Lying in a dark room while a sonographer spread cold jelly on my abdomen would have felt almost restful, if I hadn’t had a migraine coming on. 

Somewhere outside, my car was parked on a random street, with all my worldly possessions in the boot.  

Life as a digital nomad seems romantic, flexibly working from your laptop while travelling the world – no ties, no rent, no mortgage – but I was starting to understand the flipside. 

I’d spent the last three days crashing with friends in the city I used to call home. 

I’d seen my dentist and therapist, picked up new glasses, attended work meetings in-person and even got a rare haircut. 

Now, I was having a scan to look into my pelvis pain. All before setting off on a 300-mile drive the following day to dog-sit at the opposite end of the country. 

I knew I was overwhelmed. Not for the first time, I wondered if my lifestyle was the problem. 

The snap of the sonographer’s gloves concluded the appointment. He couldn’t see anything wrong, he said.

Relieved, I drove to my friend’s house, popped migraine medication and closed my eyes to catch up on some much-needed rest. 

I had dreamed about nomad life for years. Every winter, my mood dropped with the daylight and I fantasised about co-working spaces near a beach.

I noted the launch of every start-up company that promised to organise travel and accommodation for remote working. 

I even organised my own short, budget trip.   

But I always found a reason to delay. When I’ve finished my degree, I told myself. When I earn more. When lockdown is over

By 2021, I was living in a rented property in Exeter with my partner, Joe. We were both growing our businesses: me as a freelance social media manager, him as a freelance copywriter. 

Then our landlady warned us she was going to sell the house. 

Rents had increased hugely since we’d agreed to our lease. We certainly couldn’t afford to buy.

That’s when we started to discuss a nomad lifestyle. All of our work was digital and remote, and we both wanted to travel. This was our opportunity.

In early 2022, we sold our furniture, donated our possessions and stored valuables with friends and parents until we were down to bare essentials. 

A part of me was resentful that it had taken the threat of homelessness to get here but I was so excited to finally give this lifestyle a go.

Joe and I started out pretty tame: house-sitting in Leicester, renting an AirBnb in Bristol, taking on a short-term let in Cornwall. It felt easy and we were saving money compared to a traditional rental contract.

The accommodation quality wasn’t always great, but it didn’t matter as we were mostly out and about. We worked from coworking spaces, met new friends, and in our spare time we explored the local area. It didn’t feel like being on holiday; it was normal life, in different places.

After a few months, we ventured further, joining communities of travellers in co-living spaces in Normandy, Tenerife, and Madeira. True co-living spaces are independently owned and run, often set up in inherited family properties or old hotels and have live-in staff plus coworking and communal spaces where residents gather to cook, work out or play games.

I felt light and free. My language practice moved from Duolingo to real life. We made an effort to contribute to whichever community we were in, volunteering for charities, shopping at local markets and offering skill swaps.

At weekends, I took breathtaking hikes through volcanic national parks, and swam in secret caves with locals – all while working normal hours in the week to bring in my regular income.

But there were hurdles.

Our first challenge was the admin. With no freedom of movement in the EU following Brexit, border guards rightly questioned our dates, accommodation, and plans. We couldn’t stay for too long, and we couldn’t do certain activities in the Schengen area. (Since then, more countries including Spain have launched digital nomad visas, which makes things easier.)

Joe and I wanted to pay tax in the UK as we value our country’s services – and always planned to buy here in the long-term. Technically, we lived with family.

This meant medication, referral letters, contact lenses, online orders all went there – but we were rarely there to receive them. 

Nomads are often criticised for how unsustainable the lifestyle can be, and I can see why. Joe and I always tried local options before scrolling AirBnb, but we occasionally relied on these short-term lets, which contributed to the lack of housing – this was why we became nomads!

We ate mostly plant-based, and only two of our destinations required planes – but carbon emissions were an ever-present worry so we limited our travel to overland or ferry crossings. 

And if we planned too far ahead, we often had to change plans due to health or family commitments; if we left it too late, we ran out of affordable choices to stay.

Luckily we were always able to find somewhere, though it wasn’t always perfect – we once ended up in a really loud, mouldy flat and had to leave early.

The practicalities of our ‘idyllic’ lifestyle were not as tough as the impact on our wellbeing, however. When your base constantly changes, routine is hard. 

My fitness decreased. Often, I woke up and didn’t know where I was, my brain flicking through the 29 places we’d stayed until it found the right one – a disconcerting way to start the day.

Then there was the stress of not knowing where we would live next; of being thousands of miles from family when health troubles arose, or having people ask: ‘Where’s home?’ and having no answer. 

It was hard to always be saying goodbye to friends and making yourself at home just to leave a few weeks or months later. We met great people while travelling, but rarely got to see them again. 

Some nomads live like they’re on holiday, always eating out or doing expensive sight-seeing – we weren’t keen or able to do that, which often left us feeling isolated from the very people who understood our way of life.

Meanwhile, our non-nomad friends were getting married and having children while we stopped time two years ago.

Have you ever felt drawn to the nomad lifestyle? Have your say in the comments belowComment Now

Still, complaining seems insensitive. The digital nomad lifestyle is a dream many hold. Talking about the downsides feels awkward while people expect it to be the time of their lives. 

After two years, Joe and I have realised we need a stable base, somewhere to unpack and call our own. We have just made an offer on a house. It’s near friends, in an area we know.

Financially, I’m in a better place thanks to nomad life: pet-sits and accommodation abroad meant our expenses were lower and I saved more money, but my income dropped: figuring out travel dates, accommodation, payments and exchange rates takes time, and volunteering in exchange for board meant I had less capacity for paid work.

Sometimes, I feel trapped. Renting or buying in the UK is expensive compared to the life we can live, but it’s tiring to not feel at home anywhere. 

For anyone thinking of embracing nomad life, it’s wonderful – but you can’t escape the everyday. 

You still have to do laundry, shop for food and do your job. Larger worries – about career, life, family – don’t disappear.

You also need to build up a financial buffer. Booking places in advance can mean parting with thousands of pounds upfront but you always need to have some in reserve in case a place doesn’t live up to its listing and you need to move on.

For anyone who envies the nomad lifestyle, I’d say try it out. Travel and work remotely for a month to see if it suits you. I’ve mostly enjoyed the constant change, but I’ve met people who got rid of all their possessions just to realise they hated the nomad lifestyle from the get-go.

I know I’ll need to earn more to feel comfortable. But knowing there’s somewhere to call home – without a check-out date looming on the horizon – is worth the cost.

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