Those of you reading this have probably worked from home in the last year or two, and I think it’s safe to say it sucks! 2020 was pretty mad, and we all had to adapt to an entirely new lifestyle— and for me, not socialising was pretty difficult. In the last six months of home office, (despite the fact lockdown had ended by this point), I rarely left the house or spoke to anyone outside my family. One thing I felt I had lost was that sense of adventure and unpredictability in life. After some months of being super bored and uninspired, I decided to take things into my own hands and begin a new chapter. This is how I started my new phase as a digital nomad in Rome.
How to become a digital nomad
Step 1: Get a remote job
Step 2: Save up
Step 3: Look for the best (and easiest) places to stay in Europe for digital nomads Step 4: Pick a city
Step 5: Book the flight and run!
Why Rome is the best place to work remotely
I decided on Rome because a) I've never been to Italy, b) I don't speak the language, and c) the food. After coming to this conclusion, I booked my flights. In two weeks, I would arrive, have a place to stay and start a new chapter! After being in Rome for about three months, I can definitely say it's one of the best cities in Europe to live. While living costs are kinda expensive, the weather is sunny (almost all year round). Rome's full of spectacular art and history, and it's the perfect place for foodies! Romana artichokes, Amatriciana, Tiramisú, Saltimbocca alla Romana, Cacio e Pepe- what better way to spend an ordinary lunch break than in Rome? And after work, how about exploring Trastevere, the liveliest neighbourhood in the city? A drink in Bar San Calisto makes for a perfect evening in Rome. Or maybe you feel like taking a casual stroll opposite the Pantheon or Colosseum. It's not every day you get to walk past world famous landmarks. And since it's remote work, you can take a holiday within a holiday and stay at the Amalfi coast for a week (if it's too expensive, Ischia Island is pretty cool!) But, it's not all romantic, and this is the trap many travellers fall into!
What it's like to be a digital nomad and some tips
It's all fun and games until you realise that you're actually working for most of it. I tend to romanticize a lot of things. I fantasized about partying most nights and working from the beach (even though there's no beach in Rome). I remember an amusing conversation with a friend three weeks into my travels. It went something like this:
Me: “I love Rome, and I’m lucky to be doing this, but it would just be better if I could find a way to work but not feel like I'm working, be outside more and socialise more.”
Friend: “Yeah, you mean a holiday?”
And I guess I do sound spoiled. I’d get this a lot: “welcome to the real world!” or “this is what adulthood is like.” And it’s kinda true, but I also refuse to accept this or be complacent. After all, you make life what it is, and getting a job and becoming an adult doesn’t mean the end of the adventure.
However, you do have to do the boring parts. Yes, you do have to work five times a week, eight hours a day, and you do have to do house chores like cooking, washing up, food shops and bla bla bla while finding the time for your hobbies, interests, friends AND explore. The ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle is no easier— there’s a lot of planning involved, and travelling between places can be stressful while working to sustain this dream of travel. So yeah, remove any thoughts about spending your weekdays sunbathing on the Meditteranean coast while working on your laptop— it’s not always the case.
That’s not to suggest it's not fun at all.
It’s one of the best things you can do, and everyone should live it up a little when given a chance! Working in Rome gave me the balance I needed- I made new friends and learnt a bit of Italian. Travelling keeps you on your toes while also making great memories along the way. I felt that work took up a smaller portion of my life since I did something different daily! My highlights were going out for food with friends, heading to local bars, and visiting the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican.
Psst: another thing to note is moving to Rome doesn't solve the issue of working alone all day in a room. But there are a few things you can do:
-Go to local cafes and work (another great way to make friends and live the local life)
-There are dedicated workspaces you can pay for where you can meet other remote workers!
