I was daydreaming at 30,000 feet; thinking about my apartment, my bed, what I had in my refrigerator, my yoga mat, and what I was going to have for breakfast while listening to NPR tomorrow morning at my table. I was daydreaming about going home and my little routine I had established in Denver. I had been gone for 3 weeks traveling through the Canadian Maritimes, and I was ready to be home.
Suddenly my eyes opened as my stomach swirled in panic. Keys! Where are my keys?! Shit – what bag did I put them in, or do I even have them anymore?
This was the first time in my travels where I was going to go back to my new home, and I was responsible for keys to something. In the past when I flew somewhere I stayed with friends and had to simply coordinate when I was arriving, but I never had to worry about keys. I was key-less for a decade; keys are a new responsibility to me.
Since I moved to Denver and made it my travel home base, I’ve been overwhelmed; overwhelmed on so many levels. The overwhelming feelings are triggered by boxes, too much stuff, family commitments, learning my way around, understanding how to balance work at this time when I’m trying to settle in, wondering how I’ll finance all of this new furniture, and remembering where I put my keys.
But I’ve done it. I’ve officially moved in and have a new home. It has furniture, I have bills to pay, and I have to clean things now – it’s a whole new world to me – it’s normal life.
Why Move to Denver?
The most frequent question I get asked is “why did you choose Denver?”. Of course one of the reasons is I LOVE the mountains. I’m like a 10 year old kid when I get up in the giant peaks and the majestic landscapes. I literally let out a little scream of delight when a friend and I drove out I-70 and entered the Front Range a few weeks ago.
But the main reason I chose Denver is more about who I am at the core than what I like to view. Like most things in my life, ‘new’ is important to me. The addiction to ‘new’ is what kept me on the road for so long. The simple answer is Denver is completely new to me. Since making the decision to leave my nomadic life behind and get a home was a big decision and change, I thought I would make it as exciting as I could. Even though it’s human nature to want something comfortable and familiar, ‘new’ is exciting to me.
When choosing a home my other choice was Minneapolis. I have family there, I used to live and work there in my twenties, and I still have friends there. I know the city, I know my way around and I have ample people who would’ve help me get settled. But when it came right down to it, ‘new’ won out over ‘comfortable’. I wouldn’t have been as excited about Minneapolis as I am about Denver. I’m excited to explore the state, to try new adventures, to meet new people, and to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit.
My Early Colorado Exploration
However ‘new’ doesn’t come easy – ‘new’ is the much harder road. The process of settling into a new place where you don’t know people or know your way around is a challenge. But I accept that byproduct of ‘new’. The highs are higher and the lows are lower – it’s how I’ve always lived my life – at the extremes.
How to Make Friends in Denver
“I’m going to be just fine.” That’s what I mumbled to myself after reading a note from an obscure Denver friend who contacted me today.
After getting a note from yet another friend/reader or media contact to meet for drinks– I realized even though I thought I knew few people here, I was wrong. I actually know a lot of people here. This is yet another benefit of my lifestyle for the past 10 years; you build up a giant network of people. This network of people from all over the world is eager to help and introduce you to others. I’ve always said I have friends everywhere – but I don’t think I ever really realized how powerful that was until I put down roots again.
Every day in my inbox, Facebook, or Instagram I hear from another person wanting to get together. People are connecting me, and readers are reaching out. I’m pretty quickly getting to know the media and PR crowd here. At the last travel meetup I went to in Denver I walked away with a bunch of new cards/numbers.
I’ve even had long time readers contact me when they found out I was settling down in Denver to tell me they live in Colorado or had a relative who lived here. The most surprising is when long time reader, Tricia, contacted me to go to breakfast since she was passing through Denver visiting her son. This wasn’t that unusual, I love to meet up with readers when I can. But she went a step further and actually brought me an apartment-warming gift. I was overwhelmed at the thought that strangers can be so welcoming.
However, I still put a lot of time into finding new interesting people to be friends with. On the road, friends come pretty easy. Moving to a new place and making new friends has reminded me you have to put work into finding and developing friendships. The only way you can do that is if you put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone occasionally. If you do – it pays off.
