In the wake of the pandemic, more and more people have opted to go the digital nomad route. I find that everyone’s experience is a little different, so hearing other’s perspectives is valuable. With that in mind, seeing as I’ve been living the nomad lifestyle for over 6 months now, these are my reflections. For context, I shared some more background in my annual review:
In August, I finally took the plunge and did something that I’ve wanted to do since I was in college: Skip the annual lease, sell a bunch of my stuff, and start living the “digital nomad” life. It’s been a bit of a blur since then, in the best way. Some positive effects I expected, like getting more minimalistic and interacting with other cultures. Others were a surprise, like learning a ton about the role that environment plays in fulfillment.
As I alluded to to in the excerpt above, digital nomading is a privilege and comes with some really cool, and sometimes even transformative effects:
- It unlocks the ability for you to see more of the world.
- It challenges you to get out of your comfort zone.
- You learn more about the environmental factors that energize you.
Much of this is somewhat obvious, but the last point there was surprising to me, and honestly pretty transformative in how I live my life today. I’ll once again quote my annual refection for more explanation:
It’s easy to get into the swing of things in one environment and forget what parts of it you do and don’t like. It’s just the way that things are. I’ve done this a dozen times before. But when you’re changing your environment completely every few weeks (housing, landscape, culture, neighborhood grocery store, etc.) you can much more easily detect which things give you energy vs. which detract from it.
Of course, there’s always a flip side. One of the things that I want to emphasize in this post is that it’s not all laptop-beach pictures. There are also plenty of less fun repercussions of going the nomad route:
- You don’t have the comfort of home or some place to call yours.
- It’s harder to maintain relationships. Communication will slip over time.
- You spend a non-negligible amount of time in travel-mode.
All things considered, I had a great experience living the digital nomad life. If you’re in a position to do the same, I bet you would as well.
But here’s the kicker: Starting next week I’ll be taking a break and settling down in a full-time lease.
Why not keep it going? There are several reasons, but in short, I’m honestly a bit tired. If I were to do things over again, I would be more intentional. I would set aside X months to go nomad-mode and then reflect on the experience. Instead, I set out to do this indefinitely and fatigue crept up until it finally hit me all at once. Only then did I realize I needed a change of pace.
Everyone is different. The amount of time that you’re comfortable being “on the road” really depends on your personality, preferences, and the current state of your life. For me, I’m very comfortable being alone and traveling, but I also love having my space and established routine. I’m still in my mid-twenties and feel a need for adventure (especially post-pandemic) but I also like putting time into my career and relationships. All of these factors play their own little part. Eventually, they added up to the realization that 6 months was the right amount of time for me, at least during this chapter.
So what’s next for me? I just signed a 12-month lease in New York and I’m planning on reassessing after that if another digital nomading stint is in the cards or not. I suspect that a cadence of 1-2 years settled down followed by 3-6 months on the road is right for me. At least at the stage I am right now. I’m undoubtedly privileged to say that so nonchalantly. I’m in a capable financial position and have minimal dependencies and responsibilities all things considered. I’m also certain that this won’t always be the case.
All in all, digital nomading is a hell of a concept. You have to appreciate that we’re alive for a time period where people can live like this. If you’re thinking about making the jump, I strongly recommend it. For many people, the pros outweigh the cons. When it’s time to come home, you’ll know it. And if you’re around the New York City area, hit me up and let’s grab a coffee.