Becoming The Digital Nomad Metallica Wants Me To Be

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I have often dreamed of a mobile lifestyle. One where, I could work at a different cool coffee shop every day, just like the attractive influencers that are paid to, well, be attractive and drink coffee. A new coffee shop every day, or, the same exact coffee shop. Like Cheers. At the end of the day, it was my choice, and I lived a life of freedom and drifting around. Much like the Metallica song Wherever I May Roam: 

 

And the road becomes my bride

And the road becomes my bride

I have stripped of all but pride, so in her I do confide

And she keeps me satisfied, gives me all I need 

 

And with dust in throat I crave

Only knowledge will I save, to the game you stay a slave

Rover, wanderer, nomad, vagabond

Call me what you will

 

But I’ll take my time anywhere

Free to speak my mind anywhere

And I’ll redefine anywhere

Anywhere I roam, where I lay my head is home

 

And the earth becomes my throne

And the earth becomes my throne

I adapt to the unknown, under wandering stars I’ve grown

By myself but not alone, I ask no one

 

And my ties are severed clean

The less I have the more I gain, off the beaten path I reign

Rover, wanderer, nomad, vagabond

Call me…

 

It’s a magical thought isn’t it? Everyday, a new place. As a photographer, a regular change in scenery sounds appealing. 


Mobile life, I’ve found, has nothing in common with what’s written above. First, everyone lives a mobile life generally: more often than not, people work remotely or they do side-work on their laptop or whatever else. I’m just a man on a laptop “roaming” the landscape with a bunch of other men and women with laptops. Imagine the Metallica song, and instead of The road becomes my bride, it becomes, I become one of the road’s many husbands. 

 

Back when I had a real-boy job, I never went to coffee shops anymore, so I longed for the old days of “studying” in a nice cafe. Now, sometimes I think to myself, “Man, having a studio space would be great.” 

 

I shouldn’t complain. My life is great. In fact, a while back I wrote The Official Will Malone Photography Coffee Shop Ranking outlining my requirements for the perfect cafe workspace. I’m actually thinking about revisiting it soon. Eh what the heck, let’s revisit it now. 

 

Revisiting The Official Will Malone Photography Coffee Shop Ranking

 

I had 5 key requirements for the perfect coffee shop workspace, and the idea is to have a perfect place to work, uninterrupted. Since I’m farther away from 20 than 30 now, I’m more man than snob these days. I no longer look for the third wave coffee shops that are a concrete room with a single stool where a lone hipster sits pouring a single cup of coffee, lovingly, for an hour. No, I want silence and total peace (although the only coffee shop on earth that exists with silence and total peace is probably my home, but even that’s questionable due to the miniature dachshund that likes to look out the window and bark at leaves and the glare from passing cars).

 

Here are the key attributes of an excellent coffee shop to Will Malone Photography LLC:

 

-Taste

-Atmospheric Consistency  

-Solid Wifi

-Restroom Proximity 

-Crowd Distribution

 

And Lo! I would like add a new category to my ranking after months of intense research, as well as some other factors that I will mention shortly: The Outlet to Table Ratio. 

 

How could I have left off such a valuable category of any coffee shop? Honestly, this should have been included to begin with seeing as we live in a society stricken with constant battery anxiety. Coffee shop chains like Starbucks have gotten really good with this, adding outlets and USB-A (too little too late on the USB-A front, but that’s a conversation for another day) to individual tables. Many airports and even malls now come equipped with outlets as far as the eye can see. The Haywood Mall in Greenville has actual charging stations with comfortable seating. I believe the Hamilton Place Mall in Chattanooga did as well, but unfortunately in order to use that charging station, you’d have to go to Hamilton Place Mall.

 

It seems that part of the reason this category was ever left off in the first place was due to the date it was written. I released the original coffee shop ranking post on January 29, which was about a week before I purchased a brand new MacBook Pro. 

 

My old MacBook Pro has a charging cable about as long as the drive through West Texas (you know, the road), however with the new model, Apple was like “Eh, they all have iPhones right? Let’s just give them MacBook chargers the length of iPhone cables. If they want a longer one, they can just run to an Apple Store and buy one for $69.99. Stupid idiots.”

 

Before this becomes another post about me whining about my dongle future (or actually, dongle present), I just want to make clear that I’m now I’m far more acutely aware of the distance between my laptop and outlets in a way I never was before. This, in turn, has made me aware of the sad state of outlet affairs in most coffee shops that aren’t Starbucks. Like seriously, it’s absolutely shocking. 

 

This category has almost determined my coffee shop destination almost more than any of the categories to date: If I’m going to a coffee shop, simply to write, I can probably live off the surprisingly great battery on my Macbook. If I have any sort of photo or video editing to do (which, like, I’m a photographer not a writer so do the math), I know I’m going to have to be tethered and chained up to a wall like a rat. 

 

Again, we consult Metallica:

 

But I’ll take my time anywhere

Free to speak my mind anywhere

And I’ll redefine anywhere

Anywhere I roam, where I lay my head is home, as long as that home has the appropriate amenities for my lifestyle 

 

There’s always that slight inkling of stress when pulling up to a cafe of my choice where I wonder if I will be able to find a table with access to electricity. If not, I’m going to have to just adapt to the unknown.  

 

While this beautiful anthem of freedom claims to be about breaking the chains and being accountable to no one but yourself after escaping a tyrannical corporate/western system, it fails to have the awareness to recognize it’s own line that, to the game you stay a slave. If the road is now your bride, you are now under legal obligation to the road, so even Metallica can’t write a song about freedom without imposing societal restraints. Freedom is a lie, man. 

 

The outlet is a reminder of being enslaved despite the promise of freedom that a portable computer provides. I finally have the freedom I dreamed of by wandering coffee shop to coffee shop, yet here I am, describing the ways in which I am, in fact, not free. 

 

This wanderlust lifestyle that we often see depicted on social media is probably as realistic and accurate as Wherever I May Roam, in fact, one could say that it could be counted as an anthem for influencers everywhere. As humans, “wandering” is something we dream of constantly as we sit in our beige cubicles, yet, at what cost? 

 

After I quit my job last year, I literally wandered through the desert. Then, I became a “digital nomad” traveling from place to place in order to accomplish daily tasks and network. Yet, I don’t find myself declaring the earth to be my throne or the road to be my bride (Sorry, road, I’m taken.) 

 

Maybe I should give Metallica credit. Maybe they wrote the song with the understanding that we can become slaves to anything. Even the road, in all it’s supposed freedom, has speed limits and cops waiting to pull you over. Oh, and deer waiting to jump in front of your car. Before you know it, you’re writing an Official Road Ranking, where you are laying out the ideal road for your particular needs.

 

But hey, this is freedom. This is the life that Metallica promised me as a teen. This is the life that beautiful Instagrammers are claiming exists. 

 

Yet, the grass is always greener nonetheless.