I met my new friend, Rachel, sharing an Uber Pool ride. We chatted in the car as we were both going to our destinations and I quickly learned she was also originally from Illinois and we were around the same age. She had just moved to her neighborhood and was looking to make new friends in her area through Meetup events. I gave her my card as she was dropped off and told her to call me since we were both new to the neighborhood. I never really thought she’d call, but she did! Since then we’ve been out exploring Denver together at whiskey and donut events, trying new restaurants, and we even went to a Red Rocks concert.
In the award for strangest way to meet people in a new city, I actually had a NY Times correspondent end up on my apartment lawn due to a bike accident. We exchanged cards and I’m meeting her for drinks.
Keys! I think I was equally excited and terrified as I signed the lease and she gave me the keys. The place was of course smaller than I remembered and everything echoed…but it was mine…at least for a year!
I used my first month in Denver to not travel and simply try to get settled in. This wasn’t a normal move because I had sold most everything I owned when I started traveling and now I had to start over with nothing. Ikea quickly became my new favorite store – or necessary evil depending on my mood. I feel like all I did that first month was break down boxes and take them out to the gabage. I decided I might as well make the process of spending thousands of dollars as fun as I could so I went about recording most of my move and acquisition of stuff. It was fun to see it all go from nothing to something.
Here is the playlist of videos that I created as I moved. Watch the process of becoming Nomadic No More
I bought a couch, bed, shelving, dresser, table, chairs, coffee table, and rugs. All of it came from Ikea, Amazon, or Target and everything had to be put together. Some of the things I put together myself to save money and some of the bigger things I hired people.
One of the hardest parts about the move was when all of my storage stuff showed up from NYC. Boxes I hadn’t opened for over 10 years; it was a sobering process. For some things I was disgusted that I had kept them for so long and paid to have them stored. For others it was a trip down memory lane for me – an emotional one. I was suddenly catapulted backwards 10 years to a very different life that I lived and it made me think a lot about how I had aged and evolved.
Then there was the issue of all of the items I stored because I felt like I had to – family heirlooms. When I put the stuff in storage I did it out of obligation wanting to keep the family memories or items. But now, 10 years later with a very small apartment and a lack of any attachment to things, I looked at these family heirlooms and thought – they aren’t me. I didn’t choose them, I have no room for them, nor do I need them. But there is something that is still hard about giving something up that has been in the family for decades. I feel like I’m breaking a chain; there is a weird tug of responsibility with these items. And I hate responsibility. The jury is still out for a few of them. But some I will be getting rid of and some I found a way to use – at least for now.
Easing into ‘Normal’ Life
I have a friend who is making it his mission to try to integrate me back into normal ‘non-nomadic’ society. He tries to teach me things about pop culture, normal non-digital friendships and interactions, and other social skills and knowledge I have lost in the last decade! His theory is military personnel get a counselor when they re-enter society, and I probably honestly need one.
The first week I was in Denver I nearly had a crushing meltdown in the dish soap aisle at Target. I did actually think about sitting on the floor and crying for a few moments among all of the soap. The choices of household cleaning products was overwhelming to me. I stood in the aisle thinking about how I needed everything…absolutely everything. I was starting completely from scratch, buying garbage cans, hangers, toilet paper, rugs, towels, sheets – it sort of felt as if I were going off to college again. But instead I was just trying to live like a normal adult.
I realized one day when I wanted to send someone a thank you card I didn’t even know where to buy stamps. Most days I forget I even have a mailbox I’m supposed to check periodically. Things like remembering to pay rent or electricity bills freak me out. And don’t even get me started on trying to integrate back into a non-travel wardrobe, I have no idea what fashions are appropriate. I know things like this seems normal – but it isn’t for me.
Off The Road – This Week in Travel Podcast
I recently was interviewed on This Week in Travel Podcast about ending my nomadic life and the struggles that caused me to do it was well as the struggles of settling in. Listen to it here.
Regardless of the struggles of settling into a home and a whole new way of living for me, I sit here on the plane excited to land in Denver today. I can’t wait to see some of my new friends, walk to my local grocery store, and enjoy my little apartment again. I can’t wait to be home.