digital nomad

Digital Nomad Series: Home is Where Your Stuff Is… Unpacked

There's something deeply comforting about all of one's stuff having its place. About knowing where to find a thing when you want to reach for it.

I’ve been itinerant (i.e. a digital nomad) for eleven and a half months now, or 348 days, to be precise (but who’s counting?). And, honestly, I’m kind of over it. I was kind of over it at the seven month mark, which is one of the various reasons I haven’t written much the past few months… tired and grumpy posting just didn’t seem terribly appealing to anyone. Not that it’s all been tired and grumpy! It’s also been awesome and super busy.

But, as I approach the year mark of not living anywhere and have been semi-planted in Portland for the past couple months, I decided it was well past time for an update.

This is a good sign - digital nomad series
A sign outside a friend’s house in Austin, which makes me exceptionally happy and reminds me that life’s ups and downs are often just a matter of perspective.

Since you last heard from me (sweating my way through the Panamanian jungle), I’ve driven across the U.S. again, including a trip back to South Carolina to put my house up for sale. In short (and omitting brief overnights en route), I drove:

Madison, WI → Toronto, ON → Boston, MA → West Granby, CT → Brooklyn, NY → Greenville, SC → Austin, TX → Marfa, TX → Santa Fe, NM → Las Vegas, NV → Rancho Cucamonga, CA → Morgan Hill, CA → Portland, OR

I arrived in Portland mid-August and have been staying with family, endeavoring to start making a life here. For lots of reasons that I may write about in future, Portland is where I’ve decided to put down the metaphorical pack. Unfortunately, my house didn’t immediately sell, so I’ve remained in limbo for several more months than I’d hoped. And it’s rather tiresome, no matter how much I enjoy staying with people.

This year has been absolutely amazing, without a doubt. I gave myself the gift of incredible adventures and the luxury of visiting basically everyone I love. All of that is priceless. It’s also pushed me to learn to be much more flexible than I ever thought possible, to really lean into believing that things will work out, and to be exceptionally present for the things in front of me.

And/but. It’s tremendously disorienting to be untethered, to not live anywhere, to not have a “home” to return to after adventures. And, unsurprisingly, it’s been wearing on me. Long-term digital nomading is not for me. I’m ready to step back into “life” again. And what that means, at least in part, is to finally unpack everything.

A fair bit of my stuff has moved around with me — since I’ve been nomading by car — and that has helped immensely. Having my pillow, and a fair number of my cookbooks, and my Soda Stream soda maker has made each transition from place to place a fair bit more tolerable. But even when I’ve been staying places for several weeks, not everything gets unpacked. And that makes “living out of my suitcase” very much a reality.

There’s something deeply comforting about all of one’s stuff having its place. About knowing where to find a thing when you want to reach for it. About arranging the space around you to suit your own wants and needs.

I know that’s not true for everyone, but this year has very clearly reinforced for me how much I’m affected by my environment. This has been an intense, year-long boot camp in adaptability, and I’m grateful to have gone through it, for sure. But I’m also really, really, really looking forward to having a sock drawer again. And a place to hang my medals.

Fortunately, that end is in sight! In about a month, I’ll be moving in with some new friends here in Portland. Putting down some temporary roots while I get oriented and start looking at real estate. Fingers-crossed my house in SC sells between now and then, as I really don’t want to be paying rent and a mortgage for any extended period of time…

But last week, I decided it was time. I’m ready for the nomad chapter of my remote life to end and for the “I live in Portland” chapter to really get off the ground. And, for me, that’ll start with a sock drawer. (And a postal address. And probably a trip to Ikea and Costco, but you get the idea).



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