As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on the rooftop of a café in Marrakech, looking down on the hustle and bustle going on in the streets. I’m here by myself, getting work done. The other tourists & travelers I see are shopping in the souks or trying to take the perfect holiday photo to update their FB and Insta and make their friends at home jealous.
Don’t get me wrong, I do these things as well. But most of the time, I need to work just like everyone else. The only difference is: I choose to work in foreign countries, in cafes or coworking spaces, instead of an office in my home country. And while everyone says they’re so jealous and I’m so lucky to live a life like this, it also comes with challenges, its very own challenges.
The Beauty and Challenge of New Places
Imagine yourself moving to a new city. You’re excited about this new chapter in your life, and you’re looking forward to starting a new job. But there’s also a feeling of nervousness because you’re leaving your comfort zone. You’re leaving your friends and family behind, the workplace you know. Will you be able to make new friends? Will you feel lonely?
When we’re moving to a new city, usually the first place we make friends at is our work environment. Our office, or shop, or whatever field we work in. It’s just natural, as we spend a third of our day at work. That’s how most relationships are being built, whether it’s friendships or romantic relationships, simply because we spend the most time with those people. You’re around them anyways, you don’t need an excuse to meet them or bring up a lot of courage to talk to them. Though it’s often a little awkward the first few days, these feelings usually pass pretty quickly and you’ll soon have a few people to talk to every day.
The Struggles Digital Nomads Have Are Different, But Real
Imagine you move to a new city and don’t have that. Now you need to make a conscious effort to meet new people. People are not gonna line up and knock on your door because they want to get to know you so badly. YOU need to talk to people, attend sports or art classes to meet like-minded people, strike up a conversation with strangers, go to networking events.
For most people, this requires a lot of effort and it doesn’t come naturally. Now imagine you move to a new place every few weeks and have to do all of this all over again.
That’s one of the biggest challenges and strongest downsides of being a digital nomad.
We need to do this ALL THE TIME. There are no stable variables in our lives, at least not offline. We do have online groups we’re part of, but human beings need real-life interactions with other beings. We’re not made to be by ourselves 24/7. We’re social beings.
The Challenges When Meeting Other Travelers
There are two major challenges we face when meeting other people while traveling because most of them are on vacation. Tourists, or short-term travelers, have completely different priorities and schedules than we have as digital nomads and long-term travelers.
- Tourists already have company.
There are very few people who go on solo trips for their holidays. They usually travel with their friend/s or partner, so many of them don’t even feel the need to talk to strangers. They already have their companions and it would be an extra effort for them to bond with you, and I can’t blame them. They already know they have fun with their travel partners, but they don’t know if you’ll fit in and be an addition to their team or rather an annoyance.
- Tourists don’t have to work
The second challenge is that they are on their well-deserved once-a-year vacation and have no to-dos for the time they’re away. They can stay up until 4 am, have a few beers too many and sleep in the next day without regrets. They can be spontaneous and decide to spend a few days on a deserted beach without wifi. We usually can’t do that. We have clients, deadlines, projects to finish.
But we still crave interactions with others. Deep interactions. We want to learn more about ourselves and others, we want to get to know people and places. Going past superficial small talk like “Where do you go to next?” or “What was your favorite place in country X?” is HARD. We want more. More real conversations. We want to share our thoughts and feelings.
Most people we meet while traveling though have completely different lives and don’t understand the struggles we go through as digital nomads or long-term travelers in general. It’s hard to relate to people whose life is the complete opposite of ours.
So, what do you do as a digital nomad? Do you just have to accept not being “normal” and not being able to make real connections? Is loneliness just part of the “job”? I mean, no job can be perfect, right?
A Solution to Dealing with Loneliness as a Digital Nomad
Well, it seemed like that to me for a long time. Until I received an email from Flexpat, asking me to join their remote working program. They bring a group of digital nomads together and spend every month in a different city/country, working and exploring together. Flexpat takes care of the accommodation, coworking space and group activities. Most importantly, they provide a community for you.
