More often than not, I get the feeling that certain nomadic articles are overly feverish and enthusiastic, as if the digital nomad life will make you into a hopping bunny who’s daily overdosing on adrenaline. The digital nomad life is adventurous and exciting, no doubt; but like with any other lifestyle, it comes with that large spectrum of mental and physical phases that people normally call “reality”. DNs are no strangers to the current circumstances, and the effect said circumstances are having on everyone’s life, including theirs. But with all that can be said on the matter, I personally wanted to focus on a single, specific sensation – the feeling that everything has been put on hold. Indeed, right now it all feels like a sort of limbo. And while the impossibility of wondering through the outside blossoming lands should allegedly increase someone’s online presence – you’re bound to bond with your laptop only, after all -, I found myself wanting to disconnect from the web more than ever.
This might sound absurd, as if I’m going against the grain; but I promise you, I still stand by that ‘digital’ in my epithet, and I’m not suddenly boycotting my life choices. I get that this piece steers away from my usual content; but then again, my heart is also in a different place than usual lately. I feel like what I’m about to discuss is as shocking as hot water, yet much needed, nonetheless. Forcibly cut off from all human interactions, willingly deprived of digital mediations: what’s the end result of this social experiment?
As expected, I was left alone in a room with my caffeinated brain for the most part. And it was a mishmash of anxiety and fear of abandonment at first, which I would promptly shake off with a little dance. But soon enough, the good side of it all started to take more and more space. Underneath all the silence, there was a multitude of unheard voices that beg for me to drop everything I was doing and listen. Being connected to the outside world, both physical and digital, means being exposed to a constant flow of inputs, either welcomed or unwanted. I’m all about staying updated on the current state of affairs, interacting on social media, browsing blogs and watching vlogs. But at times, the digital can get overwhelming, and it all piles up to a sort of loud white noise.
Bear in mind, the present historical context gave indeed a new twist to this ‘disconnection activity’. But taking a break from the digital is actually something I do periodically regardless.
From an obvious standpoint, putting on hold your job once in a while is beneficial and much due. And when you’re a digital nomad, being connected is, most times, a huge part of your job. You, reader, should always remember that digital nomadism is a lifestyle, not a vacation; and sometimes, no matter how great the ocean view is, a DN also gets burnouts. Feasting on data, staring at your screen, scrolling through endless pages and responding to hundreds of emails can drive you crazy, and there’s no shame in that.
First of all, unplugging yourself from the hyperreality allow your thoughts to breathe. It’s easy to forget your own voice when there’s so many out there on the web willing to shout at you their enthusiasm or anger; even more when your laptop is your sole companion of conversation. I’m not of course stating that online interactions are any less real than face to face ones, but different channels trigger different dynamics. Thing is, sometimes being alone is not enough; you have to switch it all off. Disconnecting has always helped me regain familiarity with the sound of my voice, and reorganize my thoughts according to the person I’ve grown to be. Because we are constantly gathering information, expanding our knowledge, growing our mental and emotional skills; but we often forget to stop and ponder on such development, and that’s an important part of the path.
This break also will also help you reconfigure your relationship with the digital. Take a step back and try to question yourself from a new perspective. Do you have a healthy relationship with your job? And with your screentime? Are you satisfied with how you’ve put your skills to use so far? Would you like to explore different fields, platforms, possibilities within the digital world? Do you feel like it’s time to rebrand yourself? Swiping these thoughts under the rug only to have them resurface right before going to bed only makes them more chaotic and terrifying. Instead, take the time to distance yourself from the digital and reflect on it.
Finally, here’s your daily reminder that the digital reality is one out of many. There’s the outside world, with its thousands of faces, noises, lights. There’s the universe inside your laptop or phone, with its flashy videos and never-ending content. And there’s a reality that’s only yours, your inner monologue, your alone time in the shower, a daily dive into your private pool of if and but. And you need to find a balance between all of these realities, to allow the proper space to them all. That’s of course true even if you’re more of an avid user of the digital, rather than a nomad per se. But if you are a DN, I recommend that you take some time off to remember why you embarked on this journey. Because you certainly hoped to see so much of this mesmerizing planet, and you certainly did. But it is not only this earth that you’re walking through each day. It’s a journey with your gear, with yourself, and within yourself. And all of these realms demand your full care and attention.