As a digital nomad, work from anywhere entrepreneur, or liver of a locationless lifestyle, the number one common thread problem I hear about is the issue of social isolation.
This riot of an article from the New Yorker that came out last week was a hilariously relatable read on what many of our work-from-anywhere daily lives look like. Staying in PJs all day, eating a string of random meals, not speaking to another human for extended periods of time, and forgetting what day it is are legit real issues my nomadic peers across the world face every day, and is something that I have been grappling with since I dove into this gypsy world.
After battling extreme loneliness in Bali, and struggling to find a semblance of a pajama free lifestyle in North Carolina since my spectacular and dramatic ejection from Mexico by a witch and a boa constrictor, I have be thinking obsessively about the nature of human connection and how to combat social isolation while living this inherently lonely and isolated lifestyle that I have chosen for myself.
I truly believe, no matter how introverted you identify yourself as, or how happy and content you are spending time alone, no matter how often you’re wounded by lovers, friends and family, or how much society and the human race makes you want to scream and remove yourself from it’s seemingly unending insanity- there simply is no escaping that we are by design a social species, so one of our core human needs is connection. Love, of all shapes and sizes; conversation, from brief to deep; being truly understood, seen, and heard; experiences shared and memories created in tandem; and the power of human touch, from a hug to deep intimacy; all have the power to ignite or souls and affirm purpose that just simply cannot be achieved solo.
I recently re-watched Into the Wild (sidenote: this is one of my favorite soundtracks of all time by Eddie Vedder) the true story of Christopher McCandless, a recent college graduate that abandons his possessions, gives his entire savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness, completely isolated, free from the trappings of society, and completely dependent on the land and himself. In the wild, he explores what it means to be truly alone, and his tale is interspersed with tales of meeting characters all around the country on his way to Alaska. At the end of the movie (spoiler alert) as he lay lonely, dying, and reminiscing about all the people he met and loved along the beautiful journey of life, he pens as his last words this simple and purely true phrase:
Happiness is only real when shared.
The older I get, the more time I have spent both truly alone and also surrounded by others in every scenario I can imagine, and the more I explore the nature of relationships and what makes us feel deeply connected, the more I know that that phrase it purely true and at the core of what we are all constantly seeking.
And yes, remote working has provided incomparable freedom of time and location and enabled us to create wide-reaching webs of friendships all over the world, providing mind-opening relationships and experiences we never could have imagined reaching while sitting in an office and filling the void of having a core group of friends that we’ve been living down the street from for years. And yes, social media has jumped in as an outlet and pseudo-substitute for the daily connection we’ve lost by not having a water cooler to gather around and a coffee shop we swing by every day on our way to the office. But both often fall short of providing the real and essential face-to-face deep connection we reach when we have the consistency and structure of a single location of “home” in our lives, and the loneliness and social isolation that ensues with extended periods of eating cereal in our sweatpants every day.
So, not surprisingly, while sitting in my sweatpants eating a bowl of cereal at 3pm, I’ve come up with this little printable guide to the things that both help me stay connected with friends back home, and the little tricks that have helped me to make new friends when I arrive at a new location in the world, in hopes that even one of them will help you in your own journey. Print it (printable pdf link after the image), pin it to your wall, or just look at it often on your computer (bookmark this post or right click on the image to saw the low-res image) and remind yourself that you are not alone and there are small things to do in order to be a more active participant in living a more connected life. As I write this, lonely and isolated in a small Southern town, I’m committing to practicing them alongside you for the first time on American soil, until I can be back on the sand, coconut in hand and do it all over again in the places where I learned how to do them to begin with.
If you have any other hot tips for combating loneliness and social isolation, or stories of how you fought through a lonely time, I would love to hear them in the comments below. Let’s connect, in one of the best ways I know how, sharing our experiences, vulnerably, loudly, and bare.