How to Avoid Burnout as a Digital Nomad
December 17, 2021
By Jess Hopper

Workers are increasingly jumping on the digital nomad lifestyle trend. If the term is new to you, digital nomads are remote workers on the move; people who are able to work from anywhere they’d like as long as they have a computer and internet access. If the term is not new to you, maybe you’re here to find out more about how to be a digital nomad, especially one who is healthy—mentally and physically.

Living the digital nomad life ain’t easy—constantly moving accommodations, figuring out a new workspace with every new location, contending with time changes, balancing your desire to explore and experience while also getting work done. And it can quickly leave you feeling depleted if you don’t take it on with the proper approach. So, to help you avoid digital nomad burnout, here’s a list of helpful tips that will start you off on the right, health-minded foot.

Know what you’re getting into before you go

If you’re the spontaneous travel type, it’s possible that digital nomading won’t be for you. While it seems adventurous, working remotely while traveling requires a lot more detail-oriented planning, thoughtful focus and self-discipline than booking a last-minute vacation.

When you’re a digital nomad, work is as central to your life as travel. Your evenings and weekends might be yours to explore, but you’ll still need to put in the hours to get your paycheck and, if you’re traveling in a different timezone than your team, you might need to contend with time changes. You’ll have to have a plan for things like internet connection, attending meetings, meeting deadlines and communicating with your boss, all on top of exploring a new location, making new friends, keeping in touch with people at home and finding time to sleep. It’s not for everyone, but it is an incredibly rewarding way to explore and experience the world so long as you’ve been really thorough in your pre-travel planning.

Embrace slow travel

Approaching a digital nomad lifestyle with the mindset of a 20-something, hostel-hopping party animal, backpacking around Europe and traveling to a new city every four days, is a quick way to burn yourself out. Instead, think of yourself as a slow traveler looking to get to know a place a bit deeper before moving on.

We’re talking month-long apartment rentals instead of six-person mixed dorms. Going to the local grocery store more than you go to bars and restaurants. Think of yourself as living in a new place rather than just visiting it briefly. It will help you to pace yourself and experience the location without running yourself into the ground and taking your career down with you.

Invest in your accommodation

It’s true: Those month-long apartment rentals are not as budget-friendly as a big shared dorm room. But spending extra money on your accommodation is going to afford you a good night’s sleep and easy access to a clean kitchen so you can save money by cooking for yourself. It’s going to let you unpack your bags and just generally feel more comfortable and settled. Not to mention, it’s going to be easier to find a quiet workspace in an apartment than in a party hostel.

If you’re normally more of the hotel traveler, you may still want to consider an apartment instead—access to separated living spaces and a kitchen will add to your peace of mind and the feeling that you’re connecting more than if you’re staying in a cookie-cutter hotel that feels like you’re just passing through anywhere in the world.

Really know your work and living habits before hitting the road

If you’ve just started a new job, it might be best to get your feet under you before diving into a new digital nomad lifestyle too. It’s important to know your work, your team, your working habits and your essential daily routines before you add in any more unknowns.

If you’ve been working at your company for a while and feel confident and comfortable that you’re ready to take your show on the road, spend some time paying attention to the little details that allow you to do your job and feel happy in your day-to-day life. These may include things like your favorite pens and notebooks, your noise-canceling headphones or your essential morning coffee made in just the right way. You’ll want to figure out how to recreate your ideal working environment while traveling so your level of productivity and focus stays constant and your happiness doesn’t take a hit.

Embrace booze-free socializing and exploring

Traveling and drinking often go hand-in-hand. Work and drinking should not. Over-indulging on booze—even if it’s for the sake of sampling the new region’s best wines or the country’s most culturally-significant aperitifs—will impair your sleep, leave your body feeling less than its best and leave your mind feeling fuzzy. Opt for booze-free ways of exploring and meeting new people so you can stay on top of your work game.

Look for connections wherever you go

We might caution against over-indulgence while socializing, but socializing as a digital nomad is crucially important. Loneliness and isolation are common (and for some, unexpected) complaints among practiced digital nomads, especially those who are doing it solo. For all the effort you’ll need to put into your job and into exploring, make sure you’re looking for ways to make in-person connections as well, whether with locals or with other travelers.

Loneliness and isolation can zap a lot of the fun out of travel, which can leave you feeling depleted and burnt out. Look for language practice groups, join pub crawls (in moderation), seek out friends online who you can meet up with in person, frequent the same coffee shops and restaurants and start up conversations with familiar faces. Not only will it do wonders for maintaining your mental health, but it will also improve your overall experience of a place to have new friends to explore with.

Stay in touch with your people at home

While you’re busy working, exploring, and making new friends, it’s important not to lose touch with the people back home either. Make a point to schedule calls, keep in touch over text and leverage social media to keep your at-home social ties strong. Digital nomads are not immune to occasional bouts of homesickness, and having a strong digital connection with your at-home network will ease the pain of missing what you’ve left behind.

Keep in mind that, often when you’re the one traveling, it can be hard for friends and family at home to keep track of where you are, what time it is for you and whether or not you have time to catch up with them, so they’ll rely on you to reach out. And as excited as you will be to share the adventures you’re having, don’t forget to keep up with the lives of others and know what’s happening with them, too.

Keep up your at-home health routines

Just like eating healthy, staying active and sleeping well are important to mental health when you are at home, they are also important when you are out on the road. Buy healthy groceries and cook for yourself instead of eating every meal in a restaurant. Develop a habit of walking or running, find an app that has easy-to-follow exercise guides or find an exercise channel to subscribe to on YouTube. Make sure you stick to a healthy sleep routine. Your body and your mind will thank you.

Consider travel-friendly memberships

Depending on where you’ll be traveling, getting memberships to coworking and coliving spaces, gyms and the like—many of which have multiple locations and membership plans that allow you to access any of them—could be a good idea. Not only will you have access to a community, but you’ll also have the comfort of places that feel familiar no matter where you are, and you’ll give yourself a place to spend time. Some brands to look into are WeWork for coworking, LifeX and Outsite for coliving, and Planet Fitness or LA Fitness for gyms.

Be realistic about your budget

Just like at home, financial stress on the road can lead to general feelings of anxiety and burnout. Maintain your peace of mind by having a realistic expectation and understanding of how much you’ll have to spend on accommodation, flights and transportation, food and drink, exploring and any other travel expenses. But make a point to plan for the digital nomad-specific details, too. If you’ll need to purchase an international phone plan or travel insurance that covers your laptop, be sure to factor it in ahead of time.

Be realistic about your schedule

The quickest way to find yourself burnt out is by trying to accomplish too many things. And when you’re working while traveling, it’s a very fine line to walk. Be realistic with yourself about what you can expect to accomplish in a day, a week and a month. Know how much time you’ll need to spend working, budget time for exploring and don’t forget time for those important mental health checkboxes like resting and staying in touch with your people back home. Working remotely is very different from taking a vacation, but having a realistic understanding of what you can accomplish will afford you the peace of mind necessary to keep up with the busy digital nomad lifestyle.

In today’s world of increased access to remote work and travel, adopting the digital nomad, working-while-traveling lifestyle is increasingly popular. But if not approached with the right mindset, it’s a lifestyle that can quickly lead to burnout and an unhealthy body and mind. With these tips, you should have everything you need to know about having a healthy approach to digital nomading.

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