How To Create Meaningful Connections As A Digital Nomad
While a lifestyle that allows you to work from anywhere spoils you with the highest level of freedom, creating meaningful connections as a digital nomad can be challenging.
Loneliness is a common struggle and often the main reason why nomads choose to change their way of life. After 5+ years with this lifestyle, I can confidently say that it’s definitely possible to create and maintain quality relationships as a nomad. It just requires a lot of awareness, prioritization, effort, time management, and communication.
Managing this part well is key to enjoying all the amazing benefits of this lifestyle long-term.
Why Meaningful Connections As A Digital Nomad Can Be Tricky
Before we get into the how’s, let’s look at why relations can be complicated as a nomad.
You Won’t Meet Your Friends And Family As You Used To
When I took the decision to really go for this lifestyle, I was a bit worried about whether I’d be able to maintain my current relationships. You know that people will go on with their lives, and it’s natural to wonder whether things will still stay the same when you’re away instead of right there, sharing everyday stuff as you used to.
It’s also understandable that not everyone wants to prioritize investing in a distance relationship. It takes more energy, effort, and time. Then that’s probably not your kind of person, anyway. The people in my closest circle are supportive, and while we live completely different lives, our bonds are stronger than ever.
While You Meet New People All The Time,
Developing Something Deeper Can Be Challenging
If you choose a lifestyle of travel, you will meet all kinds of people all the time. From the most successful to those who have nothing. Amazingly good-looking ones, strange ones, and everything else in between. Let’s just say that nothing surprises me anymore… 😆
While this is fantastic, it can be challenging to find those you really click with during shorter stops. It’s easy to meet nice people, but those you definitely want to develop further are rarer. Many people come and go, and if you’re not proactive about it, conversations can become similar and shallow. At times contact will be too short to get to know each other and connect on a deeper level. Opening up to someone only to never talk to them again can get tiring.
Even when you’ve had an amazing time, the effort you’re willing to put in often has its limits if you have spent little time together. Especially if you’re not sure about when you will meet again.
You’ll Start To Appreciate Other
Types Of Connections And Experiences
For those on vacation, these brief, superficial relationships are fun and, sometimes, even just what they are looking for since they have solid relationships back home. For you, however, they can lose their appeal quickly since they often don’t last, but you keep on traveling. The same goes for certain conversations — you’ve heard most of them before!
You’ll likely start appreciating deeper connections and conversations more. I’m not referring to spending a long time with everyone you meet. A connection can be genuine and special even if you’ve just met. It’s more about getting past that superficial stage to experience something more meaningful, and how you feel when you’re with someone. As a result, you might at times feel out of place if you’re surrounded by people who don’t have the same mindset.
Limited Time To Stay In Touch
And No “One Natural Place To Go”
When you meet many people you have to become an expert at prioritizing your time to be able to stay in touch. You might also experience internal conflicts between wanting to spend more time somewhere/with someone and moving on to explore more. While this is a luxury problem, your desire to “always continue” can be a challenge in developing more meaningful relations.
Moreover, your friends and family will be spread out more than ever. Therefore, you might not have one natural place that feels like home anymore, but rather several. Which isn’t necessarily a downside, just different! It’s easy to feel as if the time you have isn’t enough.
12 Ways To Create Meaningful Connections As A Digital Nomad
You came here looking for solutions, after all, so let’s get into some specific tips on how to develop meaningful connections as a digital nomad.
1. Define What Types Of Relationships You Want
The most important thing you can do if you’re looking to build genuine connections as a digital nomad is to know what you want and be confident in it. Review your current relationships. Be aware of who the most important people in your life are. Write it down! What’s the status of the relations now, do you need to change anything?
Do also reflect on whether you miss any types of people in your life. I’d for example like to get to know more ambitious entrepreneurs with a similar lifestyle. A decision that affects where I decide to base myself, how, and with who I might decide to spend more time.
2. Think About Relationships As Location-Independent
Sometimes we get too caught up in what we don’t have or how things should be. Instead of focusing on that you’re leaving or that you don’t live in the same place as someone, be grateful that you met this person. Someone special enough to miss. No matter where they are based, you still have them in your life, and that’s amazing! 🥰
Remember that you also at any time could base yourself closer. Even if I don’t recommend living somewhere just because of another person. You better find other reasons too, such as at least liking the place, exciting opportunities, or whatever criteria that are most important to you.
