4 Weighty Drawbacks to Consider Before Becoming a Digital Nomad

Auriane Alix
I’ll be home in three days.
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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I didn’t listen to anyone. I was afraid it would make me change my mind, even though deep down I knew I had to do it. Otherwise, it would continue to go round and round in my head. I had to make my own experience. I wanted to become a digital nomad, pack a week’s worth of clothes, my daily life and my work in a carry-on suitcase, and exile myself overseas for a while.

If you too feel that you need to do this to be at peace with yourself, go for it. Don’t even hesitate. The four drawbacks I’m going to mention are good to know, but they’re not such that you should cancel everything. When you know, you know.

However, these are the reason I’m coming home in three days, after exactly three months as a digital nomad. I was the first to be surprised: I thought this would be my lifestyle for at least the next two years.

1. You’ll probably discover the true meaning of the word “homesick”

In a way, I’m lucky to have felt intense homesickness. It means that I have an environment that I love, filled with people that I love, that I miss when I am away from it. Depending on the relationship you have with this thing called home, you may or may not feel it. In my case, I still didn’t expect homesickness to creep up on me in this way. So soon, and so intensely.

I missed my family. I missed the simple moments I shared with my loved ones. But not only that. I missed the sense of security that comes from being at home in familiar surroundings. I missed living a simple, grounded life.

At first, this hint of sadness was scattered here and there. Then it appeared every day, several times a day.

The day I woke up with it and felt that I was no longer happy, even in the midst of the beauty of Costa Rica, I knew it was time to go home. That wasn’t the only reason, of course; I just felt like I had reached the end of my experience, but it still played a role.

2. Expect to feel completely lost at first

When I arrived in Lisbon, I felt a coldness inside, a feeling of being lost, and I caught myself thinking “Here, this is what you wanted.” Turns out I didn’t feel so happy.

I thought I needed time to adjust, which was true. But still, the first few days weren’t the best. Plus, I was staying in a hotel room, as my Airbnb got canceled last minute. Working from my bed was not my idea of digital nomadism.

It will take a while to find your rhythm, your bearings, and feel comfortable. Anyway, remember that human beings are creatures of adaptation. If that’s your thing, you’ll get there. You didn’t expect everything to be rosy, did you?

3. Don’t be too demanding in terms of comfort

In Lisbon, I worked from my bed. And I had to ask to change rooms because the first one was so noisy that I had to sleep with earplugs and so cold that I ended up in bed with my clothes on.

In Mexico, fortunately, everything went well.

In Costa Rica, I woke up because a huge cockroach was climbing on my neck. Today I had to repatriate myself inside my apartment because the mosquitoes were too hungry. I find myself bent over flattening my breakfast in my stomach to write on a coffee table.

Not to mention the noise, interruptions, and inevitable adjustments one has to make when abroad. Because that’s why we’re abroad: to shake things up. But when you have to work at the same time, it’s not always fun.

But then again, it’s nothing. You just have to be prepared, and not expect total comfort, because no comfort can surpass the one you have at home. You may not find comfort, you’ll surely find (many) other things.

4. You won’t really be free

Oh, freedom. That feeling of getting on a plane with no return ticket. That slice of time that doesn’t have to end until you decide it does. I thought digital nomadism would give me that ultimate feeling of freedom I was craving.

But the truth is, if you want to maintain reasonable comfort and peace of mind, you’ll be forced to plan ahead. You’re not that free. I booked everything two months in advance because I didn’t want to pay too much for my plane tickets, I had to show an exit at every airport, and I didn’t want to end up with the worst Airbnbs that nobody wanted.

I know some digital nomads manage to plan only a week or two in advance, but honestly, my peace of mind didn’t want to take the risk. The risk of being in an unsafe neighborhood as a single woman, the risk of being in a noisy, non-functional environment, the risk of having lousy wifi, or just not having a home at all. Or paying $1000 for my plane ticket like I did yesterday because I had no choice if I wanted to go home.

Digital nomadism is a different kind of freedom, sure, but a limited one. Like everywhere else.

The bottom line

These drawbacks do not change the fact that these three months were some of the best adventures of my life. I met some great people, learned a lot about myself and life — and found some answers in the process — ate delicious food, and felt good most of the time.

Nothing is 100% perfect. If I list some of the drawbacks I encountered during my few months of digital nomadism, it’s not to make you give up on this project. It’s just to make you aware, and mentally prepared. At times, it will be difficult. You’ll be away from everything you know, and you’ll have to deal with what comes your way.

But what a great way to grow! If the question goes round and round in your mind, my advice would be: do it. You can always go home when you feel like you’ve done your time. Just like I did.

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