13 Downsides to the Digital Nomadic Lifestyle

Table of Contents

Traveling the world on a whim and working on your terms may sound like a dream. Waking up in exotic new locations, floating through society and carving life out on your terms: what a dream. Or is it?

1. You lose touch with the “real world.”

Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

In this sense, the real world refers to your regular 9 to 5 job or any job that keeps you on schedule. When you live a nomadic lifestyle, you wake up when you want, go where the wind blows you, and all on your own time. At least for the most part. Instead of waiting for your vacation time, your whole life is a vacation, and you set aside time for work. This may be great for the time being, but you may have a hard time adjusting if and when you decide to settle down somewhere.

  • Join local groups and events on sites like Meetup
  • Connect with like-minded individuals at local and online events

2. You don’t have a solid community.

Photo by Ishant Mishra on Unsplash

Nomadic living means you are on the move most of the time. More often than not, you meet people and then leave. Your family is most likely far away from you, and only get to see you probably once a year. You may find a community of other transient nomads, or locals that watch travelers come through all the time. They won’t get attached and neither will you. You’ll miss having a community of people and a support system around you.

  • Connect with other digital nomads online and at mixer events near you
  • Keep in touch with close friends and family

3. People think you’re a mooch.

Photo by Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash

Most people will probably assume that you crash on couches and empty the fridge before leaving. They will think you don’t understand what hard work is, and that you are a neo-hippie floating around in the spiritual abyss trying to find yourself. They associate hard work with working for a salary to pay off a mortgage.

  • Don’t depend on people too much work toward self sufficiency
  • Pay your fair share with friends and family

4. You lose your concept of home.

Photo by Pixabay

You struggle to have a concept of home. Sure, home is where the heart is, but it has challenges. No permanent address, no place to send your mail (except maybe your parent’s house), and always living out of a backpack. You don’t feel at home in other people’s homes, and you don’t have one of your own.

  • Keep something familiar with you like a picture or charm
  • Find easy ways and travel gadgets to get a good quality of sleep

5. Money gets tight.

Photo by EVG photos

You need to hustle and it can be stressful. Unless you have a solid full-time online gig, you’re either probably managing a blog, writing for another blog, or have some sort of freelance gig. Some people find odd jobs, like working on farms or other seasonal jobs. But let’s face it, you are probably still looking online for ways to make money. In addition, you are probably on Instagram either promoting your own blog or looking at other travel bloggers’ page for ideas.

  • Find small part time gigs or jobs to supplement freelance work
  • Look for contract roles to build an amount of money you can expect each month.

6. You miss true friendship. 

Photo by Helena Lopes

After looking out for yourself and moving around, you might lose touch with close friends. You may be absorbed in an online community and focus on followers over friendship. When the heavy loneliness hits, you don’t have your bestie to run to and slumber party or grab drinks with. Sure, you can video chat, but being a digital nomad means you’re connecting through your screen. It’s simply not the same.

  • Keep up with friends and family on important events in your life
  • Make time to chat on the phone or video call your favorites

7. There’s a gap in your resume.

Photo by mentatdgt

When you’ve been on the road for more than a year, employers tend to raise an eyebrow. How will they know you’re not just going to up and leave on the next flight to tropical paradise? They won’t. They will wonder what small jobs you were doing, and if they mean you’ve developed any legitimate professional skills. Nomadic life is not the most impressive thing on a CV. Sure, you endured some real stuff, but are you serious about working? Do you care about retirement? It may be hard to prove unless you’ve had some really solid past work experience or you go back to school.

  • Get creative with how you present the experience. Find commonalities and tell a story about skills and knowledge you built.
  • Look for easy wins with certifications and online degree programs to beef up your resume.

8. Privacy becomes a luxury.

Photo by Scott Webb from Pexels

Moving from hostel to shared dorm to outdoor beach beach camps, you’re probably getting zero privacy. You get used to using public bathrooms to brush your teeth and blow dry your hair. Those long hikes alone are nice and incredibly fulfilling, but when you come back to take a shower, you have to wait until 3 other people are finished and all the hot water. You’ll miss having a space that is just for you.

  • Protect yourself online with a VPN service on your phone and computer
  • Keep an eye out for windows in the day where less people are using shared facilities.

9. You can’t have pets.

Photo by Lum3n.com

On a rare occasion people will travel with their dog, but for the most part, traveling with a pet is a nightmare. Catching a cheap international plane is a whole mess if you try to bring an animal. It won’t be cheap, you need to have a pet passport, and you’ll have to worry about them the whole trip. If you already have pets, you may have to re-home them or leave them with a family member, which can feel really sad or guilt-inducing. If you want to get pets, you’ll have to wait until your nomad living days come to an end.

  • Make arrangements in advance for pet sitters while you’re gone
  • If traveling with pets, make sure you’ve followed pet boarding and vaccination rules (country specific)

10. Relationships are a struggle. 

Photo by Odonata Wellnesscenter

Nomadic living means you’re always on the move, and it means you can’t get attached. To a place or a person. It may be part of your personality to be a “lone wolf,” but having a romantic relationship will make things challenging if you aren’t ready to settle down. Unless you and your partner are traveling together, managing a blog, photography business, what have you (hashtag relationship goals), you will struggle with this.

  • Build habits around connecting with your significant other.
  • Find time to go on adventures and build memories.

11. Your health is a gamble.

Photo by fotografierende

There is a good chance you don’t have travelers health insurance. It is expensive, and if you are living a nomadic lifestyle, you probably don’t have the means for it. If you get an infection or need to do labs to check your blood work, it may be hard to find the right doctor. You might get super sick or, worst case scenario, need to go to the hospital—in which case you may need a back-up plan or to phone a relative.

  • Try to quit smoking and get some cardio in your day
  • Make time for periodic checks with doctors to stay on top of things

12. You’ll wear the same clothes forever.

Photo by malcolm garret from Pexels

All you have is the clothes on your back. I mean, after-all, you don’t need much to get by. But after wearing the same pants for 4 days and needing to wash all your underwear, you may really miss having a dresser full of clean things to wear.

  • Check out local thrift stores for great deals on sometimes high-end clothing
  • Find places you can wash clothes in a pinch for cheap

13. You won’t know how to stop.

Photo by Pixabay

The travel bug has a tendency to stick around. Once you’re used to moving around and being stimulated by new surroundings, the old ones might bore you. You might not be able to stay in one spot without feeling trapped. This is part of nomadic living that is hard to shake. You might find yourself habitually on Skyscanner looking for that next flight because you can’t deal with the mundane. 

  • Consider taking a day or two extra for yourself to soak up your surroundings.
  • Think about mixing up your routine and discovering hidden gems.
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