Choice overload as a digital nomad

Being a digital nomad is the new craze – picture working from a beach while drinking mojitos, as you travel the world working from a laptop. Or working from a hipster cafe sipping on a luscious cappuccino. Sorry to break it to you – it’s not all sunshine and roses.

I’ve seen both the good and the bad sides of being a digital nomad in the past few years, having lived for more than several months in Lisbon, Santiago, Medellin, São Paulo, Madrid and Berlin (and more travel in between). In this post I wanted to focus on a problem that’s become increasingly apparent to me – choice overload.

Being a digital nomad is like choosing cereal in the supermarket – you’re bombarded by choice

Once you become unshackled from the routine of living in one city for a longer period, life is finally the way you want it: you can travel as you please, work when you want, and enjoy life to the fullest. However, you suddenly go from having all your questions answered for you – from where you live and where you work to what you work on and do with your time (at least between 9am and 5pm), to having an endless stream of choice.

Though this is one of the beauties of being a digital nomad, it can quickly become exhausting, and it becomes harder to enjoy the present as you jump from city to city and plan that amazing next trip. These are some of the main choices I’ve faced in the past few years:

Where do I want to travel?

Let’s face it – there’s an abundance of amazing countries and cities around the world, and it’s tempting to travel them all. The allure of visiting all these great places, coupled with a seemingly endless stream of “Top 10” lists of the best cities for digital nomads makes it an incredibly difficult choice.

Which city do you want to focus on?

Once you get to that new city, you suddenly need to figure out which part of the city you want to stay in, with all the pros and cons associated with each one.

How long do I want to stay here?

Now that you’ve decided on a city, and where to live in that city, you need to decide how long you want to stay there. Maybe the summer there is amazing, but winter gets cold and you long for the beach… But then you’re giving up those new friends you just made. The pros and cons are endless.

Which supermarket, gym, hairdresser, dentist etc. should I use?

After living in a city for a few months, you start to find your favorite supermarket, get into the routine of going to the gym, find a hairdresser along with all the other essentials that are easily forgotten when you land in a new city.

Where can I meet people?

Besides the essentials, you obviously also want to meet some cool people! You might know a couple of people who already live in this city (or not!), but you’ll want to branch out and network – what events are there, which bars are the best, where can I join activities with other people?

What healthcare and/or insurance should I use?

We tend to take our health and safety for granted, but having good healthcare and insurance while travelling the world is essential. Do a quick search and you’ll find endless options, with cryptic pricing and terms.

Keeping a balance is key!

Those a just a few choices, but you’ll notice that they’re all personal choices – they have nothing to do with work. Navigating the ups and downs of personal choices while living in one city is difficult enough, now imagine facing those questions when changing cities every few months! You can quickly spread yourself too thin.

Adding to that, we also have to make career choices like the following:

What do I want to work on?

Career decisions are tough – do you get a short-term job, or follow a long-term career path? These will be similar choices as living long-term in a city, but instead of just having options in that city, you now have options all over the world through this wonderful thing called the Internet.

How much do I want to work?

You’re in a beautiful new city, and you want to explore as much as possible. But you also need to get work done and pay the bills. There is a constant tug between work and enjoying this new city, and considering how easy it is to work (just open the laptop), it can easily become the default.

Where do I want to work from?

Do you work from home, or do you get a cowork? Or a cafe? Finding the best place to work from can be tough, and this is yet another decision that needs to be made.

When you compound all those choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel lost. Because this is a less glamorous side of being a digital nomad, that isn’t very sexy, people don’t seem to talk about it very much. Would you rather talk with your friends about travelling the world with a laptop or the choice overload you’re facing?

Luckily there is a growing focus on mental health, and many more people are writing about these factors and sharing their experiences. There is also a growing slowmad movement of people living nomadic lifestyles, but staying for longer in each place.

After years of moving around every 6 months or so, I’ve started to see the benefits of a slower nomad pace. While travelling the world endlessly sounds sexy on paper, we need to keep the psychological toll in mind. Hopefully this post has been helpful in sharing my personal experience.

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