How To Write Without A Desk

tales of a digital nomad in the land of the long white cloud

Harley Bell


by Harley Bell

Have you ever fantasied about writing anywhere in the world?

I have. I’ve always wanted to live the life of a nomadic writer. I pictured beaches, forests and cafes with an endless stream of consciousness flowing onto the page.

I imagined that discipline would turn my adventures into books.

So, I packed the waka and decided to write my dreams into reality.
But reality has a way of revealing the truth beneath decisions.

These are the hard lessons of a digital nomad.

Routine on the horizon

“My life has been the poem I would have writ but I could not both live and utter it.” — Henry David Thoreau

There is a cognitive cost to constantly finding new places to sleep. New places to work. Research takes time. More time than you’d think. Where are the cheap eats? Who has the good coffee?

There is no falling back to the familiar.

The same basic needs must be met every day. All this uncertainty in an unknown land can lead to decision fatigue. It’s the tiredness that comes from making constant, tiny decisions. This uses the energy that I would normally prioritize for work.

Habits change

Healthy habits are the benefit of staying somewhere with four walls for more than a few weeks. My diet takes a hit when I’m travelling. It’s no longer easy to cook. My kitchen used to be full of cues that reminded me to make healthy choices. So, I eat more takeaways.

I’m also an expert at getting in my own way. For example, many of the places I’ve been staying do not have a dedicated desk. The kitchen counter becomes a valuable working space. But this forces a confrontation with my nighttime self that forgets to wash the dishes. My mornings often lose and I spend valuable time cleaning when I should be working. So, I eat more takeaways.

Finding the right space



Harley Bell

I write about writing, creativity and business. I'm currently working on a poetry book, titled Wild Altar.