In 2011 I graduated from college, by that point I’d studied abroad three times. First, I went to Cuernavaca, Mexico for a three week winter intensive Spanish immersion program. Then I did a semester in Limerick, Ireland. And finally, I finished my college degree with a semester in Meknes, Morocco. Staying in one place didn’t make sense to me when the world was just so damn big and full of places to explore. And when I graduated college, I felt no differently. I was not looking to close on a house, or put a ring on my finger, or get preggers. I wasn’t even looking to land some career launching job or fly straight into grad school. The world is what made sense to me, so I left my country again and moved back to Ireland.
I’ve written about my time in Ireland on a working holiday visa. I spent just shy of a year there, moving around and doing all sorts of stuff. I rode horses and taught lessons, cleaned beds in a hostel and drank beer there too. And I traveled around, a lot.
That’s been my lifestyle. While I’ve never been digital, I am what has come to be known as a ‘nomad.’ Here’s what the last decade of my life has looked like:
- 2008: Study abroad in Mexico
- 2010: Study abroad in Ireland
- 2011: Study abroad in Morocco
- 2012: Working holiday in Ireland
- 2013: CELTA in Montreal
- 2013-14: Teach ESL in Vietnam
- 2015: Working holiday in Australia
- 2016-17: Teach ESL in Prague
- 2018: Teach ESL in NYC and LA
- 2019: Move to England for grad school
And I have traveled extensively throughout all of it.
I haven’t lived in the same apartment for more than 10 months since I graduated from college. I don’t have dogs or cats or other pets, though I love animals dearly. I see my friends when I am in town or on the off chance they come to visit, and I’ve written about what those nomadic friendships are like to keep alive. I don’t have the circle of friends that people who have lived in one place their entire lives do. I don’t own furniture, or sheets. I definitely don’t own a car.
But instead, I have hard drives full of photos and a brain full of memories. I have couches, floors, spare rooms, and a glass of wine waiting for me in every damn corner of this globe. I have Skype calls at odd hours and WhatsApp notifications from friends in Australia waiting for me when I wake up. And I have the art of falling asleep on a plane down pat. I have stories for days of the places I’ve been, the things I’ve done, and the people I’ve met. I have a bag full of ear plugs always ready to fly, and I have a passport overflowing and worn out.
It is a tradeoff, it is a tradeoff I have made and I do not for a second regret, it has always been the life I’ve wanted. The stability has never been necessary for me. I’ve never wished I had my own leather seated SUV or a bedroom with a flat screen TV. But that doesn’t mean you have to say no to those things and yes to things I have. Because this life is not a one size fits all type of deal.
And yet, the nomadic lifestyle is trending. It’s trending like pumpkin spice lattes in September. Left and right people are “selling everything they’ve got” and uprooting themselves. These are people who had roots to uproot in the first place. They are quitting their “six figure jobs” and buying one way plane tickets to hang out with all the other nomads in Bali.
I’ve never been cool, and I’m not about to start now.
It irks me that my lifestyle has become the trend, that everyone and anyone is now a nomad. Because this is a lifestyle. It is not a throw away, do at the drop of the hat, type of deal.
When you quit that six-figure job and sell all your shit, when you leave your beloved puppy with your mom, and cancel the lease on your leather seated SUV, it’s not all going to be waiting for you when you realize you can’t quite cut it without your very own goose down mattress.
And it’s o.k. if you can’t. If you want that circle of friends, or hell, need, that circle of friends to thrive like a mosquito in a swamp, you do you. Don’t let any stranger on Instagram or sponsored ad on Facebook tell you what you ought to be doing. Think it through, and remember all the things that were once trendy that you now regret having done. But know that quitting your six figure job is not as reversible a decision as once wearing acid wash denim. You can burn that polaroid and all will be forgotten.
My lifestyle is not a trend. It is a choice, and it is a commitment, and it is not for everyone. And it does not have to be for you.
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