Why I Quit Being A Digital Nomad

Travel Tips for Cuba
I’m No Longer A Digital Nomad
Personal Stories

Last week I spent all day packing up a small U-haul trailer with my belongings, preparing to move to Los Angeles, California. It felt a bit surreal after 7 years living as a digital nomad.

A bed. A couch. A TV. A desk. Cat toys. A cat (no, he’s not going in the U-haul). Pulling it all behind a new Jeep. I haven’t owned this much stuff in years!

What the hell happened? When did I stop being a full-time vagabond, traveling the world while living out of a backpack?

Well, it’s a long story. And it’s about time I shared it with you.

Backpacking in Mexico
2010: My First Backpacking Trip in Mexico

Becoming A Digital Nomad

So if you’ve been following my journey for a while, you’ll know that back in 2010 I decided to save some money, quit my job, sold most of my belongings, and started backpacking around the world, blogging about it as I went.

It was a super scary decision at the time, and I had no idea what the future would bring. My guess was that I’d travel for a year, run out of money, then move back to the US and get a “real” job again.

What actually happened? I managed to build a successful business from my travel blog, and continued to travel almost non-stop for the next 7 years.

Working as a digital nomad from my computer anywhere there was a wifi connection. It was a relatively new kind of lifestyle at the time, and everyone thought I was crazy for attempting it.

During those 7 years without a home, I visited over 50 countries. I lived for months at a time in places like Thailand, Mexico, Turkey, Spain, Nicaragua, and South Africa.

Everything I owned fit into a pair of backpacks — I was completely nomadic. Working for myself. An expert vagabond (hence the name).

I was living the digital nomad dream!

But then my dreams began to change. As they often do over time.

Digital Nomad Burnout
The Downsides of Nomadic Living

Digital Nomad Burnout

I started noticing a change after about 5 years into my fully nomadic lifestyle. Constantly moving from place to place came with it’s own set of problems that became increasingly annoying as the years went by.

Traveling around the world and making money online sounds incredible, I know. And it is in many ways! I’m not complaining. This lifestyle has been very good to me.

However there are also downsides to being a digital nomad.


Many digital nomads hang out in a country or city for a few weeks before moving on to the next. But you can’t earn money if you’re not working, so now you’re trying to cram work & vacation into a short period of time.

Just when you get into a comfortable routine, it’s time to move and start all over again. Packing up, navigating your way around a new city, a new culture, and all the challenges that go along with those things. It gets tiring!


Yes, you get to meet all kinds of cool people around the world when you’re constantly traveling. But because everyone is always coming or going, it’s tough to form a meaningful connection with anyone.

I missed having a regular group of friends to hang out with. I regretted being so far away from family. And unless you plan to date fellow digital nomads, relationships are complicated when only one of you can travel freely.


Well, I should say less productive than it could be. Sure I managed to build a business while traveling, but it wasn’t easy, and I think I could have grown faster if I worked from a home-base instead of hostels & coffee shops.

Trying to juggle a normal work routine when you’re also trying to figure out where to sleep next week just isn’t ideal. Often, I never wrote much about the places I was living because I was too busy catching up with work after months of traveling.

Nothing Is Perfect

Basically, there is no perfect way to live. By becoming a digital nomad, you simply trade one set of problems for a completely different kind.

“Instead of an addiction to status and possessions, we are addicted to experience and novelty. And the end result is the same. Our relationships, our connections to what’s real, sometimes suffer.” ~ Mark Manson

Maybe, like me, you won’t be bothered by these things for a few years — it was still far more exciting than my previous life in the rat race! But eventually the problems amplify over time… and you’ll have a choice to make.

Los Angeles Skyline
View of Los Angeles, California

Moving Back To America

As the negatives piled up, I began renting apartments for 3 months at a time. Eventually I signed a year-long lease in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I was slowing down, taking trips that lasted 1-3 weeks, and enjoying them more.

