So there you are, all settled in at your new location. New country, new title: Digital Nomad.
How do you start? How to deal with doubt, homesickness and all those mixed emotions that find a way to your mind now the rush is over?
You have been working on your ‘great escape’ almost constantly over the last few months, and maybe even a year. And specially the last few weeks were crazy. I know mine were.
Saying goodbye to friends, knowing I will not see them again, eating for the last time at my favourite restaurant, knowing I had to find a new one. Wrapping up paperwork, ending my citizenship, it all seemed to drag on endlessly, and kept me pretty busy.
In the middle of all that buzz you went to the airport and off you go, happy ever after, moving on to a new life.
Calm times ahead of you.
Let me spoil a little bit of your fun: No calm times ahead of you
Although the rush is gone, I’m still in my own little “Man, I really did this’-bubble and that sets me a little apart from the rest of the world. And a new rush came upon me as soon as I arrived in my first hotel. “What is around the next corner, and the corner after that?”
No matter how organised you were during your preparation process, you were in a busy flow, an excited thrill about what was about to happen. And that is gone now, replaced for a new flow, in the middle of the total chaos of a new country you need to grasp.
And between things there is time enough for doubt, homesickness and other weird mixed emotions to creep up your turf.
Your life has changed drastically. And my first 30 days were a complete culture shock.
But I came prepared, I had booked myself an all inclusive hotel in a small resort to adjust to climate and culture. ‘A safe haven in troubled times’ or something like that.
After those 30 days my ‘real life’ began. That was the last step of my preparations ‘back home’.
With no plans ahead I only knew I needed to see more of the Philippines before I could decide were to live. I did not want to end up like those expats that picked a place and stayed out of habit, because that was the easy way out. I wanted to know for sure I picked the right place for me.
So I travelled.
But how do I make this country my home?
Let me share a few steps I took to make the first month work.
1. Take time to celebrate
I never celebrated so much as I do in my new life:
- The mere fact that I actually moved to another country was the reason to celebrate.
- The first month abroad also.
- As was 6 months on the road.
- And the fact that my citizenship ended, that was worth a piece of cake and a good cup of coffee.
- And the key and contract for my first real home base abroad also gave reason to celebrate.
Silly? No way!
I’m so proud that I did it, I changed my life completely. You can be proud of yourself. You did it, where other people only talk and dream about it and talk about it, you actually are living your dream. So the more reason to celebrate life.
Enjoy the feeling that you took a huge step and let it go free in your mind when it pops up.
Dance, sing, embrace it and eat cake
2. Appreciate daily live
There are small pleasures in every day life:
- your first night out in town
- your first line up at the cash register in the new supermarket.
- your first visit to the public market to buy fresh products.
- setting up a workspace in the garden or near the hotel pool
- walking a beach watching the sunset
Doing laundry, I remember doing laundry, a few shirts and some underwear, sitting like the Filipina do, on my heels, in the bathroom, scrubbing away with one of those washing tablets and suddenly it came over me: I will be doing these simple chores for the coming year. And the joy I felt was amazing.
I did it! I broke with my past life and started a new one at the age of 55. Hurray for me!
3. Take your new life one step at a time and be a slow traveller
I made a mistake of rushing around way too fast the first month, I wanted to see it all. then it occurred to me: Why the rush, I had the rest of my life to explore the world.
Don’t rush around like all the tourists around you do. They only have 2 or 3 weeks, you have a time on your hands. You do not have a return ticket, you have time to explore, absorb and relax. Visit your own city and it’s surroundings but take your time. No need to hop on a tour-guided bus-ride of 10 hours. Visit one attraction at the time and really take it in.
Walk the streets, find your way, meet the people and enjoy your new life
4. Learn how to create your new comfort-zone
In a country where nothing feels like home, you might want to create your new comfort zone. Whether that is at the nearby Starbucks for a good coffee and a familiar smell or at a comfy hotel desk in your room surrounded by your own stuff. You will need it and one day you will find yourself there seeking comfort from whatever disappointment, for that is about to happen sooner or later. Just like in your ‘old life’.
My comfort-zone need on the road was fulfilled by buying a tiny teddy bear. His nice furry feel when holding him was all I needed sometimes after a busy day full of impressions and noises. Bit silly, a 55 year old woman with a teddy bear, but I couldn’t care less what the world thinks of it. I needed that funny fellow. And the first thing I do when settling down in my hotel room is putting him on the side table or the desk.
Happiness is the most important feeling and only you can define what you need to feel comfortable
5. Meet the locals and your city
Talk to local people, mingle and get to know them and their habits, their culture and language. Ask them what time the bus stops nearby your house or hotel, travel in public transport and get used to the countries way of doing things. Have a chat with the lady at the market you buy your vegetables, greet the neighbours.
Get to know public transport, the best walks and talks in town, and the nicest restaurants. Where and how to hop on a Jeepney or get a taxi and how much will it cost?
Maybe you need to invest in a bike or even a car. I know I want a bicycle, but my travel companion who is also going to rent a place in Iloilo is dreaming of an ATV. But maybe I can do without motorized transport of my own and just find my way by Jeepney.
In Cebu City I loved to hang out in the IT-Park, for there was this great buzz of young professionals working. It was nice to speak to them and meet them and work beside them.
Visit local bars and hot spots where people your age hang out, work from co-working hubs and start making those new friends
6. Be yourself
I don’t know about you, but living under all the obligations back home I kind of lost myself. I did a lot of things just for the sake of doing them because people, or the society expected me to do them. When you make a new start you can re-invent a new you, get to know your true self again and work from there. Be free, be wild and live your life to the fullest.
Maybe you think you are already doing that by breaking free from the society as you have know since your birth. But believe me, you can go beyond that.
Find the child inside of you and set him or her free.
I found myself dancing in my hotel room in Cebu City to the music of the Lumineers. I wanted to do that for so long, but never came around to doing so ‘back home’,
I was holding back so much. Now I can let go. Finally
Accepting that a rollercoaster of emotions is unavoidable. And lonely moments might occur with family and friends living in a different time zone and being preoccupied with their daily lives, will help you to make a good start in your new life.
Remember when you have a tough moment that you will get through it and it all will make you a better person, more experienced and world wise.
After all: You are unique
If you have any questions about an expat life (in the Philippines) or the live of a digital nomad, Or you feel lonely living it at the moment and need someone to talk to, feel free to contact me.