Hey digital nomads, it’s time to talk about climate change, the elephant in the room

Why am I talking about climate change on a digital nomad blog?

Because nobody else is and we can’t avoid it any longer. And because I believe digital nomads are in a unique and privileged situation to take action.

So to start the conversation, I will share my own climate story with you here today and what I plan to do next.

The elephant in the room 🐘

I’ve been wanting to talk about climate change in the digital nomad world for a very long time. 

But I am also terrified.

I’m terrified of getting it “wrong” and alienating my own community. 

After all, my business is called “Digital Nomad Girls” and I worry when fellow nomads hear me talk about climate change they’ll assume I’ll try to guilt trip them into quitting flying.

But that’s not my goal at all. 

First of all, it would be hugely hypocritical of me – I’ve flown my (un)fair share over the years and I’ve accrued a huge carbon debt through this lifestyle.

But most importantly, guilt-tripping doesn’t work. Nobody likes to be shamed.

And I don’t believe we can bring about the changes we want to see in our world from a foundation of shame, guilt and finger-pointing.

However, if we hadn’t accepted it yet, the events of this summer brought the message closer to home than ever:

Climate change is happening now and it will impact us all

Yes, even digital nomads.

And no, we can’t “just move somewhere safe”. 

(for many reasons, including “climate justice” which I’ll address in a dedicated future blog).

Yet, I have seen so little mention of climate change in the mainstream nomad world that I started wondering, “When are we gonna address the elephant in the room? Who will start this conversation?”

A few years ago, my friend Sophia Cheng and I decided to take matters into our own hands.

Jenny and Sophia during the Rebellion in London 2019, holding up XR flyers
Sophia & I during the Rebellion in London, Oct 2019.

Eco Talks were born

We created a safe space for this topic in form of a monthly virtual event (Eco Talks) inside my membership, The Lab.

For three years we met every month to talk about topics like:

Sophia even trained many of our Lab members to facilitate climate education workshops and eventually pivoted her whole business into climate education.

You should totally check out her website With Many Roots here.

We hosted a special Earth Day event with 10 of our members in 2021

But even with Eco Talks, I never felt like was doing “enough”. 

It felt like I was hiding this conversation that is so, so important behind closed (and safe) doors in my membership.

And I am done with that now.

Not a day goes by that I don’t worry about climate change and our future and I figured: if I worry about this, there’s a good chance others will too.

If you’re still reading this, then you might be worried, too?

So I decided to start this conversation myself – no more hiding

Because as the old saying goes:

If not us, who?

Do I have all the answers on how to do that? Nope, not at all. 

Am I am still terrified of getting it “wrong”? Sure do.

But I believe digital nomads are in a unique situation because we've seen so much of this beautiful planet that we know what's at stake.

And that also means we have a responsibility to face the climate crisis and to do what we can to help protect our only home.

But it’s about more than just calling out the elephant in the room.

I want to approach this conversation from a place of imagination, hope, community and possibility. Not fear, overwhelm, shame and guilt.

And I want to help others reframe the way we look at the future, from:

😩 “Here are all the sacrifices you need to make” to 

😍 “Here are all the glorious opportunities a better future could hold for us all”.

And in order to do this, I think it’s only fair if I share my own climate story with you first.

Maybe it’ll resonate, maybe not, and maybe it’ll even inspire you to write and share your own climate story.

Let’s go back to the start, kinda…

My (Digital Nomad) Climate Story

In 2013, after finishing my PhD in chemistry in London, I headed off on my much-awaited around-the-world trip with my boyfriend Simon.

It was an old-school kind of trip, backpacks, Lonely Planet (the paper version), no mobile hotspots – and definitely no work.

I didn’t even know what a digital nomad was back then. I had saved every penny for over 3 years and nothing was going to stop me.

We backpacked through Peru and Bolivia, then slowly made our way up from Panama City to Mexico City using overnight buses on terrifyingly winding roads and boats that whizzed across crystal clear turquoise waters.

Island Love

After a few months, we decided to slow down a bit.  We spent a couple of weeks on a small Belizean island, one of my favourite places ever. We ate delicious fryjacks for breakfast, swung in hammocks and enjoyed the incredibly slow pace of island life.

My favourite time of day was sunset. 

Locals and tourists alike would head to “The Split”, have a few beers, take a dip in the Caribbean Sea and watch the sunset over the palm trees.

