Digital Nomad Life During the Pandemic

The grass is not always greener, but the perspective is priceless

Greetings from Spain and la nueva normalidad of the second wave of the Coronavirus. It’s an upgrade that is less welcome than my next iPhone update, but I am thankful to be alive and well. Some people have fallen off the face of the map while in quarantine. My reaction to Coronavirus 2.0 was to cliff dive into oblivion.

I’ve been pondering how to comment on this experience. I count myself extremely fortunate I was able to continue my misadventures and leave the United States in the middle of the pandemic. I’m certainly not the only one who wanted to pack up and leave for a while. COVID-19 has inspired a new wave of “digital nomads” taking advantage of their new work from home arrangements. Browse a few articles of The Wall Street Journal, and you get the impression half the millennial workforce is sitting on a beach with their laptop, sipping a mojito, and praying their boss doesn’t require video on their next Zoom meeting.

I give massive props for those who managed to find such paradise in this environment, but I feel like someone needs to set the record straight for those of you sitting at home, riddled with FOMO, and wondering why you didn’t hop on a plane and leave when you had the chance. While I would love to be sitting on the beach with a mojito and my laptop every afternoon, COVID is still here and the rules don’t exactly favor those of us with insatiable wanderlust.

It has been 6 months since I arrived in Southern Spain. For those of you who are unfamiliar to the area, it is the home of flamenco, sherry, and British tourists who are dopplegangers for retirees in Fort Lauderdale. For five of those six months, we have been physically confined to a 5–10 mile radius, are never allowed outside our home without a mask, and continue to undergo a wave of shutdowns, lockdowns and everything else in between.

Do I feel safe here? Absolutely. Is it a complete pain in the a#@ and is the economy getting decimated? No question. I took seven naps last Saturday. Why? It filled in the gaps between daily walks past shuttered retail shops and beach bars. The feeling of grief is inescapable, despite having no frame of reference to what “normal life” looks like here. On a mental health scale of 1 to Deepak Chopra, I’m at a solid Margot Kidder.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from this experience, it is that countries can only work within their own legal and cultural frameworks. Yes, I am grateful that even though I am a stranger in a strange land, I worry less about contracting the Coronavirus, but I cannot judge my experience here as any better or worse than what I experienced back home. The rules are different. My emotional response is different. It is simply different.

What I do find remarkable is that it is rare to meet anyone in my Spanish town who has lost a family member or loved one to COVID-19. For all the restrictions and hardships they are facing (and believe me, it’s a lot), their sacrifice is something I will always remember. Everyone here complains about the rules, as to be expected, but they tolerate inconvenience for the sake of saving grandma. Having lost two grandparents myself, that is a hard position to argue with.

It is also hard to argue with families in the U.S.A who are drowning in unpaid bills, desperate to work enough hours to feed their kids. I have struggled to explain this predicament to Western Europeans, most of whom grow up in a system with state-supported health care and generous social welfare benefits. I consider the values of self-reliance, freedom, and individual liberty of my home country a point of pride, but this pandemic challenges Americans in a very unique way. It is about saving each other, and it cares little about where we fall in the political spectrum.

Much more interesting pictures and stories, with actual real live people, are to come. I would tell my friends back home to stay safe, but hell, do it your way. I’m pondering an 8th nap and I just polished off a third bag of gummy bears. I’m in no position to judge.

Professional services marketing consultant, world traveler, and advocate for lifestyle entrepreneurship and adventure. Hey, Dos Equis guy…hold my beer.