What I’ve Learned After My First Year Living as a Digital Nomad
Originally published on HelloLanding.com.
One year ago, I set out on my digital nomad journey. I left New Hampshire, the only state I’d ever lived in, and headed to Nashville, then New Orleans, Austin, and Denver.
When I first set out, I didn’t have much of an agenda. I just knew I wanted to see more of the U.S. and meet new people, try local food, and absorb all this life has to offer. And one year later I can confirm that life has a lot to offer!
After a year of being a digital nomad, here is what my journey has been like so far:
It’s been nonstop fun
The way I’m traveling is relatively slowly: I tend to live in each new city for three months. It’s long enough for me to feel like a local yet not overstay my welcome. But even with three whole months to explore a city, it sometimes doesn’t feel like enough.
Living in a major city like Austin or Denver means there’s always something fun to do. And since I’m “only” living in the city for a few months, I want to see and do all that I can while I’m there.
My weeks tend to be jam-packed with events like concerts, plans with friends, dates, nights out on the town, and on and on. Locals often tell me that I’ve seen and done more than they have in the years they’ve been living there. But that’s because my time there is limited. I feel like I have to see and do everything—otherwise, why live this lifestyle?
But over the past year, I’ve learned that I need to turn down some opportunities. I can’t see and do everything a city has to offer in three months, and that’s okay. I allow myself to say no to plans or block off days to simply have time for myself. The city will always be there, and I’ll always have a reason to come back and visit.
It’s okay to go to events alone
When I first move to a new city, I usually don’t know anyone. But I don’t let that stop me from going out and enjoying things.
This year, I’ve gotten good at going to events alone. What the heck does that even mean? It means I don’t feel as awkward or embarrassed to go somewhere by myself. I used to think that people would judge me for being alone. And hey, maybe they do. But my confidence has grown, and I don’t care if anyone wonders why I’m by myself. It also means that I’ve gotten much better at socializing and making friends while I’m riding solo at events. If I go to a restaurant, I’ll grab a seat at the bar and usually end up chatting with the bartender and others sitting nearby.
Even after I make friends in a city, I still go to some events by myself (or with my pup). I’ve learned that I actually enjoy spending quality time with myself and that I don’t need to rely on others to have fun. As an extroverted introvert, it’s great to have the balance between friend time and alone time.
Having loved ones visit is great
Being away from my friends and family for a year has been tough, but many of them have come to visit me in each city that I’ve lived in (I quickly invested in a good air mattress). We always have so much fun!
Not only is it great to see my loved ones, but it gives me a chance to play tour guide in my new stomping grounds. For instance, when I lived in Nashville, I always played “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” when I picked friends up from the airport, and I immediately brought them to the Virgin Hotel rooftop on Music Row to show them the best view of the city. In Denver, I made sure we went on scenic car rides so they could awestruck by the surrounding mountains—a sight that never gets old.
I’ve found that when my friends and family visit, I end up seeing parts of the city I wouldn’t normally have experienced. I think this is because they look at the city with a different lens, and because we don’t always have the exact same interests. In New Orleans, three of my friends came to visit and decided to get a spontaneous tattoo to celebrate. You better believe I got one, too!
Listening to locals
When I first move to a new city, I do my research on Google to find fun things to see and do. But the longer I’m there, the more I chat with locals and learn about the city’s best-kept secrets. I keep notes on my phone for each city, listing out all the recommendations I get along the way—and these notes go on for days
In Austin, I visited popular breweries like Austin Beerworks and Zilker Brewing, but after chatting with locals, they told me I had to make a trip to Jester King Brewery. Once I visited, I understood what all the hype was about. Jester King is like an outdoor oasis for beer drinkers. They had a great selection of beer, amazing pizza, live music, and there were dogs everywhere. It was heaven. Had I not asked around, I probably never would have gone!
Chatting with locals and visitors alike can also give me inspiration for which city I move to next. Right now, I’m in Denver, Colorado, and a month ago I wasn’t sure where to move to next. It was a toss-up between somewhere in Utah, New Mexico, or Arizona. After chatting with lots of Coloradans, it sounded like Salt Lake City would be a great place to explore. Before this year, it had never been on my radar. But now, I can’t wait to head there and see their stunning mountains and go on adventures in Utah’s many national parks.
I still can’t believe it’s real
It’s staggering the number of times I’ve almost started to weep when I take a step back and reflect on where I’m at in life. This is the life I’ve been wanting to live for 10 years, and I’m finally doing it. And it’s not just happening because I’m lucky or because things just fell into place; I worked hard for this. I realize that, and I am so appreciative of where I am today. It inspires me to keep going and to work hard so that I can keep playing even harder. And by playing, I mean traveling.
That’s a great question. And honestly, I have no idea. I’m still making it up as I go.
I know that I’m moving to Salt Lake City in about a week, but I don’t have any set destinations after that. I’m just going to keep meeting new people, and learning about all the best things to eat, drink, see, and do in my travels, and I’ll keep going where life takes me.
I’ll know when I’m ready to settle down (if I ever do), but that could be another year or another five years. Only time will tell!
Thank you, Landing!
I want to give a huge thank-you to Landing for helping make this lifestyle possible. They are easily one of the biggest reasons why I’m able to be a digital nomad. If it wasn’t for them, I would be scrambling to sublet apartments on Craigslist or be living in a van down by the river. Landing’s flexible apartments makes it so easy for me (and my fur babies) to hop from city to city, and I immediately feel like I’m home when I settle into my new apartment.
I’m also so thankful that I get to write for Landing about my experiences. It’s such a joy to be able to reflect on my life and to share advice and guidance with those looking to live a similar lifestyle. Follow along to hear more about my journey and see what the digital nomad experience is all about!