Digital nomads = the best buddies ever

Our reaction to someone saying “chicken breast fillet” in German.

It’s our last week in Berlin. And while we’re excited about being back in London before heading off on our travels again, there’s a lot we’re going to miss after our two months here.

The comedy of words like “Hähnchenbrustfilet” and “Notausgang”, for a start. Also, servers voluntarily splitting a bill instead of having a freakout if you want to use two or more separate cards, and bars that make you feel like you’ve achieved something just by finding them. (“I know she said to take the elevator to the car park then walk up the emergency stairs, but that can’t be right can it?”)

Most of all though, we’re going to miss our friends here. Berlin has been digital nomad central this summer, and hanging out with lots of new nomadic people has reinforced our belief that these are our people.

Why? Well, they don’t find us weird in situations where any normal person would back away slowly. When asked if Mish was short for anything, the answer “Well, it’s Michelle, but all my friends call me Mish and we decided it was better for the brand – Mish & Rob sounds way stronger” elicited an, “Oh, makes sense” rather than triggering a sudden recollection of an important engagement elsewhere.

They also understand our weird working habits. Us leaving a Sunday brunch early to go do some work is totally normal, just as we’ve got friends who won’t hang out before midday because they work until 4am. They don’t even show surprise when we admit to watching Mixergy interviews with our lunch – instead, emailing us to suggest their favourite episodes.

And finally, there’s a level of honesty and unselfconsciousness that we’ve never found before. If someone suggests going to a bar, it’s acceptable to say “I don’t drink – shall we go for a walk instead?” without the risk of being thought of as uncool. And if the rest of the group wants to go waterskiing, there’s minimal shame in saying you’ll sit it out because you got a bit queasy on the Disney teacup ride as a kid and never quite bounced back.

This exact type of relationship might not be for everyone, especially when you have to be OK with not seeing some friends for potentially years until you next happen to be sharing a continent. But the point is how great it feels to find a group of people who really get you – where you can be completely yourself, there’s no pressure to conform or be judged, and the inconvenient placement of power outlets in Airbnb apartments is acceptable dinner conversation.

Seeking out these types of friendships is easier for digital nomads because there’s automatically such commonality in just sharing this lifestyle. Even if you’re settled in one place though, this summer has convinced us how worthwhile it is to seek out your people: not just hang around with colleagues or old schoolfriends because it’s easy, but really putting in the effort to unearth a peer group who shares your values, accepts you as you are, and supports you in whatever you’re trying to do.

And if they’re willing to indulge you in a half-hour debate about your favourite TED talks, all the better. Or maybe that’s just us again.

  • It was so awesome to meet you guys, wish we could’ve hung out longer! greetings from wroclaw poland – have you been here? Fascinating city.

    • Awesome to meet you too Shayna! We’ve never been to Poland at all – it was on our list for this summer but we ended up sticking in Berlin, largely because of all the cool people here.

  • Akasha

    Nice article. I’m curious, though, about how you find the other digital nomads in the area. For instance, I’ve been a digital nomad for the past five years and have spent the past few years in Latin America. However, mostly I’ve run into tourists and retirees who don’t understand that I am, in fact, working while I’m in my apartment. It sure would be nice to find some other digital nomads who get that holing up alone in your apartment on your computer isn’t anti-social because you are WORKING! Frustrating to say the least and, yeah, my favorite topics of conversation revolve around the politics, economics and social problems of the area where I live(I’m a sociologist) and online business building, not what the biggest tourist spots are or where I can find the best beer or bar. Anyway.

    Love your articles. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Akasha! It really is amazing how hard people find it to understand that you’re working while they’re on vacation.

      We talked about how to find likeminded people here: http://www.makingitanywhere.com/digital-nomad/digital-nomad-isolation/

      There’s also nomadproject.com, which we’ve found friends through a couple of times.

      • Akasha

        Hi Rob,

        Thank you for the information! Happy trails. I haven’t made it to Berlin yet, but I stayed in Frankfurt last year and it is heavenly during July and August 🙂

        Akasha

  • A-freakin’-men to this post!! And I cannot waaaiiiit to meet you two in 5.5 months!! *happy wiggles*