The Downside to Life as a Digital Nomad

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

The Digital Nomad Perception

If you have been following my blog you may have noticed life appears amazing, perfect and as a dream. While yes, I'm living my dream, there is also the other side of the digital nomad lifestyle that many don't see. When you change literally every aspect of your life, from the people your surround yourself to, to a new job, to condensing your life belongings into a suitcase, to always calling a new country home every month, eventually the adrenaline subsides and the reality hits. Your body almost goes into a shock.



The Mini Mental Breakdown

I arrived in Istanbul, Turkey at the beginning of September. In the first 2 weeks, I had what I call my mini mental breakdown. For awhile I didn't know what was happening to me. All I knew is that I had no energy, no motivation and I just felt "off" in every and any bad way. I think I've since learned what happened to me. Conveniently and all at the same time over the those 2 weeks, I...

  • Experienced culture shock (for the first time)
  • Homesickness (for the first time)
  • Being physically sick (just a little)
  • Was stressed about money
  • Was in shock from being in one of the biggest cities in the world when I'm a beach bum at heart and we had just spent the previous month in the tiniest beach town ever, Cavtat Croatia
  • Was surrounded by an array of world issues, experiencing them first-hand
  • Oh and I spent 5 or 6 hours lost in the city one day. Not a glamours "wow let's explore" situation. It was more like hopping between transit the entire time, while you watch the battery life on your phone slowly dwindle second by second

The composition of all those at the same time, I think garners a "mini" mental breakdown.

Digital nomad life isn't always glitz and glam so I am hoping to shed light on the other side of it. Aside from the wonderful pictures and places, believe it or not life still happens and is full of surprises - the good and bad. From job loss to broken computers and phones - the world doesn't stop just because you are in a different country. Don't get me wrong, I would not trade this experience for the world but I just want people to understand that life doesn't stop and become perfect, just because you are in a different country. 

The Lessons I Learned

Although I had just experienced two weeks of chaos, they were full of self-reflection and growth. Here are the wonderful lessons I've learned.

Greater compassion for people who get homesick

pictures of family and friends on my wall

pictures of family and friends on my wall

I grew a greater sense of compassion for people who experience being homesick. I had never experienced being homesick before. I have missed my family before, sure, but not homesick. I never fully understood people who had experienced this. But now that I understand it... holy! Being homesick is the worst. It feels like you broke up with your family. You want to see them but can't and everything reminds you of them. However, this experience helped me gain an appreciation for those who go through it and thus I have a better opportunity to help them through their situation as well.


How to feel at home anywhere

The las two weeks made me consider what I can incorporate into my travels that brings a sense of home. To me, this includes:

  • Photos: of family and friends
  • A plant: it's rare to have houseplants traveling abroad
  • Candles: there's just something about them
  • Incenses: for meditations. I heard smell has a strong association to memory etc, which probably explains this one
  • A vision board: I'm all about the self-help stuff and have found success in the past by setting goals and envisioning the type of person I want to be
  • Small luxuries: or items I usually have at home but don't have while traveling, such as nail polish! Who would have thought nail polish could make me feel at home. I felt like I upped my "travel bum" game and went back to normal life. What is normal now anyways...

Not to give up because appreciation will follow

I learned not to give up because appreciation will follow. Istanbul, Turkey is a wonderful city, however if you asked me after I had been here for a week if I wanted to stay or leave I would have said leave. If I was traveling on my own, I probably would have left. This is nothing against Turkey. It would have simply been that my scene, or vibe as you can call it, includes a beach, not a concrete jungle. However, being with the Remote Year group I had no choice but to embrace the month here. I am ever so glad I didn't have control over leaving because this city has grown on me tremendously. There are so many neighbourhoods/areas that I've grown to love, the food is amazing and as are the people. This has taught me to not go based on first impressions and to really get to know a place (or even a person for that matter) before making any judgements or decisions. Every thing and every one has a beauty to them and it's once you dig deeper that you realize this.