Jenny jumping into the Caribeean sea in Belize
Having a ball at "The Split", December 2013.

I was in love.

And as I do every time I fall in love with a new place, I decided I wanted to stay. Forever.

I daydreamed of building a little house on stilts near the dock. I’d paint it pink and yellow (naturally).

We’d fish, eat homemade ceviche, snorkel and kayak all day long and enjoy island life.

But even during my wildest daydreams while dozing in a hammock in the afternoon breeze, deep down I worried.

Never mind that we were only 3 months into a year-long trip. Or that we didn’t have jobs and would definitely run out of money eventually, soon (again, I didn’t know what a DN was at the time).

None of that phased me too much (I was in love!).

Rising Tides

But what did phase me was what I learned from the locals I talked to, who told me that the elevation of the island was less than 1 metre above sea level. And that it was basically made of sand.

They were worried about climate change as the island was and is incredibly vulnerable to rising sea levels.

What I haven’t told you yet is that my favourite sunset spot, the bar and dock at “The Split”, had gotten its name because the island was literally split in half by the infamous Hurricane Hattie in 1961.

Sure, that was 60 years ago and storms like that don’t come every year, but they are coming increasingly often. And they will get worse

Drone view of the Split on Caye Caulker in Belize
Drone view of "The Split" on Caye Caulker, Belize. [Wikipedia]

My heart broke knowing that my favourite place was under threat by climate change caused by human activity.

I really wish I could tell you that I dropped everything right there and then, became an activist and dedicated the past 9 years of my life to fighting climate change.

But we both know that’s not true.

Instead, I packed up my backpack after a few weeks and hit the road again.

I was a backpacker after all and there were more places to discover and adventures to be had.

I knew better

Yes, I am fully aware that this story is dripping with my own privilege. But that is kind of the point.

Because I’ve known about climate change for a long time, I didn’t just wake up to it last year.

I learned about it in school in the late 90s, when I painted anti-Shell protest posters in art class.

I knew about it when I lived in London and volunteered with Greenpeace for 3 years.

I knew about it when fellow PhD students took high-paying jobs in the oil and gas industry, and I silently judged them.

digital nomad greenpeace climate crisis jennifer lachs
Volunteering with Greenpeace at the 'Save The Arctic' campaign, ca 2011.

I knew about it, but for many years I somehow managed to rationalise my worries and fears and guilt away. I put them on the back burner, something to focus on “later”. 

I wanted to travel just a little longer, to see a bit more of this world.

Before it was all lost. 💔

So I snorkelled in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and saw the bleached corals amongst the beautiful, colourful, alive ones.

And I thought “just a little longer”.

Then I lived on Koh Phangan and breathed in the Indonesian forest fires that shrouded the island in smoke for weeks.

And I thought “just a little longer”.

Then I came back home to Europe and watched from afar as unprecedented 50-metre-high flames engulfed large parts of Gran Canaria, my island home at the time.

The more I travelled and witnessed this beautiful planet, the harder it got to ignore that niggling voice inside me. 

The truth is, we don’t have much longer.

digital nomad girls gran canaria jenny travel
At Roque Nublo in Gran Canaria, ca 2016.

2019 changed everything - almost

The fires in Gran Canaria happened in 2019.

It was the same year Extinction Rebellion burst on the scene in London, shutting down the city with a pink boat. And one year after Greta Thunberg started her School Strikes with Fridays for Future.

In September 2019, back in my hometown Munich, I joined the Global Week for Future, a series of 4,500 strikes across over 150 countries, and likely the largest climate protest in history. 

In Germany alone, 1.4 million took part. It felt like anything was possible. Like finally someone would do something. 

Someone would come to save us.

The next month I spent a week at the Extinction Rebellion in London. I spent a whole day sitting outside the BBC’s headquarters demanding they report on the rebellion that was taking place on their doorstep. They refused.

And I witnessed my friend Sophia getting arrested for peacefully protesting the inaction of our government.

Sophia and Jenny at the Extinction Rebellion protest. Sophia is protesting, ready to be arrested.
At the XR protest in London, Oct 2019.

It was exactly 6 years since I’d left on my “one year” around the world trip and I knew it was time to come home, to stop ignoring reality and get involved.

I knew it.


There was also the small matter of Brexit and I wondered if I could travel around Europe for just one more year? One last hurrah before we’d have to deal with Schengen visas and blue passports. 

