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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50 thoughts on “From Digital Nomad to Something New”

  1. I work online, and travel whenever I can. The best thing about my travels is that I have a place I look forward to going home to, with two cats that my neighbors take care of while I;m gone. I’m not the type of gal to travel forever too. Like you, I appreciate having a place I can really call my own, plus friends and routines that make me appreciate traveling all the more.

  2. I so identify with this post – thanks for writing it. We are going through the exact same thing right now. Trying to find a balance between having a place to call home and still wanting to travel a lot. It’s not an easy thing to figure out! We started to feel like we had just moved our old DC lives with us on the road, forever struggling to stay ahead. Being home for a few months, then traveling for a month or two feels so much better!

  3. Monika_My Thousand Worlds

    I enjoyed the post! Everybody has different preferences and nomadic lifestyle surely isn´t for everyone – somebody enjoys it for the whole life, somebody only for a certain period of time…and somebody doesn´t at all. I personally prefer to travel from a home base. Though now I´ve been living abroad for seven months, I´m working here so I´m not hopping from one country to another. Once my job contract terminates in April, I plan to spend the rest of the year at home and take several trips abroad. I believe that would be more satisfying to me than living permanently on road…so thanks for this post. there are lots of people now who are discouraged from travelling just because they think it means they have to give up everything else – and that doesn´t have to suit everyone.

  4. Julia and I have had a very parallel experience and do doubt had some of the exact same feelings, especially the feeling that at times towards the end it didn’t really feel like “travelling” as much as just “surviving somewhere that wasn’t home”. Now we have been settled in Amsterdam for almost a year and finding it just as or more rewarding. Just like you guys, we still have our freedom, and put it to use on nearly a daily basis. The fact that we have all CHOSEN to settle makes it still feels like doing what we wanted with our lives, and that is the most important part!

    1. “it didn’t really feel like “travelling” as much as just “surviving somewhere that wasn’t home”.”
      Man I wish I’d come up with that line.

  5. Great post. I don’t think you ave to travel constantly to be a digital nomad. It definitely takes its toll after a while. I m happy to send the summer in England, pfftttt who am I kidding, we don’t have a summer. Lets say ‘the less winter 6 months’ in England and the rest of the time exploring!
    ps. I love the map too!

  6. I love this post. I have always wanted to travel but I know that I won’t always do this. I love gardening and being with my family too much to ever want to just abandon that. I agree with what you said about being true to yourself. Plus you post such good info on this blog that I think we’ll all keep reading it regardless

  7. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head! The goal isn’t to travel, it’s to create opportunity and have options, so that you can follow what makes you happiest. Sounds like you’re doing just that. Brilliant.

  8. I think you found what you were looking for when you first left DC. Not the freedom to travel but the freedom to live your life according to your own rules. And that’s a great thing.

  9. YES! Andy and I have tried being nomadic several times with different approaches and different lengths of time, and it just doesn’t work for us. I *love* to travel, but I also really love and need my home comforts and routines. I need friends, which are hard to make when I’m gone so often. I need other things in my life besides just travel and work, and honestly, the two don’t go well together, at least not for either of us. Like you, I want to cook, and it’s difficult to impossible to do on the road.

    We recently decided to move to Berlin. Freiburg, where we live now, is a great little city, but it’s too small. Berlin has more contract opportunities for Andy, and possibly even me if I can find writing gigs in English there, there are more people to make friends with, plus more people who understand our not-so-traditional life, more activities, and we just like being in a bigger city. We’ll still travel, and hopefully we can save up for bigger trips where we don’t have to work at the same time, but I think our days of working and traveling at the same time are over.

    Good for you guys for following what feels right. You can still have a wonderful travel life while having a home base and some stability. And Seattle is a great city! One of my best friends lives there, so I’ve visited several times, and I love it.

  10. Oh, gosh! I can totally relate to this, Steph! I felt a lot of the same concerns (in hindsight unnecessary ones) about basing ourselves somewhere, but I really need a place to call home in between trips now and to be able to process everything/have time to write. Everyone is different, as you say, but I’m glad to hear you’ve ended up exactly where you and Mike need to be right now. Sounds like a happy place and that map is awesome, by the way!

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