3. Set Off Time For Those Who Matter Most
Prioritize and make sure to set off time for those who are most important to you. I love meeting new people, but sometimes catching up with a best friend or a family member an extra time is more valuable, rather than going out with someone new. It’s of course about balance and your needs at the moment. On other days you might feel the opposite, which is ok too!
Make sure to spend quality time together even if you’re far away. Go out to a coffee place and call your best friend, take a walk as you call your dad, have breakfast with your sister, set up a wine date with the girls, and so on. As long as your connection is strong, you’re still there for each other and meet once in a while, there is no reason why the relationship can’t last.
4. Don’t Compare Your Relationship With Someone With Their Other Relationships
If your friends/family/partners live more traditional lives, they will likely be pretty focused on what’s going on where they live. They will probably meet up with other friends/partners more often. Sometimes, because of time differences or whatever, they might not call you first (while others will). Some might even think that they “shouldn’t disturb” you with their problems, because they think you’re living a perfect life in paradise 🤦♀️.
Instead of comparing your relationship with them to others, remember that every relationship is unique. If both of you value it, the relationship won’t end just because you don’t meet as frequently. It goes deeper than that.
Try to see their perspective too. Communicate about your needs if necessary, and make it clear that you’re always there for them — no matter where you are in the world.
5. Embrace Different Types Of Connections
There are amazing both short- and long-term interactions to be had as a digital nomad. Mix adventures with more meaningful relations to enjoy the best of different worlds. For me, it’s important with a genuine connection even if I’m spending a short time with someone — you do you.
Sometimes we destroy beautiful opportunities by focusing on how long something should last, instead of enjoying what it is. Learn what types of relations you prefer and find the right balance!
Also, there are so many great opportunities for small, genuine meetings every day. From the restaurant owner or cleaner lady who shares their story with you, to the guide on that tour, or the old local woman who chills in the park. I still get amazed by how many special people there are out there if we just pay attention.
6. Mix Re-Visiting Your Favorites Places With New Destinations
I didn’t reflect much on this until after maybe a year with this lifestyle. I was so excited about being able to go everywhere and meet all kinds of people. I was in a new place every third day or so and had so many unforgettable adventures.
I’m still as curious as ever, love meeting new people, and continue to enjoy many shorter stops. However, only going from one new place to another without building something more meaningful is not very sustainable, so balance is key.
These days, I spend about 2 months in Sweden every year where my family and some of my best friends live, and also regularly go back to my favorite places like Spain, Italy, Brazil, and Colombia. Before, when I just had a few weeks of holiday per year, I almost never returned to the same places. With this lifestyle, I’ve started to love it. Returning and reuniting is amazing and also key to deepening your relationships.
7. Don’t Overcomplicate Staying In Touch
Sometimes when we’re busy we end up pushing things forward or not doing them at all. Don’t make staying in touch harder than it needs to be! A few quick tips:
- WhatsApp groups are a simple and great way to keep each other posted.
- Group calls, where you’re able to catch up with several favorites at the same time instead of scheduling lots of different calls, are both fun and save time.
- Voice messages are quicker and more personal than writing long texts.
- It’s not only up to you to reach out even if you’re the one who’s “away”, maintaining a relationship requires effort from both sides 😉.
There are also different types of relations. Some people are fantastic but you can’t talk to everyone you meet every day, then that’s all you’d do. I stay in touch with some regularly no matter where I’m, while I catch up with others only when we’re in the same place.
It’s all about expectation management and being clear with each other. Some people have more needs for frequent communication than others. You might have to talk about your preferences since it can be hard for friends/partners who aren’t sharing the same lifestyle to relate.
8. Develop New Meaningful Connections
You’ve changed your life completely, so it’s not strange if you also feel the need for other types of relations with like-minded people. The absolute best part of this lifestyle are all the amazing meetings on the way!
To make new relations last, invest time into staying in touch when you meet someone special. Be genuinely interested in the person, dare to be open, vulnerable, and say what you feel. If you really hit it off, plan for a reunion and see where things go.
A Few Ways To Meet New People As A Digital Nomad:
- Join social media groups for digital nomads and expat communities. There are tons these days, ranging from general ones to specific ones. Such as female digital nomads, digital nomads in certain countries, cities, professions, hobbies, and so on. Within those groups, a quick message introducing yourself usually does the trick. When you have a similar lifestyle, meeting again can also become easier since you have more flexibility.
