Is Being a Nomad Lonely?
Technology has ushered in an era when anyone with specific skill sets can work almost anywhere in the world. Want to trade your stifling office cubicle for one with unobstructed ocean views? Head to the coastal resort town of Playa del Carmen in Mexico. Prefer a city with glorious old-world charm? Check out the beautiful medieval city of Prague. Yes, you can practically make any place — even those exotic locations that most people will only be able to access on short holiday trips — your workstation as long as there’s a reliable internet connection. It’s no wonder why social media portray digital nomadism as the best way to live life. But is it? Without sugarcoating, let’s address the elephant in the room. Is being a nomad lonely?
A little history
Less than a decade ago, being a digital nomad seemed nothing more than an emerging trend. Now, it’s not just an ‘in thing’; it’s a lifestyle. But did you know that the idea of digital nomadism dates back to 1964 when science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke predicted remote working? However, it wasn’t until 1997 when Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners popularized the term in their aptly-called book, Digital Nomad. According to the authors, technological advances will enable people to live and work on the move. And boy, were they right.
Who are digital nomads?
Digital nomads travel to various places while working remotely using technology, particularly a laptop and the internet. As of 2022, there are about 35 million known digital nomads across the globe. The exact number is hard to pinpoint because some remote workers are unrecorded. Americans comprise the highest number of nomads, with over 15 million, followed by Portuguese, Germans, and Brazilians. Around 50.19% of digital nomads are males, and 49.81% are females. The average age of nomads is 32, with 47% in their 30s and 35% in the 40-59 age group.
Interestingly, only 34% of digital nomads are freelancers or independent workers, while 66% are traditional remote employees. This higher percentage is due to the work-from-home boom spiked by the pandemic. The top most common fields for digital nomads are software development, web design, social media management, content writing, video creation (mostly YouTube), teaching, SEO, stock trading, e-commerce, marketing, coaching, podcast production, coding, business consulting, visual branding, medical transcription, and virtual administration.
For more information on the steps you should take before taking the plunge, check our Checklist for Becoming a Digital Nomad.
Is being a nomad lonely?
Digital nomads are living the best life, traveling to fascinating locations while earning money and having all the freedom they want. So, what could go wrong? Hopping from one place to another – tropical beaches, quaint towns, artsy cities, and exotic villages — makes the nomadic lifestyle seem like a never-ending holiday. Digital nomads are not bound to an office desk eight hours a day. But life on the road in an unfamiliar country away from the comforts of home can lead to isolation. A survey reveals the top cause digital nomads quit their lifestyle is loneliness.
What causes digital nomads to be lonely? According to the same survey, missing family and friends is the main reason they feel isolated. After all, 61% of nomads are married. Of those, 38% travel with their partners part-time, whereas only 31% travel full-time. Additionally, 26% of nomads have minor children, and 59% of these kids don’t travel with their parents at all.
Travel fatigue and long-standing culture shock are other factors that push digital nomads to return to their home country. Others stay longer in one location until they eventually settle there permanently as expats. This trend is what people refer to as outgrowing the digital nomad community, as nomads ultimately seek more stability and the security of a routine.
Ways to cope with loneliness
Living the nomad life is not all roses. Loneliness is real, and almost every nomad experiences it at some point. The good news is there are ways to get around this.
Connect with other nomads online
Find social media platforms that allow you to interact, share experiences, meet, and stay in touch with other digital nomads. Choose an online community that caters to your interests. For example, if you are female, consider joining Digital Nomad Girls, a network of ‘globally-minded, adventurous and curious’ women working remotely. There are also nomad groups for artists, hikers, cyclists, nature lovers, dancers, and more.
Or you can connect 1-1 with other nomads using a service like Nomad Grab to find social groups in your area that you can join!
Keep in touch with friends and family at home
Just because you are in another country does not mean you have to cut ties with people from home. Make sure to schedule routine calls with your family and friends. Connecting with your close circle makes you feel loved and appreciated despite the distance. Feel free to talk to them about your loneliness and other things bothering you.
Use coworking spaces to meet other remote workers. If you don’t mind sharing accommodations, you can try co-living with fellow nomads. It’s a great way to build new friendships and find someone to spend your free time with. Don’t forget to immerse yourself in the local culture. Knowing some locals will help you adapt to the unfamiliar environment.
Establish a routine
A study shows that having a daily schedule prevents mood disorders and promotes mental health. Sticking to a routine helps you to stay productive. Be sure to take a break to avoid feeling overworked and burned out. Reward yourself once in a while. Go to a spa, eat out, or engage in some activity you’ve always wanted to try.
There’s a misconception that a genuine and proper digital nomad travels to as many locations as possible in the shortest time possible. The problem with this is it leads to travel fatigue and loss of interest in new places. How can you build social ties if you move around too frequently and switch homes every week? Spend more time in one place to help you get to know people and grow new connections. Plus, it makes you worry less about where to head next.
Love hiking, biking, dancing, or cooking? Continue doing whatever you loved doing back at home. Alternatively, try new things. For instance, you can learn another language if you are in a country that speaks a different one.
Listen to yourself
It’s okay to feel lonely from time to time. But if you’re constantly feeling low, anxious, uncertain, or distracted, you might need to evaluate your current situation. Are you still happy being a digital nomad? Constantly changing environments and living an extraordinary lifestyle can affect your mental health. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if necessary.
The digital nomad lifestyle is fun and exciting but also challenging. Loneliness is one of the top struggles nomads face. The thing is, there is no way around it. Your emotions are valid. It is normal to be homesick and feel lonely in a place thousands of miles away from your family and friends. Grab the opportunity to meet new people but keep in touch with your close circle. Don’t be afraid to make plans outside work, invest in yourself and develop a skill. Establish a routine, give yourself a break, and take your time traveling the world. More importantly, recognize how you feel and take appropriate action when necessary.
Starting your journey as a digital nomad? Make sure to check out other amazing articles like The Ultimate Guide To Sao Paulo Nightlife, Finding Work-Life Balance as a Digital Nomad: 5 Insights from Our Coaches, and 5 Tools that Help Me Keep My Life Going as a Nomad.