About 10 years ago I became what is now known as a digital nomad. About 3 years ago I became location independent. While both approaches are fulfilling and obviously more enjoyable than a fixed life, there are some significant differences between them.
Let’t take them one at a time.
Working From Anywhere Versus Being Able To Live Where You Want
Being a digital nomad allows you to work from anywhere. But you will still be tied up to a certain place (that you have to “return” to, every once in a while, your “base”) and to a certain income structure. As fluctuations arise in your income structure, you adjust by moving to a cheaper place, increase work hours or doing geo-arbitrage. That’s what “nomadism” is all about, finding a new place that is more suitable to your current situation.
Being location independent means you can choose. Fluctuations in your income structure aren’t that big so as to generate a move. You can absorb the shocks easily and still have options. In other words, location independence and financial resilience are overlapping.
Traveling Versus Living
As a digital nomad, you’re on a perpetual trip. Whereas as a location independent individual you can afford to live anywhere, you’re not traveling. There’s a certain weight that helps you with the “home” feeling, and unlocking the “financial independent” achievement means you can carry that weight with you without even feeling it. You’re literally living anywhere you want, not just traveling from one place to another.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s anything off with being in a perpetual trip, I’m just pointing out the differences. There might be times in your life when being in a perpetual trip are actually necessary. I know in my life there was such a time.
Tourist Perks Versus Local Blending
As a digital nomad you will probably be more inclined to absorb all the “experiences” of the place you’re visiting. You’ll get “touristy”. As a location independent, you choose a more under the radar approach, and try to blend in as much as you can with the local culture. And that goes from learning and using the language (not relying only to English, for instance), up to understand social trends, and integrate cultural norms and dynamics.
These are the most important key differences, in my personal opinion. Like I said, depending on your age, goals and expectations, you may find one being better than the other, but that’s just temporary. Once you learned the ropes, you can switch back and forth easily.
At the current moment in my life, I find location independence more fulfilling, though. Being able to actually live in a place, connecting with other people and forming meaningful relationships, is something that carry a lot of value for me. It’s fun to travel and experience all the bells and whistles, and if that’s your thing now, by all means, go for it.