I haven’t gone out of my friend’s home, where I sit and write here in Bangalore, for three days, apart from a small walk that I did to the grocery store because I wanted to eat something better than lifeless noodles with invisible vegetables. Ironically, today I am writing about 100 days of my nomadic life.
I thought that being nomadic means staying on the road 24×7, and maybe, you feel that way, too. I will get to that, but first, let us go back in time to understand how my digital nomad journey started.
I chose this life for I wanted to be location independent. I wanted to be able to travel whenever I yearned to see a new place or live in a jungle where I could only hear the crickets whistle and the leaves rustle instead of the incessant blasting traffic of Bangalore or any other metropolitan. But having a rented apartment was sort of becoming a hindrance to free movement and adding up costs without adding any value, apart from providing me with a quiet writing space with a balcony.
I thought I better spend the money which I paid for the apartment where people shut doors on each other as if they were enemies on gorgeous Airbnb’s or friendly home stays or rustic hotels in the hidden corners of the world. At least I would explore, meet interesting people and have some meaningful conversations, and live life at my own pace.
So I gave up my room in the Bangalore flat and packed my bags to wander freely while working online. The whole idea was to move slowly; I have never found any joy in visiting a place for a weekend or two days and then leaving it, while I didn’t even know what lay in my backyard though I saw all the famous attractions of that destination. And while exploring the world one place at a time, I could afford the lifestyle of a digital nomad because of my writing portfolio.
But I have come to realize that not having a permanent location is not about traveling all the time. It is about moving with a choice.
This nomadic life has put up all sorts of choices in front of me and let me be honest with how I feel about them.
Also Read: Going Nomadic.
Things of Nomadic Life I Have Enjoyed The Most
1. Slow Travel
When I reached Maria’s homestay at the banks of the Kinabatangan river in Borneo island, and I saw how gorgeous her home was and how elephants and orangutans roamed around freely near her place, I couldn’t help but crave to stay with her for more than two days, the time I had booked for. I ended up staying for one extra day and postponed my next booking.
Being able to choose the places I want to visit and the duration of my stay on the go relaxes me, and I don’t have to worry about planning too much or booking places beforehand — a luxury that only slow travel allows you.
During my corporate life, I never understood why I had to limit my road trip from Bangalore to Coorg to two days when I hadn’t even walked around in its pastures. To leave the molten sun setting behind the beautiful mountains to go back to the pollution of the chaotic Bangalore to earn heaps of money that I didn’t need felt stupid.
So now when I go to a new place, I stay there for a few days, walk around and soak in the energy of the area, talk to the people around, explore it during the day, go back and eat while watching the sunset, and write about the experience or doze off while reading a book.
You know, living more and traveling less, in locations known and unknown.
Also Read: Why I Travel & live as a digital nomad
2. Having something to do when I want a break from traveling
I traveled in Malaysia and Indonesia each for a month, solo. And when you travel for that long, you get tired of eating out, walking tens of kilometers every day, finding a new home now and then, figuring out roads and addresses in a new place, talking to people, taking notes and clicking pictures, and soaking in the experience.
That is when I want to slow down or just relax in my room’s balcony or in the homestay’s courtyard while reading a book in the hammock or while sending articles and publishing blog posts. Or if I land in a big city or the one which I have already seen before, I take out my pen and paper to streamline some thoughts or get busy tweeting.
This location-independent work doesn’t feel like a burden because it allows me to travel without taking any boss’s approval to live my life.
So while some travelers get bored in the evenings or tried finding some company or drank incessantly every day, I worked to earn money that lets me travel and write.
Of course, I am not complaining about the days when I was one of those travelers.
Also Read: Tips for New Bloggers : From two years of blogging
3. Just living while traveling (life of a digital nomad)
After watching a Balinese depiction of Ramayana in a fire dance on a Sunday evening, I rushed to a cafe, where I had eaten lunch, to take a call with a new client. My earphones didn’t work, I shouted into the speaker of my Mac, and while traffic bustled under the cafe, the client decided to go ahead with me.
