To my right is a glacier, in front of me are mountains covered in dark, moody clouds, evergreens dot the ridge line in front running down into the fjord, snow capped peaks are in the distance, and I see Spanish writing in front of me. I breathe in and really consider what I’m looking at. I’m sitting on the back of a little ferry in Patagonia Chile and at this moment a tidal wave of thankfulness washes over me. I consider for a moment what an amazing charmed life I live. I’ve had six years of seeing the far corners of the world living in a nomadic fashion. As I sit on this ferry, I’m reminded that I am no longer capable of having a normal life. I’m reminded of that day 6 years ago in New Zealand when I decided I couldn’t go back to living an average life. And I didn’t. Now I’m ruined – I can’t go back to ‘vacations’. Shouldn’t everyone have a month in Patagonia – anything less would be absurd.
The only thing that is certain in my life is uncertainty.
I’ve been traveling in this nomadic lifestyle now longer than I’ve ever held a single job, or ever lived in one place as an adult. I never intended for this to be the case – somehow it all just happened – and the time has flown by.
People ask me often how I’ve changed and because this lifestyle is so normal to me now, I have a hard time figuring out how I have changed. I thought potentially another addition to my series that started at the beginning of my travels “This is me then, middle, now” would help answer that question for me.
Have I changed?
In many ways now I realize that I haven’t changed at all. There are traits that sometimes you just can’t shake. My type A personality has lightened up to some extent but it’s still there and as I continue to forge out a living for myself I can become borderline obsessive compulsive about my work and living. I know that I am still a planner at the core. In 6 years of traveling I have never shown up somewhere without knowing where I will sleep that night.
However of course I have changed in many other ways. My ability to go with the flow, and patience have increased immensely. I have found that I have even less tolerance for touristic ‘must do’s’ and I definitely have less tolerance for consumerism based travel – the kind where one of the sites in the destination is shopping. I appreciate and crave simplicity more. I adore wide open spaces. And I no longer know how walk in high heels!
Why I Continue To Travel
Seeking Things that are Different
My life has always been about finding new experiences in order to fight off boredom or avoid conformity. This is really the core of what thrust me into this world of travel – the quest for something new. Early on in my travels this was easy – everything was new to me. However as I have continued to travel this has become increasingly more difficult. In fact there is a part of me that wonders if the spark of newness that I experienced when I first started traveling is dying down. As I continue to travel, the world appears to be increasingly similar.
There are times when I arrive at a place and I hear people gushing about it and how wonderful it is and all I can think of is – I’ve seen this before – in XX country. After traveling for a while you start to realize that the world is similar in landscape and experiences but you don’t really want to burst the bubble of excitement that people feel when they see something for the first time. Yet I continue to find little pockets of things that are different and that’s really what keeps me going. Or maybe it’s simply the motion – the motion creates a possibility that I will find or see something new around the corner. However you have to keep moving if you ever want to get around the corner to take a look.
It’s my Job
Strangely now travel is my job. This is really what I set out to do 6 years ago when I decided I didn’t want to go back to my old career and instead I wanted to continue traveling. So in some ways I have accomplished my goal – yet I never could have imagined that it would be in this fashion – a travel blogger. I thought teaching ESL was my ticket – but it turned out that I found a way to make a living by writing – and continuing to move around. Granted – this whole new career was helped along by the fact that the industry is new and I was one of the early travel blogs – timing is everything.
However these two reasons why I continue to travel can be at odds with each other at times. Much of the time I depend on forward thinking companies in the travel industry to work with and help me fund my travels, however they tend to be in the more touristed areas. This means that I don’t get to go to the off the beaten path destinations to discover new things as much as I would like. But I will continue to see how it all evolves…Lord knows each year brings more changes in my travel and career that I can never ever predict.
My circle of friends and relationships are probably what has changed the most. I love how my friendships around the world have blossomed. Meeting people from other cultures is still where I get most of my joy. Yet there are times when I get tired of meeting new people – it’s exhausting. You go through the dance of who you are and what you do back and forth swaying side to side with swapping experiences and your life on the perimeter. Now imagine doing that practically every day for 6 years. Granted – I love the people I meet and I continue to make many new friends – but the process of going through that same song and dance every day can get old. Plus – when you really only have time to share perimeter information, you tend to never push yourself any deeper and that’s how I began to live much more internally because no one is around long enough to going deeper than the perimeter.
I’ve become much more of a solitary person. I crave being alone now – I’m no longer certain if that is due to circumstances or actual need. I wonder if one of the reasons why I love travel is because I generally can’t understand all the external noise around me in different languages and it allows me to simply live in my own world in my head. I make up stories about what people may be talking about – creating characters in a way. I also realize that this probably isn’t the healthiest way to live your life – alone in your head – but it is my reality at this point.
I have also made so many new friends – friendships that have developed digitally in most cases. People in my travel writing industry who make me feel ‘normal’ living my abnormal life. However my most prized friendships are the ones who are still with me from the beginning – the ones who know me for more than just traveling – back in my corporate days. Most of these people know me in a different way – they have access to the core. And when I see them and spend time with them I feel immediately ‘at home’.
One big bonus on the relationship side is that the tie to my family has become one of the most important things in my life. One big change over the past few years is that I’m including my family more in my travels. And when I am in the US I spend quite a bit of time with my family, which further strengthens that bond.
On big downside to my life is that romantic relationships are extremely difficult to find. I admit I don’t really look for them as it generally stirs up a whole bunch of stuff in my head that I prefer not to confront or think about. But occasionally I will meet someone who peaks my interest or who draws me into their world. Yet none seem to work out because as exciting as it is for people to meet an independent worldly traveler with an unconventional life, they eventually realize that it doesn’t fit into their longer term conventional plans. I’ve thought about slowing down, and anchoring for a bit – but it just hasn’t felt right yet – so I continue to move.
Day to Day Nomadic Life
My day to day life is probably what has changed the most over the last 6 years. Generally I don’t know what day of the week it is or even what season or month it is. I find myself asking this question often. Time, seasons, months, dates are pretty irrelevant to me unless I need to catch a plane.
About once a week I will have this weird sensation/panic of “What country am I in?” This is normally sparked by seeing something that makes me think of another place or geographic area – a sort of déjà vu. I have to calm myself down and sort of talk myself through it to determine where I am. And then my world comes back in balance again.
I enjoy the simplistic things in life now more than ever. It’s still one of the reasons why I love to travel, live nomadically, and explore more ‘difficult’ cultures and places. When I do that it makes me really appreciate the little things in life immensely. And I love the rush I get when I am able to unpack my bag and hang my clothes up on hangers. Seriously – hangers are a beautiful invention. I also immensely appreciate being able to leave my toothbrush on the bathroom counter or unpack my toiletry bag for a few days. Your very own bathroom is something never to be taken for granted. It’s a real treat to be able to walk on sidewalks without having to watch your step. Good sidewalks that are reserved for pedestrians are one of the things that I miss the most when I travel outside of the US.
And so I continue on – without a real plan for my future let alone next month. Seeing what the world offers up to me in the way of experiences, culture, and relationships. But one thing I know for sure – I am not simply checking off boxes in life. I am not waiting around for something or someone. I am in motion – beautiful, swirling, unpredictable motion. I am living.
To really see where I came from and how this really evolved – check out these previous posts:
I wrote this post prior to my departure in 2006:
This is me then…
A post after a year spent in Vietnam and a new career direction just beginning to live nomadically:
This is me now…