sorts of other ‘inconveniences’.
This is serious business.
But this ascension of the humble laptop in the eyes of the Digital Nomad has another, maybe less obvious impact on our lives, too. It’s a feeling that you and your laptop have melded; think 2-become-1, but a little less passionate lovers and a little more life revolves around a piece of hardware that will never need you the way that you need them.
This is not a good thing. It is not what we would call a healthy relationship.
What tends to happen after travelling and working remotely for a while is that it becomes genuinely difficult – if not almost impossible - to close the laptop, step away, and enjoy even just one day without work // admin // business development // 13” screen interactions.
I tried to explain this concept to my current co-workers (most of whom are office-based) and they found it a bizarre concept; ‘Why don’t you just have a holiday?’ or… ‘Just don’t take your laptop with you!’ These are both very logical points of view, but they don’t take into account three things about being a Digital Nomad:
1. How attached you become to your laptop
2. How you find yourself constantly defending your lifestyle to people who think that you’re on an extended holiday (and therefore feeling like you have to over-deliver on your work to prove you’re working)
3. How the concept of not being ‘always’ on becomes foreign after a while because of client demands, different timezones or personal projects
In fact, the only way to really down tools is to go somewhere where you have no option but to leave the laptop behind. I recall a discussion that continued over a few weeks in the lead up to a group of nine of us trekking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, where we were deciding whether or not to bring our laptops. The reality was that we weren’t going to use them, but being separated from them for a whole week caused unfathomable anxiety.
‘What happens if a client wants to get in touch with me?’
‘What if someone needs something from me?’
‘I might miss out on some work!’
‘I might miss out on…something!’
In the end we made a collective decision NOT to take our laptops 4000m up into the Andes (mainly through fear of not having anywhere secure to leave them), but it was a good decision and we didn’t regret it. It meant we were able to reset and recharge our own batteries, do a little internal software update and come back refreshed and ready.
Truly taking time away from work is healthy, and as the lines between our work and personal lives blur we need to get better at doing it. Being away from home used to mean being away from work, but now that the two are no longer mutually exclusive we need to redefine ‘time off’.
Who would have thought that the humble laptop would become such a force for freedom but also captivity in our lives?