5 Reasons Why Being a Digital Nomad is Not For Me
Being a travel blogger has put me into this alternate universe where it’s perfectly normal to work online from any corner of the world that gets internet. Where some people choose not to have a home at all and travel from one location to the next every few days or weeks or months. Technically I could do this. I work online, I love to travel, and I don’t have to be in any one place. But for many reasons, being a digital nomad is not for me.
1. I enjoy having a community of friends
Traveling brings you to interesting places, which means interesting people. I know plenty of full-time travelers who make new friends in each new location and enjoy having a new batch of friends. But I’d prefer to have a consistent community of friends that I can hang out with on a regular basis, not just for a month or two until I move on.
Making friends is hard. Sure, I love meeting people when I travel, but finding people I truly connect with, people I have lots of things in common with, people I feel comfortable with, takes time. It’s rare that I bond with someone in just a few days or weeks.
I’m finding that making friends in general is harder and harder as I get older. I’m more picky about who I want to spend my time with than I was when I was younger. We’ve been living in Berlin for almost two years now, and I still don’t have a lot of friends here. But I’m slowly making progress.
2. I crave more stability
Being a digital nomad means near constant change. You have to adapt quickly because you’re always in a new place, learning where everything is and how everything works. Now, some of that is really interesting when you travel, but I’m not a fan when I’m trying to work as well.
When we tried traveling for long stretches of time, I realized the stress of figuring out a new place was exhausting to me. I love the newness when my only objective is to explore, but when I have to find the grocery store, cook, work, AND explore, I sort of shut down. I end up not enjoying any of it.
I’m a very routine person. I know that might sound boring to some of you, but having a routine helps me not get bogged down with endless decisions, and it helps me work faster. I love breaking out of my routines when I travel, but it’s hard to be productive when that stability is gone.
3. I need my comforts
This is another thing that I think has changed as I’ve gotten a little older. When I traveled in my late 20s, I was a lot less picky about the comforts of a hotel or hostel room. It had to be safe and clean, but I wasn’t so bothered by the comfort of the bed. Now bad beds are one of my biggest irritations as we travel.
Light coming in through the windows early in the morning also bothers me more now than it did when I was younger. I want it to be as close to pitch black as possible.
You don’t have control over these things when you travel. If the trip is a few days or even a few weeks, I know I’ll get through it and be home in my comfy bed soon enough. But as a digital nomad, I think it would eventually break me. The uncomfortable beds we’ve had on longer trips drove me insane, and I rarely got a good night’s sleep.
4. I’m healthier with a decent kitchen
I’m no world class chef or anything. But I have quite a few dietary restrictions, and life is much easier and healthier for me if I can make my own meals at home most of the time. Long term travel means cooking in rental apartments that are often poorly stocked. It’s hard to cook properly if the kitchen is only equipped to make tea.
We once stayed in an apartment that had a rusty pan. We’ve stayed in several that had almost no counter space to prep on. There was one place with no oven. Often they don’t have things I consider basics, like a peeler.
Some people are better at going with the flow and adapting to varying conditions. But not me. I like having a decent kitchen where I have everything I need, and I can easily cook my food.
5. I simply like having a home base
Overall I like having a home. Sure, I love traveling, and despite my routines, I actually do enjoy having a changing of scenery every now and then. But I like the consistency of a home base.
I’m not a hoarder or anything, but I like owning a few things and having pictures on my walls and having a comfortable place to hang out. We still own way fewer possessions than average, but I don’t really want to reduce down to only owning what can fit in my backpack.
Andy and I work from home, and over the past year we’ve morphed our guest bedroom into an office. It felt like a waste to have a guestroom that hardly ever had guests in it, and it made no sense for Andy to work at the dining room table and me on the couch.
Now we each have a desk with a nice work setup in there. I’m not a fan of working in cafes, so this is an important space. The last step is replacing the bed with a couch and making the room we spend the most waking hours in a comfortable, non-cluttered place.
Being a temporary digital nomad
All of these points conflict heavily with my desires to travel and see as much of the world as possible. I still love the idea of taking several months to travel around South America or Asia or some other region of the world. Winters in Berlin are pretty awful, so I still want to find different ways for us to be away and in a warm, sunny location.
I guess I just want the best of both worlds. Being a digital nomad is not for me, but being completely tied to one location all year round isn’t either.
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- Non-Traditional Interviews: Full-Time Travel with a Dog
- Dear Nomadic Life
- On Living a Non-Traditional Life
- Blogging Income Report: December 2016
February 20, 2017 @ 10:47 PM
My gosh, it feels like you’re inside my brain!! I couldn’t agree with you more! I love, love, love travelling and exploring the world but I also love having a home that I can come back to and wash my clothes in my very own washing machine the way I want to…
I had to laugh when you said you’re more picky about your friends and who you hang out with (regularly)… Me too!! Must be a getting-older-thing! 😉
When we went to Canada for six weeks last year, I found the stress of keeping up with blogging whilst travelling just too much and just gave up after two weeks. My dietary needs (gf) and wanting to explore keep us busy enough when we travel, plus I don’t want to be stuck behind my laptop and be connected all the time. I love the fact that I don’t always have internet access and am simply uncontactable….
I’ve since decided that blogging and travelling don’t go hand in hand for me, and I’ll squish it all into my routine once back at home. Which means that I’ll probably never get to sharing everything I want to but that’s ok.
