Digital Nomads: Chasing Sunsets and Midnight Meetings


In the age of remote work amplified by COVID-19, Therese-Heather Belen explores the globe, hopping between Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, and India. Yet, this comes with a catch. Based 12 hours ahead of her New York marketing firm, Belen’s professional commitments often stretch into the early morning.

She isn’t alone in her global “workcation” endeavors. Many seek these adventures to redeem pandemic-induced confinement, while others are driven into nocturnal schedules when away from their home time zones.

Belen highlights in a report published on Stuff that she has done things like skydiving right before logging into work, emphasizing the unique opportunities this lifestyle affords. She’s traveling under the auspices of Remote Year, a program that crafts travel experiences for working adults.

Pandemic Boosts the Digital Nomad Trend

The allure of working from exotic locations predates the pandemic, but COVID-19 fast-tracked many to convert daydreams into realities. This resurgence in travel, combined with extended stays, has met with mixed reactions from locals in popular destinations.

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Seeking economic benefits, numerous countries are now introducing special visas targeting these digital wanderers. And while many companies recently trumpeted their return to offices, remote work remains an embedded feature in most business models.

Working the Night Shift: Adventure or Ordeal?

Belen and several others in her situation often operate in two stretches: a few evening hours followed by a break and then a dawn session. These unconventional hours don’t faze Belen, who grew up with a mother working night shifts.

Yet, juggling global time zones isn’t without challenges.

Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

She remarks in the report that she has been in meetings at 3:30 a.m., explaining the erratic nature of her schedule.

Interestingly, the nature of one’s work can dictate its adaptability to this lifestyle. For instance, Belen’s software engineer partner finds greater flexibility due to fewer meeting commitments.

But the romantic notion of burning the midnight oil in foreign lands isn’t without its detractors. Many find it incompatible with natural sleep patterns, which can result in poor health and decreased work performance.

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Jessica Hilbrich, another intrepid remote worker, recalls her nocturnal grind in Southeast Asia. Strategically front-loading demanding tasks, she worked uninterrupted eight-hour stretches. Hilbrich notes the distinction between her adventures and a traditional vacation, stating that it’s about forging real connections with places and their inhabitants.

The Realities of the ‘Hell Shift’

Despite their determination, not every digital nomad sails smoothly. Belen acknowledges in the resort the strain on her sleep schedule and isn’t alone in her struggles. Some nomads she’s encountered have even had to relinquish their jobs due to the strain.

Jordan Carroll terms it the “hell shift.” Carroll’s attempts to split his work hours or power during his travels in Thailand and Indonesia were equally disruptive.

She stated that socializing became a challenge because she was constantly drained.

Tips for Night Owls

For those undeterred by the potential drawbacks, sleep medicine professor Ilene Rosen recommends in the report that consistency in sleep schedules, even on weekends. Keeping sleeping spaces dark and using melatonin can aid in managing disrupted cycles.

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As for Belen, even after contracting a cold right before a much-anticipated trip, she remains optimistic, saying that the whole thing is challenging but worth it and that she’s one to do it all over again.


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