-You could get unlimited internet on your SIM card and work outside (I did this in Villa Borghese for a couple of hours before my laptop died)
Another thing to note: things take time, be patient
I lived in different countries before, and my experience in Barcelona specifically was AMAZING— but also not the usual. I was lucky, and I didn’t realise that. For instance, the day I arrived, I had already made lifelong friends. I knew people who lived there too and was introduced to groups of friends. My mates knew where to go, where the nightlife was, what not to do, what tourist restaurants to avoid etc. Speaking Spanish fluently also helped— I got by quite easily, made friends, and this is something I took for granted.
My first week in Italy was entirely different: I didn’t speak Italian, and I didn’t meet people as easily because of that. I know the whole point of me going was to get outside my comfort zone and learn a new language, but I forgot how tiring and challenging that can be. I went to a few events like language exchanges but didn’t get to meet many people. I couldn’t just rock up to a group and start talking either. I guess I assumed my new experience would be like the last.
Despite all of that, it didn’t bother me. It's the nature of travel and being in a new place; you will sometimes feel lost and out of your depth. I learned to be more patient with things; it takes time to settle in and integrate— no pressure! Just remind yourself that once in a while and continue to reach out and push yourself. What I did was go to random events, like painting classes and parties— eventually, things come together. I'd say Rome is also a good place for meeting people. There are loads of tourists, ex-pats, etc. etc. This means there's a bigger community with like-minded people who are just as eager to make friends and try new things out. This means it's not so hard to settle in. Want to meet some people? Head to an Italian language class! There are hundreds of things to do for any kind of person.
While it's not all romantic, it's super fun and you made this happen!
As a digital nomad, I've felt this added pressure when 'living the dream'. For example, if I’ve had a stressful day at work, I feel guilty for being stressed or annoyed. Sometimes you have a bad day at work, and you forget that you're somewhere cool. Truth is, there will be bad days too, and that’s ok. You're not always going to be having fun, and that's alright, but don't forget to remind yourself that you’re in a new and exciting place! It's not every day that you get to see something different, meet great people and get out of your comfort zone, so embrace it.
Pros of being a digital nomad
You'll live like a local. One thing I like about being a digital nomad is that you also really get to know a place! I first moved to Rome in March and stayed there for two months. For me, this was a perfect time to go because there were absolutely no tourists. If you’ve ever been to Rome, you know exactly what I mean when I say it gets PACKED. It’s basically a moshpit, where everyone sweats on each other in the summer heat, and it’s pretty stressful. Fortunately, I was able to go to all the world-famous attractions without the queues or crowds of people, or the hassle of getting a busy metro. You get a somewhat authentic experience— what a city would be like without the tourists!
You also become part of a community! Staying in a place for longer made my experience more profound. You have the time to visit places, learn more about the culture, make friends and get that sense of belonging! Even the local neighbourhood began to feel like home. I’d go to the same bakery in the morning (where they sell pistachio croissants), and people would recognise me— we’d all greet each other and chat for an hour over coffee. Once you’re in a place long enough, you know where it’s all at! You also end up ditching the mainstream and discovering something off-the-beaten-track— an enriching experience itself. Living in Pigneto— a lesser-known neighbourhood in Rome, was one way I got to see a different side of Rome. If you're interested in discovering a path-less-travelled, you can read about our trip to Pigneto!
You get a better work/life balance. Although we talked about having to work five times a week, for eight hours, in a room on your own, you still get a balance in life. Not to mention, since you're doing so much every week, you actually feel as though you spent less time working; it takes up a smaller part of your day. While I was in Rome, I decided to change things up a bit and visit Naples, for example. On the weekends, I went to Sorrento and Capri and chilled on the beach. This made me feel more refreshed for work- not stuck in the old routine.
Why you should become a digital nomad and head to Rome
It's all a pretty unique experience that everyone needs to try at least once. You’re not only learning and becoming a better version of yourself but having meaningful experiences with people as well as yourself. It's important to be daring, spontaneous and try out something new. Even if you feel you're not the most outgoing, there's always that sense of adventure within us all— who knows where you’ll be heading next?
Want to live like a local in Rome? Book a long stay at: www.numastays.com