You’ve been travelling for a little while now. But after all the initial excitement, the whole thing just feels so…meaningless. If it’s not that bad, maybe you just feel a bit disappointed that it’s not what you expected. You’re grateful, of course you are. But you also feel lonely and isolated, you miss your family and friends, you’re surrounded by beauty but it’s becoming harder and harder to really enjoy it. You actually feel quite fed up.
And then it hits you.
How can you feel depressed? You chose to do this. You chose to live life this way. People are facing hardships all over the world. Illness. Bereavement. Job Loss. Catastrophe. So now, not only are you feeling fed up and unsettled, you feel guilty about feeling fed up in the first place.
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Keep reading if you want to understand why you’re feeling guilty about feeling sad. Then keep reading if you want to know how to lift yourself out of it.
Being Misunderstood…The ‘Privilege’ of Choice
“Who is going to understand?” you think to yourself.
It feels so, so wrong complaining about your life of ‘luxury’. You see sights that people would give their right arm to experience. But deep down you can’t deny how you feel. You can’t deny that feeling of emptiness. You feel guilty even admitting it to yourself let alone anyone else.
It’s official. You, my friend, have got a hardcore case of the Digital Nomad Blues.
The Digital Nomad Blues, in a nutshell, is a general feeling of sadness whilst simultaneously feeling grateful and guilty all at the same time. Reasons for a sudden onset remain as of yet unexplained.
Symptoms include but are not restricted to, not wanting to engage with people or your surroundings, making frequent comparisons between your life and the lives of your peers, feelings of disappointment, feelings of guilt and feelings of isolation.
It’s a genuine thing folks.
Two things here. Firstly, you aren’t alone and we’ve all experienced this at some point. Secondly, this cloud of sadness steals too much of your joy and it takes your focus away from enjoying the life you fought so hard to build.
So let’s see what we can do to fix it.
Be kind to yourself and be the good friend that simply understands. You have a right to feel what you’re feeling. I don’t know how we got to the point where we feel guilty for feeling things, but we need to put an end to the stigma around experiencing emotion. Emotions come from somewhere and if particular emotions have made an appearance, something has triggered them. Try and understand the really reason why you’re feeling a bit out of sorts and separate yourself from comparisons that make you feel like your emotions aren’t valid.
Sometimes thinking about it in your head is just too chaotic. So…
Talk about it.
Never bottle up your feelings. It’s a breeding ground for bad mental cycles and shame. No human being can ever elevate themselves above another – we have too much in common and too many shared experiences. Give yourself a break and talk it out. Your emotions are designed to give you signals. So if something isn’t feeling quite right, there’s normally a good reason for it. Talking helps you get to the bottom of it.
Perhaps you’re actually really sad about something unrelated but it’s affecting your nomadic experience. Like when you get secondary pain in your body; my friend had severe back pain, but it turns out the problem was in her knees. Or when you’ve got an ear infection so your jaw hurts.
Sometimes you think you’re sick of travel, when really you’re struggling with the fact that you miss your family and friends or you miss your dog. Right now, you think your whole business is a crock of cow dung, but the truth is that you’re super irritated with missing out on a great deal and it has wound you up.
They are legitimate reasons to be sad, but we don’t always detach our travel experience from those things. We just colour the whole experience as bad generally. When actually it’s just certain elements that are problematic. More on that later.
In any case, a problem shared is a problem halved right? Share on facebook groups; there are some for women specifically, and or you can share with fellow nomads across the world who get it. Talk to those really good friends who know you inside out and don’t judge because they know that nobody’s life is perfect.
You can talk to anyone as long as they can understand that there’s good and bad in all ways of life and they don’t hold you to an unrealistic expectation. Just because you’ve made a choice to live this way, and it’s not conventional, that does not negate your right to feel down from time to time.
Break it down
Do your best to put into words what is actually bothering you and try not to settle for “I don’t know.” It might take a little time, but please, please try. If you can pinpoint where the ill feelings come from, you can give yourself a boost by realising how manageable most problems are. Putting the causes of feeling sad into boxes helps you to separate the wheat from the chaff. Remember we talked about the idea of dividing and conquering in our Mental Models piece? It can be modified to figure out what your emotions are trying to tell you.
Making your pain points smaller can help to lift you out of the idea that everything is rubbish and stop you throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Move instead to the idea that some things are rubbish and you’re making progress; it’s so much easier to convince yourself to change small things or simply just accept a little temporary discomfort as you work out a more permanent solution. If you view everything as being bad, you’ll be more likely to throw everything out and start over.
Fix the bits that you can
Deal with your pain points one by one. If you miss your dog then see if there’s somewhere local you can volunteer at a puppy shelter. (I say that assuming that the canine interactions won’t just send you over the edge. It’s not a replacement for your beautiful canine, but it does release feel-good hormones in your body…you know what you can handle ?)
If you’re feeling lonely, find ways to either meet people and connect with others. It’s nice to experience this journey with others, and attitudes are contagious. Sometimes just being around happy, excited people can break the seemingly unending cycle of depression.
If your business is getting you down and you just need some fresh inspiration, look at ways you can maybe get a mentor or an accountability buddy to bounce off. Hire that virtual assistant and delegate some of the tasks that makes you want to remove your own eye.
Anyway the key take away here is that you aren’t alone in feeling the digital nomad blues. We’ve all had to deal with a version of it and we can tell you this much; you’ll come out the other side and it’ll be glorious.
So chin up, and keep putting one digital nomad foot in front of the other!