Updated: Jul 20, 2022
Do you dream of escaping, packing up your family, moving abroad, and adopting the life of a (digital) nomad?
Periodically, I’m pulled to new places. Slow travel has taken me all over the world over the last couple decades. Almost every time I travel, I can imagine myself living in whatever place I’ve been lucky enough to see. I live in a great place now but there’s something appealing about novel geography and the experiences it offers.
Over the last few years, I’ve thought a lot about committing to a life fully abroad, using geographic arbitrage to live FIRE better somewhere with more immediately interesting amenities (i.e. with immediate proximity to rock climbing, skiing, or the ocean). There is a huge and growing community of travelers who call themselves ‘digital nomads’ doing exactly that, working remotely while living abroad. It’s not always a life spent scraping pennies and sleeping in hostels; there are many Americans living abroad seeking a bigger life and financial success on the international stage.
Wanderlust can lead to incredible experiences, memories, and opportunities. We’ll discuss in the future how to travel well. However, the assertion that travel cures all ills is shortsighted. Travel, while offering a shift in perspective, does not address the push factors leading to that travel. Said another way, underlying dissatisfaction doesn’t necessarily disappear with changing locations.
The constant push toward escape in itself suggests an underlying need. Many, many digital nomads find themselves abroad in beautiful, friendly, interesting places yet find themselves unhappy shortly thereafter. There are challenges associated with creating communities not solely composed of other expats, boredom, relationship challenges, and logistics challenges associated with aging. The destination did not fix the underlying need.
Most nomads, after returning, seem pleased they took the journey. However, knowing that most will eventually return, it may be helpful to anticipate a life on the other side of permanent travel. That way, the experience gained during travel can be enjoyed for its own sake while the underlying push factors can be considered independently.