I’ve been in Pittsburgh for two weeks now, and I’ll be here for two weeks more, and it’s so incredibly nice to be stationary for a while.
I’m on (roughly) day 75 of this adventure, and the first two months were a blur of driving 4,000 miles and changing locations every few days. Until the week of Christmas, I don’t think I spent more than 5 or 6 days in any one spot. As you might expect, that got pretty exhausting.
Across November and December and my trek from SC to the west coast, I stayed in 12 different houses, Airbnbs, or hotel rooms. It was a lot of packing and unpacking, figuring out new spaces, getting settled in only to start the process over again a few days later. And that got really old.
Before I left Vegas to come here, I was seriously questioning whether I wanted to do this much longer. When I planned my departure, the idea was to spend between 4 and 8 months living on the road. By New Year’s I was mentally revising that to 4 months max (and I was already halfway through).
But when I got to Pittsburgh on January 4th and unpacked my bags in the room I’d be staying in for the next 30 days, I started to feel a bit better about the realities of being itinerant. I haven’t had to lug a suitcase around for a fortnight, and it really does make a difference in my outlook.
I had a moment on my third day here where I paused to just enjoy the fact that I didn’t need to be anywhere. That I didn’t feel any urgency around going to some touristy attraction or getting something done or spending time with someone I don’t get to see very often. I even sat around and read a book for a few hours.
In the past, travel has often been about cramming as much in as possible — hitting the top sites of any city, then moving on to the next thing. Witness my 2014 trip to Europe where I hit 4 cities in 18 days. To a certain extent, it’s been about quantity over quality. This was even true on my recent road trip west; spending three days in Louisville was a woefully insufficient amount of time to really get a sense of the place. And Denver? Well, I’m not sure my 36 hours there really even counts as having been.
After two weeks here in Pittsburgh, I’m realizing that this is the difference between endless traveling and living as a nomad. I don’t have a home right now, but staying in the same place for a few weeks (at a minimum) affords the chance to actually live in a place: to get back into routines, and revisit places I like, and go to the grocery store, and do laundry, and get familiar with the residential streets, and feel some semblance of normalcy when there’s nothing really normal about life.
I ran three times both this week and last week. That’s practically the first time in two months I’ve gotten in all of my usual runs in. And I’ve been here long enough to have some favorite spots: the bakery down the street, the Indian buffet. It’s really nice.
Living as a digital nomad means giving myself the time to actually live in a place, not just vacation there. It took me 2 or 3 days to get oriented, and another few to really be able to take advantage of actually knowing where I was and how to get around. I’m starting to have a sense of the different neighborhoods, to appreciate the character and charm of the houses.
I’m here for a full month because I’m test driving the city — trying to decide if I want to move to Pittsburgh at the end of this nomad trek. (So far, that’s a strong possibility). But planning in that luxurious amount of time here has helped me see that wherever I go in the coming months, even the places I have no intention of living long-term, I want to give myself the time to really be there. To stop treating each visit like a race to get through everything so I can move on to the next.
This sounds a bit absurdly zen as I type it, but I want to make sure I give myself the time to actually be where I am.