12 Common Pitfalls of Nomad Life and Practical Solutions to Tackle Them

I looked up, breathing heavily. The 11kg bag on my back felt like the weight of 3 grown men & my knees were creaking with every step.

The hotel looked fabulous in the pictures but nowhere had I seen, ‘must navigate 300 steps up extremely steep hill’ to get there!

aerial view showing houses and green hill beside body of water
The view was spectacular though!

That was just the first night of our stay in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Pretty much every hotel in that city is at the top or bottom of a seriously long set of steps.

Not a problem on their own. Big problem with a huge backpack and, interestingly, a local law against roll along suitcases (not that we had one anyway).

By the end of that jaunt my big sister swore she was never backpacking again!


Carrying everything you own with you is both a pro & a con when travelling the globe.

But many times you’ll only be shown the glam side.

Youngsters casting aside their hiking boots and dirty tees to reveal six pack abs and diving into a random spectacular waterfall they just happened across.

You don’t often see reels of middle aged women with purple faces navigating steps with bags clearly too heavy for them, looking like they’re about to collapse. (It’s my mission to show those moments on my future travels!)

Here are some more challenges of the nomadic lifestyle that are rarely seen in picture perfect reels on Instagram;

1. Loneliness

Years ago, flanked by the Sydney Opera House on one side and the majestic Harbour Bridge across the river on the other, I should have been the happiest in my life. Instead, I remember feeling sad. I was alone and had no-one to share the moment with.

I know privileged or what? But loneliness isn’t just limited to the nomadic lifestyle.

The growing trend of remote working from home is accelerating feelings of isolation and solitude. I’m not a psychologist but just a quick scroll through social media and it’s fairly obvious that this isn’t a good thing.

While having some alone time can nourish the soul, too much can leave us feeling sad and lonely.

If we learn to use social media for us though rather than against us there is no reason to feel lonely ever!

  1. Join like minded groups on Facebook or Discord or wherever you hangout. No matter your interest I’m betting there’s a group for it.
  2. Chat with others every day and where possible set up Zoom meetings to chat with people you connect with and talk to often.
  3. Look up local meetup events in your area and attend workshops and get togethers.
  4. If travelling or working from home find local co-working spaces to work from. You’ll meet people and many times these places hold workshops and events.
  5. When travelling join an organised tour group or book experiences via a tour guide that are likely to be with a group of people.
  6. Can’t find a group that meets your needs? Start your own! If you’re interested in something there are bound to be others.

I know it can be hard, particularly if you’re on the shy side and it can feel very intimidating. But you’re not alone. There are so many others out there who feel the same way as you do.

You just need to take those first few steps of reaching out and there will be people waiting to meet you!

2. Unstable Internet

This is becoming less of a problem these days, but back in 2010 when we were living in Cyprus, I remember bouncing from hotel to hotel trying to find strong enough WiFi that I could upload videos!

The same was true of Cairns in Australia in 2014. The internet was terrible everywhere! (I wonder if it’s changed?)

In fact most of my dodgy nomad stories are about chasing decent internet;

  • The time we bought a dongle in Bora Bora that we could only turn on and use for 3 minutes at a time as it was so expensive and would run out super fast (not ideal from a boat in the middle of the Pacific).
  • The time we had a day of webinars and had to move from a house to a cafe, to a pub, and even then one of our guests hosted the entire webinar himself as we just couldn’t get connected.

However, even though it’s much better in most countries across the world now, when your livelihood depends on connectivity, a dodgy connection can mean missed deadlines and frustrated clients.

screenshot of internet speed

To mitigate this, always have a backup plan, like a local SIM card or eSim with plenty of data, or knowing where the nearest café with solid Wi-Fi is.