- Get to know local friends via events, apps, and just by going out and being open and talking to people. Before COVID, I attended business networking events in every city and met so many good connections that way — from business partners to friends.
- Use coworking spaces. It’s a great way to network and build connections. You can also try co-living if that suits you.
- Join meetups or groups related to one of your passions. Dance, workout, food, language exchange, politics, or whatever that makes you forget about everything else.
- Research volunteer projects. Apart from all the benefits that come with giving back, it’s another great way to meet people with similar interests.
9. Choose Locations That Suit Your Requirements
While it’s great to explore, some places are a better fit for us than others. I’ve for example noticed that while I love small paradise villages, variation is important to me. I don’t want to be based in a place for too long where the days are more or less the same. Where you know that even if you left and came back in 10 years, not much would have changed. It’s nothing wrong with this (for some it’s the dream!), it’s just not my vibe for too long. Even if I love it, and it can be just what I need, repeatedly, for shorter periods. I prefer mixing up relaxation with fast-paced cosmopolitan vibes.
The same goes for touristy places. They can be fun for some time, I just like to combine them with other places. Stay in an apartment with neighbors that actually live there, and not only be surrounded by new people that come and go every second day. While, again, this might be just what you’re looking for. Think about what’s important to you and choose places where that is available. You’ll then also end up meeting more like-minded people.
10. Work On The Relationship With Yourself
Relations are important, but it’s key to establish a foundation where you know that you’re good as you are, independent of your interactions with others. While you can get a feeling of high when you had a good day with someone, profound well-being and happiness come from the inside. How cliché that now may sound! 🤗 It’s also extremely powerful when you think about it.
When you reach a level where your well-being is grounded within you, beyond external factors, you have more control of how you think, and ultimately feel. And when you feel at your best, it’s also easier to maintain high standards, and develop healthy, lasting relations.
Find ways to connect with yourself. Meditate, write, get in lost in nature, dance, or do whatever that helps you to better get to know yourself. Remember that you already have what you need at this very moment to feel good.
11. End Relationships That Aren’t A Fit Or Meet Your Criteria
Maybe you have this friend you’ve known since you were 6 years old where things just aren’t the same anymore. Or you met someone you really hit it off with who, now when you’ve gotten to know each other better, apparently wasn’t such a good match after all.
It can be hard to end something special, and more so when you’re longing for genuine connections. Even if it might be difficult now, it’s only when you end relations that aren’t a fit, you’ll make space for the right people in your life.
- It doesn’t need to be dramatic, sometimes the relationship can just change. You might not need to chat every day or meet as much, for example.
- Learn how to see people for who they really are instead of what you would like them to be. This sounds so easy, but takes a lot of practice and time!
- Both of you may be great, but maybe not for each other. No need to be bitter. Instead, be grateful for what it was, and send them off with good wishes and love 😉.
- The time you spend on someone who isn’t a match could be spent on someone who is! One day you will thank yourself for choosing to walk away and see that it was all worth it.
12. Mix Shorter Stops With Longer And/Or Consider Having A Base
Moving around frequently naturally makes it more challenging to build meaningful connections. While you will meet fantastic people, it takes time and effort to really get to know someone.
If you feel the need to invest more into building genuine connections, consider staying longer in some of the places you travel to. This will help you establish and grow new relationships. You might also want to have a base for parts of the year. While I don’t feel like having one yet, I see myself having a few in the future. For now, I’ve got a few favorite places where I always return!
Find A Model That Works For You
Creating and maintaining meaningful connections as a digital nomad can be tricky, but it’s definitely possible. And necessary, to enjoy this lifestyle long term.
If you’re proactive about it, you can enjoy adventures, develop quality relationships, while still traveling the world, and have the freedom to settle down wherever you want. Stay curious, find the right balance, and make changes if needed.
Relationships can be amazing in so many different ways. If we let go of the pressure that everything has to work in a certain way and let things take form naturally, it’s easier to embrace that some will last, some will be lessons, and others will just be unforgettable adventures.
How do you find developing meaningful connections when you’re always on the move? Would you add anything to the list?
Originally published at https://samiraholma.com on February 7, 2022.