While I’ve technically only been a “digital nomad” (for lack of a better word) for a year, I’ve always been a bit of a wanderer.
Over the past ten years, I’ve moved around a lot. To give you an idea, I’ve lived in Winston Salem, North Carolina (for college); my hometown of Greenwich, CT; Toulouse, France; Paris; Rio de Janeiro; Delray Beach, Florida; Los Angeles; San Diego; Buenos Aires; Medellin, Colombia..and now Florianopolis, Brazil.
Have I had unforgettable experiences in every one of those places? Absolutely. Would I trade those experiences for anything? Not a chance.
But here’s the thing: When you enviously scroll through your Instagram feed or are overcome with wanderlust reading through all those travel blogs, all you ever see and hear about is how incredible the “digital nomad” lifestyle is. And don’t get me wrong–it is. I could never go back to the corporate, 9-to-5 life, and having the ability to live anywhere in the world is something that I truly cherish and am so grateful for.
But I’d be lying if I said that the nomad lifestyle doesn’t have its downsides. For all of you out there who are considering being a “digital nomad,” make sure that you consider these three things first.
1. It can get lonely
One thing that I love about traveling and living abroad is how easy it is to meet other people–especially gringos. You automatically share this special bond with other foreigners, being together in this foreign land. You also have some things in common with them (a love of travel and, hopefully, an open-minded outlook on life).
Personally, I love working from coworking spaces and coffeeshops, because a) I need to escape my house or I would probably go a bit crazy and b) It gives me the opportunity to meet other people.
My point? Sure, it’s easy to meet people. But you will miss your friends and family from home. You will also inevitably miss out on things like weddings, birthdays and baby showers.
And picking up and leaving every few months (or however often you travel) makes it difficult to establish meaningful, lasting connections. You might meet some nice people, but many of them are transient too. And, like anywhere, finding real friends–who are there for you through thick and thin–is not easy.
So unless you have a traveling companion (and sometimes, even if you do), the nomad lifestyle can get lonely…really lonely at times.
2. It gets tiresome
Rather than constantly be on the go, I prefer to “slow travel” or spend several months in one place at a time. Not only is it less exhausting, but it allows me to get a bit more settled and it gives me the opportunity to really get to know the culture, language and country that I’m in. It’s also easier to make friends when you’re situated in one place for longer than a few weeks.
But even so, starting over somewhere new every few months can be emotionally draining. Just when you start to feel settled somewhere, you have to pack up and leave again. You’ll have to continuously adapt to totally new environments and start new routines.
And don’t get me started on the stuff. You’ll find that you don’t need–or use–nearly as much stuff as you think you do (which is why many “digital nomads” are also minimalists…I, myself, am not yet one of them…but #goals, right?!).
But still, whether you have 10 possessions or 100, having to pack up every few months can get tiring.
It’s for those reasons that, at the ripe old age of 31, I’ve found myself wanting more and more to develop a “home base”…somewhere that I can maybe base myself for half the year or so–and then travel from there. In an ideal world, I would spend summers in Europe and summers in Brazil. And then maybe a few months in the U.S. in between…one day!
3. Dating is difficult
Call me an idealist or a flat out hopeless romantic, but I honestly believe that if I meet the right person, things will just work out. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Maybe I’ve watched too many rom-coms, but that’s what I believe anyway. Plus, I’ve heard countless stories of people who met while traveling (and living in different countries), found a way to make it work and are together to this day.
But that doesn’t make dating any easier. Because unfortunately, when you live a nomadic lifestyle, nobody takes you seriously in the dating world. Two of the guys I have dated in the last six months expressed their legitimate concerns about me picking up and leaving and leaving them heartbroken. You can guess what happened there.
The unfortunate reality is that many people (myself included) are scared of getting hurt. And it’s easier to just not get involved with a nomad than it is to take the chance on something (or someone) that could be the real deal.
Side note: Here’s why you should date a digital nomad.
There are a lot of ups and downs to the nomad lifestyle. You will miss home. You’ll struggle to adapt to new environments and communicate in languages that aren’t your own. You’ll get frustrated with things like power outages and bureaucracy issues (oh hey, Brazil).
But then you’ll get to experience all of the amazing things that come with traveling and living abroad. You’ll become a more open-minded, well-rounded and interesting person.
Having the freedom to live anywhere in the world means that you can also pay off all your debt by living somewhere like Bali or Chiang Mai for under $1,000 a month. You get to perpetually chase summer and work from the place that you are most productive.
So yes, there are some downsides to the digital nomad lifestyle. But you might just find that all those upsides make it worth it in the end.