People often think of digital nomads as leading an exciting life full of never-ending travel and exotic adventures. And actually, that is true for the most part. But we do go home from time to time and when we do, it can actually be a little weird.
While it’s great to see friends and family, and be in a familiar place, sometimes we experience weird things like reverse culture shock. There are also things that you get used to when you live some place, but can be quite uncomfortable when you are not used to them. Here is a list of what I’ve noticed since I have been back home, and some of the pros and cons of taking a break from international travel.
1. Much Too Hot for Me Now
For me, home is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I came back in February 2019 after 2 years of traveling. When I go home, the one thing I notice before anything else is how excessively hot it is.
I flew into Singapore before going on to Malaysia, and even on the plane I was sweating a lot. I am just not used to the heat anymore. It gets pretty hot and humid here – right now it’s 26 °C and more than 90% humidity. Even air conditioning at 18°C is not cold enough for me anymore. Sometimes it’s so hot, I start to feel queasy and think I need a second air conditioner.
Prior to this, I had been in Europe and North America for quite a long time, where you can walk ten kilometers without breaking a sweat. Here you walk outside your door and it’s instant sweat.
2. I Am Literally on the Other Side of the World
Time zones are a major thing. It is really hard to be in Asia when all your clients are in Europe and North America. Europe is not that bad, it is only an eight-hour difference. But the U.S. is more like a 12-15 hour difference. So if I have a client in San Francisco that wants to meet between 9 a.m. and Noon their time, that is Midnight to 3 a.m. in Malaysia.
As a digital nomad you can work anywhere and on your own time, but when you have meetings and weekly check-ins you have to be available when your clients are.
Having one meeting at 11 p.m. and then another one at 6 a.m. messes up with your brain a little bit because of what it does to your sleep schedule. Sometimes I sleep during the day, or the evening to make up for lost sleep. Right now I am even eating meals in a very erratic way. I do not ask my family to cook for me anymore because my schedule is so unpredictable.
3. There Is So Much Stuff
When traveling, I do not really have a lot of stuff, just my one bag. When I go home, it feels very weird to walk around and see all the stuff everywhere. I usually get rid of stuff every time I come back home. I also find myself getting rid of my parents’ stuff.
Living out of AirBnBs, you get used to everything working all the time. There is a TV available, but it is not yours so you never have to worry about fixing it. But I come home and my parents have a broken TV just sitting around. I ended up smashing it so they would be forced to replace it.
After traveling, I find myself less tolerant of stuff that is not working. If something doesn’t have a purpose, I want it gone!
4. I Spend Lots of Time Reconnecting with People
Every time I come back home, I have a few key people I have lunch with right away. These people are a mix of friends and my former colleagues from Monster. It is always nice to touch base with people, and see how they are doing. And they tell me how the company is doing, which gives me some insight into the industry.
It is important to me to maintain these connections, and by keeping up with my coworkers I can stay up to speed on what is happening in multiple industries.
Because of the time zone differences, I usually work at night. So during the day, when I am awake, I have nothing to do. So usually while I am home I will go hang out with my friends at their offices, or meet up with people for lunch. During the day I am like the jobless person hanging around random offices in my shorts and flip-flops.
The other night I was tired so I handed my friend the menu and told him to order for me. I completely trusted that he knew what my favorite things were. Later, he told this story to his wife who got mad because he does not even know her that well.
It is good to be around people who know you well enough to let them order for you! You cannot find that just anywhere.
5. I Have Trouble Finding Food I Like
It is good to be back in Asia, because I do not have to think a lot about what I spend here. Everything is so cheap compared to my income, which is mostly earned from European and North American clients. When my friends go out to eat or go to clubs, it is nice to be able to just enjoy myself without thinking a lot about what I am spending.
The first few days I was eating a lot of coconut rice but then it faded off and now I am just tired of eating Asian food. It has a lot of carbs! It is all rice, noodles and heavy beef or chicken and stuff like that. I do not want to eat that kind of thing all the time. I would prefer some vegan stuff like hummus and pita bread. I really like McDonalds, and I miss that when it is not readily available. I just want to eat something that is not Asian food.
6. It is Hard to Explain My Life to Non-Nomads
This is probably the most annoying thing about going home. I always encounter people who do not understand my lifestyle. It can be pretty complicated to explain to other people. Sometimes I will make my friends explain it for me, especially if we are hanging out with their family. I will just be like “Ask your son or daughter, they can explain it better than me.”
This is part of the reason why I am excited to be hiring a new employee who will be traveling with me. I am going to be fully integrating someone from my network into my business who will travel with me and help me meet some physical health goals. He will also be doing some photography to help me document my life on Instagram. It will be good to have someone else around who understands my life, and is also willing to kick my ass.
7. No, I’m Not Settling Down Anytime Soon
Going home immediately makes me want to travel more. I just like meeting new people and learning how people from other cultures think. It is hard to have those kinds of interactions when you are living in your own culture, and not moving around or traveling very often.
I do not know if I will ever settle down in one place. I want to, but there are just so many good places all over the world that I want to visit first. Sometimes I want to stay on the beach for a few months, or I will feel like going to a city, or to the mountains, or be in the middle of nowhere. As long as I have an income (and clients who do not mind where I work from) I will keep doing that.
I like the challenge of going into the unknown. For me it is a bad thing when you get too comfortable. Whether it is a thing or a place, if you are too comfy you are in a very dangerous place.
I am excited to be back in Croatia now. I was in Malaysia for 2 months, so it is good to shake things up and move across the world again. I am very excited to get back to my lifestyle of traveling and working remotely.
Are you a digital nomad? How do you feel about going home? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!