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Is Being a Digital Nomad Stressful? Our Honest Truth (2024)

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If you’re wondering, “is being a digital nomad stressful?” you’ve come to the right place!

The idea of being a digital nomad – working remotely while traveling the world – sounds like a dream come true.

Getting paid to explore new places, immerse yourself in different cultures, and have enriching experiences that most people only fantasize about. What could be better than that?

The reality, however, is that being a successful long-term digital nomad requires a lot of flexibility, problem-solving skills, and tolerance for uncertainty. While the lifestyle provides incredible freedom and opportunities, it’s not all mojitos on the beach.

As digital nomads since 2019, we’ve encountered various stressful situations – from travel delays and lost luggage to technology problems and visa issues – due to our location-independent lifestyle without a permanent home base.

Just getting from Point A to Point B can be an adventure unto itself. But at the end of the day, for most nomads like us, the rewards far outweigh the stress challenges. Let’s discuss this in more detail so you can decide if this lifestyle is right for you.

Is being a digital nomad stressful? Our Quick Answer

Is being a digital nomad stressful at times? Absolutely. Is it also tremendously rewarding and life-changing in ways you can’t appreciate until you actually live it? 100%. For us, the stresses are far outweighed by the rewards.

The Stresses of Being a Digital Nomad

In our experience, some of the biggest pain points that can cause anxiety for digital nomads include these sorts of issues…

Housing & Accommodation

One of the trickiest aspects of being a nomad is finding comfortable, reliable housing for variable lengths of stay in different cities and countries.

Negotiating longer-term rentals often requires creative solutions like subletting. Hostels and hotels get old (and expensive) quickly.

Or there was that time that we stayed in an Airbnb so unsafe that both David and our son were injured by faulty appliances and furniture and had to be rehoused.

Then, the host turned around and tried to tell Airbnb that we (the victims) were the cause of the damages. It took over a month to sort everything out. Talk about stress!

Travel Delays & Logistics

Trains, planes, buses, rental cars, ferries – just getting to your next destination can be a massive headache some days.

Missed connections, getting ripped off by taxi drivers, and spending way too much time in transit are par for the course. We’ve had it all happen, so you can safely assume you’ll experience it at some point, too.

When we were driving the Carretera Austral in Chile, our battery died at the gas station and we didn’t know if we could find a battery let alone where. Thankfully, we sorted it out in less than two hours!

LIttle Man overlooking a turquoise lake with snowcapped mountains in the background on the Carretera Austral in Chile.

Visas & Bureaucracy

Constantly dealing with immigration, tourist visas, temporary residency paperwork, and tax/legal aspects of working remotely across multiple countries is a huge hassle. The rules keep changing and it’s a regulatory maze.

Did you know that when you apply for a visa in Australia, the 12-month window starts the day you’re approved and not the day you tell them you’re arriving? So you have to balance travel plans in the country with planning ahead. It’s tricky!

Internet & Technical Issues

Spotty WiFi, computer crashes, fried hard drives, power outages – when your whole livelihood depends on technology, any technical glitches can be extremely stressful and jeopardize your income stream.

We always ask landlords for speed tests before we arrive, to minimize the potential of not being able to work.

In Bali, we arrived to find out the repeater that gave us internet in our apartment died two days before we got there. So we could only work from our balcony or the landlord’s restaurant rather than our living room with AC. Not ideal, but we figured it out.

David and Little Man sitting at a wood table working in Bali.

Loneliness & Relationships

Digital nomad loneliness is real. Unless you’re a nomad couple or group, the transient lifestyle means constantly making new friends as you move every few months. Maintaining long-distance relationships with far-away family also takes effort.

Pro Tip: Using coworking spaces is a great way to meet new people who also live this lifestyle and understand its unique pros and cons.

Actually, we still have to worry about this as a family unit. Thankfully, making friends with other nomads means you’re likely to see them again. We have several sets of friends we’ve seen on multiple continents so far!

