I’ve found this piece of the nomad lifestyle to be the most difficult (and the thing that most makes me want to not travel as much or return to “normal life”)! I can’t speak as much to the professional relationships side of things, but I definitely can speak to the personal relationships side. (Also, sorry for the novel of a reply! I hope it helps in some way. )
I’ve been traveling/nomading with my husband for almost 4 years now and we’ve tried a bunch of different things for keeping up with existing friend groups and for meeting new people/ making new friends.
For keeping up with existing personal networks, I found that I mostly had to let them go. Because when you go back, honestly, not much has changed. Even after 3 years. By not trying too hard to keep up with all of my friends back home I’m able to focus more on where I’m at. Letting go and not trying to keep up with people also means that its been easier to narrow down and see who matters most to me back home. Instead of feeling like I needed to keep up with 20+ people back home, now I have a just a few friends from the states that I would consider my best friends and that I try to keep in touch with every few weeks. And even if we don’t touch base for months, it’s easy to pick back up where we left off.
To me, keeping up with people back home has often felt like when I did 11 months of long distance with my boyfriend (now husband). You just can’t grow, let alone maintain, a good relationship when you’re doing long distance. You have different lives and just talking about your life and what you did everyday gets old. You just want to BE with that other person. It’s kind of the same with friends back home.
The second piece, meeting new people and making new friends, has evolved quite a bit over the past 4 years for me.
At first, NomadList hadn’t even launched yet and I rarely met other full time travelers who were also working while traveling. There were some co-working spaces, but most of them were for locals (and tended to be expensive.) During that time, my husband and I spent most of our time going to cities where we already had friends or we would plan trips with friends. Stretches where we didn’t have friends already in the city were often a bit lonely (even with a significant other there.) We would sometimes try using Meetup.com or stay in a private room in a hostel to meet other people.
Honestly, the launch of NomadList made changed everything. The term “digital nomad” actually became more known and there started to be whole communities of people that identified with it everywhere around the world. So once it launched, I started using the NomadList slack channel to meet up with other people when I got to a new city. Co-working spaces also started to be a thing, so I started using them to meet other people.
Where things really started to get interesting for us was year 2-3. I had been making new friends time thanks to tools like the NL slack channel, but I was starting to get really tired of making new friends all the time. I was starting to miss the depth of other friendships back home. Making new friends with other nomads is great, but also difficult because no one sticks around. Why invest in a friendship that’s seemingly only going to last 2 weeks, 1 months, etc? And by only making friends with other nomads, travelers, etc, I felt like I was in a bubble. Trust me, only talking about sales funnels, products, how productive you are, what your morning routine is, how to make passive income, how great the 4 hour work week is, etc can get pretty old. lol. I started to miss just shooting the shit and doing normal life things with people.
The benefit I didn’t see at first is that I can meet up with friends that are also nomads. (I know… duh.) So many of the relationships I was hesitant to invest in have actually become great friendships.
Meeting people on the road and then choosing to continue to meet up with them has been key for me. Friendships take time and the more time you can get with people, the better!
Now, my husband and I are sort-of phasing out of being “nomads” and focusing only on living in places where we have friends or in places where we know our friends will come back to. Since we still want to see our good friends back home, we’re also making more of an effort to make sure they can come out to visit (instead of us going back home all the time.)
I know that’s not what everyone wants to do though, and especially if you’re still in a phase of wanting to travel al lot, this probably won’t make sense for you. I would recommend using tools like the NL slack to meet other nomads and go to co-working spaces as the main way to meet other people and make new friends. Meetup.com, networking events, etc can also be good. There are often great Facebook groups for entrepreneurs, nomads, etc for many cities these days, so that could work too!
If you read my whole reply, kudos. I couldn’t really think of how to share my advice without sharing my story!