One year ago, I flew to my second nomad destination, Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands. 🇮🇨 I was thrilled to escape the cold, grey skies of the UK 🇬🇧 and be within walking distance of the beach while searching for strong enough WiFi to do my job.
Since then, I’ve travelled around Europe, lived in various temporary “homes“, and asked, “What’s the WiFi password, please?” at countless cafes.
A quick search on the digital nomad lifestyle will show images of people with their laptops working from anywhere in the world, often with a backdrop of a beautiful city or serene beach. 🏝️
Years ago, I was a little obsessed with this idea of complete freedom and working from anywhere. The stories I internalised made me think it was the only way I wanted to live my life.
To this day, I still can’t believe I could make my far-fetched dream a reality.
Despite the endless content about digital nomads, very few people discuss the challenges of this lifestyle. Believe it or not, it’s not always working from beaches and having cocktails in the middle of the day.
Today, I wanted to share three cons I learned after being a nomad for a year.
1) Connection 💜
Making friends as an adult is already tricky, but imagine being a foreigner in an unfamiliar place where you can’t speak or understand the language. It’s even more challenging!
Although I’m quite an extrovert and can make connections on the go, creating deeper relationships has not been as easy. I know that everyone is different, but for me, I’m learning every day that these connections are THE most important thing in life.
I’ve spent most of my time as a nomad in Greece 🇬🇷, trying to integrate myself into the community. When I first arrived in May 2022, I didn’t even bother learning Greek because it didn’t cross my mind I would like Greece so much to stay.
As I started to learn recently, I noticed that it has helped me create special connections with locals. I see their appreciation that I’m trying, and in turn, I also feel a little closer to the culture and history – it’s honestly been nice! Greek is a beautiful language, and although challenging, it’s been fun. 🎡
Despite this, it became apparent that I would always be the stranger in the room no matter what; it doesn’t matter how long I stay or how much I try to learn to blend in–I’m different.
I’ll always be the annoying tourist?! 🤷♀️
Most relationships I’ve been trying to create have been fleeting because my time may be limited at that place. My whole life fits in a 40L backpack. I could leave tomorrow. Maybe I will… who knows?
Perhaps this signals people not to invest too much into any relationship with me apart from maybe someone to have fun with, which makes me feel pretty sad.
I would love to be proven wrong, but it’s something that I’m struggling with.
To illustrate this, I’d like to share a little insight into my romantic life.
Last summer, I met someone I enjoyed hanging out with and liked quite a lot. I vividly remember telling myself not to get too invested. This was primarily to avoid disappointment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t control my feelings — trust me, and I tried — I fell so fast.
I hadn’t been single in eight years, and it felt like it was my first time really “in the world” I learned that it’s common for some locals to have short-term tourist girlfriends in certain countries. That’s just how it goes. 🙃
It was how I was perceived, and it sucked. I realise now that he probably thought I was just a tourist passing by, so why commit? It’s funny that even typing that hurt.
A relationship could only be for fun and nothing else.
When I returned to Greece, now for the third time, and we reunited, I could see that his behaviour had changed ever so slightly.
It might’ve been a surprise that I was more serious about staying in Greece longer than a typical tourist. I wanted to make it work; I could make it work.
In his head, this could have opened up the chance that I’m potentially a long-term connection and not just a passing someone to have fun with.
This is obviously just a theory, and his reasoning may be completely different. I’m not too sure. I have an undeniable track record of being unlucky with relationships – perhaps I’m not as good at them as I thought.
This extends to every type of relationship – not just romantic ones.
No one talks about the difficulty of creating, maintaining, and growing relationships when someone is without stable roots. What’s the point if they just leave, right?
I’m stubborn and not a quitter, but the ephemerality of relationships as a nomad is enough for me to quit.
2) Rootless 🪴
I went from the final stages of buying a house in the UK and settling into roots to living out of my backpack in yet another Airbnb.
At the time, this was the experience I REALLY needed to go through to prove to myself that after the breakdown of a five-year relationship, I could be independent.
I bet many nomads have enjoyed not being rooted anywhere, especially with the freeing thought that you can start again and again and again.
To my surprise, this feeling passed.
Actually, it passed quicker than I thought it would.
The craving for stability, roots, and foundation building hit me hard. On my bad days, my mind goes to the thoughts on, “maybe I should’ve just gotten that house and stayed in that relationship.”
So, what do I do? Do I go back to the UK? Do I go back home? Where is home? Is it possible to create roots elsewhere from your home?
I decided to try the latter (for now): experimenting to see if setting up a life elsewhere is possible.
Learning Greek enables building deeper connections, but I have to admit that I also started learning to establish some roots here. 😬 It was pretty scary to type that out… 🤷♀️ Because the thoughts of “Is this the right place?”, “Is this the right time?” and “Is this what I want?” constantly occupy a big chunk of my mind.
I don’t know. I’m trying to figure it out.
What I do know is that we all need roots.
Although I’m staying in one place in Athens and travelling whenever I can around Greece, there is still a lingering travel burnout. I don’t even know what to call it, to be honest. Is it travel burnout? Or is it the feeling of being away from home?
Yes, I’m getting used to my environment, the people, and the language. Regardless, there’s still this existence of being a stranger and constantly trying to fit in, set up roots, and blend in. It’s exhausting.
No matter what, I’m actually not home.
Over the last few months, I’ve been trying to articulate these thoughts. But even then, I still don’t think I’ve truly expanded on them well enough.
…I’m also still trying to figure it out in real time.
Do I stay longer? Do I give it another shot because time always helps? Or do I quit and admit that this is too difficult?
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), my gut feeling is to take on the challenge. I plan to keep an open mind, let life happen here, and see where it leads me, at least for the next six months.
Although this blog post focused on the negatives that many people don’t talk about, I have to say that I don’t regret anything that led me here. I’ll write a part 2 that focuses on the good, maybe soon… 💭
I’m glad I’ve reached this point in my reflection, and I’m optimistic that it will only get better from here.