12 Life Lessons From 12 Months Of Travel As A Digital Nomad
I've been in Sydney for about a month now and I knew this feeling would come up again; it always does. I’ve measured this before, it takes approximately three weeks for this feeling to come to surface. My feet are itching, I need to pack my bags and go somewhere… anywhere.
Novelist Robert Louis Stevenson once said “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.” And it’s exactly that - the move, the change, the variety. That’s what I’ve fallen in love with. Because it’s not approaching travel in a holiday sense anymore. It’s much larger than that. Just when I thought my experiment was done and I would take my things out of storage to move somewhere permanently, things have changed and I'm planning the next adventure(s).
Here are 12 life lessons from my time of 12 months on the road as a digital nomad. Some obvious, others often overlooked, all worth sharing nonetheless.
12. Things are just that, things.
There is nothing wrong with purchasing beautiful things, style is our expression of self without having to speak. However, it's the problem of over consumption, leading to an overfilled house or apartment. Things alone don’t make you happy. Things don’t define you. Things are just that - things. We can truly, genuinely be happy living minimally. Well, I know I can. Adventures fill up the soul. There have been times when I would like to buy that really nice couch, but a really nice couch over a plane ticket and new experiences? My heart gravitates towards the latter.
11. Sometimes it's easier and cheaper to live in a different destination for 2-3 months than your hometown.
This is a slower kind of travel. One that I am a big fan of and one how digital nomads normally live. It allows you live like a local, even if it’s just for a couple of months. Instead of just hitting the ‘must-see’ spots and meeting other travellers it gives you a different perspective, one where you meet with the locals, speak the language, get to know the destination in a different way and actually form a bit of a routine. When calculating costs, there’s been a handful of places that turned out to be cheaper than living in my St Kilda apartment in Melbourne.
10. Relationships come and go on the road.
I’ve met a lot of people on the road, a few I can count as deep genuine friendships, and being a single female, yes, this also includes relationships with individuals of the opposite sex. But the nature of travel doesn’t always lend itself to long-term romantic relationships. Everyone is moving in different directions, holidays end, plans change and it’s hard to make something last when you’ve got your own agenda. If you get too attached too often, you’ll only end up with heartache and feeling empty. Just enjoy your time together, most importantly, know your values and act accordingly. Be completely, wholly, present. As cliche as it sounds: live in the moment. There is really no point worrying about the future or comparing the past, because all we have is right now. The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. Embrace change, learn to love solitude because I swear it’s one of the best feelings in the world. People come into your life for a reason, be open to accepting this because there’s always something to learn from someone. Fall in love with the motion of life - everything is how it’s meant to be. To put it simply in español: Que sera, sera.
9. It’s the things that drive us insane that keep us sane.
I’m absolutely crazy about what travel offers to us in the sense of self development and personal growth. This kind of holistic approach to travel that explores not only a way to see and learn more about our world but also to see and learn more about ourselves. This is why I’m so passionate in encouraging why all women should travel solo at least once in their life. When I explore more about this side of the topic as opposed to how travel is constantly being delivered in pretty pictures and getting the perfect shot, I feel a sense of purpose to help others also realise this amazing thing that travel does to you. It’s our insanity for things like this that can change the world - even if it’s just a change in one persons life for the better. Hold onto your passions unapologetically, these are the things that keep you going. These things that drive us insane keep us sane.
“This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”― Alan W. Watts
8. The real world is a solid education.
I always wondered about children growing up with just theory. I mentioned previously that I have learnt from a very young age that when you are thrown in the deep end in situations, you have two options: to sink or swim. My time on the road has been a constant of highs and lows, and a crazy amount of realisations, learnings and experiences. You will learn so much out in the real world, things of which you will never get to in a classroom. Experience is the most brutal of teachers. This real world education is definitely a solid form of education. Just be open to learning, everyday.
7. Taking time to live life will only inspire your work.
When you have no one to push and motivate you while working on the road, we can constantly be stuck in this dilemma of always being ‘busy’, when calling ourselves busy all the time doesn’t actually mean we’re being productive. I’ve tried many productivity hacks because when you are your own boss, I feel that the hardest thing is self-motivation. Trying to hard to focus when you’re in a creative block doesn’t really work. Just like leaving room to wander when planning a holiday trip. Leave a little room for life to happen. Taking time out to live life only inspires your work. Stop being so serious and remember never to try so hard making a living that you forget to make a life. Get out and do something, ideas will naturally flow.
6. Sometimes it just takes a simple change of scenario to be inspired again.
Following from the above and on the topic of creative blocks, once you get a taste of this it’s hard to go back to staying in one place for long - too long. A simple change is sometimes all you need to be inspired again. This doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘holiday’ per say. It’s about variety, new perspectives, different scenarios, change. This simple change of scenario inspires and awakens the brain to new things; new ideas. One that makes working on the road while travelling come along with endless possibilities and fleeting moments of ‘aha!’ bliss.
5. It’s okay to not record everything.
These days we have some sort of warped reality with the online world. Sayings like “pic or it didn’t happen” are often thrown around and more photos are taken than words are written down. With the rapid rise in popularity of blogging, vlogging and instagram careers, most of us are - majority of the time - living behind screens. With the online world at the core of what I do for a living it’s inevitable to want to always capture and share. The beginning of the year started with a 10 day silent meditation course. This first-of-its-kind welcome to the new year for me held the underlying message of being present, because as mentioned in #3 all we really have is now, which I’m a firm believer in. Being present sans camera is okay. Keeping memories to yourself is okay.
"All of your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them."― Walt Disney
4. When we become comfortable with being uncomfortable we allow ourselves to grow.
Out of the comfort zone and into the world of uncertainty. This is where the sparks fly, where the magic happens. Not magic in the mystical kind of sense but the ordinary kind of magic that exists and can happen to any of us if we open our mind to it, open our hearts to it.
3. Intuition is some kind of superpower.
Don’t underestimate it. Feel it. Follow it.
2. This kind of lifestyle isn’t for everyone.
Working and travelling on the road isn’t better nor is it worse than anyone else, it’s simply a lifestyle choice that we need to understand isn’t for everyone. There are people out there who are happy to work full time and take annual leave as holiday time. There’s nothing wrong with this. It all comes down to what we’re all individually happy in pursuing. It will be difficult to explain to loved ones this kind of lifestyle choice and hard to find people who just get it but there are people out there who you will find with the same mindset about this way of unconventional living; who will see travel how you see it and be nothing less than supportive. Appreciate the people that do, or who take the time to try and understand it and how challenging (in good ways) it actually is. Seek to surround yourself with these people.
1. You create your own reality.
So why not live it doing what you truly believe in? The sun rises each day as an invitation to live. Create moments you’re glad to say you’ve experienced, challenges you’re proud to say you’ve accomplished; a life you’re happy to say you’ve lived. I’m not too sure what it is you’re waiting for...