What it’s Like to Live Nomadically for 7 Years

September 6, 2013 25 Comments »

Morning by the lake

Morning coffee at the very calm Cedar Lake in Wisconsin

I started my morning sitting on a lounge chair with a cup of coffee at 7am experiencing absolutely nothing. Cedar Lake was completely still. No wind, no sound, no neighbors – nothing. It’s quite a contrast from my old life – the life I left behind 7 years ago in NYC. Seven years ago I would have already ran six miles in Central Park, checked email, and been racing out the door to grab a coffee and hop on the subway headed to my office. The screeching of the subway always woke me up – a high pitched sound on the 1 line that when pulling out of the station at 72nd street had the exact three notes from the song Somewhere during the lyrics “There’s a place…” Yes – I had quite an imagination back then in my commute-to-work haze – but even then I was dreaming of a place where I could get away.

Insider Outsider

I know this sounds trite but – I can’t believe it’s been 7 years. There are days when this life of motion and nomadic living feels completely normal – no big deal. Then there are days when I feel so far from normalcy that I might as well be a castaway on an island talking to a volleyball. When I return to the US to see and stay with family and friends I feel disjointed. I’m an insider outsider – being on the inside in my own culture and with my friends and family – but not really belonging. In fact, my sister just recently brought to my attention how difficult my life is to understand and explain. And there are times I’m happy with that (I love being unique), and sometimes I’m not (I don’t like being weird).

NYC buildings

The concrete jungle of NYC

However, I do love coming back to the only real thing I can call ‘home’ – the US. Sometimes it feels as if it’s a big hug, I can breathe, things become easy to understand again and my brain doesn’t have to worry about all of the little minute details that it deals with when I’m traveling in new places. In these 7 years I’ve only spent a total of 12 to 14 months in the country and most of that time is used to try to reconnect with people so that I feel like I still have a lifeline. I’m in NYC this week and even though this city is so familiar to me, I don’t really know where I fit in any longer – I definitely feel like an outsider as I walk around the streets here.

Looking Back on 7 Years of Motion

I do love the fact that I’m back in NYC on my 7th anniversary of changing my life to travel. It was on September 8th, 2006 that I took off for Kenya – terrified and excited.

“I’ve done it – there’s no looking back now – I’ve got to roll with whatever comes my way. It was a difficult departure – reminiscent of my previous moves around the US. Every time I would talk to a close friend my eyes would well up in tears. I’m not real sure why as I wasn’t sad about my decision, just emotional about the unknown I guess. I finally told myself that I needed to practice my acting skills and when people asked me if I was excited I would lie and say ‘yes’ trying to act excited – that way maybe I would convince myself that I was truly excited. No matter what tactic I tried – the tears came – and I had to admit – I was scared of what I was embarking into. That realization really pissed me off. I don’t want to think of myself as someone who is scared – I want to be seen as strong, brave, independent – not scared. But I guess everyone is human and this was my breaking point – leaving the known, predictable world I know to go out and discover a new world…literally. “

I read this passage now and sort of laugh to myself as it feels that now the unknown has become my known. I generally have no idea what’s happening next in my life. I can go weeks with nothing new happening and then one email may change my direction for a couple of months. I love this flexibility and I have now become one with this unknown. That’s probably one of the best things that travel has done for me – make me comfortable with not knowing.

Welcome stairs lincoln center

Lincoln Center at night in NYC

The Big Question Everyone Wants to Know

“How long will I continue this (nomadic travel) for?” This seems to be the burning question on everyone’s mind that I meet. And I’m sorry to disappoint you but I never really have a concrete answer. Sure – it would be fun to get to 10 years – but for me I just assume I will keep doing it until I get tired of it. I doubt that my love for travel and exploration will ever stop – but there are times when I don’t want to feel like an outsider any longer – and I may have to slow down and be an insider again. But until then…I keep moving.

Want to dive further into the past – here are some other anniversary posts I did through the years:

Three Glorious Years 
What Travel Has Taught Me
This is Me 6 Years Later

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