18-months ago I threw out almost everything I owned. Packed one small suitcase and headed off into the sunset. I traveled the world, living out of Airbnb’s and running my businesses from my laptop. Living the dream. Except now I have just done a 100% reversal. Overnight I am going from owning almost nothing and having no responsibilities to owning more stuff and responsibility than ever before. I have officially stopped being a digital nomad and I am completely freaking out.
I am getting married. Settling down. Becoming an adult. We have just bought a car and agreed to a 12-month tenancy on a house, but worse the house is unfurnished so I am going to have to fill it with furniture! Oh and we’ve put together a wedding list full of hundreds of ‘necessary items’ (feel free to buy me something – list number 707812). From now on moving house will take longer than the five minutes it takes to chuck everything into a bag.
It’s hard to really explain how I am feeling. Scared? Excited? A hypocrite? A bit of all three. But I am comforted by remembering that change is good. Every life choice has its pros and cons and if it gets too claustrophobic we are always free to sell everything and hit the road again.
You don’t need me to tell you what’s great about traveling the world while not having to worry about money, so let me instead tell you why I made the decision and stopped being a digital nomad.
Constantly moving and settling into new cities takes up a lot of headspace and time. And has completely ruined my productivity.
When I lived in London I felt I was doing good, improving both myself and the world around me. I was volunteering 20 hours a month, working hard on learning new skills and building my businesses.
But in the last year and a half that has all come to a screeching halt. I have gone from feeling like a productive contributing member of society to someone who is just living for their own pleasure and enjoyment. That is a hollow feeling and honestly, makes me feel a bit dirty.
Before leaving I declared myself ‘semi-retired’, I made the active decision quit any work that wasn’t fun and spend all my time on what I enjoyed. I had made enough money and I don’t have expensive tastes. I saw the danger and hollowness in chasing mansions and sports cars but I was blind to the dangers of chasing free-time and laziness.
Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful for everything in my life and I haven’t just been lazing around doing nothing. My businesses are doing well and growing and I am slowly getting better at Jiu-jitsu. But 20-somethings aren’t meant to retire and live a life of ease. We’re meant to use our talents and energy to build the most awesomest things possible. I can’t wait to settle into a home that is walking distance to my business partner’s house and start building things again. I have so many ideas and projects I want to do. So watch this space, it’s going to be awesome!
I miss spending time with my friends. Like really really miss it. Yes, you make friend’s on the road and yes you can have a great time partying with strangers. But there is nothing like old friends and being a long-term member of a community.
There have been three places where I was really sad to leave. Gran Canaria, Rio De Janeiro, and Malta. In Gran Canaria, there are large thriving co-working centres. In Malta, I got very involved in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy. And in Rio, we were welcomed with open arms by a local church and made to feel instantly at home. All three places were a real wrench to move on.
This pining to be part of a tribe or community is very common amongst digital nomads. The forums and Facebook groups I am in are full of people asking how to build and maintain friendships, or how to find love on the road. And it explains why out of the whole planet so many remote workers congregate in Chiang Mai or Gran Canaria. The two couples we were closest to in Gran Canaria have both now stopped being a digital nomad and moved back to Gran Canaria for the foreseeable future. It’s not the prettiest, cheapest or most exotic place they’ve been to. But it does have community.
Well now I am going to join a co-working centre, sign up to a near Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu gym and get involved in a local church. And I am going to stay and develop those relationships and become a really valuable member of the community. I can’t wait.