So you’ve finally done it; you’ve bitten the bullet, hung up your backpack, retired your dongle and decided to re-join the Rat Race as a resident national. Good for you; it takes guts, and more than a touch of blind faith, to bring the curtain down on such a liberating lifestyle and embrace one that is, on the surface anyway, rather less thrilling.
But, if you’ve listened to that little voice at the very back of your consciousness (the quiet yet really incessant one), then you’ll have concluded that it is was really the best choice. As infectious and life-affirming as the digital nomad lifestyle is, it cannot and will not make you happy if you’re heart is no longer in it.
Chances are you’ll feel elated when you first get ’home’. Without a doubt, things like eating familiar snacks, watching TV without subtitles, doing laundry whenever you like and keeping your clothes in drawers will seem like the stuff of dreams. Furthermore, being able to see your family in the flesh (rather than on LCD screens), and enjoy conversations with friends and contemporaries which don’t follow the all too familiar, “Where have you come from/where are you going next?” template is likely to feel like a real treat.
But after a few days, or perhaps a week, these ’luxuries’ will start to feel pretty standard. The food will seem a little bland and you’ll find watching TV for hours on end somehow makes you feel quite irritated and restless. Moreover, the fact that your family and friends can’t quite ’get’ what your old lifestyle was all about or appreciate the value of doing it will start to make you wonder. Did you really make the right decision?
But don’t lose heart - this all quite normal.
Any individual that has indulged in an extended period away from ’standard living’ (a very apt term) is expected to feel a little disenfranchised at first. Soldiers experience it when they leave the armed forces, as do students when they first go out to work, and aid workers when they return home from working on projects in the Third World: it’s really very normal.
So how does a retired digital nomad assimilate back into the real world then? What can an ex-wanderer do to make their transition back to normality a less tumultuous experience?
Here are a few tips which can help:
Step 1: Be inordinately touchy feely
I should be clear from the outset here; this tip in no way advocates becoming a lecherous, Benny Hill-type figure in your local pub every Friday night. Think about it; what do you miss most when you travel for long periods of time? That’s right; tangible emotive intimacy or - in English if you prefer - being able to physically embrace those close to you. Although Skyping is a great innovation, particularly for wandering online workers, it can actually make you feel a little melancholy after you end a call from somewhere thousands of miles from home.
The reason for this is simple. Whenever we see people dear to us with our own eyes, we naturally want to feel close to them, something we normally achieve by hugging, kissing, fist-bumping, etc. When you can’t do that, it makes you feel just a little bit sad inside. Getting into the habit of embracing your loved ones once a day when you get home will reiterate to you just how good it feels to have them close to you again. This will remind you that your decision to quit was the right one to make.
Step 2: Go to a coffee shop...for a coffee
After a month or so of first adopting the digital nomad lifestyle, you invariably find that it is just not possible to go into a coffee shop without automatically assessing whether it is a suitable workspace. It doesn’t matter where it is, you simply cannot override the urge to fire up your netbook/tablet when earning an income from online work becomes your shtick.
So, when you get home, do yourself a favour and head out to a local coffee shop, preferably one that is blessed with impressive coffice qualities. When you get there, find a window table that has plenty of sun-glare and pitch yourself as far away from the mains outlet as you can get. Once you’re settled, order a drink and perhaps a bite to eat and then just relax. Watch the world go by, read a paper, chew the fat with a hot singleton; whatever you like, just make sure you leave your digital devices at home and aren’t in any kind of hurry.
Although this exercise may seem a little corny, it does actually serve a serious purpose. It shows you that the things you up until recently classed as pragmatic necessities: such as going to a coffee shop or indeed travelling overseas as a whole; can now be regarded as treats. Being able to view work time and leisure time as separate endeavours can be hugely rewarding. It can help you to appreciate your new life much more and make your transition from wandering nomad to (semi) settled resident that much easier.
Step 3: Write your memoirs
Because it is such an unpredictable, adventurous lifestyle, it is easy to miss being a wandering online worker, particularly when there’s nothing good on TV and the weather is blowing a gale outside. However, while it is, of course, quite natural to pine for ’greener grass’ at times, it can be bad for the soul if you get into the habit of doing it too often. If you do get to the point where you feel like you’re missing your old life more frequently than you’re enjoying your new one then try writing up some of your adventures.
Writing can be a very therapeutic way of dealing with transition (ask Jeffrey Archer). Indeed, there is something about putting your thoughts down on paper that enables even the most reserved of aspiring authors to identify and release the essence of whatever is on their minds at the time (look what it did for Jack Kerouac).
Of course, writing an account of your time ’on the road’ isn’t just cathartic; it’s fun. Recounting your adventures in print feels good, as does sharing them with a wider audience, be it your friends or family or with fellow nomads and eager wannabe wanderers.
So rather than force yourself to sit through an hour or two of yet another song/dance contest on TV. Retreat to somewhere quiet and let your creative juices flow.
Who knows, you may even get to publish your accounts, thus enabling you to share your knowledge from the comfort of your own home. Needless to say, maintaining an element of the digital nomad lifestyle in your new life will help to make the transition from wanderer to resident that much easier.
Of course, some people find it easier than others to adapt to normal life after a prolonged period of travelling. Whilst some nomads will relish the opportunity to finally put down some roots, others will find it difficult to put their wandering ways out of mind. The great thing about the digital nomad lifestyle though is that it is an easy life to embrace (and re-embrace).
So, if you do find yourself in a position where you just cannot seem to assimilate back into life back home, not all is lost. You can always dust down your backpack, invest in a brand new netbook and become a nomad once again – the option is always there.
Think of it as a safety net.
Have you swapped the transient lifestyle of a wandering online worker for the stable environs of a settled resident? If so, we’d love to hear your take on the subject, so please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below.