What I wish people had told me about being a digital nomad

For some people, making the switch to digital nomading is probably easy. They just come to the conclusion that they want to work and travel and off they go into an eternally Instagram-filtered life of neverending #blessed adventures.

I’m not that person. I like known outcomes and logical plans. Which is why throwing my seemingly perfect life into the bonfire to pursue indefinite international homelessness made me anxious.

I channeled that anxiety into the only thing I could control: packing. I read blog post after blog post about what to pack. What backpack to get, what accessories to bring, how to do ultra-minimalist packing.

And you know what I wish someone had told me?

It doesn’t matter what you pack.

Seriously, just show up with a laptop and you’ll figure it out. There’s literally an entire world of merchants whose livelihood depends on selling you objects. And anything you can’t get, you can live without.

There’s only one thing I packed that I’m grateful for every day: noise-canceling headphones.

There’s other things I packed that are nice to have. It’s nice to have a water bottle that filters tap water so I don’t have to buy bottled water and contribute to plastic pollution. It’s nice to have a bank that reimburses me for foreign ATM withdrawal fees. It’s nice to have Google Fi and not have to find sim cards. But those are just nice-to-have.

If I didn’t have any of the above things, I’d occasionally be slightly inconvenienced. Oh the horrors.

Living out of a backpack has taught there are few physical possessions that improve my wellbeing. Now I see that the times in my life I’ve obsessed over possessions, I’ve been attempting to fulfill intangible needs:

  • I obsessed over packing because I was scared I was traveling would be a decision I would regret.
  • I obsessed over decorating my apartment because it was because I wanted to feel that my days of struggling were over and that I could provide for myself.
  • I obsessed over my clothes because I wanted to be accepted by a person or community so that I would accept myself as being adequate.


What I wish those blog posts told me is: stop worrying about packing. Pack a bag with whatever’s around. Get on a plane.*

*Or don’t. Flying isn’t environmentally sustainable.