Six days. Five stops between the Canary Islands and Lisbon, Portugal. 222 digital nomads. 20+ talks and workshops. A talent show. “Piranha Tank”. Speakers Challenge. Meetups, 30-second pitches and salsa dancing. An amazing time was had by all!
Well, most of it was amazing. To be honest, I did have a few low points.
Don’t get me wrong! Nomad Cruise is an amazing event for any digital nomad, or anyone aspiring to become a digital nomad. Or anyone intent on running their own remote business, for that matter.
It’s inspiring and motivating. You learn so much about becoming remote, starting that digital nomad lifestyle, as well as growing and running your remote business. Food and drinks are all inclusive – yes, even the alcohol – so you can party it up all night every night. Networking has never been so easy because you’re stuck on a boat with 222 potential new friends, forming an amazing community, for a week.
Stuck – or trapped? Potayto, potahto.
If you’re a hardcore introvert, the alarm bells in your head are probably sounding louder than a brass band on steroids by now. Good for you. I’m an introvert and well aware of my limits, and yet I completely underestimated how overwhelming Nomad Cruise would be for me.
I dismissed all the warning signs. You know, that tight feeling in your chest. The rising anxiety. Being annoyed at the fact that you have to go through your introduction-spiel for the 100th time with yet another new person. Forcing yourself to sit at the dinner table with strangers when you’d rather be sitting and eating in a corner in silence. And, the worst, beating yourself up about not wanting to socialize.
I felt all those on Day 2. Day 2! Though I should probably mention that Nomad Cruise sort of starts several days before the boat actually casts off. Participants start arriving and there are a bunch of meetups in the week before, so you end up hanging out with people at least part of the time before Day 1. So for me, Day 2 was actually Day 5 or so. Day 5 of meeting wonderful new people, catching up with old friends, going out for dinner and drinks, and all in all being the best possible social butterfly version of myself.
And those first five days were grand. I had fun. I wanted to meet everyone, do everything, be a part of all of it. And so I did meet everyone, do everything, and was a part of all of the things I could be. I ignored those warning signs that were trying to tell me to slow down, take a breath, find a quiet space to clear my head and be alone for a little bit. I pushed them down, telling myself “it’s only 6 days”.
I should’ve known better.
On Day 2 (of the actual cruise), I woke up and I was done. Just the thought of heading upstairs to the busy breakfast buffet, where I was bound to bump into other nomads (not to mention the hundreds of other cruisers who were on the ship but not part of our conference), was paralyzing. I was “peopled out” to a degree I haven’t felt in a loooong time. Because I’ve actually become a pro in reading the warning signs and handling things before I ever hit my limits.
So I knew it was time to take some drastic measures if I wanted to be able to enjoy the rest of the cruise. Luckily, we were in port on one of our stops that day. So I got up, got dressed and got off the boat by 8:30 am, all by my lonesome.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to get back on board. But I spent that morning exploring the town, just me, myself and I, letting my feet carry me wherever they wanted to go.
And it helped. I got back on board. I took further measures to protect my introvert self, and I mostly did have a good time. I just wish I’d taken those measures sooner, because then I would’ve enjoyed the whole cruise the way it deserved to be enjoyed. The way I had planned / hoped / meant to enjoy it.
So, let me guess: If you’ve read this far, you’re probably an introvert who would like to join Nomad Cruise, but are apprehensive of feeling overwhelmed. Believe me, I get it. Which is why I have some tips, tricks and hacks that will help you prepare and enjoy this epic event.
Get your own room
Nomad Cruise offers shared and single room options. If you can afford to, spend the extra money to book your own safe haven where you can lock the door on the outside world and just let everything go.
You will not meet every single participant
Don’t even try. Even the most social of extroverts on this cruise didn’t meet every single participant.
So don’t set that goal for yourself, even as an afterthought. It just adds unnecessary pressure. Speaking of which…
Don’t put pressure on yourself
Getting the most out of Nomad Cruise doesn’t necessarily mean participating in everything or getting to know everyone. Rather, it may mean making just five new good friends. Going to only a handful of talks and workshops. Skipping the group excursions and just exploring on your own.