You can also buy a portable Wi-Fi router that supports multiple countries. (Who knew? – I’ve never tried one so can’t attest to their effectiveness).

screenshot of pocket size wifi available in amazon

The trick is in preparation. If you know you’re going to need the internet for something important;

  • Research connectivity before arriving at a new destination
  • Carry a high-quality portable Wi-Fi device.
  • Find cafes and spaces with reliable internet.
  • Buy a decent data plan for your phone

3. Time Zone Troubles

Juggling different time zones depends on your age.

time zone meme

I’m not joking! Gone are the days I’d get up at 2am to watch a webinar or even 4am to host a webinar (I have done this on multiple occasions)

I need my sleep, or else I’m a grumpy b**ch, and am completely unproductive.

You need to manage your time zones according to your personality and sleep schedules. However, here’s a neat trick I found out about moving through new time zones which really works!

Work out what time zone your next destination is in. Then as much as possible start to mimic it for 2-3 days before you travel and on the plane.

For example, when I’m heading back to the UK from Thailand, which is 7 hours behind. For a couple of days before I’ll head to bed an hour or so earlier, and will try to sleep on the plane during the UK night time.

It’s not a perfect system, but the closer I get to mimicking the time zone the better I feel. (Also drinking copious amounts of water on the plane helps!)

If you have clients or people you work with in different time zones, then use tools like World Time Buddy to schedule meetings that suit you both.

Also, try to maintain a regular sleep schedule, even if it means working unconventional hours.

Working through time zones can be a pain, but the most important thing is to ensure you get enough sleep so you can stay happy and healthy at all times!

4. Healthcare Hurdles

Talking about staying happy and healthy, accessing quality healthcare can be unpredictable in foreign countries.

It’s crucial to have a reliable travel insurance policy that covers medical care abroad.

Also, familiarise yourself with the healthcare system of your current location and keep a list of nearby clinics and hospitals.

Here in Thailand, the healthcare system is amazing. The hospitals are sparklingly clean, the doctors are internationally trained, no waiting lists and the service is like being at a 5-star hotel.

image of nurses walking at the hotel lobby
Phuket Bangkok Hospital

It costs, but if there was anything ever seriously wrong with me I would pick Thailand over the UK National Health Service every day of the week.

Before travelling to a new country make sure you;

  • Invest in comprehensive health and travel insurance.
  • Research healthcare facilities in each new location.
  • Keep a basic first-aid kit and essential medications with you.

5. Visa Viability

Visa requirements are pain and different in every country, however, they are a massive part of being a Digital Nomad.

You need to do your due diligence and find out what the requirements are for each country ahead of time.

A simple – ‘Do I need a visa for X’ Google search will usually suffice, however, websites like ivisa.com and atlys.com are handy resources.

Some other useful tips include;

  • Always have some passport photos on hand for countries with ‘visas on arrival.
  • Don’t leave it to the last minute! Some visas can take a few weeks to organise.
  • Keep digital and physical copies of all important documents.

Also this post on 71 Countries Offering Digital Nomad Visas should help.

6. Financial Fluctuations

How far and how long you can travel is obviously budget dependent and the nomad lifestyle can lend itself to a feast-or-famine style of income. Particularly if you’re freelancing and picking up irregular contracts as you go.

My advice is to start your own online lifestyle business that grows steadily and begins to bring in a regular source of income over time that you can rely on.

Typical business models include e-commerce, Amazon FBA, blogging, selling digital courses or products, building a subscriber database, and monetizing a newsletter.

how to make money fast as a woman - shopify

There are lots more and you can see my guide to 190 business ideas here for some inspiration.

The trick is to diversify your income streams and maintain a healthy emergency fund. Plus you need to become an expert budgeter and financial planner!

Tips:

  • Start your own recurring revenue online business
  • Keep at least 3-6 months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund.
  • Track your expenses religiously and adjust your budget regularly.

7. Burnout

Without a clear separation between work and leisure, it’s easy to overwork! I know, I’m super guilty of being on my laptop from morning until night.

In fact, after a while, you’ll even start to feel guilty if you take some time away from your business. That’s the ‘24/7 always on’ society we’re in nowadays.

