How Being A Digital Nomad Affects Your Mental Health

Explained by someone who’s recently visited 22 countries.

Matt Lillywhite
Jun 26 · 4 min read
Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

A lot of people have asked me what it’s like to be a digital nomad. After all, I’ve traveled to dozens of countries, learned multiple languages, and have lived in several cities around the world. So I guess you could say I’m very qualified to answer their question.

For the most part, it’s great. I’ve met incredible people, visited beautiful destinations, and created hundreds of memories that will last a lifetime. But whenever I have conversations about working abroad, mental health is an aspect of life that’s rarely mentioned.

I want to change that. So without further delay, here’s how being a digital nomad can affect your mental health.

It Can Get Incredibly Lonely.

I know it sounds strange. But when I’ve been in cities that have a population of several million people, I’ve felt the most alone. Because when you don’t know anyone, it can feel like you’re drowning in a sea of people, with nobody to trust or help you with any problems you face.

For example, I found out that one of my friends passed away a few days after I arrived in Calgary for the first time. I didn’t know anyone. So, unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone in the local area that I could confide in or talk to during such a difficult period in my life.

As you can imagine, having to deal with such a horrific problem alone wasn’t great for my mental health.

If you decide to live and work abroad, you need to accept that you won’t always have loved ones by your side whenever things get tough. After all, you might be in a completely different timezone and thousands of miles from home.

That’s why it’s essential to meet people as soon as you arrive in a new destination. Why? Because even if you’re only there for a few weeks, having a reliable support network will make any moments of adversity much easier to handle.

Working All The Time Can Lead To Burnout.

The lifestyle of a digital nomad can be incredibly attractive for people working a 9–5. With no boss or specific workplace, many people love the concept of having complete freedom over their time. But if you’re not careful, a lack of boundaries can have a horrific impact on your mental health.

I used to be a workaholic. Like many people, I got addicted to “hustle porn,” and overworked myself to the point of burnout and exhaustion. My work ethic was unsustainable. I would often end up sleeping at my desk, only to wake up the following day and start all over again.

From this, I learned that working all the time can quickly lead to burnout. So if you want to enjoy being a digital nomad, it’s vital to dedicate specific times of the day for work. Outside of those hours, feel free to do what you want. The author, Henry Cloud, said it best:

“Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with.”

Since I began implementing a schedule, I’ve become much happier and can focus more intently on my work. Each morning, I get all my tasks completed by approximately 11am. After midday, I’m able to relax, meet friends, or explore whatever city I’m in.

This strategy has created a great work-life balance as it prevents me from getting exhausted due to strict boundaries on my time.

Identify the tasks you have to complete each day and then create a schedule that works for you. Because when you don’t overwork yourself to the point of exhaustion, your mental health will certainly benefit as a result.

The Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius once said, “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” I love that quote, as it certainly applies to the life of a digital nomad.

If you want to improve your mental health while working abroad, you need to take pragmatic steps to reduce feelings of both loneliness and exhaustion.

So every day, ask yourself: “What actions can I take right now to improve my mental health while traveling?”

Do that, and every aspect of the digital nomad lifestyle will quickly become a lot more enjoyable.

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Matt Lillywhite

Written by

I write about ways to live a happier life in the modern world. Email:

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +703K people. Follow to join our community.

Matt Lillywhite

Written by

I write about ways to live a happier life in the modern world. Email:

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +703K people. Follow to join our community.

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