From Digital Nomad to Something New

I won’t lie, a part of me felt like I was giving up. Cashing in the glamorous nomadic lifestyle for a lease, furniture and a gym membership. What a sell out.

“How long are you planning to stay in Seattle”, other travelers would ask me, (“a year?”).

“I don’t know. Maybe forever?” I would reply and their eyes would widen with a mix of surprise, confusion and (maybe?) envy. I work in an industry where people strive to become more mobile, less attached, where freedom is the ultimate destination. Yet here I was, daydreaming about decorating schemes and my own desk.

I live a 20 minute walk from this

So how did I come full circle, from a girl who wanted to never slow down to where I am today? I have a theory:

Back when I was working full time in DC, I felt trapped and stifled. I wasn’t crazy about where I was in my life on a variety of levels, but most importantly, I felt that I couldn’t really be my true self unless I was traveling. It was only with the freedom of the open road that I felt confident, capable, relaxed and more myself.

So I managed to loosen my bonds and travel full time. It was that mindset that led me to meet the man who is now my husband, that led me to build my career, that led me across continents, to place I’d never even dreamed of visiting. It was fantastic.

I know pretty early on that it wasn’t going to be forever. It took about 6 months before I started to feel the stress of constant travel . I spent a couple months stationary in China and was ready to keep going, but the feeling hit Mike and I again a year later in Argentina. We decided that constant travel wasn’t compatible with working full time, and instead decided to spend 3-6 months in certain places, using them as a home base as we traveled. That worked for awhile too, but by the time we reached Mexico last year, we knew we needed a new solution.

Working outside on a sunny January day (it was 65 degrees!)

While travel had at first opened me up to what felt like my “true self,” constant motion now felt stifling. I started thinking about all the other sections of my personality that were withering because I was constantly abroad: my new-found love of cooking (hard to do without steady access to a kitchen), my need for creature comforts and maybe most importantly, my need for community, friends and a social life.

All of a sudden I felt like I was living half a life.

Luckily Mike felt the same way. He was tired of working odd hours for little money, of being constantly on the computer and not having friends or hobbies to call his own. He wanted to join a gym and get in shape, to get back into playing video games. We both wanted to have our own social lives and not depend on each other for literally everything.

My dad came to visit me in Seattle!

We wanted a home. We didn’t know where, or how, and we knew we would have a lot of explaining to do to so many people who idealized our lives. I worried about how I would explain myself on the blog, so I never really did, until now.

I see now that it wasn’t about giving up. It was about evolving and finding the way in this world to be our most authentic selves.

Maybe us travel bloggers have had our sales pitch wrong the whole time. Leaving everything behind to travel is fantastic, if that is what you want, but what’s more important are the lessons and transformations we experience as a result of travel. If you can take a year or more to travel the world, that is wonderful and such a good experience, but if you can only manage a couple of weeks a year, there is a lot of good in that too.

Similarly, there is a lot to be said for working remotely, and having the freedom to travel and live everywhere. Some people can do this indefinitely, but not everyone has to or even wants to. Technically, Mike and I still have that freedom, we’re just using it in short bursts instead of long ones.

The move wasn’t about giving up travel completely either. Since we moved to Seattle six months ago, I’ve been on over a dozen plane rides, to places near (Vegas) and far (Sri Lanka). I’ve got potential travel plans out the wazoo for 2015. If anything, it’s way easier for me to travel now than it was when I was living in Mexico, or Argentina and constrained by our low income and the high price of plane tickets.

Where we celebrated our 6 month Seattle-versary (on the beach in Maui)

For Christmas, Mike got met something I’d been wanting badly. A really nice map to go above our couch, the kind with little pushpins to indicate where you’ve been. You won’t be surprised to hear we almost immediately ran out of pushpins and had to order two more boxes. We’ve done a lot of travel, but we also have a lot of travel left in us. It’s ingrained in us, an important part of our lives that we can’t simply abandon.

We’ll always be travelers, but for now we’re trying to be other things too.

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Vojtech
Vojtech

THIS! THIS! The most difficult part for me is “how will i tell this to my friends and relatives?”. While i was working in UK i could not speak about anything else then travelling and living on the road,but once you start the travelling lifestyle,your mindset is somehow changing and you want your own little place called home. I am currently in Southeast Asia but i feel that my time to settle down is coming(even if for few years only,i need to move on wherever i am) and i am really worry about the reactions of my friends as i… Read more »

thebritishberliner
thebritishberliner

I’ve been seeing you guys around in the blogsphere but this is the first time (I think) that I’ve made a comment LOL! What a good, well-explained post! I’ve been travelling in one form or the other since the 90’s and when I went to India, that actually became the deciding factor to slow down and make roots. And I did. I still wanted to travel so I lived in a few countries as an expat and finally settled on Berlin where I’m now happily married to a German, and we have a son LOL! However, as you say, it’s… Read more »

Traveling 9 to 5 (@traveling9to5)
Traveling 9 to 5 (@traveling9to5)

Amen! We’ve also settled (… and had a baby) and it feels great to have a community again. We are still travelers.. but we like having a home! Hope yall are enjoying seattle – we’ll let you know when we are up in the area and grab a drink together!

Mike | VagabondingMike
Mike | VagabondingMike

As someone whom also calls Seattle home, you could have chosen a more beautiful location.

BTW, constant travel or on-and-off travel is all still travel in the end!

Audrey
Audrey

The last line in this article is perfect – understand that feeling well. When people ask why we choose to base ourselves in Berlin instead of being completely nomadic, the first thing that I mention is wanting to have friends around (not that I have to schedule a skype call with) and a life that included things other than travel. There are “journeys” in life that don’t involve travel, and it’s been fun to start exploring those as well. Congrats to you both on listening to what you need and making the transition!

Heather Hall
Heather Hall

I love having a place to come home to after a trip, and routines to settle back in to. As an expat, those routines are an important part to feeling settled wherever you happen to be living. Yoga class, cooking and shopping for ingredients, lunches with friends, and even just watching TV on Hulu – whatever it takes to stay connected! And being able to host visitors is definitely a bonus. Glad you’re enjoying this next chapter in your life!

Damon and Jo
Damon and Jo

Wow. WE LOVED THIS! That last line was so powerful.

We all want different things at different times and traveling is part of that, just as much as comfort and settling down is. Do your thing gurlfriend!

Fellow travel bloggers/vloggers,

DamonAndJo

theworldonmynecklace
theworldonmynecklace

It sounds like the long term travel was something you needed to do to feel content to live in one place. If you love the place you are living and have other interests other than just travel then a stationary life (with shorter trips) can be very rewarding indeed 🙂

amy - toothbrush travels
amy - toothbrush travels

i love this. You haven’t failed. You’ve succeeded. You have carved out a life for yourself where you truly follow what your desires are. You met your husband, built your career and although there have been downs, you’ve experienced a variety of ups and life lessons too. Travel isn’t a competition for who can do it the longest – it’s just a community of those hopelessly in love with the world, and whether you do it for a week, a month, or a decade – you’re entwined with a community that understand the feelings of being metaphorically free. Plus it’s… Read more »

Sam
Sam

“We’ll always be travelers, but for now we’re trying to be other things too.” I love this sentiment, and it fits pretty well with where my husband and I are now too. We’ve just become settled in Berlin, our new chosen home, one which we don’t plan to leave for…who knows how long? It’s a funny feeling, but it feels good. Good luck to you both!

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