My name is Jess, and I’m a 30-year-old digital nomad who has been traveling around the U.S. by myself for the past year. This isn’t my first brush with solo traveling—I’ve backpacked all over Europe and have gone on many solo trips since I got the travel bug back in college—but my travels today look very, very different from those I took in my 20s.
That’s because I used to be a shy, quiet introvert. I would explore a city by myself and intentionally avoid talking to anyone else, choosing to sit at tables alone when going out to eat and turning down invitations from strangers to join in on walking tours or pub crawls. Crazy, I know.
Now, I consider myself quite the extrovert! When going out to restaurants, I choose to sit at the bar so I can easily strike up a conversation with those sitting around me, and I very rarely turn down invitations to fun events (especially pub crawls!).
How did I get here?
It’s not like one day I flipped a switch and said, “That’s it! I’m going to start spending more time with people now!” Instead, it was a slow progression. There were a few factors that helped me climb out of my shell and start socializing more:
A few of my previous jobs would send me to conferences and networking events all over the country. I loved that I got to travel but hated the networking aspect. I would find the one person I knew at the event and stick to them like glue for the evening. When they left me alone to grab a drink, I would anxiously wait, wide-eyed, for them to get back, praying no random person tried to talk to me while they were away. I was so nervous because I never knew what to say about myself or my company.
But, like with anything, practice always helps. After going to enough of these networking events, I finally got more comfortable with explaining my role at the company, what I like to do for fun, and on and on. Over time, it became easier to go to these events, even if I didn’t know anyone else there.
I guess the old saying “opposites attract” is true, at least for me. In my previous relationships, I was always the quiet one, while my partners were the loud, attention-seeking ones. When they showed up at a party, people noticed. Conversation came easy to them, and they were always being pulled in multiple directions at events—with me being dragged along with them.
I kind of liked that they got all this attention because it meant less small talk for me. But over the years, I got better at joining in on the small talk, telling stories, and getting the room’s attention. I didn’t mind all eyes being on me, and I actually started to welcome it!
Now that I’m single, I don’t have anyone to fall back on or divert attention to, so I’ve learned to fend for myself in social situations. It sounds a little scary, but I’ve come to really enjoy it.
3. Starting my own business
I got laid off in 2020, which helped inspire me to start my own business as a freelance marketing specialist. I wanted to help small, struggling businesses improve their marketing strategies so they could survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was absolutely terrifying at first because I knew that I was qualified to help but wasn’t sure how to communicate that to prospective clients. Why would they believe me? After fumbling my way through awkward elevator pitches and getting turned away over and over again, I finally started to build up my clientele.
Once I started getting freelance experience, the confidence came right along with it. I was helping these small businesses just like I said I would, and I was good at it. All I had to do was sell them on me, and that’s the easiest thing I can do, because I know myself and my skillset better than anyone else.
Now, three years later, I am completely self-sufficient with a growing client base and incredible reviews. And I actually have businesses coming to me now!
Becoming a digital nomad
While these experiences definitely helped me come out of my shell, my digital nomad journey has been the biggest factor in evolving into an introvert. In 2021, I packed up my car (and my cat) and left my home in New Hampshire, the only state I had ever lived in, to explore the country.
I didn’t have much of an agenda, but I knew I wanted to live all over and experience what it’s like to live in other states. I’m currently in my fifth state (Utah) and am absolutely loving this journey. My favorite part has been being able to meet so many people from all walks of life and make amazing friends all over the country.
When I first move to a new state, I don’t usually know anyone. It’s a little bit intimidating, but I also see it as part of the adventure. After a few months of living in a new city, I usually have quite a diverse friend group, and I love it!
I’ve made friends through other friendships, through Facebook groups, by striking up conversations at bars, and even just chatting at a car dealership. All it takes is that initial first step to say hi and introduce myself. It also helps that I’m very inquisitive—I like to ask questions and learn how others live their lives, what makes them happy, and what recommendations they have for the city we’re in. Of course, sometimes people want to keep to themselves or just have a quick conversation, and that’s okay!
But being a digital nomad was the push I needed to get out of my comfort zone and become a more adventurous, extroverted person. I have loved meeting so many new people and doing things I once found terrifying.
For instance, this past Thanksgiving, I had just moved to Salt Lake City and didn’t know a single soul. But I got invited to a Friendsgiving with more than 30 people I didn’t know. I went (of course!) and had such a fun time! Everyone was so welcoming and friendly, and there was plenty of stuffing, so I was happy.
Having a dog helps
Dogs really do make everything better, don’t they? About six months ago, I adopted my dog, Bo. Okay, he was a foster fail, but how could I say no to that smile?
Adopting Bo has been such a joy. He keeps me active, makes me smile every day, and has helped me get out and meet new people. Whether we’re at the dog park or just having a pint at a local brewery, people will come over to meet him and then we’ll end up chatting, which sometimes leads to friendship.
Similarly, if I’m new to an area and don’t know anyone, then he’s the perfect little buddy to bring with me so I don’t feel alone.
I’m not saying that getting a dog will automatically turn you from an introvert to an extrovert, but it will definitely help!
Taking time for myself
I do love spending time with people, and I think it enriches my digital nomad journey, but there are times when I like to be alone. Sometimes I’ll go for a hike, go to a concert, or check out a restaurant by myself, just because I like to have my quality Jess time. Some people might find it weird or sad to go to things alone, but I’ve really come to enjoy it.
I also make sure to find time to unwind and relax by myself. Spending time with people can be a little exhausting (especially since I’m still so new to it), so I make sure to get some alone time to recharge my batteries. Sometimes I just need a quiet night in with a good book and a hot bath, and then I’ll be ready to go the next day.
Life with Landing
The main reason I’m able to live this digital nomad lifestyle is because of Landing. This modern apartment company gives me the freedom and flexibility to hop from apartment to apartment all over the U.S. I only have to give a two-week notice when I’m ready to move on to the next place! The best part is that each apartment is fully furnished with luxury furniture and all the amenities I need, so I just have to pack up my few essentials, and I’m on my way.