The Art of Adjusting to New Environments
A Guide for Digital Nomads
For most people, traveling three weeks out of the years for vacation is a great culture shock and a fantastic shift from the mundane everyday. It is an excellent way to spark creativity and recharge. Traveling to unknown places every few weeks, on the other hand, it can be exhausting. To be productive, you have to readjust to your new environment quickly and efficiently. Here are some tips that I have used in my travels:
We as humans love habits. The brain creates an imprint map of the process and stories so that it can use it again and again. For my geeks out there, it’s like creating a function for your brain. Once you’ve written a function, you can call it at any time and create a trigger for your brain to run the program. Habits work in the same way. Unlike programming, creating a trigger and generating the habit takes time. Studies have shown habits take up to two months to form.
When we land in a foreign country, we feel the euphoria of novelty but the reptilian part of your brain is firing off and trying to evaluate the new environment. It is making sure that this new environment is safe. The “fight or flight” response is triggered. It is an acute stress that starts the moment you leave the airplane. Repeated activation of this stress can affect how you perceive the world around you. Habits can help the reptilian part of your brain understand that the new environment is safe and quickly dissolve the acute stress.
I’ve created micro-habits for myself so that my brain instantly knows that this space and location is home. I’ve listed a few of my habits below. You will create habits that work for you.
- I rise with the sun. This is a great way to acclimate your body to the new time zone.
- I have a semi-structured work day. I wake up and work for the first 3 hours. My walk break happens around 9 a.m. and my work day is over around the afternoon at 2 or 3 p.m.
- Coffee and oatmeal in the morning trigger the start of my work day.
- When the brain feels strained (every 90 min of productive work), go for a walk. This is a good habit for everyone.
If you want more information on habits, I recommend reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
2. Understand your needs.
Nurture your body and respect its needs. Fitness and health is an important component of productivity.
Accessibility to places to stay fit and fresh fruits and vegetables are a requirement for me. I love yoga, acrobatics, and Crossfit. I find one or all of these studios in the countries I visit. You live while you travel, you don’t live to travel. That world famous chop suey cart on the corner of your Airbnb is probably not the most stable food source for your body.
You live while you travel, you don’t live to travel.
3. Get Lost
The first few days, you need to familiarize yourself with the new environment. My favorite way to explore an area is to get lost in it. For the first few day, I will put my phone on airplane mode and walk. I will quickly absorb everything in my surrounding and note all the little landmarks. Make a mental note of the cafes for work, eating spots, gyms, and whatever interest you.
This is how your brain adjusts to the environment. If you are lost, go ahead and turn on your GPS. You should be able to find your way back after a few days of exploring.
There is no one solution for the nomad lifestyle. This is what works for me. My experiences are primarily in Asia. For those who are looking to start a nomadic life, I hope my story was helpful.