Digital Nomad Burnout – How Much Travel is Too Much?

When you look at your travel calendar, it’s filled to the brim with exciting plans. You can’t wait to zip this way and that to your next destination – visit that remote village or go to an event in a neighboring city. But sometimes it gets exhausting, not to mention how can you squeeze in the time needed to finish one of the projects you have contracted. Are you traveling too much?

So how much travel would be considered excessive for a digital nomad? There is no one answer that fits all. However, a useful marker is when work routines are disrupted, or the travel starts to affect your health. Two weeks traveling out of the month seems to be a good measure of traveling too much. According to a Columbia University study, traveling for work for more than two weeks monthly can contribute to a person’s sleep difficulties, increase their likelihood of smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, and boost depression and anxiety symptoms.

Are you burnt out on traveling and you don’t even know it? How can you tell? In this article, we’ll get into the signs and symptoms of burnout. This way, if you’re on the precipice of burnout yourself, you can decide what to do in your situation.

Let’s get started.

Recognize the symptoms of digital nomad burnout – Digital Nomad Explorer

Recognize the Symptoms and Side-Effects

Digital nomads are always on the go. While it’s not a downside of your lifestyle, it’s a perk, and you want to take full advantage of it. All those places that have been on your bucket list for years get checked off one by one.

If your vigor slowly turns into exhaustion, know this is common. Travel does take its toll. As we touched on in the intro, research has proven you could have sleeping problems and a higher chance of feeling depressed and anxious by doing more than two weeks of work travel a month.

The data comes from a study published in Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. The study took a large sample of people who travel for work, over 18,000 in all. Besides depression and anxiety, a person’s predilection towards addiction is more likely to rear its ugly head.

Getting hooked on cigarettes is one such side effect of too much work travel. The study’s respondents were also at a higher risk of “alcohol dependence.”

Sometimes you need to take a break from traveling – Digital Nomad Explorer

While we don’t think the results of this fascinating study should be discounted, we do want to say that the side effects of travel will differ for everyone. More than likely, you began your digital nomad lifestyle because you greatly enjoy travel. There were, and still are, so many places across the world you want to see with your own two eyes.

In your line of work, travel isn’t always a nuisance. You don’t have a boss breathing down your neck asking you to go here and there for your company. You’re your own boss, and you make the rules. You pick where you go, what you do there, and how long you stay.

That doesn’t mean you’re impervious to burnout, though. In fact, you may experience up to two kinds of burnout: traveling burnout or even burning out on the digital nomad lifestyle altogether.

What Is Digital Nomad Burnout?

Living the life of a digital nomad is not for everyone. It provides generous amounts of freedom, yes, but the responsibilities of running one’s own business can be crushing to some. Others like the job aspects just fine but feel isolated and tired.

Matthew Karsten is one such former digital nomad who got burnt out on the lifestyle. He runs the site Expert Vagabond and wrote about his experience there.

Initially, he didn’t expect to spend more than a year as a digital nomad, but he stretched out his stint to seven years. Karsten started his adventure in 2010, becoming a travel blogger. In his case, his job depended on him traveling to new and exotic locales. Otherwise, he had nothing to write about and would lose money.

Karsten says he was able to go to South Africa, Nicaragua, Spain, Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, and 40+ more countries. He didn’t just visit, but he’d settle in for months.

How much travel is too much? – Digital Nomad Explorer

He mentioned that by his fifth year, he was burnt out. Here were his complaints:

  • Karsten called being a digital nomad “unproductive,” saying that the travel often got in the way of working. He thought he could have been more productive with a stable living place.
  • He mentioned the isolation factor. Karsten notes that he came across many fascinating people, but that none of them stuck around in his life for long. He says he couldn’t maintain romantic relationships or friendships.
  • Another point Karsten talked about was the exhaustion of the lifestyle. There’s the expectation always of working, working, working to make money and keep one’s business afloat. That can chew into the time you get to enjoy being at the place you’ve traveled.
  • Karsten said the constant state of flux wore on him, too. He mentioned that any routine one could establish in a new location would soon be broken to travel somewhere else.