We start to get nervous that if we miss a day we’ll fall behind.

It’s not true. Everything will still be right where it was tomorrow, a month from now, even 6 months from now. Your lifestyle and your business is a marathon, not a race. (I know twee, but true!)

In fact I’d go so far as to say mine’s a bit of an amble these days! I’m sorry, I know that ‘money loves speed’ and all that, but I’m the tortoise. I want to stop and smell the roses, swim in the ocean, and feel the sand between my toes.

sitting in front the beach showing feet and a bottle beside

What’s the rush anyway?

I always remember a story Tony Robbins told from the stage during one of his events. He said – and I’m paraphrasing – that when he was younger and speeding through his career, he met a guy who lived in a shack on a beach in Fiji.

The guy had no money, no luxuries, and would simply sit relaxing in front of his hut or fish for his dinner. When Tony approached him to chat about his lifestyle, he said ‘I don’t understand everyone rushing around trying to make as much money as they can, just so they can spend their time relaxing in front of a hut or fishing like me. I can do that every day for free!

I realise that’s super simplified but it’s not far from the truth. The number of times in our early online days my husband and I would bob around in the Andaman Ocean and say ‘what would we do differently if we were millionaires’ and other than perhaps give more – the answer was always NOTHING!

Anyway I digress, even if the coffers are running dry a bit, there is no need to work yourself into the ground. It’s not worth it. Especially when you can rent a beach hut on the coast of Thailand or Vietnam for less than a monthly grocery shop and live on less than $10 – $20 a day if you really need to.

Set strict work hours, take regular breaks, and make time for activities that relax and rejuvenate you.

Remember, taking time off is not only okay; it’s necessary for long-term sustainability.

8. Pack Up & Go

I’ve spent long periods of time living out of suitcases and after a while, it can become a bit tiresome.

However, I’m lucky as I am not into fashion. I’ll happily wear the same t-shirt a couple of days in a row, and can live in only 3 – 4 mix-and-match outfits for long periods of time.

Famous British actresses Maggie Smith & Judi Dench once said how glad they were that they weren’t born beautiful as it sounded ‘exhausting’!

I feel the same way about people who are into all the latest fashions. Sounds way too tiring to be worrying about what I’m wearing every day!

However, even with minimal clothes, it can still become very laborious constantly searching through your bags to find your stuff, rather than having a home for everything.

Here are some tips to make the experience more palatable;

  1. Pack light. Work out how to mix and match and invest in high-quality, multi-purpose clothing and gear.
  2. Streamline your packing process with a checklist and packing cubes! Packing cubes are great for separating tops from bottoms, underwear, washing, etc.
  3. Learn how to see laundromats as a pleasant experience. I see laundromats as ‘freedom’! Wacky I know, but if I have to go to a laundromat it means I have no fixed abode. I can put my clothes in, go for a coffee, read a book, etc.
  4. If you can’t stand it any longer, opt for some longer stays to minimize the hassle of moving.

9. Lack of Routine

This is a double edged sword. Personally, I hate routine. I know it’s good for me and certainly aids with productivity, but after a while, I get bored, frustrated, and very agitated if I stick to the same routine day in, and day out.

It says more about my potential ADHD tendencies I guess, than anything else, but you need to do what’s right for your personality.

Make a list of jobs you know you must get done every day/week. If you’re somewhere you’re confident you’ll have a few hours every day to work, then you can plan what you need to do each day.

If however, you have lots of trips planned and want to do some serious exploring you may have to batch complete your tasks ahead of time.

For example, I like to write a post every morning before I do anything else. It sharpens my writing skills, gives me content for my website, socials, newsletters, etc, and is a habit I’ve long wanted to adopt.

However, if I’m on route to the Masai Mara and know I need to get a week’s worth of posts done ahead of time, that’s what I’ll do!

When travelling it’s very difficult to establish a regular routine, so the secret is in knowing exactly what the non negotiable jobs are that you need to get done each day/week, then you can work according to your schedule.