Don’t make the “success” of your Nomad Cruise experience contingent on how many new Facebook friends you gather, how many talks you attend, how full of notes you scribble your notebook, or in how many of the photos you are (I’m recognizable in a single one out of hundreds).
Those are tempting and easy metrics to go by – but they’re not important if you’re miserable while racking up those numbers.
Don’t beat yourself up for needing a time-out
We introverts replenish our energy by being alone, by spending time in our own company. And that’s okay. Nobody will judge you for taking me-time – so don’t be the one to judge yourself for it.
Listen to those warning signs
This is probably the most obvious tip of all, but I still managed to completely ignore it. Believe me, it wasn’t worth it. Had I taken enough small increments of me-time every day, I would never have gotten to the point of being peopled out and needing a lot more time to recuperate.
Take a break – or twenty
Take a break when you feel overwhelmed – better yet, before you’re overwhelmed. Again, nobody will judge you for it, promise. There are over 200 people on every Nomad Cruise. Unless you’re BFFs with someone, nobody will notice you’re not there.
That sounds like a negative, but I don’t mean it that way. For me, it’s actually a freeing thought, because it makes me realize that people really aren’t thinking “that Pia went off on her own again, I guess our company’s just not good enough”. When I’m not around, they’re not even thinking about me, because there are so many other people to interact with. Thoughts aren’t wasted on the people who aren’t there at this very moment. Until you pop up again, and then they’ll welcome you with open arms.
Taking a break isn’t easy on a crowded cruise ship, but there are some measures you can take:
- Mosey through port cities by yourself instead of taking part in crowded excursions.
- If you’re working, reading or otherwise spending time by yourself and don’t want to be disturbed, attach a sticky note to your laptop saying “please do not disturb, working/reading/recuperating here, let’s talk later”.
- Enjoy meals by yourself.
- Get up early. Yes, there will always be someone who’s up even earlier than you, but the earlier you rise, the greater the chances are of you “getting the ship to yourself”, at least for a while.
Feel free to skip events
I skipped two dinners and only went to five or six of the talks, and none of the workshops. Out of more than 20. I also went to only two of the “extra” events.
The only one I wish I hadn’t missed is the talent show. I mean… People juggled. Played guitar. Sang songs written about Nomad Cruise and the community. Did acro yoga. Stripped. Yep, you read that right; some of the guys put on a strip show that I only got to see in videos after the event. Not the same thing. Go to the talent show!
My suggestion is to pick five events out of the program that you absolutely want to see or participate in, and view everything beyond that as a free bonus. If you feel like sitting in, great, do it. If you don’t, also great, don’t force yourself. (And don’t beat yourself up for not going!)
Except the talent show. Go to the talent show, or I will beat you up. 😉
Quality over quantity connections
Try talking to people one on one, or in small groups, instead of the big groups that tend to form. Deepen existing friendships instead of having the goal of meeting a ton of new ones.
A great way to do this is to organize a meetup with people who have the same hobbies or interests as you. There are several hours reserved every day to set up such meetups. In hindsight, I really wish I would’ve gotten a small group of writers together. I’m sure there were a few of them in a crew of 222, and we could have bonded over our shared love for the written word at an evening meetup.
Work on a personal project
Working on something personal – writing a book, setting up your new website, knitting a sweater, practicing your magic skills – gives you some me-time while making you feel fulfilled and like you’ve accomplished something.
And who knows, maybe it’s even something you can perform at the talent show or pitch at “Piranha Tank”.
Practice Self-care and Mindfulness
Another way to take care of yourself, strengthen your body and mind, and at the same time gain some alone-time, is to meditate or work out. Cruise ships come with gyms, and usually even a track to run around on the top deck. 10 minutes of meditation can be done almost anywhere – your room, a deck chair at the more quiet back of the ship, in a park while in a port city.
Seriously. If the only reason you’re thinking of skipping Nomad Cruise is your fear of overwhelm, don’t let that fear win. Never let fear win. Instead, embrace it, because it’s the purest indicator of things that really matter to you. But that’s a topic for a different blog post. 😉
Photos by Michelle Kutzner @shellygoesaway