Not all digital nomads travel around living a wild, Instagramable lifestyle.
For many of us, the nomad life is just a chance to focus on work in a different location or a change of scenery. Somewhere cheaper, warmer, a bit more exciting….
But sometimes the day-to-day can become monotonous. After the initial excitement of a new location comes the inevitable routine of everyday life.
Walk to the coffee shop, walk to the co-working space, drink a beer, watch Netflix, repeat.
At times you’ll feel trapped in your little bubble.
Once your new reality becomes the regular reality, when the lunch place knows your name, and you don’t have to say your order at the coffee shop anymore, the novelty of your new location wears off. Your new home is fine for the most part, but it can get stale if you let it.
Here are a few ways to shrug off the monotony of digital nomading.
Get out of your neighborhood
After a few weeks of getting settled into your new hood, you gotta get out & check out some other spots.
I’m not talking weekend trips halfway across the country. Just another neighborhood will usually do the trick. And it’s really not that hard to do.
Sure, there’s a reason why you chose to stay where you’re at, but there are pros to other neighborhoods as well. Go find them.
Instead of hitting up your daily coffee shop, get on Google and find one in a different part of town. Instead of going to the gym, find a nice park where you can hike to get your exercise on.
In many countries, going just twenty minutes away can feel like a whole new world.
And the benefit is more than just experiencing new parts of the city. It makes you appreciate your current neighborhood that much more.
Take out your headphones
I’m a music junkie. I go everywhere with headphones. But even though they make my commute and walk-abouts more comfortable, they also shield me from observations.
You can’t get the full experience without sound. Leave your headphones at home one day and see how different it is.
Lots of sounds, colors, and faces will start to open up. You’ll notice things you never would have before..
It makes you feel like you’re more there.
You get the sounds of the neighborhood — the shouts from the street vendors, the honking of the tiny foreign cars — and you can even pick up new uses of that language you’ve avoided learning “because of your workload”.
Plus, strangers will be more open to you. You can smile and say hello to people, feel like more of a resident (which you may already be) rather than just a tourist.
And let’s be honest — you’re probably not bumpin’ too much local music in those headphones.
You’re listening to stuff you know and love. Things that you have specific memories tied to.
Allowing yourself to take in sounds from your new environment and your new neighborhood can help you connect with a location that much more.
Go to one event per week
There’s always shit to do, but do your research.
Digital nomad hubs like Medellin and Ho Chi Minh have tons of events. Every night you can find something to do at a local bar or hostel.
And it’s not just about connecting with other nomads — there are often locals too. The type of locals that want to meet and become friends with travelers like yourself.
Take the bait. Make friends.
Networking with locals who know the area can help you to get the most out of your host city. And more often than not, most locals are motivated to share what they know!
Browse the Facebook events for your city (or the city you’re considering). Check out the interests and types of meetups that are already happening.
If you’ve got something unique that people like, think about starting your own meetup. It’s a great way to meet people and is a nice excuse for a drink or two. People are much more willing to help & be involved than you might think.
Ask for recommendations
Remember that person you met at the meetup? Pick their brain.
Ask about their favorite markets, restaurants, parks, and entertainment.
And don’t just ask to ask. Make that effort to actually go check some of these places out. It’s much easier to chill at home, but that’s how monotony gets you. Get your ass up and see some something.
Better yet, invite that person to take you.
Most locals love being the reason behind a foreigner discovering something new and awesome. Being that person will make you feel pretty good too.
Ask a local what they don’t do enough of in their city, what they’ve always wanted to try, what the new cool thing on the block is.
The great thing about this strategy is that the results will vary depending on who you ask, so it’s always available if you need to shake things up.
And if you wanna take it to the next level:
Interact with locals
Not a fellow traveler. And not a bubbly local from a digital nomad meetup.
I’m talking old lady at your local restaurant. Or that guy you always see in the morning chilling by the steps. Say waddup!
It’s hard to even imagine the crazy lives some of these people have lived. A lot of the times language is a barrier, but that doesn’t need to stop you from saying hello.
A positive attitude and a smile will take you far in life.
It’s a crazy idea, right? Actually interacting with locals on their day-to-day?
I’ll betcha it gets rid of some of that monotony.
Try it even (insert: especially) if you don’t speak the local language. Forming a relationship with a local is lit. Not only will it open great exchange opportunities, it will give you some of that new perspective you came here for in the first place.
And hey, maybe you don’t like talking to strangers on the street. Understandable! Get involved with a local kids program. Medellin, for example, has some great ones like Angeles de Medellin.
Almost every city has some way to volunteer.
Can’t find a way to volunteer? Find a local library and offer to give free English classes. Don’t think you’re qualified? You’re reading this. You’re plenty qualified.
In a nutshell? You’ve gotta put in the effort.
The hot and cold phases are normal.
During the hot phases, I’m out there, getting to know people, actively practicing Spanish, making conversation with my cab drivers, flirting with the coffee shop girl, all that.
But then there are cold phases. I don’t really leave my apartment, I feel defeated in my language pursuit so don’t practice, I avoid most social interaction, I’m even grumpier around my roommates.
It’s easy to defeat monotony during the hot phases, when things are going great and everything aligns with your instagram self.
However, when you get a case of the blues, or start to feel defeated and unmotivated, just remember you have a city full of unknowns ready to surprise and remind you of the reason you’re here at all and not at home working a cubicle job in a suit.
There are a lot of us out there. You can definitely find another nomad willing to fight the monotony with you.