My journey as a digital nomad started on 22 May when I left New Zealand. My vague plan was to live in each country for a month, working my way steadily south.
I’ve travelled to Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Come see what lessons I learned . . .
1. Loneliness isn’t fatal but it can be painful
There is no doubt about it, solo travel can be lonely. When I arrived back in Mexico, after 2 and a half weeks travelling with my salsa team, I asked myself what the f*£k I was doing here!
I’d left some of my favourite people to embark on this digital nomad adventure I’d been craving. The loneliness slipped in, not helped by having my rental bike stolen within 24 hours and the rental company being obnoxious.
I reached out to friends for support and gave myself a break. I caught up on my sleep, read books and spent time with Marco, the owner’s dog.
Within a week my world looked completely different. I had a regular time to volunteer at a local dog shelter, I’d signed up to Spanish lessons, I reconnected with a dear friend that I’d not seen in 2 years and I joined a weekly supper club (where I was to meet some wonderful people).
2. You can make popcorn in the microwave
I knew this was theoretically possible but I’d never practically applied the theory.
It was surprisingly good. The fake powered butter flavor was my favourite. I couldn’t bring myself to try the seafood flavor.
3. Sometimes, you need to throw your budget out the window
I created my first budget when I was 17 and have been refining the process ever since. Because I’m on an open-ended trip I need to keep a close eye on my expenses while my business is growing.
While its fun most days meeting the challenge of keeping within my budget ($1 beers? Yes!), there are some days when I need to quietly put my budget to one side and ignore it’s stern demands to be taken everywhere.
There are days where I want the cheesecake, where ziplining through the cloud forests of Costa Rica is the best decision and spending an extra $10 on a hotel gives me $100 worth of happiness.
4. Gratitude is found in the smallest things
Sharp knives in the kitchen
A washing machine (after 3 weeks of handwashing clothes)
These are all things that have put a smile on my face. Back in New Zealand these would’ve been part of my daily chores.
5. Heaven is a comfy seat in a café, with a Lonely Planet and a great cup of coffee
6. We’re all the same, no matter how different we are
No matter where I go I see the same things in all of us . . .
Good friends make the world a better place.
Laughter is the best medicine.
A smile breaks all barriers.
We are all trying to do the best we can.
7. Skimming devices are hard to spot
My eftpos card got skimmed while I was in Mexico. Interestingly, they didn’t use the details for 3 months. Annoyingly it was rubbish timing as I had just began the part of my trip where I wouldn’t be in any one place for 5 nights for the next month, which made giving my bank a delivery address a bit tricky.
If this happens to you, two handy tips for you:
1. use your card to get cash out before informing your bank because they’ll cancel your card immediately
2. you can get your card delivered to a branch of the courier company (if you don’t have accommodation booked this is very handy).
8. An eftpos card can travel from New Zealand to Nicaragua
I was nervous that this wouldn’t work and it would go missing along the way. Nicely done DHL.
9. The simple things give me joy
Waking up to a stunning view each morning in Lake Atitlan (Guatemala)
Finding the perfect book to read on the weekend
Puppies nibbling on my shoes, my socks, my fingers . . .
Watching a sunset blaze across the sky in Nicaragua
10. Sometimes travel sucks
There will be days when you will wish you’d never left home.
When you wonder what the hell you’re doing this digital nomad life for.
When a wave of homesickness for your friends, and for the familiar, will knock you off your feet.
When you are not impressed by the guy that flashed you on the beach, while you were taking a morning stroll.
When it all gets A.Bit. Too. Hard.
Such is the life of a digital nomad. Be kind to yourself. Remember that everyone is doing their best (even the flasher on the beach).
Find a fancy hotel. Sit by the pool all day. Restore your energy.
11. Smile at strangers
Make someone’s day. Break down some barriers.
12. Hammocks – tricky to get into, perfect to relax in
13. Too much isolation shrinks your world
As an introvert, a bit of isolation suits me well. I can recharge my batteries and feel very content with my own company.
BUT I can be a bit too self-contained and loneliness can sneak up on me if I’m not regularly in contact with people. I can also forgot to reach out and stay in contact with friends and stop connecting with people in my community.
It’s a constant balancing act for me making sure I get the alone time I need and the connection I love.
14. It is guaranteed that the internet won’t work when you need it most
I experienced this repeatedly in Guatemala. It had me tearing my hair out!
It took me time to rearrange the way that I worked so that I needed to be online less. I also learned that some days it best to walk away from my laptop and go take a swing in a hammock. Being a digital nomad means being flexible.
15. Animals make the world a better place
My love for animals started on the farm I grew up on. From the moment my chubby little fingers found that first furry creature I was hooked.
One of the things I miss most while travelling is having animals around. I’m that person who pats and feeds random street dogs, volunteers at animals shelters and am DELIGHTED when the places I stay come complete with pets.
I looked after these 3 beauties when I housesat in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
16. Beauty is everywhere
In the handle of a door.
In a kid’s happy grin.
In the purr of a cat.
In the flower that I walk past everyday.
17. Learning a new language makes me speak less
Learning Spanish is fun, rewarding and teeth grindingly frustrating!
I would’ve thought that after six months travelling in Central America I would be able to hold a decent conversation. It started out well, with daily lessons in Mexico I was starting to get the hang of it.
Then there were weeks in Guatemala when I didn’t speak much at all so I began to forget words.
So I started speaking less because I could only think of words for half of the sentences that I wanted to say.
It’s time to hit the books again!
18. Giving back is its own best reward
I made a commitment to myself to volunteer at an animal shelter in each of the countries where I was based for a month or more.
Giving back to the community I’m in has become very important to me. It also gives me the chance to combine two of my loves, animals and photography.
These fine fellows call the Playa Animal Rescue (Playa Del Carmen, Mexico) home.
These beauties are cared for by Mayan Families “Hope for the Animals Program” in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
19. Ask for help
It’s tempting to want to do everything for myself. From running every single part of my business to organizing every single part of my digital nomad travels.
I found myself wishing for a travel fairy who could sort through the vast amount of flights, hotels, Airbnb places, neighbourhoods etc and give me a small list, uniquely suited to me.
Ask for help. Lighten the load. It will make your travels so much more fun.
This is Gandhi. She was a great help in planning where to explore while I was in Granada, Nicaragua.
If you have any questions about being a digital nomad or volunteering at animal shelters while you travel, leave a comment below.