5 Lessons That This Digital Nomad Learned From The Coronavirus Lockdowns


I don’t want to talk about the way I feel about the lockdowns, I am not sure that I can give voice to the anger I feel over them at this moment. So, instead, I want to talk about the lessons that his digital nomad has learned from these coronavirus lockdowns. Something practical rather than ranting as it were.

My 5 lessons learned from the coronavirus lockdowns are: never skimp on your accommodation, get in shape while you can, don’t leave things you might need behind, don’t assume your business will die in a crisis and be grateful for the company that you keep. Let’s take a look at each of them, shall we?

Never Skimp On The Accommodation

 

We’re in Manila. We didn’t expect to be here. We left Vietnam in February with the mission to renew Megan’s passport. This was supposed to take a couple of weeks. After that, we were going to do a little sightseeing and then fly back to Da Nang.

That plan went to shit as the lockdown arrived 24 hours before her passport did. We were trapped in what can only be described as a prison cell. Because we weren’t intending to spend our time inside – I’d rented a tiny apartment of around 20 square meters of space in Makati. Good enough to sleep in. Not good enough to live in.

My mistake. 4 months later, we’re finally free to move out. We’ll be moving into a bigger place with an actual bedroom. I nearly wept when we confirmed the booking and the fact that we could get out of here.

We’re a pretty resilient couple. We’ve had a couple of minor rows in this time but nothing huge and our rule of never going to bed angry with each other has not even come close to being broken but it’s been tough for both of us.

My mental health, in particular, reached an all-time low at the end of May/start of June. I don’t enjoy being caged. That’s why I am a digital nomad. I’m free to go wherever I want, whenever I want. Well, until now.

So, never again. Even if we’re traveling for the sake of travel (something that happens less often than most digital nomads admit) – we’re going to stay in a place big enough for the two of us.

Get In Shape While You Can

 

I’ve been fat for a long time now. I wasn’t a fat kid until I got my first office job, I wasn’t a fat adult but, my god, have I ballooned since. Last year, I decided this had to change. It was slowly changing too. By the time we left Chiang Mai, I was swimming for 40 minutes straight each day and taking a 30-minute walk too.

A change to the carnivore diet was also helping me shed some pounds and there was clear muscle development going on for the first time in years too.

I became lazy about things in Vietnam, but I was still getting an hour’s walking in every day and I felt fine.

The lockdown has turned me into a blimp (with my own complicity, obviously). We’ve spent 3 months living on fast food (a 4-hour queue for the supermarket made shopping nearly impossible) while being banned from walking so much as a few yards. The building has a walking path (this apartment complex is huge) but to “save my health”, that was shut down too.

I have never been so sick as I am now. Fortunately, I can work on this because I’m not dead, yet. But the importance of being in shape has never been so clear to me – I’m switching to intermittent fasting plus staying pure carnivore. There will be exercise too, as soon as we’re allowed access to somewhere to walk or swim.

Don’t be me. Stay in shape. It’s also worth noting that the obese and unhealthy are dying of coronavirus at much higher rates than those of a healthy size. That’s two incentives in one to take care of yourself.

Don’t Leave Things You Might Need Behind

 

Our hotel in Da Nang is lovely. The people who run it are awesome. They kindly volunteered to let us leave most of our stuff there in a secure location while we did our “passport run”. They do say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, right?

Well, we didn’t want to carry our entire lives on a short trip. We certainly didn’t want the excess luggage fees for another 50 Kg of stuff. So, we left as much as we could behind in Da Nang. Idiots that we were.

I don’t know when we’ll get back to Vietnam. I have a horrible feeling it won’t be until next year, sometime.

Sadly, that means nearly all my camera kit is trapped in Da Nang. My plan was to be working on videos and stuff to support NomadTalk by now. Instead, I’ve had to buy more kit, and thanks to the ****ing lockdowns – that kit is still trapped outside of the Philippines waiting for an import license. I did get an Instax and that has arrived – so, hence the photo for this section.

That means we’ve got no cameras (except my trusty X100F which wasn’t built for video) and I’m writing lessons from the lockdown instead of subjecting the world to the indignity of looking at my face on YouTube. Hopefully, the new kit will arrive next month. It’s cost me rather more than the excess luggage fees would have done. Doh.

Fortunately, the folks in Da Nang are completely understanding. They’ve rolled over the deposit on our apartment until we can get back and are happy to hold our stuff too. I’m just hoping that it doesn’t grow mold (a very real issue in Vietnam) while we’re gone.

Don’t Assume That Your Business Will Collapse In A Crisis

 

I thought that I was going to be in serious trouble when the lockdowns were announced. My clients were all going to be in the same boat, after all, locked down. An ad that I ran, which would normally see a few responses, brought in nothing – the fear ratcheted up a notch.

Then, boom! A week later, the ad responses started flooding in. My business wasn’t wrecked, it was booming. Fortunately, there’s been nothing to distract me from work over these months of lockdown – unfortunately, there’s been nothing to distract me from work over these months of lockdown.

The big mental crash at the end of May came on the back of all this work without any real feeling of change. I work to travel. I work to explore. I don’t work for work’s sake (and don’t get me wrong – I like my work but it’s still work).

Combine that with a tiny room and I felt like all I did was sit at my desk and type things for other people. I know, I am lucky to have been in that position, but it sure didn’t feel like it when I hit rock bottom – I felt like I was in a hell of my own making.

This is all on me. I should have realized that sometimes burying yourself in work is not a smart move. I’ve made this mistake before and not once, either. Even when there’s not much “life” to be had, you need to create work-life balance.

I spent a couple of weeks just playing computer games – it’s not my ideal way to destress but it was better than nothing. I am ready to work again, but I won’t be packing out my diary so that there’s no room for anything else but work.

Be Grateful For The Company You Keep

 

I’ve never been more grateful for my relationship with Megan than I am right now, today. She may be much younger than me, but her maturity and sense of fun have made this period of house arrest so much more bearable than it might have been.

You’ve got to keep talking. You’ve got to keep listening. You can’t allow things to fester when you’re both, almost literally, only ever a couple of meters apart at the most. I am not sure that I’d have survived this period with someone else in the room.

With one exception, most of my previous relationships (even with family members) have been too volatile for this kind of enforced space sharing.

Possibly the biggest benefit of the lockdowns has been coming to an understanding of how lucky I am to be with Megan. It’s also brought a sense of security to our relationship for both of us – if we can hack this, we can hack anything together.

Conclusion

I’m just guessing, but I think everyone’s lockdown lessons are going to be different. My 5 lessons learned from the coronavirus lockdowns are almost certainly different from yours. If you’ve got time to share your lessons – I’d love to hear them. Hopefully, we all be back out on the road soon.

Nicholas Barang

Nicholas Barang is a veteran digital nomad. In fact, he was probably "digital nomading" before it was called that. He believes that anyone can make a free and independent life if they want to. He wants to help those who commit to finding their own path. And to cut through the nonsense told about this "lifestyle" by those in search of a quick buck. If you want to reach him you can send him an e-mail at nicholasbarang@gmail.com or to nick at nomadtalk.net.

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