It was nice having a base, a place to call “home” for a while.

However as much as I loved living in Mexico, I soon felt an urge to return to the United States. To spend more time with family & friends. To pursue more lucrative business opportunities there.

And, to participate more fully in my own country’s democratic process, no longer content watching from the sidelines as the United States seemed to spiral into a depressing (dangerous?) abyss of ignorance & hate.

But where to go? Moving from Mexico with my girlfriend Anna, we decided to try Boulder, Colorado for the summer. We’ve been living there with our new cat Poofy (yes, he’s on Instagram!) for the past 5 months.

Boulder was pretty, but not exactly what we were looking for. It was kinda small, very homogeneous, and full of families & students. With our unconventional lifestyles, we felt a bit out of place there.

So now we’re off to California to give Los Angeles a try.

Our Wedding Photo
Marriage: Our Next Adventure!

Plus We Got Married!

Surprise! It’s been a busy year. I first met Anna in 2015 at a travel blogging conference called TBEX in Florida, where travel personalities and companies come together to network.

She’s in the same line of work as I am, running a popular travel/fashion blog and Instagram account.

We hit it off right away, with a common love of travel, cats, and working online. The city girl and the adventure guy, both taking risks & working hard to pursue our dreams.

Anna is a remarkable woman. Originally from Poland, she’s been traveling the world for longer than I have. She holds degrees in International Law, Journalism, and Fashion Marketing from multiple universities (including Harvard). She’s fluent in 5 languages, and has lived in places like Mexico City, Cape Town, London, Miami, and LA.

Soon after we met in Florida, Anna came down to Mexico, where we began dating. Eventually we moved in together, using Mexico as a base to travel from. It was one of the happiest periods of my life, and I fell in love.

After a year and a half of dating, living, working, and traveling together, I proposed early one morning at a remote mountain cabin in Colorado. We eloped in Las Vegas a few weeks later at the famous Graceland Chapel!

It was spontaneous, non-traditional, and fun, just like our lives up to this point.

Vagabonding in Afghanistan
Hiking in Afghanistan

Are You Giving Up Vagabonding?

Yes and no. Yes, I’m giving up on the pipe-dream of constantly moving from place to place, living out of a bag for the rest of my life. What initially sounded romantic, adventurous, and free has become a burden over time.

My goal for this wild experiment has always been to experience as much of our large & diverse world as possible NOW, while I’m relatively young. Not stuck behind a desk working to make someone else rich.

Sharing my travel experiences to help and inspire others, while earning a living on my own terms.

The freedom to do as I please. No approval needed. No bosses to report to. Following my passion and making a living through adventure travel & photography.

Well, I’ve achieved these goals. I am completely location independent. I work for myself, setting my own hours, traveling when and where I want to. I’ve also been fortunate to make a great living doing what I love.

Am I just getting older and feeling a need to slow down? I’m 36 now. Have I simply become financially independent enough that I’m no longer forced to live in cheap backpacker destinations in order to get by?

I think these may have been factors in my decision too.

Chefchaouen, Morocco
Chilling In Morocco

Choosing Location Independence

I wouldn’t trade the last 7 years of my life working as a traveling digital nomad for anything else. It’s been a wild ride, and the experience has taught me so much about myself and the world in general.

However I now realize that I prefer location independence over fully nomadic living. Because there’s a difference.

Location independence simply means you are free to choose where you live, not stuck living somewhere you hate because of a particular job. Being a digital nomad means you’re always traveling, with no real home.

We spent the summer in Colorado. We’re planning to spend 2018 in Los Angeles. Maybe after that, we’ll decide to move somewhere else. Italy? Spain? Iceland? Kansas?

With location independence, all our options are open!

The important part, is the freedom to choose my location, and the ability to update that choice at any time.

For those of you who are interested in becoming digital nomads, I don’t want to completely discourage you. The lifestyle does have plenty of benefits, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t give it a shot.