When he told me to start working on the articles, I was in a thick jungle, hoping to stay away from connectivity. But the pieces had to be done so I got up early in the morning, hopped onto the jeep shuttle that took me from my nomadic tent in the middle of the jungle to the village, made calls with coffee and breakfast, then hiked in the forest, and went back to the village to eat fish curry and rice, and then worked again.
Neither did I miss a phone call nor a deadline.
Many fellow travelers with whom I hiked asked me that was it hard to work from millions of years old tropical rainforest? Working on the go was challenging. But I enjoyed the thrill of taking calls from the jungle, then hiking to be soaking wet in sweat, talking to strangers from around the world, and then rushing back to finish a piece. And when I called it a day, I got to sleep in a tent while listening to the river gurgle by under a starry night.
I want my travels and life to be a part of each other and not segregated. In fact, I want my whole life to be a journey through the world. So how can I complain now when I have finally started walking on that path?
Also Read: Maybe the answer to your problems is starting over
4. Writing on the go
While watching the orange mountain squirrels play and jump on each other, I wrote a heavily technical article within two days. Laying in the hammock and listening to the hornbills on the Borneo island, I framed a beautiful outline of my jungle trip. And these creative writing waves hit me more than once.
When I am in nature, writing comes more easily to me as compared to when I am in a city. I watch the dancing trees and the gushing river and the chirping birds and write with a smile on my face.
I am even more productive as I know I can only go out and explore when I have finished writing what I started.
This nomadic life suits the writer inside.
Also Read: 27 Writing tips for beginner writers
5. Exploring the places by walking
I have realized that my preferred commute is walking. Not because we met an accident while I was driving a scooter on an island near Bali, but because while walking I can stop more freely and take my time to enjoy a scene. I can run behind the fluttering butterflies or listen to mooing cows or watch the dew hang off the curves of a beautiful leaf or just click a picture of two dogs with two langurs sitting overhead on roofs because I happened to go in some tiny street.
Nothing can beat my love for walking, and I think the credit goes to my father. For he took me to walk with him ever since I was a little girl and together we explored the bazaars and vegetable markets of my hometown.
When I travel slow, I have all the time to walk as much as I want.
Also Read: Highlights of My South-American Adventure – 9 months & 3 countries.
Life of a Nomad: Things I Have Struggled With
1. Choosing between exploring or doing nothing and working
My phone buzzed as I was about to start reading the Dhamma book, which I had taken for free from a Buddhist temple in Sandakan, Borneo. The client to whom I had submitted an article two weeks ago had sent an email saying he wanted to have a call and discuss some details. Though as he hadn’t replied for two weeks, I had assumed that he was okay with the article, and I considered it close and planned accordingly.
I sighed. After spending hectic writing and editing days to complete the two pieces that I sent to this client, I was looking forward to relaxing in a hammock, reading books, and chasing some wildlife.
I got disturbed by the email, then I thought I didn’t have to coordinate immediately, and I replied saying that I would talk to him in a couple of days. I called him in a few days when I went back from that jungle to more of a city scene.
But when I first postponed the meeting, I wondered if I was reckless or unprofessional. After all, I have to work “on the go” to be “on the go.” Though it doesn’t mean that I have to work 24×7.
Coming from a corporate background where I slogged away Monday to Friday and being a workaholic and an ambitious person, I can’t stay away from work for long. Especially when my work is now writing which feels more like lifestyle and less like a task.
Sometimes I find it difficult to not finish a client’s draft and instead sit by the beach, watch the waves roll by, and read or enjoy a TV series. Or I find it challenging just to relax and talk to other travelers at the end of the day while I also want to publish a blog post.
But catching up on emails and marketing also becomes tough when I sip tea in the river-front balcony of a homestay while watching the sun disappear under the water. Everything else loses meaning in front of the orange hues that carelessly spread on the blue sky.
I am still new at the art of this digital nomad’s lifestyle, but with each day, I am getting better. So when in the national park of Kota Kinabalu I couldn’t get a stable internet connection, I instead drank wine and played cards with my German friends. And when I caught up on that work in the efficient Kuala Lumpur, I didn’t miss walking around. When I was traveling in Penang, I decided to stay at least for a week so that I could work and also eat the famous Laksa and cendol as many times as I wanted.
