The nail that sticks up gets hammered down. – Japanese Proverb
You wouldn’t go walking through certain sections of St. Louis (considered one of the most dangerous cities in the United States) wearing a lot of bling, and you wouldn’t do it in certain sections of London either, so when you are heading to a foreign destination to live like a local why would you consider doing so there?
Having accessories and dressing nice is all well and good, but there’s a saying when you are traveling: don’t wear anything you are afraid to lose. Personally, I live by this motto, although I realize it’s not for everyone and maybe you are someone who puts sentimental value on material possessions. With that being said, there is a smart way to do things and a stupid way to do things, and if you want to have an uneventful time pursuing the location independent lifestyle you need to keep a low profile.
Many people make the assumption that foreign cities (any place outside of the United States) are dangerous. We’ve briefly talked about this in another post, and we’ll cover it again in detail in a future post, but the reality is that most cities outside of the United States have a lower per/100,000 murder rate than their U.S. counterparts, which means they are not only as safe, but in many cases safer. And as far as pickpockets and thieves go, well…there’s a reason tourists get robbed and local people don’t.
The reasons locals don’t get pick-pocketed is because they are locals. Thieves know the locals don’t have beyond the normal level of money and accessories on them. Meanwhile, tourists arrive with laptops, iPads, expensive cameras, brand-name travel clothing and backpacks and designer bags and trinkets out the wazoo that can be sold at the local pawn shop for a pretty penny. Picture a fisherman going about his daily business. If he throws a simple hook into the water without any bait the fish ignore it, because they know it’s just a hook. But you put some bait on that hook, or use spruce it up with a lure and some colors, and suddenly you have a hook that all the fish are fighting over to reach because it looks good.
People are no different. If you dress like you have money you are a target. If you dress like a local and have a low-key appearance you are nothing more than just another hook in the water. None of the hungry fish want to deal with you because you don’t look like a meal; you just look like another hook.
This is one of the reasons I advocate individuals transitioning into the digital nomad lifestyle to travel light. Only bring a couple of articles of clothing with you when you arrive, and only the most essential things you think you need. Otherwise you can pick up local clothing for cheap. In most cases you can get two or three outfits for around $100 once you get established on the ground, giving you sufficient clothing to establish a local appearance for your everyday things like grocery shopping and the like.
But above and beyond the clothing is bling and trinkets. If you walk around with a bunch of jewelry on you are still asking to be mugged, no matter what city in the world you live in. Flash a wallet full of cash and you are a target for pick-pockets. Bust out an iPad in the middle of a crowded street at the fish market and you just set of an alarm for anyone within eyesight that you are carrying goodies. There’s nothing wrong with heading to a coffee shop and using your iPad or laptop there, but remember there’s a time and place for everything when you are living the location independent digital nomad existence.
There’s more to it than just your clothing, trinkets and accessories. Your physical demeanor is also important. If you are stopping at every street corner to gawk at a building or take pictures you are going to stand out, whereas the locals are just going about their daily business, uninterested in these buildings and monuments and otherwise for the moment because they see them every day. You have to adopt this demeanor. Walk as though you have lived here your whole life. Don’t stop and gawk at the local monuments; instead, wait for Sunday and go gawk with the locals so you don’t stand out like a sore thumb.
Another good tip if you are living like a local as a location independent digital nomad is to just act like you belong. Cast off the cloak of fear and realize that you are just as safe (if not safer, depending on the city you are in) in your chosen destination as in any modern city in the world. There is no reason to lock your doors and be afraid to go out of your house for fear of pick-pockets, thieves, murderers and rapists just waiting for you to step out your front door. This is propaganda intended to keep you from ever leaving the comfort of suburbia, instead staying home and spending your hard-earned dollars in the way you have been trained like a good little worker bee.
If you truly want to experience the location independent lifestyle you have to learn to adapt. As the Japanese proverb says, the nail that sticks out and stubs the toe of everyone walking by eventually gets hammered down, and if you stick out like a red flag when you are living on the ground enjoying the digital nomad lifestyle you will find the same thing happening to you.