From missing weddings to births to birthdays, being a Digital Nomad has its pitfalls. Contrary to what you see on social media, the nomadic lifestyle is not always about sipping sugary drinks poolside while working on your laptop. It’s more like erratic work hours, constant goodbyes and the endless search for strong wifi. Here are five things that I’m currently struggling with on my journey.
Not being there
Yesterday I received a message on Facebook that my close friend lost her mother. I was just with the two of them a few months ago, so it hit me hard. All I wanted to do was cry and give her a hug. Sometimes a virtual hug just isn’t enough. But unfortunately, all I could do was send her my condolences and ask if she wanted to talk about it.
In the last 6 months, I’ve missed the birth of a niece, the wedding of one my oldest friends and more birthdays than I can count. It never gets easy. I cry about it often. Luckily I have understanding friends and family who love and support me. People who don’t take it personally that I’m pursuing my travel goals.
I’m writing this at 4 AM. I’ve just completed a 3 AM virtual meeting with my part-time styling job. This week has been filled with writing deadlines and side projects. All while staying on top of my styling clients which is my constant stream of income. Tomorrow I will focus on styling before I attend an evening work event here in Bangkok. Then I have a 1 AM virtual meeting in California. Scheduling and accountability are the two trickiest things to master on this journey. I often feel like a vampire, sleeping all day and up all night. Because most of my clients are on the West Coast, which is a 13 hour time difference. I have little choice in the matter.
Having a strong wifi is a prerequisite for me. There are literally countries that I won’t be able to visit because the wifi is not strong enough. Looking at you Laos and Myanmar! Even still, I’ve had my fair share of technical difficulties over the last few months. The number one being wonky wifi. A couple of weeks ago I was in Chiang Mai for the Lantern Festival and while the accommodations were ok, the wifi was crap. The signal didn’t reach my room. So I had to sit in the outdoor common room to work. Which meant becoming a meal for all of the mosquitos in Northern Thailand.
My phone is locked. So I can’t switch my SIM card. Nearly every other person I’ve met has had an unlocked phone so switching SIMS so that they have data and wifi has been pretty painless and affordable. I contacted my US phone carrier before I left the states to ask about unlocking my phone. They said I’d have to sign up for a ridiculously expensive International Plan. I even took my phone to the Tech Mecca of Bangkok known as MBK Mall and left with my phone still locked. Maybe I’m doomed to travel the world without a data plan. Just an inexpensive emergency burner phone that I can use to call my bank, my phone company or my family when wifi calls aren’t acceptable.
Skype hates me. I don’t know why, but I can’t seem to log in to my account now that I’m abroad. I’ve literally tried everything. I’ve even contacted Customer Service and there’s nothing they can do. I had a few meetings that I couldn’t miss, so I had to create new profiles. All of which I’m currently locked out of. Jerks!
Since I’m currently leaving the country at least once a month, I haven’t invested in a Co-Working space just yet. Instead, I’ve been working from bed, hostel common rooms, internet cafes and of course Starbucks. I know, you can take the Basic Bitch out of the states, but make sure she’s got her Pumpkin Spice Latte, OKKKKK!?? I know that a Co-Working space is in my near future because I need a place with few distractions where I can increase my productivity. When you’re working in a hostel common room it’s difficult to be productive and not seem like an antisocial prick.
I was on a tight deadline while I was in Miami a few months ago. Not only was I staying at a party hostel, the only common area was a bar and my roommates decided to be Golden Girls and sleep at 9 PM. So here I am styling away in the bar area when a girl comes up and introduces herself. I say hi back and tell her my name. Then I tell her that I’m working and on a deadline. “I just wanted to say hi. GOSH!” was her response. I wanted to tell her that I was on the clock and I was being charged for every second that I spoke with her. But I just continued plugging away because Mama’s got bills to pay.
The FOMO is Real
As a Digital Nomad not only are you missing out on major events back home. You’re often missing out on things on the road. Sometimes you just have to Adult. Which might mean staying in to work instead of going on a day trip or turning up on the town. Making your own schedule means that some days are more flexible than others. But with any job, there are deadlines and expectations you have to meet. Believe it or not, Digital Nomads generally work more hours per week than someone working a nine to five job. #WhatWeekend? In my case, I have a steady job to be accountable for. Which means that I have to be available during work hours in California. I also have clients on the East Coast and manage my travel group which is literally a 24-hour gig. Not to mention writing my blog and for other outlets. Networking, managing my Social Media channels, the list is endless. But I prioritize, juggle and make it work. But it’s by no means an easy feat. And believe me when I say, it’s not for everyone.
Always saying “Goodbye”
I meet so many incredible people while traveling. More often than not those people are on a short holiday instead of traveling long term like I am. So saying goodbye is a constant. When you’re traveling, bonds can be made much quicker than if you’re at home. One of the main reasons for this is that when everyone is out of their comfort zones, the walls come down. People can be their authentic selves without being afraid of judgment. Because you more than likely are not going see those people again. To keep it 100, some goodbyes are harder than others. Sometimes you meet someone who you know will be a lifelong friend and saying goodbye to them is just as difficult as leaving your childhood bestie. Sometimes you meet someone that just makes you feel like you’re at home when you’re with them. You can tell your raunchiest jokes and hang out in sweats and sneakers without judgment. So when one of you leaves, it feels like you’re leaving home all over again.
Having the freedom to work from anywhere in the world is liberating. But it can also feel lonely as hell. It can be hard to hang on to those friendships back home. And you can never really fill anyone in on what you’ve experienced because so many things happen in one day when you’re a traveler. Overall, I feel like the positives outweigh the negatives. But it’s important to share the highs and the lows. I will continue on my journey, keeping you in the loop along the way. It’s even more imperative to check in with yourself along the way. To make sure that you’re on the road you want to be on because it’s never too late to change directions.