I am trying to find the right balance between my work and exploring and doing nothing to enjoy my nomadic life.
Also Read: Learn The Art of Learning – with Josh Waitzkin.
While learning the tricks and traits of nomadic life, I have not been able to keep up with reading.
The day goes by in roaming around, writing, taking pictures, coordinating and meeting client’s deadlines, publishing blog posts, talking back home and with my partner, understanding new cultures and languages, and so much more.
Though I have read books on and off, I couldn’t read every day before going to bed, as I did before. So for the year 2019, I have decided to pair up with a reading accountability partner, and we will discuss the books we read while encouraging each other to meet our reading goals.
Also Read: How to make a daily schedule – To live and work better
3. Loneliness While Writing
Writing is a lonely affair. Even more so when your partner is back home coding exciting software, while you are writing in your mountain-view hotel room, which is empty except for a Chinese man who asks you the internet password by gesturing peculiarly.
Not everyone would like this lifestyle. But when I accepted that I wanted to be a writer, I told myself that I will have to spend a lot of time, alone, trying to make sense out of my thoughts, while no one might appreciate my work.
Having said that, I had moments when I thought that why was I writing alone and not sitting by the gorgeous dock staring into nothingness, which is what I did the next day.
Like everything else, writing also has its own battles that I need to win every day.
Also Read: How to write every day even though writing is hard
4. Accepting it will take some time to earn a stable income
I have to accept the instability of this lifestyle patiently.
It has been two and a half years since I quit my job and traveled to South America, then came back to live in Bangalore, set up this blog and practiced writing while wandering within India, and then started living a nomadic life.
While traveling, I stay in budget hotels and hostels or home stays, eat at local places, and keep my expenses low. I make sure to only spend less or as much as I would pay if I were living a stable life in an apartment.
But everything still costs.
Meanwhile, I have had a hard time trying to make regular money with freelance writing. I am establishing my feet in this career, and my clients and work aren’t fixed yet. Some months I have no-one to write for, while the others I have to reject new clients for the work on my plate is heavy and would fetch me enough money.
Though I reach out to as many people as I can to get writing contracts, sometimes nothing works out because people don’t want to pay writers even though they expect good quality writing, especially in India.
I am still in the process of absorbing all of this with a pinch of salt while telling myself that the beginning is the most challenging. So if I can get through now, I have made it.
Also Read: 30 Life Lessons from my 20’s
All of this sounds like a hell of a ride.
Do I break down or get scared?
More often than you think.
Being born and raised up in a small-town home in India, a country which believes in working hard all lifetime and saving money for retirement, I feel like a criminal when I take off for a few days and just travel and live. Sometimes while working and staring at my computer screen, I ask myself — what is wrong in living life at my own pace and staying happy with a minimal lifestyle?
Sometimes payments don’t show up when they were supposed to, and other times I lose complete articles for the internet disconnected, and the automatic draft saving functionality didn’t work. Some days I miss punctuations in the story I submitted, and some days I get accolades for best writing. While a Tsunami hits Indonesia and a plane crashes in the ocean killing everyone aboard, my mother questions my nomadic lifestyle, and I am scared to board the flight to my next destination.
The inner and outer struggles swing me on emotional roller-coasters throughout.
Also Read: Let Your Life Flow Freely – She Knows Her Course Better than You Do.
Will I keep going on?
Instead of staying in a stable job, sitting at a computer to do something I felt no meaning in, finding a husband and marrying by a certain age, buying a home and live in it for the rest of my life while my heart craved to go out, earning as much money as I could even though I would have been unhappy and disinterested, giving up my dreams at an early age just because it all seemed too hard — I have broken the society norms to do what I feel passionate about. And I am high on life now more than ever.
I do lose my breath a lot of times, but I never stop walking.
Also Read: Relearn the most important principles of life – Adaptations of the ideas of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
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And yeah, this break to write and publish incessantly would soon give way to traveling around India.
That is what nomadic life means to me. What does it mean to you?
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