A Digital Nomad Cast Into the Fire

Phoenix rising from the ashes with a laptop in its talons

I reflect on the highs and lows of the digital nomad life, in which I experienced the illusion of freedom and my struggles with transience.

The life of a digital nomad seemed to be an inevitable path for me. Indeed, for a few years, I roamed the world with little more than a laptop, a smartphone, a sense of adventure, and an insatiable hunger for new experiences. I foresaw a life of freedom, spontaneity, and discovery. I kept reading and watching these lifestyle blogs that promised a digital nomad life would allow me to work from anywhere, to explore different cultures, and to meet incredible people.

As a digital nomad, I’d have no fixed address, no routine, and no set plans.Every few days, I’d wake up in a new city, take my laptop to a local coffee shop or co-working space, then work for a few hours before setting out to explore the unfamiliar surroundings. Most of my daily existence would be wandering through markets, sampling local cuisine, and immersing myself in the local way of life.

Frankly, I was awesomely inspired by the travels of social media nomads, who seemed to find a new and exotic location on this earth each week. From the colorful streets of Bangkok to the quaint villages of rural France, brave wanderers would travel far and wide, soaking in the sights, sounds, and smells of each new place. They climbed mountains, swam in oceans, and walked through forests. In their uploads, I saw ancient ruins, majestic castles, and modern marvels. In their weblogs, they related learning new languages, trying new foods, and making new friends.

As a digital nomad, I wouldn’t be tied down by the trappings of a traditional career or a fixed lifestyle.I could work from anywhere with an internet connection, giving me the flexibility to pursue my passions and explore the world. I could take on new projects, learn new skills, and meet new people without worrying about the constraints of time or place.

Sadly, this wasn’t at all to be for me. Maybe it was all a lie to begin with, just to get a chance at corporate sponsorships and patrons with open wallets.

Trust me, the digital nomad life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Being a digital nomad meant living out of a duffel bag and backpack, constantly adapting to new surroundings. Along the way, I’d deal with one challenge or setback right after the other. It meant being resourceful, adaptable, and resilient. I survived, but that was about it. I was existing in a whirlwind on a roller coaster that scrambled up my insides, both literally and figuratively.

Was it was all worth it? Sure, the adventure and the discovery offered their own little rewards. That life did enrich my soul and expand my horizons, but not in the ways you’d think. It taught me to be open-minded, curious, and courageous. I came to better appreciate the beauty of diversity and the value of human connection, fleeting as the latter might be when you don’t tie yourself down to a stake in the concrete somewhere. The freedom, though, was all an illusion.

As I reflect on my own time as a digital nomad, I’m filled with gratitude for the experiences and the people that I met along the way. Certainly, it didn’t work out in the way I’d hoped.Most of my time was spent just trying to find a parking spot, and wondering how I’d pay for my next meal.

Still, that was the life I expected to have. After all, isn’t that the life of nine out of ten artists?  So, where I’m at now seems like an incredible anomaly. My life has been bookended by a childhood home and a forever home with a bunch of transience in between.

You might think that I still have a deep sense of fulfillment, living that life to the best of my ability for a number of years. But, no. I feel like I wasted those years. I didn’t really choose to be a digital nomad; it became a necessity out of the ignorance and callousness of others. It was a case of being a wanderer without any real plan beyond the moment, making things up as I went along. 

I don’t believe I’ve ever lived my life to the fullest, until very recently. Going forward, I’m embracing the unknown and the unexpected with open arms. I’m going to just let my words sing out, and hopefully someone learns a thing or two along the way as I share my journeys.

Image created with DALL-E

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Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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