digital nomad

Reflecting on My First Month as a Digital Nomad (well, 40 days)

This may come as a shock to you, but I’m tired. The first three weeks or so on the road were pretty great. But somewhere around day 26 or 27, the untethered-ness of my current endeavor finally started to hit me in earnest.

Admittedly, it’s not so much the not-living-anywhere-in-particular that’s been the issue. It’s more the perpetual sense of disruption. I left Greenville, SC around 1:30 pm on November 3, 2018. It’s now December 12, and I haven’t spent more than five or six days in a row in any given place. Plus, I drove almost 4,000 miles:

Greenville, SC -> Louisville, KY -> Rolla, MO -> Kansas City, KS -> Denver, CO -> Logan, UT -> Reno, NV (just for the night) -> Palo Alto, CA -> Morgan Hill, CA -> Las Vegas, NV -> Rancho Cucamonga, CA (current location… until tomorrow)

If you’re wondering, that itinerary is a combination of stops built around visiting friends and family for the holidays, running races, and wherever were the most convenient stops in between (Denver & Reno). I head down to San Diego tomorrow to meet up with a friend and run another half marathon (my fifth this Fall).

All of that has been super-cool, and I’m not complaining. But I’m more than a month into this and only just now finding a sense of balance within the chaos. I hadn’t really thought about how jarring it would be to constantly be trying to find focus in new spaces.

Right now, I’m staying with one of my favorite humans in her Southern California home — complete with two cats, a husband, and two toddlers. It’s radically different from my Kansas City friend’s house with its snow outside and three dogs to wake up to. Or my parents’ house in Vegas with my mom… being my mom (love you, Mom!). Or the house in Greenville that I used to call home and is now an AirBnB full of strangers.

And every new location brings new routines to adjust to. New sounds at various times of day. New kitchens to figure out. New tables and desks to try and get comfortable working at. (It turns out I have a really hard time working if I can’t sit cross-legged at the table/desk or at least put my feet up on something). And all of that has started to wear me out, even if I’m still enjoying it.

Being a digital nomad, or “houseless” as my brother would call it, means I’m not just on an extended vacation. I, thankfully, have work to do most days. I have clients and deadlines and writing or editing tasks that need doing in between long days of driving.

But I’m also not not on vacation — at least in the sense that I’m getting to see and spend time with people that I don’t normally get to see, in places I don’t normally frequent. A vacation, by definition, is: “a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation.” So, now that I don’t live anywhere in particular, I’m either perpetually away from home or I’m never away from home. Not really sure which it is. But so far, I’ve definitely been constantly traveling.

Since I’ve predominantly stayed with friends and family on my epic trek west, outside of working hours (mine or theirs) what there’s been to do is spend time together. And that’s been awesome. Sure, that has involved some fun escapades in my friends’ home cities. There’s been a certain amount of touristy travel type stuff.

Yet, staying in someone else’s house is inherently vacation-esque (vacation-ish? vacation-y?) in the more relaxing sense of the word. You get to enjoy quiet moments together. Get to hug someone goodnight and learn how they take their coffee. There’s a degree of comfort and familiarity and ease that comes from co-habitation, even when it’s only temporary.

I’ve been reading this book along the way (Bewildered Travel). Picking it up in fits and starts when I can grab a quiet moment to myself. It’s a great book, and I’ll likely talk more about it another time (am running out of steam for today). But it begins by considering the reasons we travel, asking what we’re seeking in our departures from home. Rupture, discomfort, confusion… these are the things the author argues we seek when we leave the familiar behind.

That’s been true for me. The past 40 days have been a maelstrom of discomfort, curiosity, exploration, reflection, and camaraderie. I’m doing this because I can, but also because I want to see what it does to me. I like routines. I like my space and my stuff. I’m not planning on turning into a long-term digital nomad, but I’m excited to see what the experience teaches me about myself.

So far? I don’t need half the stuff I think I do. But I do really miss my Kitchenaid.

 

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