Nomad in Nature

Go to Google Images and look up “digital nomad”: you will find trios of repeating objects: a person, a laptop, and landscapes — blue beaches, hung hammocks, and luscious greenery. Talk to a digital nomad, and they will most likely point you to Indonesia, Vietnam, or Malaysia. Why? Because they probably have done it already. These blessed individuals are not only visitors but also call these tropical and beautiful places a (temporary) home. Most digital nomads escape to these forests, beaches, and mountains to replenish, revitalize, & rejuvenate.


According to an article from Health Promotion International, those who seek contact with nature “intuitively understand the personal health and well-being benefits.” Currently, mental health disorders, including mental illness, is one of the biggest constituents of the global burden of disease. There is a direct correlation with mental illness and restrictions of human-to-nature contact, especially in cities.

“Urbanization, resource exploitation, and lifestyle changes” have restricted our possibility for human contact with nature in many societies. For millennia, humans thrived while adapting to natural environments; however, it has only been a few generations that humans have inhabited an urban lifestyle.

A recent study by Stanford Psychophysiology Researcher Gregory Bratman and Psychology Professor James Gross evaluated brain activity in nature versus a city. Those that took nature walks had decreased neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, which controls our brain’s rumination activity. The nature-goers had less negatively repetitive thoughts compared to city walkers, demonstrating nature is medicinal –– it actually helps regulate our emotions.

Furthermore, George Mackerron and Susana Mourato on Happiness is Greater in Natural Environments explains why nature enriches mental well-being more than the city. We lose sleep over the 2 a.m. honks and 5 a.m. construction, raising our stress levels and blood pressure, coupled with the poor air quality polluting not only our immune systems but also our planet. However, in nature, we are socially and actively recreational. We eagerly do not mind jaunting around organic greens and blues with our friends or even strangers, promoting and encouraging physical exercise and social interaction. The more our physical and mental behaviors and habits come into contact with nature, the merrier and more at peace we can be.

“Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


Transcendentalism is a philosophy that values the spiritual, rather than the material, in pursuit of life fulfillment. Coined by philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, he hurried away from the bible to find himself in nature. He believes that while we search for ourselves, our individuality will manifest when we return to nature. In my interview with Julia Haking, I asked if transcendental concepts influence this digital nomad culture, and she responded immediately with, “Yes, absolutely.”

Art Young’s tree silhouettes from the 1920s.

This philosophy concerns self-reliance, self-discovery, and individuality. One achieves personal authenticity by engaging with the natural world. Emerson believes “God” is a divine spirit rather than an actual being, and is in every part of this world’s creation. Thus, the divine spark is in each and every one of us. By following ourselves, we release divinity in ways that are hidden in history, society, and religion. The individual is a “god in ruins,” but we have it within us to reconnect and come closer to the divine by casting off customs to rebuild ourselves.

In Haking’s interview, she mentions how digital nomads aspire to have autonomy and to “escape the system” of cultural, political, and societal norms. These digital nomads release themselves from the prisoned cubicle nine-to-five jobs and instead, open their office to the outdoors where their lungs are met with crisp air and minds are touched with something greater than mankind. Thoreau and Emerson believed people fulfill themselves as humans with self-reliance, self-confidence, independence, and nonconformity. These ideas of the real individual can form a true and genuine community and society.

Freedom is the greatest key of all. Haking can attribute her positive digital nomad experiences to the three pillars of freedom: professional freedom, spatial freedom, and personal freedom. “Just feeling that you have all these opportunities, and you don’t need to follow a certain system,” Haking says. To have this freedom experience “creates excitement all the time.” Thus, in order to be free, we need to return to the places where nature and systems of conformity are untouched by human hands. As we explore the beauty and grandness of landscapes and materials untouched by nature, we poetically discover ourselves from new connections that sprout into deeper meanings.

Nature is our friend, our mothers, and our home. Remember to go visit her and take your journal with you.

Written by: Joanne Sun Mun