How to Overcome the Loneliness of Being a Digital Nomad

Zack Garhart
loneliness of being a digital nomad

How to Overcome the Loneliness of Being a Digital Nomad

It’s an artful balance being a nomad who can both work and travel without compromising one of the two. The term ‘digital nomad’ has picked up steam recently, and applies to those who spend their days traveling but maintain a steady income by doing remote work. Remote work can be difficult to land, and it requires a certain type of skill set. But with the right experience and skill set, tapping into this lifestyle provides an opportunity to travel the world while still making money.

Being a digital nomad is different than simply working remotely. Digital nomads often leave behind their apartments or homes and decide to pack their bags with ambitious travel plans to see the country or the world. Finding suitable locations that allow you to get your work done can be tricky, but so can maintaining a social aspect during your travels. Even with a good-paying job, the digital nomad is not immune to loneliness on the road.

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Ways to Fight the Loneliness

For many digital nomads, scoring a nice apartment or luxurious hotel on the other side of the world for a substantial amount of time is a dream come true. While this is possible, especially for those with consistent earnings, there is a downside to being in an apartment or hotel setting while traveling. We sat down with two digital nomads to discuss what it means to them to balance working remotely and still have a social life.

Griffin, a previous guest at our ITH Santa Barbara Beach Hostel, had ambitious plans to travel to Mexico and stay for a month while he worked remotely. However, it wasn’t until he landed in the country and got to his Airbnb that the loneliness started to sink in. Griffin had just spent a few weeks at our hostel and fell in love with the social environment created through the daily activities and interactive common space. Immediately, he missed the social life he left behind in Santa Barbara in exchange for having an apartment in another country. While his accommodations in Mexico were affordable and checked off all the boxes, Griffin found it hard to engage with the community.

“It wasn’t very energizing,” he says. “I don’t speak Spanish that well, so it was hard to really experience the area to its fullest.”

Less than a week later, Griffin was back in the States, staying at one of our ITH properties. Once his stay at the hostel was up and he returned to his home state, another realization came upon Griffin.

“Pretty much as soon as I landed at the airport, it got to me. The monotony of the day-to-day. Doing the same thing in the same town. I found myself missing Santa Barbara and the hostel,” he says.

It didn’t take Griffin long to decide that he didn’t want to live somewhere full-time anymore. The life of a digital nomad had infected him so greatly that all he could think about were ways to get back on the road and meet other travelers. A few days later, he made plans to terminate his lease, leave his home state, and send off for a lengthy road trip up the West Coast before taking off to Europe. His accommodations are to include a mix of hostels and shared spaces through Airbnb. After some trial and error, Griffin found the right formula for getting the most out of being a digital nomad.

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The Work Exchange Route

Petronella, a current volunteer at ITH, took a different route to combat the loneliness of a digital nomad. Originally from South Africa, she has taken on various work exchange programs over the years. Sometimes, these roles overlap her career as a content creator. Since the job can be done remotely, Petronella has worked on finding the right balance of work, travel, and socializing as a digital nomad. Like Griffin, she has found balancing the lifestyle to be challenging but also rewarding.

“I started living as a digital nomad to get outside of the small-town mindset,” she says. “I wanted to travel, so I used hotels and Airbnb rentals. But I quickly found out that I was only conversing with the waiters serving me food or the people I’d wave to on the street.”

This is not uncommon. Digital nomads staying in hotels and rentals for their travels can find it difficult to connect with the community. On the flip side, staying in a hostel as a digital nomad offers endless opportunities to engage with people daily; so much so that it can be difficult to get your work done as a digital nomad.

“That’s one reason why I love the space at our Santa Barbara hostel so much,” says Petronella. “It gives you a perfect blend of social atmosphere but there are also places for you to sit and work in peace without being distracted. You don’t find that everywhere.”

loneliness of being a digital nomad

It can be challenging to find a quiet place to work as a digital nomad; much less, on the road. Locations like our Santa Barbara Beach Hostel and Mission Beach Backpacker Hostel offer an ideal mix of open space for socializing and a comfortable atmosphere. After all, the purpose of being a digital nomad requires getting work done. With so many ways to get distracted, finding that perfect mix of social and cozy is essential.

While having the privacy and pristine amenities of a hotel can make travel more comfortable, there’s a benefit to staying in a hostel. Griffin went so far as to suggest trying to get the best of both worlds by booking both types of accommodation.

“If you really want to maximize being a digital nomad you could always book a hostel once every week or two, so that way you get in touch with people in the community. You can still have your hotel or temporary rental, but the hostel can be a great way to mix things up and meet people,” he says.

All of our ITH properties feature nightly events. These are a great way to meet other travelers. Many hostels incorporate events into their weekly schedule as well. Whether you’re just getting into being a digital nomad, or have been doing it for years, there are ways to combat the loneliness of the lifestyle. It starts with finding a great hostel.



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