However after 7 years living as a homeless digital nomad, I personally no longer think it’s sustainable (or healthy) on a long-term basis.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way either — it seems to be a common choice for many after a few years on the road:

Valley of Fire Highway
Life Is A Highway, And I Wanna Ride It

What’s Next?

Honestly, not much is changing. I’m still planning to travel a ton, about 6 months every year. The only difference is now I have a wife, a home, and a cat to come back to once my trips are over!

Sometimes Anna & I will travel together, sometimes I’ll be on my own. I’ll continue sharing my wild travel adventures with you from around the world through blog posts, YouTube videos, and travel photography.

Having a home-base simply means I’ll be more productive, creating useful travel guides, sharing fun travel stories, and teaching tips & tricks I’ve learned after 7 years working as a professional travel blogger & photographer.

Moving to Los Angeles and having LAX airport as our travel hub will keep flight costs low, allowing us both to travel often. We have friends here, and more pass through all the time.

There is a wide variety of epic coastline, mountains, deserts, canyons, and forests within a day’s driving distance from the city if I want to get outside into nature for a while.

I know some readers may be disappointed in this change. Those of you who romanticize living on the road out of a backpack. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been putting off publishing this blog post for so long… I was scared.

I built my brand as a vagabond, what happens once I have a home again?

Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do about what other people think. I’ve lived as a vagabond for years, and don’t regret my choice, but my passion for constantly moving began to fade.

When you stop loving something completely, it’s time for a change.

I don’t spend my life trying to make everyone else happy with my choices, if I did that, I’d never be where I am now.

So onwards! To the next chapter of my life — I hope you’ll continue to follow along on my future travel adventures, wherever they may lead. ★


I hope you enjoyed this story on why I quit being a digital nomad. Hopefully you found it interesting. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Have any questions about the digital nomad lifestyle? Could you live this way? Drop me a message in the comments below!


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
Join 20,000 others who receive exclusive email updates!

7 Reasons To Subscribe →
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I'm also a member of other affiliate programs. For more info please read my policy page.

Leave a Comment

Comments (162)

  1. I wonder if the speed of your travels is what lead to burnout. Do you think it would be different if you were a slow travelling nomad for example inst2ad of constantly moving to a new place every few days or a couple of weeks let’s say you would sublet an apartment and stay at each place for two or three months before moving on. Would that slower pace of constant travel be more sustainable? I wouldn’t think it would feel like as much of a grind plus you could build several connections and communities in various locations since you are staying at each place for longer but curious to hear your thoughts on that.

    • I spent over a year in Mexico, a year in Italy, a few months each in Thailand, Spain, etc. I definitely traveled slowly from time to time. Still felt the need for a proper home somewhere — it’s still tiring.

  2. Loved your blog for years Matty. A real inspiration to many. All the best. You will always be one of the best and original pioneers of the Digital Nomad age. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  3. Good on you mate!
    I have a question about your cat. I am starting to travel more, but I have a cat. You’re planning on travelling for 6 months every year. Do you bring your cat with you or do you have tips for what to do with/for your cat when you leave?

  4. Nice post!

    Actually, u are not quitting the digital nomad lifestyle but actually just started it.

    That’s the difference between travel bloggers and digital nomad.

    Digital nomad is location independence from the very first place. But travel bloggers somehow doesn’t have the choice. They must travel and earn money from that.
    1. Location independence 2. Income from online(especially some passive incom)
    Your experience is amazing. But I’m sorry that maybe you have some misunderstood about digital nomad lifestyle.
    Finding a base and travel around the country. That’s one of the things what digital nomad always does from the beginning. Otherwise. U r just a traveler can make money on your way.


  5. Great article! I totally get this. I’ve been on the road for almost 2 years and have had so many great experiences but it is also tiring and lonely at times (and I’m even traveling with my husband!). It’s hard to explain to friends and family back home who see the nomadic lifestyle as perfect. So it’s nice to read someone else having the same feelings I have!