I’ve heard about those programs for digital nomads and did find them interesting, but they usually cost like $2,000 for a month in Bali, which I simply don’t find fair. It also seemed a bit overwhelming for me as an introvert (at least that’s what I always thought I was), having to be around a group of people all the time.
But after having lived in a small town (Dahab) in Egypt for the most part of the last 1.5 years, I felt like I was held back by not being around like-minded people, I felt like I was drowning in boredom and didn’t know how to get out. On the other hand, I didn’t really want to get out either, because this became my comfort zone. It knew how everything worked, there were no challenges, life was easy and chill. But there was no progress.
So I just took the leap and decided to join the Flexpat crew in Barcelona. Even though Barcelona wasn’t a place I was in love with, I felt like it would be beneficial to me as a person to be around other digital nomads.
I said YES.
And now I’m sitting here in Marrakech, two weeks after our group left Barcelona and I’m still overwhelmed by this experience. It was a bit stressful because of the many things to do, see, eat and explore, but the most rewarding time I’ve had in years.
It was the first time that I was only surrounded by people who do similar things I do – who work online, create content or build companies in different forms and all of them were inspiring in their own way. Though Dahab (my home in Egypt) is amazing, the place where I can rest and feel home, I desperately NEEDED this!
The Need For Like-Minded People To Make Progress In Life
I usually feel very awkward being in bigger groups, it’s stressful for me because I think (or used to think) of myself as an introvert. I worry about what to say, who to talk to, what kind of impression I make, every step I’m doing and word I’m saying. After this trip with Flexpat, I released a lot of those fears and stressful emotions.
I can be a total social hermit but I was reminded here that you can only grow and learn if you get feedback, other opinions, if people ask you questions. If you’re only thinking for yourself and talking to yourself, how can you progress? This is why it’s so necessary and valuable to surround yourself with different, yet like-minded people. And Flexpat brings those people together. They are your people. We are your people.
I would have never learned that much about myself if I went alone. The reward for stepping out of my comfort zone was 10x. And I would not have enjoyed Barcelona as much as I did with this amazing group of people.
The Flexibility Of The Flexpat Program
The trip leads organized events and activities such as a Paella cooking class and an amazing rooftop concert at one of the famous Gaudi houses, but we always had a say in things. If the group isn’t into science museums, you won’t have to go just because that was part of the original plan. Everything is flexible and adjusted to the individual group.
Most of the weekdays were reserved for working, and we all got access to a really cool coworking space with free coffee, cool events, and an amazing rooftop. After all, Flexpat’s slogan is: Travel the world while getting sh#t done. You don’t have to feel like you’re missing out on so many things because everyone is in the same boat: We’re all digital nomads working on our own projects. We understand each other, we know traveling isn’t just one big party. We have the same priorities.
Oh, also because Flexpat doesn’t cost an arm and a leg like some other programs. You really don’t need to pay $2k to live in a shared house in Bali. It depends on the city, but most of them only cost between $500 to $900, even in European countries or Japan – totally reasonable and fair.
My Conclusion About Loneliness As A Digital Nomad and The Flexpat Program
While being a digital nomad comes with a lot of freedom, it also comes with loneliness for many of us. If you’re feeling alone in the community you’re in right now because nobody understands your struggles, or maybe don’t even have an (offline) community in the first place, I hear you. I’ve been there. I myself found a solution to this problem with Flexpat. While I’m not going to travel with Flexpat 12 months a year from now on, I will go again for sure when the destination fits my schedule and interests.
I met some people whom I’ve really learned from in very different ways, enjoyed spending time with and hope to stay in touch with for a long time. I was inspired to learn new skills, re-evaluate where I want to go in life and with my career/blog, think about my “Why” and so many other things.
I really want to thank Flexpat so much for giving me the opportunity to join this amazing group. Until next time, amigos and amigas!
(Though this is not directly a sponsored post, Flexpat invited me to join their program for free which enabled me to write this article. All opinions are my own, of course.)
Have you had any of these feelings before and would you consider traveling with other digital nomads?
Pin “A Solution To Dealing With Loneliness As A Digital Nomad” for later: