True Life of A Digital Nomad: I Am Not My Instagram

digital nomad instagram remote year mental health impostor syndrome depression traveling

Anyone that follows me on on this blog or on Instagram may have noticed I’ve been pretty quiet lately. I’m not posting as often as usual, and when I do, I don’t have much to say.

I haven’t felt like myself the last 4 weeks or so. I spend most of my time being a couch potato or a quiet observer in the room with my 8 other roommates. Which, as most of you know, isn’t really my M.O.

It’s a strange place to be in. But, I also feel this is more common in the digital nomad community than is let on. And I made a promise to myself I wanted this blog to be an honest reflection of my experiences. Well, the truth is that right now I’m pretty unhappy. I’m tired. So damn tired.

I haven’t collected a paycheck since July. I started two businesses that have more or less gone nowhere. I get irritated by tiny things my friends say even though I know they’re just trying to help. I have zero interest in activities that used to jazz me up like meeting my friends out for drinks or fun little sidetrips to go explore.

I don’t know if this is a product of living in a city I really don’t like, being on the road for 7 months straight, or trying to make it all work on a $0 budget. It’s likely a combination of all of the above, but as someone with a history of depression and mental illness, preferring to stay home than be social is a bit of a red flag for me.

Maybe it’s just a rut — I have never not worked for this long, or traveled this much, or spent this much time with this many people. So, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong.

I know what I should be doing: looking for work and finding a job, but I have very little motivation to do anything at all. Basic adulting like going to the store for things I need takes a lot of effort. This month, I find myself retreating into escapist pursuits like Netflix and games and generally avoiding leaving my house at all.

A friend asked me if I was okay with feeling like I don’t want to do anything. The truth is no, I’m not okay with it. In this community, there’s so much pressure to have the perfect Instagram with incredible pictures of your amazing adventures, and be happy all the time, and do all the things. This lifestyle is romanticized on such a mass scale, but in reality it’s just as hard as “regular” life back home.

Most of what you see on social media from digital nomads or other travel blogs is only the good parts: the adventures and sightseeing and momentary glimpses of days and weeks and months on end. The majority of the experience happens between posts.

I’m super grateful I’m still out here and to be living in a big house with lots of my friends. I think I’d be much, much worse if I were on my own this month. I’m doing my best to be social and it’s helping being surrounded by lots of positive energy. But, I also feel incredibly guilty that I don’t think I’m doing my best to do anything that will put money in my pocket. These days, I’m exhausted. And a little sad. Sometimes I just want to stay in bed.

Part pride, part stubbornness, part pragmatism, I refuse to sign on for a job I know will make me miserable because that’s exactly why I gave up my entire life to do this in the first place. I refuse to repeat that cycle. On the other hand, I have no idea what will make me happy.

It’s terrifying, to be honest, to not know what I’m doing with my life. (Yes, I realize the insane privilege of that statement.) But too many choices is just as bad as no choices at all. I feel completely immobilized by my own potential. And I know how shitty that is to say for someone in my position, which makes me feel even worse, and then the cycle repeats itself.

Hopefully, I just need some time to work though whatever this is. Maybe leaving Kyoto will help. Maybe getting a gig will help.

I’m working on keeping the big picture in perspective and trying to be okay with not being okay for a little while. Kyoto is a good place for me to retreat into myself and just do nothing. You know, that self-care BS or whatever.

This was a really hard post to write. All of this has been brewing in my head for a while. It’s difficult enough to look in the mirror and face the shittiest parts of yourself — another thing entirely to post it on the internet for all your friends and family and total strangers to read.

All in all, I hope this post serves its purpose: to be an honest reflection of my current mental state. I wish more nomads would do the same so it wouldn’t feel so raw. I encourage anyone who reads this, especially nomads, to share their experiences dealing with impostor syndrome, mental illness, and other difficult moments on the road and how you overcame it.

I think we all could use it.


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TravelKaila Lawrence