  6. I enjoyed reading your article about leaving the digital nomad life behind. Although, I found your comments about the
    U. S. turning into a dark abyss unsettling and perhaps, unfair. The comment about returning home to participate in the Democratic elections to save the country turned me off your otherwise well written article. Plus, you never followed up, just dropped a few zingers and ran.

    • I definitely need to put together a follow-up.

      As for the US turning into an abyss, without getting too political here:

      – We’re locking kids up in cages along the border
      – Abandoning our long-term Kurdish allies in Syria
      – Our executive branch is ignoring Congressional subpoenas
      – The President is ignoring the Constitution
      _ The President is praising & protecting dictators/murderers
      – Our broken healthcare system is bankrupting 500,000+ people a year
      – The economy is on the brink of collapse
      – Environmental laws & protections are being destroyed for corporations to profit
      – Racism & bigotry is practiced in the open by high-level officials
      – American propaganda is getting out of control — and Americans live in a bubble

      • Lol. And how are you going to fix that by returning. Running for office? Or just vote, which is something you can do from afar.

  7. You were never a real nomad.
    nomads learn the language and immerse in the culture.

    You only speak and ever spoke “american”.
    But go ahead, tell yourself whatever you wanna.
    “Una cerveza por favor” does not qualify as spanish, btw

    • Wow, someone’s butthurt! Haha. I see you’ve created your own definition of nomad, huh. The actual definition is “an individual who roams about”.

      Nothing about learning 20 languages in there.

      I think you’re confusing “nomad” with “polyglot”.

      There’s this strange sub-set of digital nomads, and well, humans in general, who are just dicks. “You’re not a REAL traveler unless you’ve been to 100 countries.” “You’re not a REAL backpacker unless you live on $200 a month.”

      I can’t stand those people. An insufferable bunch of ego-eccentric asses who take their self-hate out on others. Lighten up dude.

      PS. I speak Spanish too.

  8. I also have a location-independent lifestyle. I like having a base where I can come back to, change my clothes for a different season, see my friends, get a dental check-up etc, and basically chill out amongst my stuff and sleep in my own bed.

    I prefer having a place to come back to instead of having no base. Even then, as you also experienced, I also find that I can get lonely when I travel (I do 1 week to 6 weeks at a time) by myself, and I sometimes find it hard to really see a new place and get some work done.

    Personally, I think it’s easier that I am taking an already established business on the road rather than setting one up as I go along, I also use the website “Home Exchange” to do reciprocal swaps and to use “Guest Points” to stay in places I may never be able to afford otherwise. I’m currently in Spain which is my 15th city this year and I combine the HE website with Airbnbs.

    I love travelling but I like to have a place I call home and this is a great compromise.

  9. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog posts and congratulations on your decision to have a home base! Best of luck to you and Anna and I look forward to hearing more and seeing more of your travels~

  10. Do you have a step-by-step guide on how to become location independent and work wherever you want from your computer? I’d really like to know the entire process you would recommend to someone who starts from zero, has no skills, and one day decides they want to be a digital nomad/location independent.

  11. You are still a digital nomad. Let’s face it, you get burnt out with one place because timing is everything. I tend to follow weather patterns. You can digital nomad in the U.S. and live a good life. I like to stay in a country for months or a year at a time. Learn the language, find a local lover, and enjoy the experience. Traveling too much is like being a shark looking for the feast. You need to keep moving to breathe. Even New Orleans is boring unless it’s Marti Gras.