Thanks for sharing, it’s refreshing to hear about people who love travel but don’t want to have this “super cool digital nomad” lifestyle… 🙂
February 22, 2017 @ 2:37 PM
Ha, I’m glad you could relate! I’m also finding that the dietary aspects of traveling is one of the most stressful things for me. I’m gluten-free, diary-free, and I can’t eat eggs or beans. All the easy travel food is usually sandwiches. Breakfast at hotels that include it tends to be egg-heavy. We even stayed at a resort in Costa Rica for a couple days, big buffet breakfast, so I thought it would be fine. Nope. Eggs, pancakes, waffles, bread of every imaginable kind, rice and beans (common in Central America), yogurt, and fruit. One day there was some mediocre sausage at least. So with all that food, I mostly ended up with just fruit.
I can’t really blog while traveling either. I had a month’s worth of posts written and scheduled before we went to Central America, and now I’m trying to get back into things to keep it going. I did a little bit of work here and there, like answering comments and emails and some social media stuff, but I struggled to get one post done to go up last Thursday because it was the only day I hadn’t scheduled.
Yep, the super cool digital nomad life is not for everyone!
February 23, 2017 @ 8:53 AM
Yes, I can totally relate to the travel with dietary restrictions thing, though you’re way worse than me by the sounds of it! I just have to be super careful about any gluten contamination… But no eggs… phew, I think I would starve! 🙁 I live on eggs when travelling (and at home, haha 🙂 ).
Looking forward to some posts about your recent travels, now that you’re back home. 🙂
February 25, 2017 @ 5:00 PM
Hmm worse and better. I probably have more foods I can’t eat, but I’m not a Celiac, and none of those foods make me sick in tiny portions. I’ll still steal little bites of Andy’s waffle now and then, but I feel sick if I eat a whole waffle myself. So yeah, I cheat a lot on my dietary restrictions, even though I know I shouldn’t. I also always travel with granola bars that don’t have gluten in them, so sometimes I end up with fruit and a granola bar, and sometimes peanut butter, for breakfast.
It might be a little while, but yes, eventually I’ll write about Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua!
February 21, 2017 @ 12:15 PM
So glad to read this post! Screams out what I feel about traveling :p
I believe that to travel regularly, we don’t always have to ‘leave everything behind’ and become a nomad.
Just like you, I also love having a home base and community of friends – cause yes, the older we get, it’s harder to make friends. Of course, making friends while traveling is fun, and they could be friends for life as well – but most of the time (if not everytime), it won’t be a deep kind of friendship.
And I’m also person who needs those people who really know me inside out for years, like those friends from school. I need them for my soul and happiness, hahah!
Love your blog!
February 22, 2017 @ 2:41 PM
Thanks Misha! Yeah, I love meeting people while I’m traveling, but you’re right, they rarely turn into anything meaningful. More likely, I’ll become “friends” on FB and a year later when I see them post something, I’ll have no idea who they are or how I ended up connected to them. And I’ll never find good friendships in Berlin if I don’t spend enough time here. I’m like you, I need people who really know me, those deeper connections. I’d rather have a few of those than dozens of acquaintances.
February 22, 2017 @ 5:11 PM
What a great post Ali, and a relief for me to read actually as sometimes it feels that with my job – travel writer – there’s the expectation I SHOULD enjoy being a digital nomad.
But I can’t do it. Like you, I base myself in one country where I’ve grown a good small community of people I enjoy spending time with, yet I’m also close enough to home (UK) to be able to divide my time and go back there and spend time too.
I don’t mind travelling once a year for 4 or 5 weeks to research for the guidebook company I work for, but I certainly couldn’t move permanently every few weeks…I like routine too…I need an anchor.
February 25, 2017 @ 4:54 PM
Thanks Rebecca! I’m glad this struck a chord. I love the *idea* of being a nomad and I often wish I could have that lifestyle. But OMG it is NOT for me at all! I’ll do short trips or long trips, but I need to be able to come back home afterwards, sleep in my own bed, cook in a decent kitchen, and have my routines again. I like how you say that, you need an anchor!
Cez of eTramping
February 23, 2017 @ 6:59 AM
All valid points, Ali. Sometimes being a complete nomad isn’t the answer, but travelling on occasion is still an invaluable experience. I can relate to a lot of this though.
February 25, 2017 @ 4:56 PM
Thanks Cez! I keep thinking eventually I want to try a 6 month or year long trip (I’ve done 5 months, but it was after I got married and *without* my husband, so it was a bit rough) to have the experience and see a bunch of different places, but that might be several years into the future.
March 20, 2017 @ 4:09 AM
Hey there! Nice post!! I definitely relate to this list, as it’s also really important to me to have a place that I call home and form communities in the places I live. I love being able to cook in my own kitchen and do laundry whenever I feel like it and find a couple of restaurants and coffee shops to frequent around town. They’re little things but they make me happy. Wishing you the best of luck as you search for a balance between traveling and stability! 🙂
March 26, 2017 @ 6:34 PM
Thanks Alissa! It’s a tough balance to find, but I’m working on it!
March 24, 2017 @ 4:20 AM
About a year ago I decided to resign from my teaching job in Kuwait this year, which I did. I thought I would try being a digital nomad. Then I read this and thought , “That’s me!” After tossing the digital nomad idea I still don’t know where I’ll end up in a few months, but at 46, I know it will be somewhere with a comfy bed and a decent kitchen! Thanks for posting this.
March 26, 2017 @ 6:42 PM
I hate to be the sole reason you decided not to go the digital nomad route! I think there are a lot great reasons to try it out, and lots of people, including one of my closest friends, love the lifestyle. But yeah, it’s not for me. I still want to do long term trips here and there, but I love having a base and a home to call my own.
May 17, 2019 @ 7:07 PM
Yep!!! 100% can relate!!
May 20, 2019 @ 7:25 AM