It has been about a month since I returned from my Digital Nomad experiment of working and traveling in Guatemala. I came home from this adventure and did three things all at once:
- Moved to a new city
- Started a short Christmas contract job at an old employer.
- Attempted to adjust from one lifestyle to another.
The move to the new city went ok.
The Christmas contract job was really challenging.
The adjustment from my much freer lifestyle to my new, more fixed lifestyle was largely a failure.
To be fair, trying to adjust from sun, warmth, freedom, and flow to dark, cold, process-driven, and mechanical thinking would be a fairly big challenge for anyone. But for me it was soul crushing because I had made the mistake of really falling in love with my Digital Nomad experience. And I had unconsciously pinned my happiness to this more natural way of life.
All this led to New Year’s reflections where I beat myself up mentally over my choices, got really frustrated at my current situation, and pondered some really juicy “thrashing around” fantasies.
Lessons for a Digital Nomad
Being of generally sound mind and spirit, and a happy soul, I soon came out of my funk. Clarity felt good and so did some resulting insights:
“Once you let the pig out of the pigpen, he will never again be happy in the pigpen and will from then on always try to get out again.”
Yup, the old farmer’s wisdom. Well, I got out of the pigpen and must now work on making the Digital Nomad lifestyle, or some variant, my permanent reality. There is simply no choice for me. Really, the experience of a freely roaming lifestyle with digital connectivity is intoxicating: Breakfast of fresh food grown locally while sitting outside in the warm sun in your sandals is simply better living than breakfast of dead food in a dark, cold kitchen in thick wool socks.
Do you like the winter “nesting” experience? Fill your boots. I will take the warm sun, thank you, as soon as I sort out how to be out of the pigpen permanently.
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
This lovely farmer saying about grazing animals wanting the grass on the other side of the fence – but that it is not really greener – is so true…and the saying is also very, very dangerously misleading. I feel it has imprisoned so many minds that I am called to challenge it here.
Two important hidden assumptions:
– There is actually grass on both sides of the fence
– You are a grass eater.
The true part: If there is grass on both sides of the fence, and you are a grass eater, then you could quite well be fooling yourself to think that if you get on the other side of the fence the supposedly greener grass will make you happy. It won’t. The grass isn’t really greener because you never really wanted green grass anyway – you wanted happiness. And finding happiness is entirely an “inside job”, as my bumper sticker says. This is a spiritual truism.
Similarly, if you want to be a Digital Nomad and think that being in the warm sun will make you happy, you are fooling yourself. Nothing can make you happy. Not the warm sun, fresh food, …nothing.
BUT, what if the two hidden assumptions are not true, and you are pretty clear and happy already? In other words what happens if:
– There is wheat growing on the other side of the fence and grass on this side of the fence.
– You are a wheat eater?
Does the saying hold true of you? Of course not! If you are a wheat eating animal, grass will never be your “thing”. You might be able to survive by eating grass on this side of the fence, but you would literally be healthier and feel more natural on the other side. Note: I am saying “healthier” and “feel more natural”, not “happier”.
Similarly, then, if you are really a sun-bunny who thrives better on fresh food, go where it is sunny and you can get fresh food.
Your guru, your mother, your best friend, and the smug person in the cubicle next to you all tell you to stay where you are and work on being “happy with what you’ve got”. They are actually all working from a stunted mind frame: They are “inside” a mental box where there is only grass on both sides of the fence, they see themselves as grass eaters, and they are not really free and happy, so neither should you be. If you let yourself out of the pigpen and have sorted out your internal happiness, you are free to go wherever suits you.
Enjoy whatever part of the world and whatever circumstances feels best to you at any point in time.
“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.” – Katie Byron
I failed at making the transition to a life back “home” because I had let myself out of the pigpen (and can never go back), I had learned conclusively that I am a wheat eater and there is little wheat on this side of the fence, and lastly, because I had attached to thoughts and that attachment wasn’t healthy for me.
And those thoughts were that I had already made it to the side of the fence that was the most natural and healthy for me. In my mind, life in the warm sun of free-flowing Guatemala right now was my truth. Of course it is not! What is true is that I am a sun bunny and love a free flowing daily existence. But that is not exactly my current life setup. It is where I am going and will hopefully spend most of the rest of my life, but it is not where I am right now. But I believed it was my current truth and that belief made me suffer.
Lesson: The Digital Nomad lifestyle is about freedom, experiencing contrasts, learning from those contrasts, and living your day-to-day life in a way that is natural for you.
But don’t attach to the form of that life. Don’t believe your own thoughts that it must look one way for it to feel a certain way. This is the unhappiness trap. “I was happy in _______. Therefore, since I am experiencing a current reality that is different, I am unhappy.” To stay in my integrity with where I am right now is important as I have responsibilities to see through to their natural end and doors to close before I can be fully free to live the way I want.
I will not stay for long in the cold, dark, process-oriented, mechanical thinking reality I am in right now. But at the same time, the fastest and easiest way to end up where I need to be is to not get attached to, or believe that I know the right place, circumstances, or timing. These will happen if I trust and stay true to who I am. I must simply be happy inside myself, know who I am, and remember what feeds me best. From this place of peace and understanding will come steps and actions I will take that will move me towards the healthiest and most natural circumstances for me.
The Digital Nomad – a lifestyle and a philosophy?
Pig photo: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license, “Chasing the escaped pig”, Flickr user: pauldwaite, accessed January 8, 2013
Goat photo: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, “Goat and Fence, Heritage Vineyard”, Flickr user: Tony Fischer Photography, accessed January 8, 2013.
Breakfast photo: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, “A beautiful and healthy breakfast”, Flickr user: The Sean and Lauren Spectacular, accessed January 8, 2013.