10. Maintaining and Building Relationships

Maintaining strong relationships while on the move requires extra effort.

It’s worth it.

Nomadism is such a transient lifestyle, that you can almost be in a constant state of mourning as you move from place to place!

This links back to point No 1 about loneliness, but also it’s about building your network of amazing people you meet along the way and maintaining your long-term friendships and relationships.

All too often we share a life-changing experience with someone and then just go on our way. I’m not suggesting you get the details of everyone you meet, but there will be particular people along the way that you will just instantly connect and resonate with.

me with other woman in blue dress in front of white building
A lady I met in the Visa queue in Penang. We ended up sightseeing together for a couple of days

These days it’s easier than ever to stay in touch and even if a long call isn’t on your agenda, a quick ‘thinking of you’ pic or smiley message can brighten someone else’s day.

Tips to both build and maintain relationships;

  • If you meet someone you connect with, make the effort to exchange WhatsApp details or connect on social media.
  • Schedule regular check-ins with friends and family, and use technology to your advantage with video calls and social media.
  • When possible, plan visits or meetups in person.
  • Be the reason someone else smiles on any given day through a meme, a short message or a simple ‘I’m thinking of you’.

11. Safety

Keeping your belongings and data secure is paramount, especially in unfamiliar territories.

Use VPNs to protect your online activities and be mindful of your surroundings when working in public spaces.

Additionally, invest in anti-theft bags and use safes for valuables when available.

The irony is that right now as I write this, I’m sitting in Starbucks in a shopping center in Phuket, Thailand. I’ve just nipped to the bathroom, which is out of Starbucks in the main shopping area, and I’m so used to leaving my computer and bag here without worrying about it.

I know I won’t be able to do that in most countries I go to and I don’t recommend that to anyone unless you know a place super well. And even then, there’s always a risk.

Takeaway Tips:

  • Always use a VPN when accessing public Wi-Fi.
  • Be cautious with your gadgets in crowded or public areas.
  • Use anti-theft bags and devices to secure your belongings.
  • Use safes in hotels where possible to leave your passports, money, computer, etc
  • Carry a small padlock for your backpack, especially if stored somewhere publicly, like in a bag room in the lobby of a hotel, to go out for the day.

12. Environmental Impact

Lastly, the travel-heavy lifestyle of a nomad can contribute significantly to carbon emissions.

I’m very mindful of this and yet also want to be able to explore as much of this world as I can.

To lessen our environmental footprint, opt for overland travel when possible. Choose buses, trains, and electric vehicles if you can.

Choose eco-friendly accommodations, and support local economies by shopping and eating locally.

two teenagers selling local foods in a food stand


Takeaway Tips:

  • Prioritise trains, buses, or car-sharing over short-haul flights.
  • Choose accommodation with sustainable practices.
  • Participate in local clean-up events or eco-tourism activities.
  • Use eco-friendly sunscreen.
  • Refuse plastic bags/straws etc when shopping at markets. Carry your own reusable cloth bag.

Wrapping Up

The life of a digital nomad is portrayed as cliff diving into azure waters, sunset walks along pristine white silky sand, palm trees, floating breakfasts, being at one with nature, and more.

The reality is more often than not, frazzled panic at the airport, sleeping on a bench while waiting for a room to be ready, watching your back as you navigate new terrain, losing your passports, money, and room keys, vomiting after bad prawns on the beach, lack of sleep and lots more.

It’s also, however, a lot of laughs, meeting amazing people, experiencing incredible cultures, having your mind blown and stretched over and over again, understanding, tolerance, education, resilience, and much, much more.

my picture riding a bike with local kids
Mixing with the locals in Cambodia

Approaching this lifestyle with some pre planning, preparation and an understanding of the potential pitfalls will make for a safer and more enjoyable experience.

An experience I highly recommend by the way.

Happy travelling!

Jo 🙂


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