It's been over a year since I started my full-time digital nomad adventure. In that time, I've visited China, Thailand, Costa Rica, Panama, the United States, England, Scotland, Germany, and Austria. I've had experiences ranging from blissfull, unexpected, hilarious, to downright awful. Every emotion has been in the cards. Every new housesit or Airbnb has posed challenges and made me adjust. New places. New languages. New everything all the time (exactly what I wanted).
While there is SO much good that comes with nomad life, there is also some bad that comes along with this lifestyle, things that impacted me, crept up on me, and really caught me off guard. Here's what I've been struggling with in recent months.
I'm part of a travel Facebook group, and some months back saw a woman asking "what am I missing?" about her recent trip to Portugal. She was told to go there by everyone. Told how amazing it was and that she had to see it. So she booked tickets, arrived, walked around, and felt very "meh" about the entire thing. The dull numb feeling she had in her last city wasn't shaken off, it just had a new backdrop; the gloomy, beautiful, tile adorned streets of Porto. The surroundings were different, but the feeling was the same.
This is travel burnout.
Travel burnout is an unexpected concept for a travel lover. I didn't really think I would ever experience travel burnout, or at least not anytime soon. The exhilaration of travelling full time was a dream come true! Being on the road all the time? Sounded exciting, romantic, adventurous, like it would nourish my soul forever.
If I ever were to experience travel burnout, I thought, it would surely be years from now, after I had seen countless countries and experienced all I wanted to see. Then I would grow tired of living out a backpack and settle down. One day.
Boy was I wrong. The burnout hit me right around the one year mark. Sitting in an Airbnb in Vienna, not wanting to leave the flat, missing Thanksgiving, missing my family, missing my friends in London, and back in Canada. I wanted my own bed, to have more than one pair of jeans and one jumper, to be able to join a gym. I missed normal life and no amount of stunning scenery or historic buildings could snap me out of it.
I was stunned.
How could I want to settle down already?! I felt almost angry with myself for not being happier and not being able to "cut it" as a nomad for longer. I had failed at being a nomad, failed at being a travel blogger. I dreamed of full-time travel for years and now that I finally had it? I was drained, exhausted, depressed.
What do I do now? I thought, completely defeated.
Missing My Nest
One of the things that I've missed most has been having my own nest. My long-term travel has been made more affordable by house and pet sitting as a means to see the world and eliminate living expenses.
This has been an incredible experience. We have met wonderful families, looked after stunning homes, and adorable fur babies around the world. While all of these places have been welcoming, they haven't been ours. Your transient, always on the move, and never really settled.
It made me miss having a home, nothing big or fancy, but just a space that is 100% my own. My own bed, my own sheets, my own pillow. A place of my own again. I longed for it and all of the little ways I tried to bring home along with me just weren't working anymore. I needed more.
Travelling full time, even when you're with your partner, can be incredibly lonely.
Being constantly on the go means friendships are often fleeting as you move from country to country, city to city. You stay in touch with the people you meet, of course, but if you grew up and lived in the same town into adulthood as I did, it's hard to resist wanting deeper connections and friendships.
It's also difficult being a visitor in every city and town. A drifter always on the move, not ever really joining the community. It wore on me after a while. Sitting on patios around Europe, seeing groups of friends drinking and laughing and missing having friendships again.
The photo of me below is at a low point, crying and feeling totally drained.
Missing Your Community
When we lived full time in Toronto and then in Kingston, we created a community around us. Friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and friends from volunteering all made up a nice little circle of familiar faces.
Now, being so transient, I don't find it as easy to make those long term connections. When you're only in a place for a week, it's a challenge to create those bonds that slowly grow from daily, or weekly interaction.
Things, like volunteering and being a part of clubs and organizations, is more limited when you're always on the go. I miss having a community. I miss having an extended network of people in my life with whom I can spend time, bond, share, cry, whatever.
Not having that wasn't something I really processed until recently. I miss my old work friends, gym friends, yoga friends, belly dancing class friends. I never really thought of myself as a social butterfly, but the more I think about it, the more I realize all of the tiny little social interactions I am missing.
The pics below are of my friend Hamish the coo. Not relevant in the slightest! I just wanted to show his adorable face to you 😉
Amazing but Tiring As Hell
So, to sum up, the past few months have been incredible, but also started to wear me down in unexpected ways. Being constantly moving, living out of a small bag, never staying in one place very long, it drained me. There are a lot of things I miss about having a base, things I didn't think would bother me ever, or at least, not for years and years.
I still love travelling and exploring, but the call of a nest, of friendships, of calm is a powerful one.
In light of all this, stay tuned for some life updates soon.
Have you been travelling full time (or just a crazy amount!) how has it impacted your mental health and happiness? I'd love to hear your experiences! Send me an email.
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