Travel Tips

Published on February 12th, 2014 | by Daniel

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Visiting versus Living – The Choice for Digital Nomads

If you are starting out as a digital nomad, you will probably fulfill that long dream of living on the road and visit all those great sounding places. Well…that’s what I did anyway.

The first time I started my travels, I had a whole list of countries I wanted to visit. And I did, I went to Asia, South America, all over Europe, jumping from country to country. Because I wanted to see so many, I only stayed in each country for 2 weeks, maximum a month. Then I moved on to see what’s more to explore in the world.

Fast forward 3 years later. I still like to travel. But I also want to live in a place for longer, to build a business, to manage social relations, a relationship. You see, when you are only travelling, you have a very different experience than living like a local. As I wrote here, a short term stay is a lot of fun, it’s about discovering things, but you also miss a kind of deeper connecting to a place (and those who are living there).

When humans are new to a place they go through a couple of very clear set patterns.

The first 2 weeks, there is the moment of wonderment, of discovering, great excitement. Everything is new and great fun. You only see the upsides of the place as you are comparing it to other places you have been. You have a lot of energy and adrenaline, because every day you experience something new.

After the first month or so, everything becomes a bit more established. You start to (re)gain your routines, you will have a daily schedule. There are less differences between days. While you still love the place, you are also start to notice the slight annoyances, and the fact that you do not speak the language.

After three months or so, you will get to a low point. The novelty has worn of – and because you are a foreigner you do not have a real normal social life. A lot of things you found fun or interesting at first become boring and tedious. Small “cultural” things can annoy you. You are yearning for other places to visit. This is the make or break point – do you commit to the place or not?

After 6 months, when you have decided to stay, you find a modus of acceptance. You see the great upsides of the places, but also the downsides. Depending on your personality, life phase, and lifestyle you value the specific advantages of the place and you can cope with the downsides well. You have made a conscience effort to commit to the place – and you are in the process of building a social life.

This pattern is a (luxury) problem because traveling is obviously one of the main perks of the location independent lifestyle. Maybe it is a phase. After a bunch of heavy traveling, you need to stay in one place for a bit to get a bit of the social feeling again. What I noticed now is that I prefer to stay in places for longer periods, 2 – 6 months. This has two reasons.

First, I have seen most countries that I wanted to visit before. So I had the experience of discovering, I saw the monuments, I did what I wanted to do. See other countries. So now I am going for the different, deeper phase of more acting like a local (or expat, to be more precise). This gives the beauty of have a more profound experience – and on the other hand you will experience things you are not a fan of but can accept over time.

Second, I want to focus on my online business from time to time. Travelling eats up time and effort, and you get quite disorganized from it. When you do not travel, you have more time and peace of mind to focus on the work you are doing. Another side issue here is that you need a certain place and address for your business to be run from – as long as you work with customers or other people.

All in all, this split in visiting versus living is what I get from other digital nomads as well. Travelling all your life all the time gets a chore or just plain disorganizing. I guess we all live in the phase we get through – which are sometimes even hard to understand for others who are in a different phase. I still love to travel, but now I go for the slower, more immersive kind of travel. The kind with which you actually get to know the place.

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