As a former digital nomad, my new year’s resolution is not to take any flights in 2021

Working from new locations is part of the life of a digital nomad (Getty/iStock)
Working from new locations is part of the life of a digital nomad (Getty/iStock)

When you’re open to new directions, you end up in places you’d never expect. Yet, I never expected that in the space of a year, I’d go from jet-setter to permanently grounded in the UK.

I’ll preface this by saying that there are many who have suffered over the last 12 months, much more than I. This pandemic has taken precious people and livelihoods from so many, with Covid-19 touching every part of life. My year is a tiny part of what has has happened.

Last December, I transitioned my digital nomad office from a tropical beach in Lombok to the snow-capped mountains in Zermatt. I planned to spend the winter season working remotely while improving my skiing skills in the Swiss Alps. But as an obscure story in Wuhan escalated into a global crisis, international borders slammed shut and I found myself scared, alone, and unwell.

I spent weeks isolated in a tiny apartment facing the Matterhorn, coughing my lungs out, and helplessly watching clients lose their jobs from the economic impact of a global shutdown. After weeks of bingeing Netflix series, taking long showers, and sipping tasteless soups, I eventually recovered and returned home to the UK to withstand the rest of the pandemic.

Every journey you make changes a little piece of you. Eventually, those pieces all add up until one day you realise you’re no longer the same as you once were. When you’ve travelled for a few years, staying in one place feels like having your wings clipped.

The dark winter evenings seem harsher when you’ve lived in the sunshine for so long. I miss the people. I miss the places. I miss the freedom. I’m continually trying to keep my wandering mind distracted from the hole that was once filled with adventure.

Instead of searching for the next coworking space to work from, I find myself making unnecessary online purchases or vicariously living through the Instagram stories of traveller friends living as though Covid-19 never existed. A laughable sacrifice compared to many but having any freedom taken away can hurt if you love it enough. But it’s our responsibility to do our part.

People are still dying, the vaccine isn’t fully rolled out, there’s no cure, and no proof that someone can’t be infected twice. It’s a daily battle to shake the feeling that I’m wasting away within the same four walls, reminding myself it’s all bigger than I am.

Digital nomads are, by nature, risk-takers. I met my most adventurous friends in far-flung coworking spaces, many of whom would argue that anything worth doing has some degree of risk. Some of these friends, despite the pandemic, chose to continue their digital nomad lifestyle.

As much as I selfishly want to join these friends, the risk isn’t worth the reward. If travel teaches us anything, it’s that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Digital nomadism helped me experience vibrant cultures, and warmer climates. I learnt how other people lived, cooked, prayed, and ate. Having digital nomads stay in destinations risks taking away valuable resources from these same communities during a global crisis.

The more of the world I see, the more I realise there is to learn about life. Coronavirus taught me that travel can have serious consequences on those we interact with. Even with a negative test, research shows the results don’t guarantee that you’re not contagious, with many people being asymptomatic.

Although vaccines are being rolled out, health experts warn that precautions will still be necessary until global herd immunity is achieved – meaning we’re still in this for the long-haul. So with a heavy heart, I’m packing away my passport for 2021. Not because I want to, but because it’s the right thing to do.

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