Every time I head to a new country, I realize one thing. You’ll meet many people who you’ll never see again. I’m currently in Lisbon for about a month and ten days. On my last night at the Lookout Lisbon Hostel (I moved to an AirBnB afterwards) I had some intellectual chats with two others from New York City and Germany. We had lunch the next day, but when I left the hostel to my AirBnB, all we said was a quick goodbye. I only had their first names and phone numbers, with no last names or Facebook information exchanged. I’m pretty sure we’re not going to see each other again.
But this happens all the time during the nomadic journey. Friends come and go.
So can it get lonely?
Today I unintentionally organized a work session/meet-up with 5 other digital nomads from the NomadList Slack channel. It was a productive day.
At Pop Cereal Cafe, Lisbon
One of the members had been a nomad for over a year, and he told me he gets burnt out from this lifestyle and that he has to return home for some time before setting off again.
Another person I was online chatting with, a nomad living in Thailand, was telling me “This lifestyle can be quite lonely, especially after the honeymoon phase. Everyone else is still doing the 9 to 5 grind.
I started to think about my own situation. While in Bucharest, what made my stay special was the fact that I made a group of friends – 3 other nomads from America and Australia, and 1 expat from Germany. We somehow got along so perfectly that it felt like I had a new group of close friends who I could talk to even when we moved to different countries.
I think I’ve posted the above picture too many times
And that ended up being the case!
Having friends that understand my journey, who I can still talk to and maintain a strong friendship with AFTER we’ve parted, is so important to my well-being while abroad. A few of us are actually meeting up in Hong Kong when November comes around! The fact that distance doesn’t matter as much with this group makes me feel like they’re my “constant” in a nomad life of constant change. I’m still chatting with my friends from home, but my Bucharest friends complete me in a different way.
I keep wondering – would I have missed home more if I didn’t meet this group of friends?
I still haven’t felt those negative feelings that one may face while traveling longer term. Even after three months, I’m still grateful for each day as a digital nomad. Sometimes I stop and contemplate about how “I’m seriously so blessed” or how “life is beautiful”, or realize “dude, I’m in freakin’ LISBON right now and it’s AMAZING.”
I spoke to one of my Bucharest friends about this topic, and he felt exactly the same way. Before he met our little group, he was ready to leave Bucharest because he was starting to feel lonely. Meeting people while traveling just isn’t the same because it’s hard to connect with locals or travelers on a vacation mindset. Most are living a more conventional route and they can’t just up and leave whenever they want. So once you leave, or once they leave, who knows when you’ll see or talk to them again?
Finding constants in a life of change…
Being different among a world of “constants”, where most people have one home base, one job, one group of friends, can make being a person of change, difficult. As a digital nomad, you’re constantly moving, but most of the people you know, aren’t. And it can be kind of depressing when you realize how ephemeral all your journeys and encounters can be. It seems like it’s a huge problem that many nomads face.
My friend told me “One of the reasons I wanted to do this was to connect with other nomads and have that community.”
After three months, I’ve been realizing more and more that it is extremely important to embrace the digital nomad community. If you don’t, you might find this journey harder and harder as it progresses.
They say “the only constant is change”. But when it comes to the digital nomad lifestyle, I disagree. If change were the only constant, I’d probably start feeling lonely and maybe homesick. I’d probably start questioning my path.
Instead, I say…find community. Find the digital nomads who are on similar paths, who you relate to, and keep them by your side (well, via online communication). These people, these “constants” in a life of constant change, will reduce negative feelings while on the nomadic quest.