I don’t want to be a nomad. I’ve seen the nomadic lifestyle up close; I don’t think I could hack the -40 winters in Mongolia. Of course, that’s not the only place you can find nomads. There’s more kinds than just the traditional kind of nomad. There’s also the less literal kind, the people that call themselves digital nomads.
A digital nomad is someone who does their work online, which allows them to travel as much as they want. Many of the digital nomads I’ve encountered online are writers or bloggers who travel a lot, or they live abroad in places that are cheaper than the country they’re from.
I may be a blogger and intending to improve my writing (to that end I am taking the MatadorU Travel Writing course), perhaps even picking up some freelance writing work. However, my goal is not to become a digital nomad.
Sure, I like to travel. It’s usually pretty fun and interesting. I have even enjoyed living abroad. But it’s not the lifestyle for me.
Constantly moving gets exhausting. But the real reason I won’t be packing up my things and living out of a backpack long-term is that being on the road like this, even with my boyfriend by my side, is kind of a lonely enterprise.
You’ll hear many people defend long-term solo travel as not being lonely, because it’s easy to meet people on the road. And that’s true, for sure. But I’d like to ask the constantly-moving blogging couples how they feel. See, being a couple on the road is kind of isolating. Often you feel that you have each other so you don’t need to reach out to others. Or, you can be like us, and attempt to reach out, only to find that many people are sort of uncomfortable hanging out with a couple, or assume that you want alone time all the time, or any other variety of reasons that means you don’t get considered in invites.
But it’s not just that. Even if you meet plenty of awesome people all the time, you’ll likely be on the move too much to see them long-term, or even if you stay put they might move around – it’s the nature of the lifestyle.
I’m sure, for many people, this is not a problem or they have ways to cope. But something I have found during this year and 5 months is that I really miss and need my close family ties and great circle of friends.
Up until college, I floated between friend groups without being that close to anyone save for a select two or three people. Then I created this amazing group of friends freshman year. The group shifted and changed but overall I maintained some close friendships through my years at William & Mary. When afterwards I moved to DC I was happy to keep up with some of those friends and make some new ones. By the time we left for Korea we had this amazing group of friends who we hung out with all the time.
And every day I miss that. Those strong ties of friendship that meant we never had to work too hard to find someone to hang out with – we just asked those people what they were up to. It wasn’t that we never hung out with other people, but it was just we could always rely upon our close friends. I’m confident when we move back to the area we can pick that up again. But in the future, I don’t want to be away from that great sort of network for so long.
It’s not just the friends I missed, of course. My college was 2 hours away from home, and my grandmother lived in the same town. I saw my parents often, and even lived with my grandmother for 1 semester and 2 summer breaks. Moving to DC, I saw them less, but called all the time and still got to see them whenever I wanted to, basically. And of course I’d see my brother too at these times. But now it’s been a year and five months since I saw any members of my family. My mom is afraid to fly, plus my parents have dogs to take care of, so visiting me is out. Jeff’s parents did visit him and we will travel with them again in Italy in May. But I won’t see my parents until I get back to the States. I’m very close with my family and being near them is important. I could probably handle being further than DC as long as I was within a few hours’ flight at least, but I’d like to call the same country home.
Finally, one thing I miss that is going to seem strange to many is a boring old routine. I guess I’m just a creature of habit, and routines help me stay happy and sane. Being here in Chiang Mai has been lovely. There’s no pressure to go see the sights, and honestly I don’t want to. I’ve set myself up a schedule to make sure I get stuff done. Not that I’ve entirely followed it… But sitting around surfing the internet, watching TV, cooking dinner, and going out occasionally has been like a lovely retreat.
Often when we Skype with friends they will claim their lives are boring, but what they don’t know is just as they’re envying me, I am sitting here envying them. The grass is always greener, eh? But yes, I want to know what book you’re reading and the show you love at the moment and what you cooked for dinner. That sounds awesome.
So while I love travel and I think it will always be important to me, I think it won’t be my whole life. But you never know what the future holds…