In recent years, structured “digital nomad” programs have blown up with more people around the world able to work remotely. For those who aren’t as familiar with the term yet, “Digital nomads are a type of people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles.” – Wikipedia
Structured Digital Nomad programs offer a well-rounded program with accommodation, wifi, coworking space, and social activities all included for a monthly price. Most programs offer the chance to see the whole world and collect as many stamps in your passport as you can. Some of the programs come with a promise of quick cultural immersion while others simply assure a fun group to travel the world with.
But as we become more ethical and sustainable travelers, travel opportunities that only offer a quick glimpse of a country or culture are starting to seem shallow and altogether irresponsible. What are you really learning about a culture if you only go to a country for a few days? What are you giving back to that community? What are you learning if you only hang out with other foreigners and do tourist excursions like zip-lining, or if you never have the opportunity to connect with your host community because you’re just passing through?
Having provided cultural immersion programs for teens and adults for over 35 years, we’re going to explain why it is important to slow your breaks and spend time immersing yourself in a culture – as opposed to bouncing around to a new country frequently. If a genuine, life-changing experience as a digital nomad is what you are seeking, here are 5 reasons why it is important to stay in one place.
Frequently having to adapt to new environments does not allow for the time it takes to build relationships, leaving travelers feeling lonely and isolated. This is something that a lot of digital nomads deal with because they are simply not in one location long enough to make friends, or are surrounded by other digital nomads doing the same. You may be constantly battling these awesome highs followed by intense lows from meeting really cool, like-minded people, only to never see them again.
This is more important, however, when we talk about the local community, which leads to number 2.
All too often, travel is about how it will benefit the traveler without much attention to the lasting effects on the community. Most digital nomad programs that take advantage of low-cost living and kindness of local communities do some serious harm. It is important to support local businesses and live as eco-friendly as they do.
Our digital nomad program in Thailand offers cultural activities throughout the first month as well as monthly cultural or professional development presentations with local experts on:
We also encourage those with special skills to identify a need in your new community. Good at building websites? Connect with a small business in Hua Hin that needs help with theirs. Cultural exchange goes both ways and the community you are gaining so much from being a part of deserves to benefit from you being there as well.
When you are just passing through a place for a few weeks, what you see is the version of the country that’s catered to tourists. As the old saying says, “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” Take the time to learn what it is actually like to live as the locals do in their normal, every-day life. How do they get food? What are interactions like? What do you have to do to assimilate into their culture?
Immersing yourself and living in another culture is, for most people, one of the most transformational experiences of their lives. The reason it’s so life-changing is not that it was a vacation – living abroad is challenging. It’s supposed to be, and that’s why it’s so rewarding. It’s all the cliches: Nothing worth doing ever comes easy, if it doesn’t challenge you then it doesn’t change you, a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor, etc, etc.
Moving to a new country every 4 weeks definitely isn’t easy, at least not logistically (so much packing!) but staying put and settling in in a foreign country? That’ll show you what you’re capable of. It’ll mostly be small things – you’ll feel awkward every time you mess up your food order at the same restaurant, you’ll get lost AGAIN when you swore you were getting on the right bus this time, or you’ll mix up the word for 3 and the word for 4 for the hundredth time. But then you’ll finally order the right food at the restaurant you’ve messed up at countless times before, get on the correct bus and arive where you need to be on time or confidently say “4” when you really, truly, meant “4”. The small victories feel big.
When you’re a tourist passing through it’s less scary to put yourself out there. When you’re moving somewhere for an extended amount of time it’s harder to push yourself out of your comfort zone – especially when you mess up saying “4” and know that that noodle stall is your GO TO spot and you have to go back tomorrow. But that makes the reward of conquering the challenge all the better. The best feeling in the world is finally becoming a “regular”.
Moving around from destination to destination in a short span of time takes a toll, and frankly, it isn’t sustainable. Moving around lowers productivity, which makes working remotely feel more like a long-term vacation, with little to show for it besides cool Instagram pictures.
No matter if you’re working for a company for your yourself, you will need to get stuff done.
Maybe the best part of staying in one place for at least a month is that you can have the best of both worlds. You can take to visit a whole new country or stay in your local city for more of a low-key adventure. You don’t have to keep up with someone else’s’ plan, you can pick and choose what works for YOU. After all, isn’t that what drew you to being a digital nomad in the first place? You can still have the experiences you want with the flexibility and comfort of your own space.