Language Barriers

While English is relatively widespread, communicating and handling basic transactions can be difficult or impossible in many parts of the world. It can be isolating and nerve-wracking.

Thank goodness for translation apps! We always try to learn a few phrases in a local language, including hello, thank you, and please.

But it’s not always possible to learn the technical terminology related to car mechanics or medical needs. You know, the vocabulary you need when the digital nomad life gets stressful.

David at a mechanic in Colombia, while drinking a cup of free Colombian coffee.

Personal Safety Concerns

As a foreigner and outsider in some places, you can unexpectedly find yourself in situations where you feel unsafe or vulnerable due to cultural conflicts, crime risk, police corruption, etc.

Just like you would in any large city in your home country, be vigilant when out in public. Especially at night and in touristy locations. Avoid walking alone in desolate spots.

Keep your belongings close and never leave them unattended. If you encounter any suspicious individuals or situations, trust your instincts and remove yourself from the area.

Health & Medical

At some point, you will get medical and/or dental care abroad. That’s just a fact of life as a distal nomad. We’ve done it several times.

Getting adequate medical care and finding bilingual doctors and dentists you trust is not easy when you’re on the go. Pharmacies, insurance, and routines get disrupted. Even making time for a 6 month dental check up can get tricky. At least for us!

Be sure to have emergency contact information readily available at all times. This includes the address and phone number of your accommodation as well as local emergency services such as police, fire department, and hospitals.

David wearing a hospital mask and gown in a hospital room in Malaysia before a medical procedure. Is being a digital nomad stressful? Yes when it comes to medical care abroad!

The Lifestyle Rewards Are Immense

While those are some of the major stress points that come with the nomad territory, most long-term travelers will tell you the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences. The constant novelty, personal growth, and eye-opening cultural experiences make it all worthwhile.

From snorkeling with massive whale sharks in Isla Mujeres to hiking among 10,000-year-old cave paintings in Argentina, our own adventures have been unparalleled.

Just a normal Tuesday could consist of eating guinea pig with local friends in Peru or holding a koala in your arms at an Australian wildlife sanctuary.

Roasted Guinea Pig Peru

While being a digital nomad certainly comes with a degree of perpetual uncertainty and lack of control, it’s that unpredictability that breeds excitement, adaptability, and personal evolution.

Yes, there are stressful moments when we got stuck abroad as the COVID-19 pandemic struck and had to make tough choices to either stay put or try to return home. (We stayed.)

For every stressful occurrence or moment of chaos, there are a hundred marvelous sunsets, encounters with locals, and spontaneous feats of problem-solving that make up for it. Learning to cope with ambiguity and roll with the punches becomes second nature.

At the end of the day, you realize that life is one big adventure filled with ups and downs – but the freedom to chase your wanderlust across the globe makes any bumps along the journey well worth it.

Our family visiting a Rock Hopper penguin colony in Argentina.

Final Thoughts: Is being a digital nomad stressful?

After being digital nomads since 2019, we’ve experienced stresses and setbacks that most corporate desk workers can’t even fathom – like the time we detoured around a massive landslide in Colombia using an infamous death road, the Trampolin de la Muerte.

But we’ve also been incredibly fortunate to witness natural phenomena and cultural treasures that most people only see in documentaries or on Instagram.

Spending 24 hours of continuous daylight under the midnight sun in Antarctica (and being the first tourists EVER to see the A52a iceberg!). Coming face-to-face with real-life Komodo dragons – the largest lizards on Earth – in Indonesia.

Celebrating Christmas in the streets of Medellin enjoying some of the best, NatGeo-rated holiday displays on Earth. These are moments that money can’t buy and memories that will stay with us forever.

For us, the uncertainty, growth, and sheer amazement of experiencing our big blue planet up close and personal is well worth the trade-offs.

Just don’t expect it to always be a walk on the beach. But it sure helps when that beach happens to be a secluded cove with jewel-toned water and chalk-white sand in the Caribbean that you have all to yourself. Trade-offs, indeed!

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