Surely one more year was ok, right? I booked a two-month trip to Sicily.

Then March 2020 came around let’s just say… I never made it to Sicily.

Grounded Nomads

Like everyone else, I went through disbelief, panic, and shock, followed by that weird, almost nostalgic calm of the first lockdown.

Then something weird happened.

While I watched many of my digital nomad friends descend into utter despair at not being able to travel, I felt oddly at peace with my involuntary grounding

My wanderlust had seemingly taken a break too. 

Instead of counting the days until I could hit the tarmac again, I started going for walks in rural Wiltshire where we were staying with my boyfriend’s parents.

I went on the same circular route multiple times a day for 7 months. And while I joked that this was the sign of a madwoman, I secretly enjoyed it. 

I loved visiting the cute pigs in the neighbouring village and the lambs in the fields.

I loved watching the seasons change – something I hadn’t even known I missed while chasing summer for 6 years.

And even as the restrictions were lifted one by one, I waited for my wanderlust to kick back in, to get really itchy feet and to hop on the first flight out.

But still, it didn’t happen.

Was it time to 'settle down'?

Then, in October 2020, we decided to do the thing that most nomads dread most: we decided to “settle down”.

We’d been thinking about it for a few years already but for the first time it didn’t feel like a huge sacrifice anymore. It felt right.

We moved to a small town in Somerset where we rented a house for a whole year. 

It was the first time we’d signed a rental contract in a decade.

Our home...for now.

I had a blast nesting and decorating our very small new home. 

And I’ve seen more of England in the past 2 years than in the 20 years before that. 

Turns out “settling down” wasn’t the end of the world. In fact, it was exactly what I needed and it might be what’s required to save the world right now.

I know, a shocking thing coming from a self-proclaimed Digital Nomad. But hear me out:

Putting down roots

For years I’ve been worried about climate change and tried to find ways to make a difference while travelling.

I joined XR in Munich for a summer and Greenpeace in Sydney for a while. But as soon as I had joined a local group and gone to the first meetup or action, I was packing up again and leaving. 

I also tried virtual activism: I set up a XR Digital Nomads group, ran Eco Talks and got trained to facilitate climate workshops online.

These are all great options, but for me, personally, it wasn’t enough. 

As much as I tried, I was never able to replicate this feeling of connection that I experienced during my time with Greenpeace while being a full-time digital nomad.

digital nomad environment extinction rebellion jennifer lachs
At a climate protest in Munich, 2019. I went by myself.

I felt disconnected from local issues – unrooted.

In his book ‘Four Thousand Weeks‘, Oliver Burkeman makes a strong case for settling down. He sees it as an opportunity to respond “to the needs of your place and your moment in history.”

And in this place in this moment of history, I believe what the world needs are people who are deeply rooted in their local communities, who care about their land and its issues and who want to make a difference together.

Most importantly though, I don’t see this as a sacrifice at all, I’m seeing it as my next adventure.

Think global, act local

Travel prepared me for this new adventure, and I’m incredibly grateful that I got to, what Greenpeace calls, bear witness” to this beautiful world.

I did bear witness at the Great Barrier Reef, in Las Palmas, In Koh Phangan – and during this summer’s historic drought in Europe.

But the fact that climate change is global and so all-encompassing is also what makes it so overwhelming. And that overwhelm often leads to feeling paralysed and inaction.
I am only one person and there’s no way for me to fix all these problems or even carry them emotionally. It’s too much. 
We simply have to start where we’re at now: in our own towns, our own local communities. And our own little corners of the internet.
Think globally, act locally.
With my local Community Gardening Group at the community orchard.

What's next?

So that’s what I plan to do for the next years. I am not 100% sure what it’ll look like but I guess that’s what makes it an adventure.
So far I joined a community gardening group, joined a few climate events and am thinking of starting a local Greenpeace group in my town.
Baby steps.
I have made a start locally, and, by sharing this climate change “origin story” with you today, also in my own little corner of the internet.
I don’t expect anyone reading this to “settle down” right now to become a climate activist. 
But maybe some of this resonated with you. Maybe you’ve had similar thoughts or worries before but felt alone with them.
You’re definitely not alone. 
And I’m planning to explore this topic more in future, in some more interactive ways too. 

Do you want to be part of that conversation?

Then sign up for my weekly newsletter where I share a personal essay every Friday, along with events, sprinkles of inspiration and all the jobs from the DNG Community!



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