Being a digital nomad is AMAZING in concept and in practice. The thing is, whenever we step out of our comfort zone and try something new, we’re going to be a bit uncomfortable. That’s what happens when you step out of your comfort zone; you get uncomfortable. Part of the discomfort of being a digital nomad or an expat is that loneliness is real.
What is nomad loneliness?
Nomad loneliness is a feeling purposeless. It looks like waking up but having absolutely no incentive to get out of bed. It feels like not caring about your outward appearance because there’s no reason to care.
You could have work to do but no desire to do it.
It could be that you’re in a new exotic place and have a ton of sites to see, but you’re alone and what fun it is to see the world and have no one to share it with you?
Maybe the cultural differences in the new country are so different from your own that you feel like an alien whenever you venture out.
Perhaps you’re in a country where begging is normal or poverty is rampant and your heart breaks every time you step out of the comfort of your expat bubble.
No matter how introverted you are, being a nomad or an expat, feeling alone can come in many forms and be caused by a multitude of reasons.
How do you handle digital nomad loneliness?
While there are numerous pharmaceuticals that will address this problem, I’m going to focus on non-pharmaceutical approaches. The methods that I share are things that I’ve done personally to address my own nomad loneliness issues. While I’m neither an expert nor a mental health professional, I have suffered from nomad depression and loneliness from time to time. If these approaches don’t help your specific case, please contact a mental health professional to provide you with one-on-one support. There’s no shame in asking for help. We all need it sometime.
5 Way To Handle Digital Nomad Loneliness
1. Get Dressed. Yes, take a shower and put on actual clothes. And no, yoga pants don’t count. Do something cute to your hair. Put on a little fragrance. Make yourself feel and look attractive. At least a quarter of the of the battle to not feeling blue is putting a little effort in your look. You’re not getting dressed for other people. You’re taking the effort and time to make yourself feel good about yourself. Do all of this for yourself (by yourself if you must) even if the only thing you can find to do is to visit a friend or to go grab a coffee.
2. Make A Date. Once you’re dressed and feeling jazzed about how nice you look when you take off your yoga pants, make sure you’ve set a date to do something fun, even if it’s with yourself. Maybe you’ll go to a new tourist site you haven’t seen. Maybe you’ll treat yourself to a lunch at the most popular expat spot. You could even just plan to go grocery shopping. The key here is to get your tush out of the house. Nothing good comes from becoming a hermit.
3. Find A Local Non-Profit. Being a nomad is challenging for many reasons, but one of the hardest ones for me is seeing the extremes of wealth and poverty around the world. There are people who live on less than $1 a day in many places around the world. But it’s one thing to know logically that poverty exists, it’s another thing entirely to see sick babies at hospitals and parents with little to no way to pay for services. It’s one thing to say that you want children to have access to basic services and it’s another thing entirely to be surrounded by 15 children (little kids) asking for money, asking for help. And it’s really easy to just want to give everything you have and then go hibernate in your house until you can leave the country. That’s the loneliness.
But hibernation (as tempting as it may sound), that’s not reality. Reality is getting out of bed and facing that poverty daily because if they have to live it you can at least see it. And because you see it you can do something about it. You can find a local non-profit or a sponsor a family to help kids to attend school to make sure families have one meal a day. Once you find a place to give, donate and donate often. While your donations may not immediately fix the poverty outside your window, it may give a family the opportunity to send a child to school where she can be fed and receive an education. Her education may one day lift that whole family out of poverty.
4. Get A Job And Work With People. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a nomad, a digital nomad, an expat, or a trailing spouse. When things get tough, for me, it’s always a good idea to look for a job. In my mind, a job is a project that challenges your mind and puts money in your pocket. Find one of those. It doesn’t have to pay buckets of money, and there are only three qualifications for a good nomad job: 1. It has to allow you to use your brain. 2. Talking to humans must be involved either in-person or virtually (over the phone or via video conference) everyday. 3. It needs to pay you enough money to incentivize you to do the job well. Finding a job that meets these qualifications shields you from the loneliness because it gives you another focus.
5. Make A True Friend. In this life of constant moving, making friends can seem like a hassle. After all, can friendship really thrive within a few months’ time? Turns out, yes, it can, and it makes a huge difference. I’ve made life-long friends sometimes with individuals I’ve only been able to reach out and touch for as little as six months. Now, most have scattered the globe, but I know they’re there for me as I’m there for them. We keep in touch primarily using WhatsApp, but these 10 communication apps for digital nomads help us stay connected. When you’re suffering from loneliness, it’s important to have friends, both in-person and virtual. Having people who care about you around you, matters.
Give Your Nomad-Self Some Grace
Hey! Give yourself some grace. You’ve chosen to live a harder-than-normal life. While, the nomad/expat life looks glamorous, it’s hard work. There’s no social safety net to catch you. Your family and friends aren’t anywhere nearby. So, you have to create your friends and given the many challenges in THIS nomad life, some of those friends will become like family because they’ll be there for you when you need them.
If you’re feeling nomad loneliness, give yourself some grace and be compassionate with yourself. This stuff is hard. I hope you’ll start working through some of my suggested methods to help you get out of the nomad loneliness funk. While things are hard now, I hope in a short while you’re able to get to the other side of this and look back and see how far you’ve come.