A year ago today, hungover and cold, I left my beloved London and embarked on my first “official” digital nomad trip. In between going back and forth to London to resolve some bureaucratic issues (hello citizenship!), I traveled to Argentina, the US and Canada, Italy and Thailand, where I am at the moment.
Anniversaries, like New Year’s Eve and similar moments, always prompt some reflections, so I thought I’d jot down some of the lessons learned (or “unlearned”!) over the course of the last 12 months.
1. Pack less
You won’t need half of the stuff you’re throwing in your suitcase/backpack.
2. Pack smarter
There are some things you cannot replace while on the road, so be smart about what you pack. It does take time to refine your packing skills.
3. Make time to connect with people from home
Even if it sometimes means Skyping at dawn.
4. Continue posting pics on Facebook
Highlight the good life you’re living now (or just how happy/content you are) despite many, MANY people telling you that they’ve had enough of being envious. They love you, they want to see more, and you should try to inspire them to go after what they want too.
5. Learn to appreciate fleeting and intense friendships
As digital nomads, people walk in and out of your life on a regular basis, and usually just when you’ve realized how awesome they are and how cool it is to hang out with them.
Then you have got to get to grips with the fact that they will leave tomorrow. But then again, you might meet them somewhere else along the way, and it will suddenly feel like you’re home again. Guys, you know who you are!
6. Don’t sweat the small stuff
I am usually already pretty good at this, and this relaxed, healthier life is just pushing me more in that direction.
7. Learn some words in the local language
With Spanish it was easy, with Thai not so much. Admittedly I have done a poor job in Thailand, only knowing hello, thank you and, my current favorite, how to say “5” - it is “ha”, so when you want to say LOL or hahaha in Thai, you just type 555! Great, isn’t it? Note to self: must do better.
8. Break out of the usual working patterns
Before, I could not write if people were being noisy next to me or with music playing in the background. These days, I make do (I do think I probably need to invest in some good noise-cancelling headphones).
I can concentrate in a busy cafe (if the food and coffee are good!) just as much as I did in my quiet apartment.
9. Tropical weather is bad for electronic devices
10. Think outside the box
This has been the biggest take-home so far. I am constantly plagued by self-doubt about not being able to do something or not being good at something else.
More and more, just by talking to people here and seeing the kind of opportunities people have seized, I asked myself “well, why the hell not me?”.
So I’ve been expanding my concept of what I can and want to do and throwing myself out there.
11. It’s OK to skip the alcohol and go home early
You don’t have to be part of every social event, gathering or party going on. You need to be a bit selfish sometimes, to make sure you’re healthy (in body and soul/mind) and do what is good for YOU.
Some people may be traveling to party all the time, props to them. I am traveling to see the world and be healthy but most of all to concentrate on my own projects that I’ve been putting off for far too long.
So 5 nights out of 7, after dinner accompanied by water, I go home to rest, watch some Netflix and sleep, ready for the next day.
The other 2 nights I’ll go out, have drinks and enjoy myself (not that I don’t the other times) and go home when I want to – which, it turns out, is still pretty early compared to my “previous” life.
And you know what? I don’t feel bad about that! It’s great. If you find that boring, that’s your problem.
12. Don’t always believe first impressions
People and situations can surprise you.
13. Be open to discussing your projects and ideas, and the problems you may be having with them
Chances are, as you talk through them, you’ll get a new idea or someone else could come up with something interesting. And if not, it’s still good practice for pitching and networking.
14. And finally, it’s ok to be a SLOWMAD (slow nomad)
Go at your own pace, because, after all, that’s the only pace that matters.
Follow Sara on her journey at http://sarabaroni.co.uk/wordpress.