I have problems. Not, like, financial, medical, or familial problems. More like that vague sense of dissatisfaction you feel when you're sitting in your perfectly nice apartment on a Wednesday evening and can't decide what to eat for dinner. To escape the dull monotony of my privileged existence, I've decided to project all my hopes and dreams upon a lifestyle social media has taught me to idealize: the globe-trotting digital nomad.
Back home, I have to suffer through daily indignities like grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning dishes. But as a digital nomad flitting from Airbnb to Airbnb every few weeks, I also have to do grocery shopping, laundry, and dishes—but the view outside my window is now different! Yes, my days are so much more carefree and spontaneous, even though they consist mostly of the same activities that I used to do back home. I just do those activities more half-assed now because I'm constantly jet-lagged.
The most magical part of being a digital nomad is that I'm always seeing and experiencing new things. Any day of the week I can explore a new museum, try a new restaurant, or visit a new historical landmark. I could never do these things back home because I've already done them, and therefore take them for granted. Life is just so much more interesting when you don't know what lies around every corner. Back home I could walk to the local Starbucks with my eyes closed. But in this exotic foreign city, I went for a walk and do you know where I ended up? That's right, a Starbucks. Isn't that something?
As a world-traveling digital nomad, people assume I'm living like I'm on vacation 24/7—and that's because I post copious amounts of photos of myself working from a beach cabana or mountainside retreat. In reality, I'm dropping Zoom calls left and right because these places don't have reliable internet connections. So yes, I am living like I'm on vacation because I'm getting virtually no work done. But if I'm going to sell my soul to the capitalist grind, fake working from a country with a spotty human rights record is probably the best way to go about it. Thankfully my employer hasn't noticed because the entire company is remote-first, so nobody else is getting work done either.
Oh, and I haven't even mentioned all the people I've met. Most of them are also digital nomads because no sane local would ever want to meet up with a 31-year-old white guy they matched with on Bumble Friends. The best way I can describe these new friends is "mysterious" because we usually only hang out once or twice before one of us moves on to our next locale. Even still, I feel like they "get" me in a way my closest friends and family never could because we're both temporary colonizers tearing apart the fabric of foreign cities through unwitting gentrification. I'm certain we'll all stay in touch even though I never learned any of their last names.
Mind you this lifestyle isn't all glitz and glamour. I often find the places Instagram travel influencers tell me to visit are already overrun with people exactly like me. This makes it hard for me to "experience” the local lifestyle—by which I mean find an open seat at an internet cafe to camp out for 7 hours. I also feel I'm lacking a sense of community in these foreign cities where I’ve made no genuine effort to integrate into the culture, and that's despite the surface-level connections I make with other digital nomads.
Sometimes I wish there was a place I could visit that was comfortably familiar and near all my friends and family. But since I can't think of where that might be, I guess I'll just keep bouncing from country to country in search of answers. I'm not running from my problems. More so seeing if my problems can keep up. Now that I’m in this faraway land, I can finally kick back, let go of this ennui, and figure out what I’m going to eat for dinner.
Q&A on the article
Q: So, uh, are you enjoying being a digital nomad?
A: I am!
Q: Are you sure about that?
A: Yes! But wanted to put in perspective what I think being a digital nomad is, and what it isn’t. Shoutout r/digitalnomads, which is a wealth of good information.
Q: Sounds good…
Thanks for reading I'm Like You (but with a newsletter)! If you “get” me, you should subscribe.
I'm forwarding this to so many people. Bravo
This is amazing and hilarious. I laughed a lot, enjoyed it and related to it. Definitely my favorite piece you’ve written. I think you found something with this type of humor. Looking forward to the next one 🤙