When you see a fork in the road, take it (Yogi Bera)
Travel has always been a passion of mine. Therefore it felt relatively easy to slip into life as a nomad; even if it was quite by accident. In the winter of 2019, my husband and I began the process of relocating to New York City. For nine years, London had been our home. With heavy hearts, we terminated our tenancy for our cosy flat in London. We bade goodbye to our friends. We felt ready to move on. Then a pandemic turned the world upside down.
Without an official home, we moved in with my family. Since the spring of 2020, I’ve moved around the UK indefinitely, including going back to London for a brief stint. A few months into 2021, the NYC relocation process began again. It was an ever-evolving process due to the current affairs of the world. In this strange interim, I’ve embraced a nomadic lifestyle bouncing between different locations.
The result has been a fabulous journey of emotions with extreme highs and lows. Despite my end goal being to settle in New York, I enjoyed living the nomadic life. I’ve learnt many lessons which I will try to integrate into my future life. There’s so much of the world to see. I do love getting to see some of it.
1. Only bring the essentials
It sounds easier than it is in practice. However, relinquishing certain items can be tasking. As someone who enjoys bathroom luxuries, it was impossible to place everything into a small toiletry bag. The more I travelled, the more items I was able to shed from the luggage. Suddenly, argan oil didn’t seem so essential. Neither does multiple shirts that get wrinkled up each time I pack for a new destination. Planning ahead can help you visualise what you need to bring and what can be put in storage.
Depending on where you travel and the length of time you stay at said destination, you might end up without seasonally appropriate clothing. It’s hard to choose which clothes to bring when you only have two bags. For example, I’ve lived out of two suitcases for the past few months, and in that time, half my clothes have become useless. When I’d packed my luggage, it was the height of spring. As we enter autumn, I realise my winter clothes remain in storage, and all I have on me is shorts and summer tops. This Segways into my second point.
2. Planning is essential because you will become tired.
Always have accommodation and transportation planned several weeks ahead. I cannot stress enough how important organisation is. I once left finding accommodation to the last minute and ended up struggling to find anywhere affordable for several days. During the pandemic, hotel and holiday rental prices have skyrocketed making spontaneity impossible. If you plan you avoid hefty prices and stressful headaches. Of course, not everything will map out the way you envisioned, so it helps to have done some research to avoid disappointment later. Transport delays will happen and something will invariably go wrong. You may envision things being more fun or easier than reality. For example, I spent over a month, moving between different locations on weekly basis. Whilst this was fun it was also exhausting. I now try to settle in one location for a few weeks where feasible. Remember that you’ll need at least one weekend to recover between trips, especially if you work during the week.
In the past year, I was fortunate to spend time out of the country. However, due to the current pandemic, most of my travels have been within the UK. International travel requires obscene amounts of paperwork and COVID-19 tests that mount up in price quickly. The sheer amount of organisation it takes is daunting and stressful. During customs or at the borders feels increasingly more like integrations. The result is worth while but be prepared for emotional strain. Things may be easier for me now as I finally have a vaccine passport. Ironically, I’ve become most exhausted darting between locations in the UK. For one month, I was in a new town/city every week. Between working and driving it becomes mentally and physically draining.
3. Materialistic urges vanish
Regardless, how little or how much you spend, there will be a dramatic shift in how you spend money. Suddenly, looking at cute souvenirs becomes redundant, and shopping centres seem useless. It doesn’t mean you won’t find ways to spend your cash. Expenses will tend to syphon into experiences, food or transport.
As someone who previously thought of themselves as disengaged with shopping, I was amazed how attached I’d become to my books, memorabilia and souvenirs. Packing up half my items for storage and placing the rest into charity shops was surprisingly draining. However, there soon came a sense of newfound freedom. A weight lifted from me as the desire to have such luxuries lessened. I now have a healthier relationship with materialistic items.
4. Try to spend time independently (if traveling with friends or spouse)
No matter how much you worship your spouse or have an unbreakable friendship spending too much time together is unhealthy. I spent two months in a country where only my husband spoke the native language fluently. As a result, I was constantly following him around, unable to have any shred of independence. It caused a real strain relying solely on my spouse as a form of communication. To elevate the stress, I took lessons in the language.
Whilst travelling in the UK we encountered other difficulties. For example, when sharing the same workspace in a tiny hotel room. My husband and I both became irritable with each other when we lacked separate space. Trying to work simultaneously and travel is tiring. Without our friends and family to break up our time, menial habits became annoying. If this sounds familiar, then try to go out independently where possible. For example, I joined groups on Meetup to go hiking. Take some time to yourself to allow you both to have breathing space. It pays off later.
5. Everyday is new and exciting
Ultimately, life as a nomad is fun. There’s the people you meet and the wonderful experiences you gain. It makes all the long car drives and uncertainty of accommodation worthwhile, I promise. I’m grateful for the many beautiful landmarks, cultures and food I’ve been able to see this past year.
I would highly recommend anyone to live the nomadic life at one point in their life; if given the opportunity. As I write this, I’m sat in a new city already absorbed by the architecture and regional accents. I hardly have time to reminisce on the last town but, they’ll be plenty of time for it when I eventually settle down. Whilst it is not a permanent lifestyle for me, I have loved every moment.