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The Psychological Costs of Being A Digital Nomad

The pictures of running a company from a hammock on the beach may not tell the entire story. But being a digital nomad, can still be the life you want to live!

Because in the end, you won't remember how much time you spent in the office.  So climb that goddamn mountain.  Jack Kerouac

You’ve seen the pictures...

A tropical beach, a shady umbrella, next to a blue hammock, painted toes, dragonfruit smoothie and a laptop balancing perfectly atop sun kissed skin. This is the quintessential "digital nomad" picture.  The one you can capture and send to your friends or post on instagram to strangers to prove you are living the dream.

This picture is the culmination of a fantasy that you turned into a reality because of sheer will-power and desire. Ditching the 9-5, being your own boss, working on your terms and traveling the world.  To live the digital nomad life you only need a passport, a laptop and a swimsuit.  Good WiFi, a simcard and swoon worthy spots for the ‘gram are an added but necessary bonus. Because really what’s the point if no one can see that you really did it? You left it all behind.

But maybe, I dare say, it really exists as a fantasy. A fantasy worth reaching, for sure. But there can be some serious consequences if you think it’s just this easy to have things be so perfect. It's almost as if once you decide to leave it all behind there's this hidden pact to continue the ruse that its the best stinkin thing since sliced bread.  Because you wouldn't have given "everything" up for something not perfect.  Right?

But the thing is....I’ve been on that tropical beach. And I couldn’t get WiFi because the beach part was too far from the router at the hotel (thinking Gilli Air, in Indonesia). The glare from the sun made it hard to see my screen. And I couldn’t use my D button for a month after while I waited for the sand to finally clear out. So for a month I could only type: igital noma.

Now I am not saying those pictures aren't real.  I did see some man sitting on a chair in a kiddie pool with a laptop in Indonesia and he did seem to be cranking through some serious business.  But my husband and I laugh at some of those pictures. A girl, in her bikini, literally belly down in the sand, water coming up to her elbows, and narrowly missing her laptop.

We are digital nomads.  And actually, we are doing our best to become even more nomadic, more independent and more successful so we can extend this trip around the world for clearly we are fully bought into this lifestyle.  But like anything it's important to go in with an open mind and fully aware of the challenges!


“I made my life my dream so I could live it." Marty Rubin

A social system-Finding your peeps

On one hand you make connections easily and with people who are doing almost exactly what you are doing. It's as if you are meeting your soul sisters and brothers on the daily. When you are living a life that is somewhat unusual, extraordinary and not for can feel like such relief to find someone who feels familiar, comfortable and supportive. It can be easy to find your people but you need to keep in mind how quickly people come and go with this lifestyle. It's rare to meet people who are staying in a place more than a few months. If they are, its even more rare for their few months to match up with yours. Sometimes this makes it hard to feel like you are investing in actual relationships and not just having the same conversation over and over.

Where are you from?  How long are you traveling?  Where have you been?  Oh I've been there.  Where are you going?

Sometimes this can be even harder if you are missing your support system at home. It’s hard when friends are having get togethers that you used to plan, or worse yet weddings and graduations. It’s important to remember why you are in this exact location and all it took to make this dream come true.

Feeling the support from home

Not everyone in your life will be supportive. Though there are a ton of successful Digital Nomads,  heck some people are successful because they are Digital Nomads, you may be doubted by people’s whose opinions matter to you. They may think that your life choice is just you “getting it out of your system,” being irresponsible or jeopardizing your future job opportunities. Some days you may wonder the same. You may have the added guilt of bringing a baby with you, where the questions and doubts from others make you questions your choices and your motivations.

You Need To Develop A BOMB Work Ethic

Let's face it, a digital nomad has high professional goals.  I truly believe that people who are willing to leave it all and risk their structure and routine can apply that same tenacity and bravery to their professional life.  But its hard not to want to do it all.  It's hard to travel all the way to Bali (or Thailand, or Tbilisi) and say no when someone asks you if you want to wake up at 1:30 AM to climb a volcano to see the sunrise.  With the beaches, 2 for 1 cocktail deals, opportunities to surf or mountain bike at all hours it’s tough to choose work when you feel like you are sort of on a perpetual vacation. I could say the same thing about money. Make sure you have a food grasp on your finances. It’s easy to blow through money when “everything is so cheap!”

Mental Health Wellness

Finally if you’ve struggled with anxiety, depression or isolation in the past, that shits gonna rear it’s ugly head wherever you are, even when you are on an adult size pizza slice float in your very own infinity pool.

What To Do To Be A Successful and Happy Digital Nomad and Human

Now that I’ve mentioned all the pitfalls I’ll be the first to say this life is worth it. Even as I write this, slightly nauseous as I am on a bus between Pokhara and Kathmandu, I can’t think of one issue that would bring me back to the states.

Make sure you have a good support system.

Pretend you have office hours.

Invest in a co-working space.

Keep an exercise routine.

Watch out for your mental health.

Find a teletherapist or coach.

Make time to connect with your people back home.

...and then go climb that goddamn mountain.

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