Unexpected Emotional Challenges I Faced Preparing To Become A Digital Nomad

It’s been more than a year since I began my journey to digital nomadism. I spent a lot of time thinking about becoming a digital nomad. I knew that it would be a huge upheaval.


I recognized that it would require my existing abilities to be stretched and tested – while also needing me to acquire a whole heap of skills that I didn’t have. I also correctly projected a lot of self-doubt. I knew I’d feel out of my depth. But despite all my visualization and preparation, there are some things I didn’t anticipate:

Unexpected Emotional Challenges I Faced Preparing to Become A Digital Nomad

1. Stuff Withdrawal

It’s not like I have been terribly attached to things over the years. A mere 5 years ago I downgraded to having only 2 bags that contained all my worldly possessions. And although I had made some half-hearted resolutions to keep my belongings to a minimum, that did not happen. However, I still didn’t have all that much stuff. Not a house-full like some people. Just a room-full. And the thought of getting rid of most of it didn’t bother me. I sold some of it, and gave most of it to charity.

stuff withdrawal
Trying to keep a smile on my face as I pack

Here’s the unexpected part. While I was packing to leave for my travels I got down to toiletries and notebooks, perfumes and a few select items of clothing. This collection made up a small corner in the otherwise bare room. And I found myself sitting before this small pile of possessions, not being able to believe that I would have to leave behind a brand new bottle of lotion that was a gift to me.

Sure, I could give it away. But with only a few weeks to go before I was leaving I’d given away so much already – I felt exhausted at the thought that I still had to give up even more. I’d done so much already – donated the satin dresses that I took on that cruise I went on, I found a better home for 40 pairs of shoes, but with the carry-on limits at an all time low I found myself making ridiculous choices – between my rain slicker or my portable battery.

Well, I could simply not take any toiletries to keep the weight down. That would solve the dilemma. But then I’d feel this twisting in my chest because it seemed like such a waste. I already had a bottle of lotion that was perfectly good.. At the end of it all it came down to not the usual choice – between what I use and what I don’t need. It came to choices between many equally useful things. That I found hard. I got through all of it and packed what was most necessary. But it just reinforced in me the fact that sometimes we create more attachments to things than we realize we have.

Speaking of attachments…

2. Social Reactions

People changed towards me after finding out about my digital nomad plans.

digital nomad social isolation
Don’t be surprised if people you know seem to turn their back on you

And this included even those that said they were supportive. Often it was a wide-eyed look and they would say that they wish they could do what I was going to do. Often I felt like they were almost physically drawing away – as if they were subconsciously acknowledging to themselves: “She’s not one of us anymore, she has joined the lucky elite”.

Huh. Not exactly accurate.

And both those who supported me – and those who didn’t – shared a particular reaction.It’s hard to explain. Almost like they…deleted me. As though they felt – I guess emotionally at least – that me leaving for overseas means that I’m gone. And I’m not really. Especially in this digital age. But I felt them putting me in a box. I guess I was surprised that I would feel so written off by people. Didn’t feel warranted. But I guess I get it – a little.

3. The Hollow Point

It would have to have been in the final two weeks before leaving on my travels that I reached the ‘hollow point’. At that point my departure was right on the horizon. Perhaps this is when it started to get real. Regardless, a cloud of some sort hung over me in those final days.

Thinking about it, I realise it was like when you go climbing across large rocks as a kid, like down at the cliffs by the sea. You always find that you come to a point between two rocks, and the leap is a little out of your comfort zone. You take a few steps back and assess the jump. Then you leap.

on the road in Thailand
Feeling far more relaxed once I got on the road
But there’s that feeling as you are in mid-flight. A feeling that acknowledges that if you haven’t made enough of a run or haven’t thrown yourself across the gap with enough force, well, there will be a lot of plummeting in your very near future… I suppose the transition from a regular life to a nomadic one is kind of like that.
 
You prepare as best you can. But you know some things just have to be left to chance. And so there’s still always that feeling. That you might fall. This for me was my hollow point. But fortunately, as soon as I stepped on the plane it was gone. I’d suspected it would leave then – as the scales finally tipped in favour of excitement.

So What’s The Solution?

What can I say? The nomadic lifestyle is about experiencing new things and getting well outside your comfort zone. I guess the moral of the story is, don’t think that you will have to wait to leave your home before the new experiences come.

Once you make the commitment to change – the changes begin. Those you are prepared for, as well as those you don’t expect. Are you preparing for your nomad debut? If you have recently made the jump, what emotional challenges have you faced?

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