Digital nomads, if there’s one piece of advice I can give you from my eight years of working remotely it’s this: Slow. It. Down.
I know you’re excited. You’ve unlocked a way to make money online and now you have the freedom to go anywhere – and that’s a dizzying, thrilling feeling. Your bucket list is multiple pages long and you’re itching to check it off as quickly as possible.
Just take a deep breath – and take it one step at a time.
Let go of the pressure to see and do everything and instead, learn to be okay with traveling at a snail’s pace. At the risk of sounding cliche, it really IS about the journey. Trust me when I say that you’ll be a much happier, healthier and successful nomad if you can learn to be okay with going slow.
There’s a lot of hype out there about how AMAZING the digital nomad life can be.
If you believe the Instagram influencers, you’d think this lifestyle is nothing but non-stop cocktails by the beach, sunset boat cruises and helicopter rides.
Due to this misconception, it’s hard for many people to believe that nomads could possibly get burnt out. After all, how could anyone be tired and stressed out when they vacation for a living? But that’s not the full picture. In reality, you’re only seeing the highlight reel. The truth is that the digital nomad lifestyle is not as easy as it looks – and it can be downright exhausting. Travel can be uncomfortable and stressful and making a living as a freelancer requires tremendous amounts of hard work. Doing them both at the same time? It’s no easy feat, no matter how many poolside selfies you post.
I’m not the only one who has experienced this. Many successful bloggers and remote workers have written about hitting a wall – including Adventurous Kate, Matthew of Expert Vagabond and Nomadic Matt.
Feeling tired and overwhelmed in this way isn’t a sign that you are a “bad traveler.” It’s simply a sign that you are human. It turns out that most of us aren’t capable of gallivanting around the world AND working at full speed tirelessly for multiple months and years.
Being able to slow down and live a balanced lifestyle is an essential tool for nomad survival – and will make you much happier in the long run.
It’s one thing for me to tell you that you should slow down, but how do you actually DO that? In our “gotta do everything right now” culture, it takes a conscious effort to step back without feeling anxious or guilty.
Here are some tips for making your nomad life a little more sustainable.
Whenever digital nomads share their travel plans and they include 10 different countries in a 2-month time span, I cringe. Trying to cover too much ground too quickly is a great way to head straight for nomad burnout.
When you’re a conventional office employee on a two-week vacation, it makes sense to cover as much ground as you possibly can. However, when you’re living a nomad life you’ve got to approach it slightly differently. You can’t go at full speed the entire time, you’ve got to pace yourself so that you have time to get your work done and enjoy your destination.
Cut your itinerary in half and spend more time in fewer places – you’ll have a much better experience.
Rather than jetting to a new country every week, consider choosing a city and hunkering down for two to six months. This is a fantastic way to recharge your travel batteries, and it also allows you to experience a destination in a much deeper way than you ever could on a fleeting visit.
Blueground offers high-quality rental properties in vibrant cities around the world and they are popular with digital nomads who want to catch their breath for anywhere from one to twelve-plus months. Staying in one place for a few months gives you the chance to enjoy the benefits of being settled – like the ability to join a gym and establish a healthy routine, or make some friends that you’ll get to know a little more deeply than your hostel buddies.
“You haven’t really been to New York/Paris/London until you’ve seen _______.”
Many nomads have heard this before. It seems like no matter where you go, there’s an accepted itinerary of “must-see” attractions that you have to check off your list.
This can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Not only do you have plenty of things on your to-do list when it comes to growing and maintaining your digital nomad business – now you also have a separate to-do list to complete, or risk looking like a “failure” of a traveler.
My advice? Let it all go. It’s your trip, not anyone else’s. There’s no such thing as a “must-see.”
Plan your travels around the attractions and activities that interest you – and don’t worry about anything else. If that means visiting Paris without setting foot inside the Louvre, that’s fine.
Speaking of travel-related pressures, I’ve seen many nomads feel incredibly guilty if they take a day off to just curl up in bed with Netflix and a cup of tea.
They feel like if they are not working, they should be out exploring. But – after eight years on the road – I’m here to tell you that downtime is essential. There have been many days during which the only thing I saw was my feet stretched out in front of me in a hammock and the only thing I accomplished was reading a book and drinking a cold beer.
Allowing yourself those days is essential because it helps you recharge your batteries for the big, crazy days where you have unforgettable bucket-list adventures like watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat or going whale watching in Sri Lanka.
One of the challenges of being a freelancer is that it’s really difficult to “switch off” from your work. There’s always more pitches to send, articles to write, social media updates to post, photos to edit, etc. Your to-do list always sits in the back of your mind, taunting you.
This can be incredibly draining, especially if you find yourself working all day and late into the evenings to get it done. The more you work, the more tired and inefficient you become, and therefore the longer it takes. It’s a downward spiral that can leave you feeling frustrated. When you add the pressures of travel on top – it becomes even worse.
My advice is to make a clear distinction between working hours and non-working hours so that you have a chance to recharge. For example, you work between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. When 4 p.m. rolls around, you switch off your laptop and vow not to open it until 9 a.m. the next morning. Go for a walk or a swim in the ocean, socialize or take a nap in a hammock – and give your brain a break.
If you’ve found some effective strategies for slowing down and achieving a healthier work/life/travel balance as a digital nomad, please share them with us at @kellydunning and @theblueground on Twitter.
Kelly is a freelance travel writer from Alberta, Canada. She is a digital nomad and has been traveling around the world full time since May of 2011. You can read about her travels at Global-Goose.com.