Those of you reading this have probably worked from home in the last year or two, and I think it’s safe to say it sucked! 2020 was pretty mad, and we all had to adapt to an entirely new lifestyle— and for me, not socialising was pretty difficult. In the last six months of home office, (despite there not being a lockdown), I rarely left the house or spoke to anyone outside my family. One thing I felt I had lost was that sense of adventure and unpredictability in life. After some months of being super bored and uninspired, I decided to take things into my own hands and begin a new chapter. This is how I started my new phase as a ‘digital nomad’ in Rome.
Here's how it happened and what I've learnt so far
So my (escape) plan went a bit like this:
-Get a remote job.
-Book those flights (to wherever)
-Find a place to stay for x amount of time
I then decided on Rome because a) I’ve never been to Italy b) I don’t speak the language c) food. After coming to this conclusion, I booked my flights. In two weeks, I would arrive, have a place to stay and start a new chapter! Here’s what I discovered so far & some tips.
It’s all fun and games until you realise that you’re actually working for most of it
I tend to romanticize a lot of things. I fantasized about partying most nights and working from the beach (even though there's no beach in Rome). I remember an amusing conversation with a friend, three weeks into my travels. It went something like this:
Me: “I love Rome, and I’m lucky to be doing this, but it would just be better if I could find a way to work but not feel like I'm working, be outside more and socialise more.”
Friend: “Yeah, you mean a holiday?”
And I guess I do sound spoiled. I’d get this a lot: “welcome to the real world!” or “this is what adulthood is like.” And it’s kinda true, but I also refuse to accept this or be complacent. After all, you make life what it is, and getting a job and becoming an adult doesn’t mean the end of the adventure.
However, you do have to do the boring parts. Yes, you do have to work five times a week, eight hours a day, and you do have to do house chores like cooking, washing up, food shops and bla bla bla while finding the time for your hobbies, interests, friends AND explore. The ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle is no easier— there’s a lot of planning involved, and travelling between places can be stressful while working to sustain this dream of travel. So yeah, remove any thoughts about spending your weekdays sunbathing on the Meditteranean coast while working on your laptop— it’s not always the case.
That’s not to suggest it's not fun at all.
It’s one of the best things you can do and everyone should live it up a little when given the chance!
Another thing to note: I still worked from my room most of the time. Moving to Rome didn’t solve the issue of working alone all day. But there are a few things you can do:
-Go to local cafes and work (another great way to make friends and live the local life)
-There are dedicated workspaces you can pay for where you can meet other remote workers!
-You could get unlimited internet on your SIM card and work outside (I did this in Villa Borghese for a couple of hours before my laptop died)
Another thing to note: things take time, be patient
I lived in different countries before, and my experience in Barcelona specifically was AMAZING— but also not the usual. I was lucky, and I didn’t realise that. For instance, the day I arrived, I had already made lifelong friends. I knew people who lived there too and was introduced to groups of friends. My mates knew where to go, where the nightlife was, what not to do, what tourist restaurants to avoid etc. Speaking Spanish fluently also helped— I got by quite easily, made friends, and this is something I took for granted.
My first week in Italy was entirely different: I didn’t speak Italian, and I didn’t meet people as easily because of that. I know the whole point of me going was to get outside my comfort zone and learn a new language, but I forgot how tiring and challenging that can be. I went to a few events like language exchanges but didn’t get to meet many people. I couldn’t just rock up to a group and start talking either. I guess I assumed my new experience would be like the last.
Despite all of that, it didn’t bother me. It's the nature of travel and being in a new place; you will sometimes feel lost and out of your depth. I learned to be more patient with things; it takes time to settle in and integrate— no pressure! Just remind yourself that once in a while and continue to reach out and push yourself. What I did was go to random events, painting classes, and parties— eventually things come together.
Remind yourself: you made this happen!
As a digital nomad, I've felt this added pressure when 'living the dream'. For example, if I’ve had a stressful day at work, I feel guilty for being stressed or annoyed. Sometimes you have a bad day at work and you forget that you're somewhere cool. Truth is, there will be bad days too and that’s ok. You're not always going to be having fun and that's alright, but don't forget to remind yourself that you’re in a new and exciting place! It's not every day that you get to see something different, meet great people and get out of your comfort zone, so embrace it.
You’ll live like a local
One thing I like about being a digital nomad is that you also really get to know a place! I first moved to Rome in March and stayed there for two months. For me, this was a perfect time to go because there were absolutely no tourists. If you’ve ever been to Rome, you know exactly what I mean when I say it gets PACKED. It’s basically a moshpit, where everyone sweats on each other in the summer heat and it’s pretty stressful. Fortunately, I was able to go to all the world-famous attractions without the queues or crowds of people, or the hassle of getting a busy metro. You get a somewhat authentic experience— what a city would be like without the tourists!
You also become part of a community! Staying in a place for longer made my experience more profound. You have the time to visit places, learn more about the culture, make friends and get that sense of belonging! Even the local neighbourhood began to feel like home. I’d go to the same bakery in the morning (where they sell pistachio croissants), and people would recognise me— we’d all greet each other and chat for an hour over coffee. Once you’re in a place long enough, you know where it’s all at! You also end up ditching the mainstream and discovering something off-the-beaten-track— an enriching experience itself. Living in Pigneto— a lesser-known neighbourhood in Rome, was one way I got to see a different side of Rome. If you're interested in discovering a path-less-travelled, you can read about our trip to Pigneto!
You get a better work/life balance
Although we talked about having to work five times a week, for eight hours, in a room on your own, you still get a balance in life. Not to mention, since you're doing so much every week, you actually feel as though you spent less time working; it takes up a smaller part of your day.
My mornings are different everyday; I can either go explore, visit some pretty attractions, go for coffee or a run. In the evenings I can meet up with mates, go out partying or to a language exchange. And on the weekends, well anything!
Why you should try the digital nomad life, or just have an extended stay somewhere!
It's all a pretty unique experience that everyone needs to try at least once. You’re not only learning and becoming a better version of yourself but having meaningful experiences with people as well as yourself. It's important to be daring, be spontaneous and try out something new. Even if you feel you're the most outgoing, there's always that sense of adventure within us all— who knows where you’ll be heading next.