Photo: franz12/Shutterstock

The Dark Sides of Being a Digital Nomad

by Melissa Douglas Feb 22, 2018

Our social media channels are flooded with individuals living the “digital nomad dream.” Location independent, they post pictures of their ever-changing office spaces. One day, a quaint coffee shop overlooking a Roman ruin in Italy, the next, a poolside cabana in a Mediterranean location with an accompanying mojito to make the day progress faster.

Carefully-curated Instagram posts will have you believe that this is a perfect life. Being a digital nomad myself, I know that behind the filters and the manipulated view, the reality isn’t always so perfect.

Of course, we are having fun a lot of the time. The flexibility of schedule and the independence that this lifestyle creates means that you have the freedom to do absolutely anything. Last year, I visited 16 countries and lived in three of them. I am incredibly grateful for the life I lead but indeed, there is no perfect life. All of us are bound by some shackles or another.

In our social circle, everything is temporary, everything is transient. Every new hello is paralleled with a goodbye. The cycle of meeting and befriending others gets old fast and the majority of the friendships and relationships that you build are fickle.

Simple, taken-for-granted pleasures in life are those that you seldom get to experience as a digital nomad. I remember sitting in a galbi restaurant in Seoul, watching as a family ate Korean BBQ together and thinking about how seldom I saw mine. I remember walking around Athens when I first arrived in Greece and watching groups of friends go out for dinner and having the sudden realization that I was completely alone.

It’s a strange reality when those whom you are closest and most connected to are those whom you see so infrequently.

Your work associates and professional connections may be based at opposite ends of the world and the majority of your day’s conversations are held with anonymous people you’ve never met or seen.

The peculiarity of being a digital nomad is that for all of its negativity, the way that it impacts your personal life and relationships, and the bouts of loneliness, this lifestyle is difficult to walk away from once you have launched yourself into it.

In a world where you can literally do whatever you want, it becomes difficult to commit — difficult to commit to a base in Italy, when you long to see the bright lights of Tokyo, or the chaos of Mexico City, It’s difficult to commit to relationships and people when there is just so much out there. Friendships and relationships become easily disposable. After all, you will meet a new group of people at the next place.

You long for a home and a sense of belonging, but staying still is every bit as difficult as packing up and saying goodbye, and so we continue on with this way of life, accepting it for its warts and all because we cannot imagine it any other way — at least not right now.

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