In the end, Karsten quit his digital nomad career and moved back to the United States.

What about Travel Burnout?

Besides burning out on digital nomadism, you can also burn out on traveling in general, as mentioned. Here are some signs it might be time to skip that next flight:

  • You never have time to take in the beauty of the sights around you because you’re so busy and tired.
  • You rant on social media or elsewhere about all the aspects of travel that never used to bother you. Sure, no one likes having their hotel reservation canceled by accident or having to sit hours at an airport for a delayed flight, but it happens. Now, these incidents get you quite angry.
  • Speaking of being angry, you have no patience for crowds anymore. You could once tolerate crying babies, misbehaving kids, and loud patrons, but no more.
  • You begin counting down the days until you can leave.
  • Your sense of adventure has all but disappeared.
  • When you get to your hotel room, you only want to stay in bed and sleep.
  • Try as you may, you find it hard to muster up the excitement for travel that once fueled you.

How to Overcome Burnout

Be careful not to have travel burnout – Digital Nomad Explorer

If you’re feeling burnt out, you need to decide first whether it’s your digital nomad lifestyle that’s causing it or is it the travel schedule. If you have a trip planned in the next few days, perhaps cancel or postpone it. Stay where you are for a little while longer.

Do you feel relieved knowing you don’t have an impending flight? Then it could just be travel burnout. Are you still slogging along with low energy even without any immediate travel plans? Then it might be time to step back and reconsider whether the digital nomad lifestyle is for you.

No matter where your burnout stems from, here are some excellent means of overcoming it.

Treat Yourself

No, we don’t recommend you to eat at a nice restaurant to fix this symptom. Instead, take a real day off from work. Go to the beach or the mountains and shut off your phone. You could also schedule a spay day, a massage, a hair appointment, a manicure, or a pedicure. Whatever feels like pampering is best.

Change up Your Travel Routine

Flying all the time can fray anyone’s nerves. For your next travel plans, look into taking an overnight train trip or even renting a car and driving if you have the time. Sometimes it’s not always about the destination, but how we get there.

It’s a good idea to change up your travel routine – Digital Nomad Explorer

Train up!

Remember that language course you’ve meant to take forever? You always want to get around to it, but who has time? You do. You might have to make the time, but learning something new related to travel helps you reconnect with the reasons you love it in the first place.

Do Some Volunteer Work

We know what you’re thinking: “ugh, more work?” Yes and no. Volunteering gives you the chance to make a lasting impact on the people you meet on your travels. By giving back, you stop thinking about your business for a while. You may also remember that meeting people is part of what attracts you to travel.

Go Home

If all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with taking a few months off and going back home. Your business will still survive. In fact, without travel plans, you might have a bit more time and energy to put into it.

Remember, digital nomadism does not suit everyone. If you find it’s just not for you, there’s nothing wrong with admitting it. If this happens, it doesn’t make you a failure, far from it. If anything, you are to be commended for taking on such a fascinating and challenging lifestyle and sustaining it for as long as you have.

Conclusion

Business travel can begin to wear on you after a while. Studies have found that excessive work travel increases one’s likelihood of relying on cigarettes or alcohol. These people also might have a harder time sleeping while wrestling with depression and anxiety.

If this sounds like you, it’s time to reevaluate your lifestyle. You could be burnt out on travel, in which case we recommend taking a little break. If that doesn’t work, then it could be the digital nomad lifestyle that’s become too much for you. You’ll have to do some deep thinking and decide if you want to continue or move back home.

Just because being a digital nomad gives you the freedom to travel all the time doesn’t mean you have to. Instead of always rushing from Point A to Point B, stay where you are for a while and soak up the culture. You’ll be better off for it.

Michael Haralson

I'm the owner of Digital Nomad Explorer. I've traveled to over 50 countries and been an expat in Scotland, Finland, and China. I was a digital nomad while having my own robotics company and traveled throughout Europe and China working remotely. Currently, I'm location independent with a home base in Kirkkonummi, Finland.

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