Don’t get us wrong, the travel lifestyle has been such a positive thing for us. We’ve seen so many things, made so many – memories, grown as individuals and bonded as a couple. We’ve developed new perspectives on the world while learning to navigate through so many different situations and circumstances – we even had quite the interesting time on our very first day of full-time travels in Beijing!
Yes, this travel lifestyle (as we like to call it) has been more than we ever could’ve imagined. But that doesn’t mean that it’s all sunsets (which we like to post on Facebook) and adventure (which we typically choose to write about),
The Tough Side of The Travel Lifestyle
And Living As a Digital Nomad
Nope, there’s a whole other aspect to this life that doesn’t usually get posted to our Facebook page, or talked about when we blog. Obviously the positives far outweigh the negatives, or we wouldn’t be here to be posting this, but to ignore the cons altogether would be to grossly disillusion you about exactly what our lifestyle involves.
It may sound petty: So sad for us, we get to travel to a new destination, explore and do what we love, but we aren’t trying to throw a pity party. We’re merely shedding some light on what goes on behind all those travel articles, photos and videos, all us travel bloggers are always posting. It’s just like when you scroll through your Facebook feed and see all those happy faces smiling back at you – people rarely post, or want to read, about the bad.
Since everyone seems to think we are “so lucky” and tell us they “wish they could do it too”, we thought we’d shed a little light on exactly what this travel lifestyle entails.
So, for those of you interested in this lifestyle and for those of you who are just curious about what we do beyond our stories in our posts, here are the first six of some of the hardest things about the travel lifestyle we lead.
If you’ve ever moved to a new country, a new city or even a new neighbourhood, you may have experienced the feeling. It’s a combination of sadness, excitement, trepidation, worry, and a sense of loss, all wrapped up in what feels like a ball in the pit of your stomach.
For us, this feeling reoccurs with every new place we visit for a length of time and then, inevitably, leave again.We get comfortable and familiar with a particular place, the establishments we frequent and the people we meet and then just as quickly we are packing up and heading out to a new location.
We joke that each new place is our “home” but in reality it is. Sure, in our hearts home will always be Canada and where our loved ones are but in this crazy nomadic life of ours, home is wherever we are and for us a “sense of home” is more of a fleeting concept we barely begin to grasp before it disappears again as we board the next flight, to our next destination.
With each new place we leave after getting comfortable it feels just like we are uprooting and leaving home again.
There’s No Place Like Home
We don’t miss home, per se. We miss the people, definitely. The ease in which we are able to navigate the country and culture, absolutely. But we don’t miss our old lives or have any regrets about our decision to live a travel lifestyle.
Unfortunately, there is still a sense of loss. While we are away, people are getting married, getting pregnant, and getting sick. The young are growing up and hitting major milestones like learning to talk and starting to walk. Our friends are bonding over outings and get-togethers, or forming new friendships as they go.
And while all this is happening, we’re missing out on those weddings, and births and being home to take care of our family, and watching the little ones start to walk or strengthening friendships already strained by the natural process of getting older and drifting apart.
So yes, while we’re excited about not being at home we’re still homesick. We miss all that home represents and all that we left behind.
There is no real sense of community for us anymore either. Other than our online travel blogging community (hello if you’re reading this!), we meet people in each place we go and we, fairly quickly, say goodbye again. Sure, we keep in touch with most of them online or via chat apps, but it’s not the strong, deep bonds one associates with friends from “home”.
What Language Am I Speaking?
Conversation is hard these days. Are we speaking Japanese? Korean? Thai? Can anyone translate what that intercom in the apartment keeps repeating over and over again? Should we evacuate? It’s not easy when you are frequently switching countries and, with that, languages.
Added to that, we’ve gotten used to speaking in a sort of broken English. Using words that are more common among non-English speakers, making wild hand gestures to get the point across and speaking in a way that is neither fluid nor really conversational.
Thank goodness we have each other to talk to but it seems that, without fail, whenever we meet any native English-speaker, we forget we no longer need to compensate and start using the same methods of speech that we would with a non-native speaker.
And no matter how much we think in our heads “stop flailing your arms” or “you can speak at a normal pace”, the message just doesn’t get through and we’re left staring at some slightly puzzled, very uncomfortable faces.
It’s true! We’re not rich and we didn’t win the lottery! While we made an effort to budget and save before we left, we work, and work hard, just like everyone else to make a living and fund our lifestyle. With this comes all the same concerns and worries everyone else has about making money and paying bills.
For us, though, we don’t have a steady income or regular paycheck. Instead, we rely on multiple streams of income and try to budget accordingly and while it’s not always easy, we couldn’t be happier.
Before, we would spend some extra money on a night out at the movies or a nice dinner. Now, the country we are exploring IS our entertainment and we find just as much enjoyment buying some food at a night market or street vendor.
An Unnatural Attachment To Technology
We were debating what to title this section. Our other option was “my eyes sometimes bleed!” and yes, it is just as fitting. We can’t stop doing something work related because pretty much everything we do IS work related. This means we rarely look away from our computer screens or cell phones and virtually live through the camera viewfinder while exploring.
We are “on” almost 24/7, posting on social media, networking, completing our freelance work, commenting, commenting back, responding to emails, sending emails, writing posts, fixing pictures, making videos, researching, and the list goes on. There is ALWAYS something to do and always the sense that if we aren’t doing something, we’re falling behind, not staying on the top of our game or not doing what we need to do to succeed.
For us, there is no concept of weekends. Actually, weekends kind of suck for us because that’s when everyone else is off work invading our favourite coffee shops and clogging up the streets, markets and sights.
And as for vacations? It may look like we are on one all the time based on the photos and stories we tell, but for us, there is no such thing as time off from the online work we need to do.
Internet Connection Required – Cue Panic Now!
Tied in to the previous point is the concept of internet connection. We are always taking this into consideration because, after all, we’re called digital nomads – without internet we really can’t do much.
A stream of questions run through our heads with each place we go: Where is the internet? Where is it fastest? How do I get WiFi access, a SIM card, a top up on my phone plan? How much is it? Wait, how much did you say internet was? Who do I have to pay to find some internet that actually works?!?! Why would they ever have internet this crappy!?
It is hard to “turn off” and enjoy the moment when you always need to be connected. In fact, one of the reasons we changed our plans after Christmas and stayed in our layover destination of Taiwan rather than flying to Vietnam was because of internet connectivity and internet speed.
We know, we know, it’s not that bad and many people we’ve talked to said it was good enough (a few even got a bit heated about it) and that’s great for the average tourist but for people who need quick, reliable access in order to upload and email a freelance assignment on time or work on creating new videos, pages, and posts on your website, good enough doesn’t always cut it, especially when you’re really starting to build your business and your site.
At this point you may be wondering, why the heck are you even doing this if you have so much to write about all the hardships of being a digital nomad? Well, to be honest, not only do the pros outweigh the cons but all of this makes what we do that much more special – we’re sacrificing and working hard for something we love. No one said doing what you love would be easy – if it was, everyone would be doing it!
We’ve got a few more points to make before we’re done telling you all about the worst parts of the travel lifestyle so check back soon for the second half!
What do you think the hardest part of the travel lifestyle would be for you? Comment below and let us know