Digital nomadism – the combination of travel with remote work – is an increasingly popular trend. Many bright-eyed millennials see it as a way to ditch the drudgery of a boring and uninspiring 9-to-5 while at the same time satisfying their hunger for travel. Yet despite all of the travel bloggers and YouTubers who ‘sell’ the lifestyle as idyllic and stress-free, there is a dark side to being a digital nomad. In order to make the digital nomad lifestyle sustainable, you need to take some important steps to look after your well-being. It would be a shame to get burnt out and have to return home much earlier than you want to.
Before You Adopt the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
One of the biggest mistakes that people make before embarking on their digital nomad journey is that they leave without having a steady income from remote work that can sustain themselves while travelling or living abroad. It’s even riskier to leave without having marketable skills, holding on to the hope that you can pick up work very easily as you get going.
It will be extremely stressful to drain your savings as you desperately try to hunt for clients. This is why it’s best to secure remote work – as well as have savings in your bank account – so that you can leave home without having to worry about going broke.
Your Work Schedule
If you’re freelancing or starting a business, it can be tempting at the beginning of your career to go into overwork mode. You may start your new digital nomad lifestyle with loads of motivation and a thirst for success. And you should definitely act on that drive to work hard and achieve your goals. But it’s also important not to feed this drive at the expense of your mental health.
Sometimes working a 15-hour day leaves you feeling satisfied and proud. However, remote workers and entrepreneurs do need to be careful about working non-stop and sacrificing other aspects of their life, such as sleeping, exercise, diet, socialising, and general well-being. Overwork can leave you feeling high strung and burnt out, which will make it difficult to work either productively or happily. Building a healthy routine and managing your time wisely is essential to work-life balance.
You don’t want to underwork either, as this means you’ll either run out of money or get too comfortable doing the bare minimum and not really progress in your career. Strangely enough, while people envisage digital nomadism as the path to ultimate freedom, many digital nomads work 40-hour weeks, just like everyone else.
Remote work carries a lot of benefits. If you can work anywhere with a WiFi connection, then countless places are potentially your office – your room, a café, a beachside resort, a co-working space, and so on. You can work in your pyjamas, lying in bed or on a hostel rooftop overlooking the city. If you don’t need to be in an office, then you don’t have a manager looking over your shoulder telling you what to do. If you want to listen to music while you work, then you can do that.
On the other hand, working remotely can also be isolating. If you’re not used to spending the whole day working alone, then you may find yourself becoming restless, stuck in your head, and bored. Loneliness is no joke. When you’re isolated for too long, it can be a painful experience, increasing the risk of mental health issues, such as depression.
In order to meet the innate human need for social connection, it’s important to resist that temptation to just relax on your own after the workday has finished. Invest time in building friendships. Regularly attends social events. You can find like-minded people on Facebook groups or on Meetup.com. The digital nomad lifestyle becomes unsustainable when loneliness is a constant feature in your day. Networking can often be an effective way to find a middle ground between being productive and meeting your social needs.
Also, it’s totally normal to still feel lonely even when hanging out with new people or having a social circle. The nature of the lifestyle means that people come and go, so it can be difficult to form close and intimate connections. Regularly calling home and chatting with friends and family can be a great way to boost your mood if you’re ever feeling down.
Another common mistake that many digital nomads make is that they move around too quickly. When you realise that you have the freedom to work anywhere, and the travel bug is in full swing, then you may want to see as many countries as possible. Even if you weren’t juggling work responsibilities, however, travelling too quickly can leave you feeling exhausted. This is known as travel burn out.
A key recommendation, then, is to slow down. Don’t just spend a few days – or even a week – in one place before moving on. It takes a while to get used to a new location and you need a certain level of comfort and familiarity in order to live a healthy lifestyle and be productive. Having to track down your new accommodation every week, meeting people all over again, figuring out the visa situation, and finding out where everything is will add extra stress to the already stressful situation of starting a new career and living away from home.
Staying somewhere for months at a time will allow you to build relationships in a way that you can’t do while hopping from country to country in a short span of time. Plus, you get to experience the culture on a much deeper level, which is invaluable.