So, I originally wrote a long-winded intro to this post while on my flight from Sydney to Manila. Then I devoured Mark Mansons’s new book The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck and decided it was way too whiny and that I should give less f*cks than I let on in it. Buh-bye intro! (Also, you should seriously read this book – it’s a life changer!)
So instead I’ll just start with: I’m tired of being a digital nomad and am ready to start committing to things in my life and HERE’S WHY.
No, Ryan Gosling isn’t why! ;)
My Life as a Digital Nomad
First, a note on what being a digital nomad means, and what it looks like for me:
Basically, digital nomads work remotely and online. All they need is a laptop and wifi connection and in theory they can work from anywhere in the world. In the past 9 months, I’ve done Salesforce consulting work while poolside in Bali, composed blog posts from tropical islands all over Southeast Asia, and optimized websites from mountain lodges in New Zealand. While that’s all been pretty glorious, it’s certainly not without its drawbacks (namely: unreliable internet and less effective work time).
And in-between these travel stints, I’ve been “living” in Australia. Can I really say that I live here, though, when I have no permanent address? I’ve spent the last 21 months hopping from house sit to Airbnb to short domestic trip to international trip (i.e. visa run). I’ve been living out of a gigantic suitcase that’s been, literally and figuratively, a huge burden. I get so stressed every time I have to move house or leave the country because I have to re-pack my bags, find a place to store them if I’m leaving town, and figure out how to transport them from A to B. THIS IS NOT A FUN TIME.
But Lindsay, why don’t you just rent an apartment and stay put for awhile?, you might be wondering. Two reasons: 1. Living nomadically has saved me SO MUCH MONEY (house sitting and not having to furnish an apartment will do that), and 2. I can only stay in Australia 3 months at a time on the tourist visa and I don’t feel comfortable committing to permanent housing when I’m so unsure about my future in this country.
Why Being a Nomad Isn’t Working For Me
The thing about being constantly on the go is that it leaves no room for routine and continuity. I’ve come to accept that I actually DO like having some kind of routine in my life, whether it’s a go-to cafe, a morning ritual, or regular hangouts with friends. My heart breaks a little bit whenever I have to say goodbye to a gym or yoga studio i loved, or have a really fun date with someone knowing I’ll probably never see them again. When I find something that brings me joy, I always want to hold onto it.
But when you’re a nomad, nothing is really “yours” to hold onto. I can’t sit still long enough to do things like grab coffee from MY local coffee shop, ride MY bike, or hang with MY partner and MY friends at MY apartment. I do enjoy the freedom I have with my current lifestyle, but I want to be able to enjoy these things too.
The worst part is that I think it’s messing with my head. I go into all these situations knowing they can only be temporary, and as a result I’m not always able to be fully present and just enjoy the moment for what it is: fleeting happiness. I meet new people, and seek out new meetup groups, but then I convince myself that they’re not worth pursuing because, oh wait, I have to leave town yet again and when I get back we’ll have forgotten about each other slash lost momentum, so what’s the point. (This has been the norm for me here, it’s not just me being pessimistic… but I’m sure the negative mindset helps at least a little to perpetuate the cycle)
I actually talked myself out of going to a Couchsurfing BBQ on Bondi Beach recently, which was something I initially was super stoked about (‘cause you know, beach and burgers and being outdoors). Want to know what my reasoning was? That I was leaving in a week for a month in the Philippines, and then after that I’d probably only have a couple weeks of time in Sydney before returning to Melbourne and flying back to the US in December, so clearly it’s not worth befriending a bunch of people who I probably won’t keep in touch with while I’m away. Terrible, right?
I know there’s value in meeting new people and having fun experiences with them even if just for one day (isn’t that what we do when we travel?), but I’m so over it at this point. Surface level interactions aren’t my jam anyway, but after almost nothing but that for nearly two years? I need more. I need a few good friends who I can hang out with and talk to on a regular basis. I need a home base.
What I Want Now
I think what bothers me most about my digital nomad lifestyle is that it kind of goes against a really important value of mine, which is quality over quantity (and depth over breadth). Here I am working on all sorts of random jobs rather than specializing in one skill, dating multiple guys that I rarely see again after the first meeting, flitting from house to house or city to city rather than putting down roots in one place. It’s exhausting. I’d like to think I’d be able to commit when the time is right and that I’m not a complete commitment-phobe (the jury’s still out on this one).
My first matter of business: committing to a new home! I am SO READY to commit to Sydney. I know at one point I claimed San Francisco was my soul city, but NOPE, it’s unequivocally Sydney. Sydney is where I’ve been the happiest in my life; it’s where I’ve accomplished the most self-development. There’s no denying that Sydney’s my happy place, and it’s where I want to be. Unfortunately it looks like I’m going to have to fight for her in the form of a long-drawn visa process in which this country decides whether or not I can make it my new home. Fingers crossed that it won’t be unrequited love! I don’t want to count my eggs before they’ve hatched, buuuuuut I could definitely see myself based in Sydney full time with a room that I rent out during winter while I flee to warmer pastures, or put on Airbnb when I take shorter trips. Make no mistake: I don’t want to stop traveling, nor give up the ability to work remotely – I just want to have a place to come home to afterwards.
As for committing to a person or a career, well, I’m unwilling to settle for anything that makes me feel less than f*cking fantastic about every single day I spend with them. Yeah, I know there are inevitably bad days thrown in there too (be it fights with your partner or stress at work), but despite them at the end of the day I want to be content with my decision to commit, not unsure or regretful about it. So until I find said person or job, I’ll continue to date around and freelance. Having a home base should theoretically make these searches easier, but I also suspect that some more introspection and self-development is needed on my end. I’m working on all of the above!