For the last 3.5 years, since September 2019, I’ve been living as a digital nomad—moving from one country to the next every one to three months with no fixed home or base while working as a freelance writer.
But as much as I’ve loved the freedom and excitement of that life, it became increasingly unsustainable for me over the past year. So I’m giving it up, not without some sadness, but mostly with a big sigh of relief.
Here’s why I’m making the choice to have a full-time home, and what’s next for me.
Three Reasons I’m Not a Digital Nomad Anymore
1. The Mental Burden of a Nomad Lifestyle
Planning and logistics take up an enormous amount of time and headspace, especially during a pandemic with widespread and fast-changing travel restrictions and then with the explosion of travel and inflation rising.
Moving a minimum of four times a year is insanely stressful at the best of times, no matter how few things you have. Every time I get to a new place, I need to stock my kitchen again with my basics, find a new grocery store and gym, determine where to get all the small stupid things that make a life a little more comfortable or functional, and figure out where and when to get my work done.
Also, living out of a backpack, or even a backpack-suitcase combo, is logistically complicated as well. I was always considering how much I could buy or bring with me, and that one-quart Ziplock bag of liquids makes buying any kind of beauty products tough (and I love my beauty products!).
Adding in the clothes you need for different seasons and climates without a place to store them most of the time, and the desire to look less like a hobbit and more like the glamorous woman I actually am, and fitting that all into one backpack every one to three months gets old as well.
Doing all of that while running my own business is, as it turns out, exhausting and very stressful. I was losing the joy I used to have when planning my next stop with everything that went into my travels in 2022.
2. Digital Nomad Lifestyle Costs Are Climbing
Adding to the logistical load is how much certain important components of my lifestyle have gone up since I started, especially in my two favorite digital nomad cities of Athens, Greece and Split, Croatia.
That two-bedroom Athens apartment I could rent for 600 euros per month in 2019 is gone, and now decent but extremely tiny studios (unrenovated) go for upwards of 1000 euros a month here—much more in the summer, too. Trying to find housing in Split in the summer is impossible for pretty much anyone, including locals, making one of my favorite places off-limits for a quarter or more of the year.
Flight costs are up significantly as well. Getting to and from the places I want to go now eats into my budget much more, and I’m spending more on a place to live when I get there.
These extra costs added to the logistical burden and overall uncertainty, and I found I was spending hours of my time searching fruitlessly for solutions and feeling incredibly stressed about my next move in a way that I wasn’t when I started this lifestyle.
3. Digital Nomad Community Challenges
While there are plenty of great digital nomad communities out there, they have one inherent challenge: everyone is moving around, including you, and so it’s hard to find stable friendships and relationships.
Even if you do manage to make a bunch of wonderful local friends or even date as a digital nomad, you’re going to leave them soon as well. After a few years, that instability and lack of connection got to me.
Making friends as a digital nomad is pretty easy—you can find people who you already have a lot in common with because of the unusual life you’ve both chosen to live. But they leave, or you leave, and while you can keep in touch via social media it’s just not the same as having a core group of friends in one or two places.
Plus you get really tired of having the same conversations over and over with people who are also going to be gone in a week or a month. “Where are you from?” “How long are you here?” “Where are you going next?” “How do you make money?”
These four questions will be asked over and over and over again until you’re tempted to make up something wildly exciting like a career in hunting down international war criminals instead of describing what kind of B2B SaaS content I write for the hundredth time.
Hilariously, the thing that enabled me to give up the digital nomad lifestyle is getting a digital nomad residence permit in Greece in 2022. (These visas and permits are not designed for actual nomads, but that’s a post unto itself.)
I also have a long-term lease on a little apartment in Athens and plans to buy a place in the next year or so—I’m putting down roots and even learning Greek! That doesn’t mean I’ll stop traveling. Actually, one of the reasons I’ve chosen Athens as a base is because it has a huge international airport and lots of great flight options year-round (and it’s just an incredible city).
But it does mean I have a simple answer (finally!) when people ask me where I live. It means I own a big fluffy bathrobe because I now have a place to keep it. It means I know when I leave Greece for a weekend away, I can get back into the country. It means I haven’t visited the Schengen Area calculator in months or avoided buying a single item of clothing because I won’t be able to stuff it in my overfilled backpack.
And most excitingly for me, it means when I say I’m going home after a long day and getting into my own bed, that bed is actually mine (I had to buy all my furniture so I own every piece of it!).
If you’re not a nomad, this seems like a whole bunch of small things. But they add up over the years into a very big, and very welcome, change. I have friends who have been living this life for longer than me, and they’re still at it, and I admire that so much.
For me though, the ability to buy a full-size bottle of shampoo and sleep with all the pillows my heart desires (six, for the record) is what I need right now. Not to mention the chance to make friends who I can see regularly, all year round, without counting down until the end comes too soon.
Digital Nomad Life is Still Great
This isn’t to say I think digital nomad life is terrible, or overrated, or something you shouldn’t try, although it definitely has its challenges. I loved it for several years—it gave me the freedom to start and grow my own business, to meet like-minded people all over who are still dear friends, to build up my capacity for resilience and uncertainty and spontaneity and self-trust to levels I couldn’t have dreamed of a few years ago.
I’m very grateful for the years I spent living a nomadic lifestyle. But like many phases of life, sometimes you just need to move on to something new. For me, that’s building a life in Greece and moving into a slightly more settled life (though I spent a month in Split over the holidays, went to Tel Aviv for a week right after, and have multiple trips planned in 2023 😅 because settled is a state of mind).
If you’re considering becoming a digital nomad yourself, I encourage you to give it a try! Nothing is permanent except regret, and you can always go back to having a home again if you want—thought it might be in a very different place than where you started. And that’s beautiful too.