  12. I’ve been living out of a bag for a year. Its been an amazing year, but I’m already thinking about finding a Homebase and being “location independent”. I like being part of a neighborhood and a community because I like to have my favorite bar, a favorite restaurant, and so on. I started in my mid 30’s and I wish I had the mindset to travel when I was in my mid 20’s. I’m glad I could experience it. Traveling constantly is not consistent with what I want in the intermediate-term, so I’ve decided to start living in two places during the year. I’ll likely spend 4 months of the year in Medellin, Colombia and 8 months in Phoenix, Arizona. Over time, I will expand to a 3rd city for 2 months in the Summer, but that is a ways away. There are other countries I want to visit for 10-day trips and such, but I want to feel grounded. Right now I want to focus on growing my business and start-up. I wouldn’t trade the last year for anything and the lessons I learned about the value of people and experiences over things.

  13. Hey! Over here! In the middle! You should totally give Kansas a try!! 😁 In case you need convincing…(commence elevator pitch on why our flyover state is worth landing in)… We actually have quite a bit of natural diversity and human diversity, and we protect one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America – the tall grass prairie. I’m convinced that the peace you find on the prairie at sunrise cannot be matched. We don’t have that many cities, but they’ve got all you need and then some, plus LOTS of good neighborhoods for settling down. The people really are friendly, the cows are cute, the state parks are many and quiet, the sunsets are massive, and we don’t have *that* many tornadoes! We’re proud of our land and our history, and most of us really enjoy swapping stories with people passing through. Hope to see you on I-70! 👋 …(end elevator pitch)… Thanks for your honesty in this article. As a person who’s never even crossed the Mississippi, it’s easy to romanticize travel of any sort, but this article was a good reminder that having roots is actually really healthy. I think a lot of people minimize the idea of “home” because they feel their roots tied them down, which is absolutely valid. But to your point, putting down those roots is what actually allows us to connect deeply with each other and grow together, and there, wherever that may be in the world, is where we find “home”. Thanks for the food for thought!

  14. Hi–so with location independence–do you have a fulltime apt in LA with a lease. I am trying to figure out what I want to do–fulltime digital nomad I do find exhausting. At the same time, I don’t want to drop a lot of money every month on rent–if I am also going to need to pay for other accommodations as I travel. Sometimes I have to pay and sometimes I don’t.

    • Hi Joyce! I need to write a follow-up to this article because we’re back to being “expats” in Italy right now.

      But yes, we rented a place year-round in LA. Doing the same in Italy now.

      We are actually headed back to the United States next year, where we plan to buy a house, hopefully with a separate apartment attached to rent out on AirBnb. This should help reduce our mortgage payments enough that it won’t be a big deal to leave for a month or two from time to time on long trips. That’s the plan anyway!

  15. I totally understand. Being a digital nomad to me means to live anywhere you want and to live the lifestyle you want. It means freedom to me. I live and travel in an RV when I’m in the USA. Actually my base is LA as well. I belong to a group called the Xsapers which gave me great friends to travel with and a community which is not like anything I had living only a stationary life. It doesn’t get lonely on the road anymore. I found those friends with the same mentality. I spend summers in my parents house in Hungary and now I’m planning to spend a few months in South East Asia during fall. Freedom is the key for me, not traveling. Traveling and adventure is a great plus. But yeah it’s harder to find a partner this way who has the same freedom as I have. You got lucky. I hope one day i get lucky too. Good luck to you.

  16. It is incredibly inspiring that you stayed true to your heart. THAT is the real lesson here. It takes serious courage to go against the grain of what others expect from us. You are living the dream because you have the ultimate freedom – the freedom to be yourself, no matter the circumstances. You’re a real inspiration. Thank you!

  17. Thanks Matt for sharing your thoughts. I can completely understand your situation. The freedom we have from what we do is to choose what’s best for us at the moment. What was good for you 5 years ago is not necessarily the same today. We need to constantly ask ourselves those questions and follow our heart. I’m running a French travel blog, and I’ve been traveling for the past 8 years. But for the past 3 years I’m based in Berlin. I do slow travel half of the year (2 to 3 months in the same location – recently it was in a farm in Japan) and the other half of the year I’m in Berlin.
    Let me know if you drop by around one day. :)