Have you ever wished you could reinvent yourself and start over? Maybe you’d start a new career, be more productive or act with more confidence. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get rid of all your old limitations and completely begin anew? Living as a digital nomad offers those opportunities on a regular basis. Relocating to a new city, particularly if it has a completely different culture, is an opportunity for a lifestyle makeover.
You Are Not In Control of Your Life
It’s can be very surprising to learn how much our cultures influence our lives. Our families, peers, societal norms and social status all have very strong control over what we do and strive for everyday. It’s difficult to understand if you’ve only lived in a single culture.
People don’t get tattoos and body piercings, wear the latest fashions, drive certain cars, purchase trendy products or join clubs and religious groups to stand out. We do those things to fit in.
This is very important. Most of us think we are unique and freely choosing everything we do and buy, but we are not. Even worse, those societal pressures that dictate our preferences all too often keep us from doing what we most want in life.
Look at a group of junior high school students in any country in the world and you’ll likely see very similar fashion styles and attitudes in small groups of friends. Those weird haircuts and strange fashions might be different than what their parents find acceptable but there won’t be too much deviation between close friends.
Adults are not very different. The singer in a rock band might think he’s unique and non-conformist, but he’s just dressing and acting like other rock singers. The sunglasses, body piercings, tattoos and ripped jeans are what other rock singers wear.
We often try to be non-conformist in the same way of the other non-conformists in our social group. We all want to feel special and unique, but the reality is that we just want to be liked and respected, while fitting in with our peers.
There is nothing wrong with trying to fit in. Being accepted in our communities makes us productive, contributing members of our society. Humans are social animals so building strong affiliations with others is a critical part of our lives. It always will be.
The important point is that we get to chose which social circles we want to be a part of and can change circles if we have enough courage. Our peer groups and cultural expectations drive our beliefs and actions so this is a critical step in helping us improve and grow.
Digital Nomad Reinvention
Changing social circles is the ultimate purpose of a digital nomad reinvention. Each of us can become who we really want to be far away from the disapproval of our families and friends back home. When we step off the airplane we can have a different attitude and spend our days doing new activities. It’s possible to transform our personal identity, occupation, peer group and almost anything we can imagine.
The more exotic the country, the easier it is to make major personal changes. In a drastically different culture it’s easier to question and over-ride our previous social conditioning.
It can be near impossible to make that level of transformation in your home city. The pressures of your own culture, peers and friends is often too much resistance to become the person you wish you could.
My One Year Plan to leave Japan and change countries and careers was the only way I could give up on the secure and comfortable life and business I built there. I don’t think I could have incrementally changed to my current life path. It was all or nothing.
The Dark Side of a Digital Nomad Reinvention
Wearing new clothes and eating strange foods are an easy transition to new cultural norms. From there, it’s easy to get caught up in new social groups of drinking and partying. Unsurprisingly, many become willing try things in SE Asia they’d never do at home like dabbling in drugs, hiring prostitutes and riding motorcycles in insanely dangerous traffic.
Unfortunately, lax legal enforcement, the low cost of living and cultural freedom mean that the reinvention is typically towards more destructive activities for many.
It Doesn’t Always Work
Don’t expect that one-week all-inclusive tour to Mexico to lead to big changes. Arriving on an organized tour keeps your past cultural conditioning largely intact. When all the other tourists around you are all herded around to the popular sightseeing destinations, restaurants and back to a western style hotel, it’s difficult to really experience a local culture.
The real value of a digital nomad reinvention comes from a long-term relocation to a new city. When you set up a new apartment, connect with locals, and start living in completely different surroundings, it’s much easier to create new routines and habits.
My Reinvention in Chiang Mai
My wife and I have just arrived back in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I can already see that I’m a different person here. It starts with simple structural changes like not having a TV in our apartment. That guarantees that we won’t be watching any TV for the next several months.
We rent a small, one-room apartment which encourages us to spend a lot of time exploring the city. Since we don’t rent a motorcycle, that means a lot of walking. We’ve also just joined a fitness club, so I know that we’ll be working out 4 to 6 days a week.
Also, Chiang Mai has great vegetarian restaurants and the food is incredibly inexpensive, so we’ll be eating healthy meals out every day.
While I like to drink wine in Hungary, shochu in Japan and whiskey in Canada, the high cost of those products in Thailand keep me from drinking much alcohol here. The fresh fruit smoothies are so amazing that I prefer them anyway.
All the walking, Yoga, healthy food and the elimination of alcohol mean that I will most certainly get in much better physical shape. The last time we came to Thailand, I lost almost 10kg in less than two months. (Yes, I was 10kg over-weight. Family is dangerous for your waistline.)
This time, I want to take a more structured approach to the re-invention. There are different areas of my life that I’d like to improve so I want to make sure that I put in consistent daily effort towards what is most important. I won’t bore you with the details but I’m scheduling daily improvement activities in all the key areas of my life. I have a lot to improve.
Have you ever strategically reinvented yourself after a move to a new country? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.