Ok. So you’ve settled your affairs back in your home country, you’ve had a smooth flight in, you’ve got your apartment squared away and you have a Live Like a Local guide for your chosen city that you’ve read through at least once so you have a vague familiarity with wherever you are. Now it’s time to actually settle in to do as the guide suggests and transform into a local resident. Just another day in the life of a location independent digital nomad.
First and foremost, congratulations for making the transition into a digital nomad lifestyle. You’ve taken the first steps on a grand adventure that will last a lifetime, one that will take you to all corners of the globe to experience multiple different cultures and bring you to the realization that we are all One People sharing One Planet and working towards One Goal of shared experience. You’ve broken the shackles of conformity and you are now a liberated person, free to live your life as you see fit, in any place that calls to your heart, with people who have the same goals, ideals and desires as you. You are one of the Free People of the planet, and I welcome you!
But there are a couple more things I want to talk to you about before I leave you to explore your new life. Because despite how excited you are right now, and despite how much fun you are having exploring your new home, there are some issues that can potentially cause problems for the uninitiated newbie.
Homesickness is one of the issues that can arise to plague digital nomads on their first extended stay outside. It can strike in many different ways. It might start small, like missing your favorite supermarket, or the snacks you can buy at your local 7-Eleven or equivalent. It might be the breakfasts they serve at McDonald’s in your old home. It could even be the type of cars people drove where you originally hailed from, or the type of clothing or the weather or any multitude of things. But at some point during your first location independent city stay you are going to experience a sense of longing for the way things used to be. A sense of familiarity. And that’s normal. It happens to everyone at some point or another, and it’s no different than quitting cigarettes; at some point during the breaking free stage you are going to experience withdrawal.
Next up is culture shock. This is a big one, and for some people it is the make-or-break aspect of transitioning into a location independent lifestyle. It goes hand-in-hand with homesickness, but it’s not a yearning. It’s a blatant slap in the face in terms of things being totally different than what you are used to. Time has a different meaning in other countries, customer service is different, bureaucracy is different, the way people drive is different, the food is different, the people are different, the culture is different, the weather is different, the customs are different…everything is different. And you are either going to accept this fact and learn to let go of your old self or you are going to break like a twig and scurry home with your tail tucked between your legs.
If you follow the methods described in the 30 Days in 30 Ways: Transitioning into a Location Independent Digital Nomad Lifestyle, combined with the information in the Live Like a Local guides, the Marginal Boundaries website and the various links to other sites here on the site, you should have no issues making the transition and becoming a successful and happy digital nomad, but the important thing to remember is that these things affect everyone in a different way. Myself personally, when I first moved to Bulgaria I didn’t experience anything for the first six months, but there was a hard two months in there when I had a serious bout of culture shock, despite having spent years traveling to the country off and on before I moved there full time. I personally never experienced homesickness, but I did have a few difficult moments dealing with the fact that time works differently outside of the United States and most cultures outside of her borders don’t stress about punctuality and what time of the day it is or whether or not a schedule should be kept. But other people get hit after only a few weeks, and others can go for even longer.
While these aren’t huge issues, they can still be a problem for some people and it’s worth knowing in advance the potential pitfalls so you can do your best to work around them. In any case, you are at the start of a new adventure and there are numerous experiences out there in the world for you to explore, so take your time and enjoy and don’t stress about the little things. Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground and enjoy your time as a digital nomad. The fun is just getting started