I‘ve had many homes throughout my life, and as a result, what the word signifies to me has shifted considerably over the years. That is, with each respective place I’ve called home, my personal definition of it changes. Right now, for example, home for me looks like being uncomfortable; it looks like being open to adventure. Home is about learning how to belong wholly to myself and present no matter where I am in the world. That’s largely because in July, I sold most of my belongings, packed up the rest, and started life as a digital nomad.
Digital nomads are location independent people who can work anywhere with a technological connection. And, given the rise of flexible workplace environments that have emerged in the midst of stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, it should come as no surprise that the digital nomad lifestyle has appealed to many itching to break out of quarantine and take in the world, as safely as they can.
According to a 2020 report by MBO Partners, the number of digital nomads in the U.S. rose from 7.3 million in 2019 to 10.9 in 2020. And its just-released 2021 report claims that number has since risen to 15.5 million. That means the number of Americans embracing the digital nomad lifestyle has risen 100 percent, by their measure, since 2019. But, just because it’s a popular and in many ways alluring choice that people are capitalizing on doesn’t mean it’s not without its challenges—namely, when it comes to creature comforts, like identifying with a sense of home.
I’ve already come to realize that feeling at home, even when in a place totally new to you, can come in fleeting moments, and exactly when you need it. For example, after a few weeks of being in Mexico City, my phone broke. I assumed getting it fixed would be a huge inconvenience, given my lack of bearings in this new-to-me city and country, but ultimately, the process wasn’t the headache I had built it up to be. In fact, it ended up being quite nice. While at the Apple Store, I stumbled upon a location of my favorite restaurants, Vapiano. Seeing this place reminded me of a city I used to call home: Chicago.
Now, three months into life on the road, I know that moments like unexpectedly finding Vapiano are helpful for quelling doubts I have about whether I’m making the wrong choice with my time. Before I left, folks would ask me questions like, “What are you running from?” “Don’t you want to get a real job?” “Shouldn’t you be settling down?” And while I certainly do have moments of homesickness where I crave the familiar and a sense of routine, I also know I’m doing what’s right to me, and I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself. I’m not running, I’m exploring; I work in ways that fulfill me and allow me to spend my life doing what I wish; and as far as settling down, the only timeline I’m operating on is my own.
For more intel about how to abandon preconceived notions about any supposed life timeline you’re meant to follow, check out the Well+Good Podcast episode below:
Home is, ultimately, wherever I land and work to be mindfully present with myself and my surroundings. And to help any other digital nomads (or those considering taking up the lifestyle) who are struggling with the perceptions of what home means, here are five tips that I try to live by.
5 tips to find a sense of home as a digital nomad
1. Pace yourself
When I set out on journey of being a digital nomad, I planned on hopping around to different countries and cities every week. I was thinking big. But then, after weeks of being in Cabo, I didn’t want to leave. So, I didn’t.
There’s no rush when you’re traveling as a digital nomad. So, give yourself enough time to develop deep connections to the places you visit. Taste the food, smell the goodness, and see the city waking up. Doing so will help you feel grounded and decrease the chance of experiencing travel burnout or exhaustion as you bounce around the globe.
2. Prioritize your boundaries
For me, setting boundaries as a digital nomad looks like being fully present where I am. So, I might have less time and access for certain things than what I had before I embraced this lifestyle. For instance, maybe I don’t have time to have an extensive conversation with as many people as I’d like every week, or maybe I don’t take on as many work assignments, if I’m able to pass on some at a certain juncture.
While it sometimes feels as though you must do every last thing, I tend to focus on what I want to experience and see and leave the rest up to fate. Remember, saying “no” is still a complete sentence. Also, make sure set boundaries at work, so you’re not glued to your computer all day, every day when you’re supposed to be enjoying your surroundings, as well.
Budgeting will help to make sure your pockets can keep up with your new lifestyle. As someone who recently paid off $30,000 in student debt, I’m big on budgeting and organizing my finances. With the shift to traveling full-time, I’ve had to get very specific with how I spend and save so I am able to reap the most from this wonderful life experience. My best advice here is to be realistic with your resources, prepared to change your money mindset, and plan ahead to ensure you’re not returning home to an empty bank account when your travels are done.
4. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Before I left, I was ready to move abroad and was prepared to hop around blissfully. But, life is life and growth isn’t always a 100 percent blissful process. So, lean into your development; travel can be transformative, but only if you allow it to be. That means you’d be wise to work to embrace the great with the challenging.
5. Just go
All the good intentions in the world won’t mean much unless you eventually decide to act. So, book the plane ticket, the accommodation, and allow the rest to unfold. A quote by Rumi has helped to keep me grounded and calm about the lack of certainty implied in embracing this tip: “As you walk on the way, the way will appear.”
As long as you are present and mindful in where you travel as a digital nomad, you will find home around every corner.
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