me in istanbul, turkey

me in istanbul, turkey

It's ok to open up... which is different than being outgoing

Sounds deep? I know, right? I learned that I am an outgoing, but closed off person. Before, I used the words "open" and "outgoing" synonymously. I never even considered that it was possible that they were two completely different things. When you are on the verge of "mini" mental breakdown, who do you turn to? That's when you realize, shit, I've gotten to know a lot of people but haven't let anyone really get to know me and see deeper than the surface. I realized I didn't really know everyone, although I thought I did. Among my two weeks I tried to purposefully reach out to more people and connect with them on a deeper level. I was surprised how everyone was so open-minded towards me, especially after I was closed off for 3 months. Among opening up I realized how many people had similar thoughts or feelings and that I wasn't the only one experiencing challenges. I knew the group of Remote Year participants were amazing but I've since realized just how amazing and incredible they are. Each of them has so much depth and I am excited and eager to continue opening up and getting to know everyone on that level.

Lost my ignorance towards world issues

I lost some ignorance and learned more about the world issues than a newspaper could ever explain. I felt it too. Before I would avoid watching the news because it's full of negativity and "scare tactics". However, I always knew the top line version of what was going on around the world but I never explored these issues in depth. Maybe it was my ignorance or selfishness but I found that once I saw these world issues impacting myself and physical people, well friends for that matter, these world issues started to hit home. Instead of a headline, it became an emotion for me. I felt for all of the people I knew that were and are impacted by these world issues.

  • Turkey

    • Seeing protests in the street first hand and getting updates of warning to avoid the Syrian and Turkish border really make you feel the elements of what's going on here. Also, having a Remote Year participant being from Turkey, it makes the situation more eye-opening. I would also like to point out that the protests I've seen have been peaceful. I do avoid them, in case things take a turn, but of the few I've seen it's simply people voicing their opinions loudly, in a group, holding Turkish flags. 
  • Syria's Civil War

    • I met someone from Syria who left Syria. He left behind his parents, whom for the foreseeable future, will never see again. He came to Turkey with friends who have since dispersed to Germany. Among casual conversation in our group of getting to know each other it was asked, "if you could have lunch with any person, living or dead, who would it be?" That's when our new found friend recalled the time his mother invited him to lunch. He laughed it off, as it seemed more of something friends would do, and didn't go. So, his response nonetheless was "I would have had that lunch with my mom". Heartfelt considering the fact he doesn't know when or if he will see them again.
  • The Brazilian Recession

    • The Brazilian recession, from my understanding, came unexpectedly. This means that the Brazilian dollar is doing really bad and paying the $2,000 USD Remote Year fee is very expensive. This also means jobs and work are hard to come by in Brazil. I've seen the stress and ultimately end results of what this has meant for some of our Remote Year participants. We've recently had a Remote Year participant, from Brazil, have to make the hard decision of leaving the program because it just simply didn't make sense to be spending the additional costs to simply cover the exchange rate.
  • The Canadian Recession

    • Now if the Brazilian recession wasn't personal enough for me, Canada is also in a recession (yes, I am Canada). The Canadian dollar has hit an 11-year low. This time last year, the Canadian dollar was worth 92 cents against the American dollar. Today it is only worth 75 cents. Pretty much for me that means I pay a lot more for Remote Year simply because of the exchange rate. Never in my life had the American dollar impacted my life - I never really needed or used the American dollar. And, of course, now that I need to use it for an entire year, the Canadian dollar is at an all-time low.

Remembered why I chose this journey

These last 2 weeks were a great reminder of why I am pursing this journey - to get pushed outside of my comfort zone so I can grow, not only learning about myself but the world around me. 

Remember, behind those filtered, glamorous photos that you see digital nomads showing to the world online, real life keeps happening and those are probably the pictures you won't see. Challenges arise and traveling the world doesn't stop that. But as I said, the beauty of the chaos is that when you are outside of your comfort zone, that's when your true growth happens.

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