The Mental Health Toll of Nomadic Life:

Strategies for Staying Grounded

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Matt Hapgood

Matt Hapgood

Matt Hapgood is a father, surfer, and entrepreneur. He has worn many hats in his career, from being a removal guy in Vancouver to teaching elementary kids in the UK, as well as a parking valet in the French Alps. He’s the founder and main contributor to MattHapgood.com where he helps brands grow their organic traffic.

Matt Hapgood

Matt Hapgood

Matt Hapgood is a father, surfer, and entrepreneur. He has worn many hats in his career, from being a removal guy in Vancouver to teaching elementary kids in the UK, as well as a parking valet in the French Alps. He’s the founder and main contributor to MattHapgood.com where he helps brands grow their organic traffic.

A nomadic lifestyle, while allowing for the ultimate freedom and flexibility, also comes with significant mental and physical challenges. 

Without a home base or local community, some who live on the road struggle with loneliness, lack of routine, financial worries, and even uncertainty about the future.

If you focus on connecting with other humans, adding some structure, and financial planning, I think the nomadic life can be sustained long-term without burning out.

In this post, I outline some of the struggles we all face while trying to live this amazing nomadic lifestyle and offer tips to prioritize your wellbeing. 

Let’s dive in!

The Allure of a Digital Nomad Lifestyle

If you spend just 5 minutes scrolling through Instagram, the nomadic life appears to be an endless series of sunset cocktails, stunning beaches, and beautiful waterfalls.

The draw of this endless adventure, freedom, and exploration is enticing to say the least!

But working remotely while trying to stay physically and mentally healthy, or even establishing a routine can be difficult enough as it is. Like the old saying goes:

– “It’s not all cupcakes and rainbows!” –

Add to that the FOMO of thinking everyone else is having a great time while you are stuck in a coffee shop struggling to concentrate, the reality can be difficult for some, myself included.

man on laptop by the pool

Physical Health - How to Stay Active

So, for me, the fact that physical health and mental health are discussed separately is a fallacy.

– It’s your health. Period. –

The benefits of doing physical exercise are great for boosting your mental health – try to do a little bit of exercise each day if you can.

Staying active when you are on the road or in locations for short periods of time can be difficult.

Something I have found is a great way to maintain a level of fitness is to run – for this just make sure you have a decent pair of running shoes.

And if running is not your thing, just getting out for a walk once or twice a day can be enough sometimes – even better if you can get into the woods, or a park and connect with nature at the same time. Trust me, it works!

person walking on log in woods

Personally, I love to surf, so I go pretty much everywhere with a surfboard or two – I’ve traveled all over Europe to some of the best surf spots – which incidentally are great hotspots for co-working and living the nomad lifestyle.

Cities like Ericeira in Portugal, Florianopolis in Brazil and Canggu in Bali now have a tonne of places to stay, connect with other nomads and also learn to surf!

Improving Personal Resilience with Nomad Life

Being able to adapt on the move is a key facet of surviving a nomadic lifestyle.

External factors will constantly shift, and letting go of expectations whilst being willing to change will undoubtedly help your situation.

I’ve found that stress management tools like meditation, journaling, or yoga provide a certain level of comfort too.

Developing these personal skills builds crucial capacity for maintaining long-term mental wellness on the road.

Seeking Professional Help to Avoid Burnout

And if you find yourself struggling, there are quite a few professional aids that can help. A huge disruptor to this market is Better Help.

They offer 100% online personally-tailored therapy – for a whole host of issues. I have friends who have used Better Help and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Other Challenges to Mental Health

two men talking at table
Loneliness and Isolation

Living without a home base often means being separated from close friends and family for extended periods. 

Frequent moves make it difficult to establish meaningful relationships or get involved locally. 

This can lead to profound feelings of loneliness and isolation. Additionally, lack of community removes critical support systems that help improve mental health.

Lack of Routine and Structure

Days on the road often blur together without much differentiation, making it challenging to maintain healthy daily habits. 

If you work for yourself as a freelancer like I do, finding motivation to set your own routine can be a challenge.

– Win the morning, win the day! –

Try to set a routine that works for you – we’re creatures of habit after all. I like to try to get work done as early as I can, and save the fun stuff for later in the day. 

But try to establish what works best for you – we’re all different and have our own rhythm.

Get Enough Sleep

It’s easy to get over excited and party like you just don’t care, but one of the big factors in draining your energy is a lack of sleep.

If you’re in your 20’s you might not feel it as much as someone older, but sleep is becoming one of the vital health indicators that we are only just starting to learn about. For some great tips on how to improve your sleep routine and structure, check out this article by Dr Andrew Huberman.  

Other things like mood-boosting supplements can really help with balancing your mood, helping with sleep, and overall well-being.

Financial Instability

Many nomads piece together income from freelance gigs, odd jobs, or seasonal work. 

This unpredictable income can lead to financial worries and added stress. Anxiety over making ends meet month-to-month or being able to afford that out-of-the-blue expense can be stressful to say the least.

Saving and planning for the future is difficult when living paycheck to paycheck, but my advice would be to try to squirrel away a few bucks when you can, and leave it alone. 

Staying Mentally Healthy on the Road

people sitting in a circle on the grass

So we know life can be tough, but what other things have I learned over the years?

Community Building

By intentionally developing connections wherever you land, digital nomads can help to curb isolation. Try to join local meetups with like-minded travelers. 

A great way is making connections in coworking spaces – these can be great for meeting up during the day and cracking on with some paid work, and then making plans for socials once the work is done. 

Try hooking up with local sports teams, beach activities, or hiking groups to name a few. Social media has really made the World a smaller place, so try to put yourself out there and make those connections happen!

Adding Structure

Maintaining consistent morning and evening routines provides stability. 

Waking early, meditating, exercising, and journaling grounds the start of each day. 

Scheduling set work hours with designated tasks BOOSTS productivity and a sense of accomplishment. 

Try cooking and sharing wholesome meals if you have access to a kitchen and maybe writing and reading before bed establishes a calming wind-down.

Financial Planning

Saving up a sizable emergency fund prior to hitting the road reduces future money stress. 

Tracking all income and expenses in a detailed budget outlines true costs and guides affordable destination choices. 

Picking cheaper places to temporarily base also lowers costs. Developing income streams through online courses or eBooks creates reliability. 

Financial planning is a key factor for sustained stress-free nomadic living.

When to Stop and Settle Down

Despite best efforts, nomad burnout still occurs. 

Paying attention to exhaustion, mood changes, lack of joy, and mental overwhelm can indicate it’s time to get off the road. 

Knowing your personality limits on solitude and uncertainty is key. Being flexible and willing to shift gears into a more stable living situation when needed ultimately supports long-term contentment and well-being.

To Sum Up

While alluring to almost all of us, the nomadic life involves substantial mental health challenges which can stem from isolation and a  lack of routine. 

But by implementing some of the ideas I posed in this article like connecting with others, integrating into a community and keeping physically active, you will most likely overcome at least some of the struggles we face when on the road. 

After all, we’re only here for a short time, so let’s have a good time!

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