“What have you been up to since I saw you last?”
“Ar y’know, went out for dinner with Pete, had the washing machine fixed. We’ve got the invites done for the wedding.
How about you?”
“Went to a festival in Bilbao, met some really awesome people, met up with my brother in Barcelona for pintxos, went in the sea, went to see one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world, partied in Paris, saw the Moulin Rouge and went to the Palace of Versailles”
It depends at which stage you’re at in your life as to which is the most exciting out of those two, but you get what I’m saying, right? They’re totally different.
In two different worlds
Each time I go home I feel a little bit more detached from what my friends are doing. I’m 30. Nearly all the weddings have been and gone now, some friends have bought houses, others are planning babies while a few have already popped the little sprogs out.
It’s weird being in the middle of these two distinctly different worlds as a full time travel blogger. While my friends are loading up their two-up-two-downs with bedding from the White Company and getting excited over Dysons and Magimixes, I don’t even know where I’ll be sleeping in a week’s time. ‘Cooking’ to me is managing to scramble an egg or two in a hostel kitchen.
There have definitely been occasions when I’m unable to sleep in hostels thanks to snoring / rustling bags / talking, where I’ve questioned just what the hell I’m doing there.
At my age shouldn’t I be taking the cushions off my bed, like they do in the films, ready to settle down for the night with my beloved knowing the coffee machine alarm is set for 7am and I’ve got a lunch date with Persephone? Ok maybe a bit OTT, but you get what I mean.
A ‘digital nomad’
I’m not a full time traveller exploring Asia with just a backpack and a passport, happy to swing from Full Moon Party to $5 hostel. I still have to work as I travel so I can’t always go out on a whim like the other travellers. I could tell the guys in my San Sebastian hostel thought I was weird and boring for sitting in typing away, headphones in when they invited me out, but I’d spent 4 days at Bilbao BBK and two days partying – I was done and needed to catch up on my emails.
I need Wi-Fi, I need some comfort and I don’t want to eat noodles for every meal. My travelling is a lifestyle.
On the other hand I couldn’t stand to stay in one place in the UK either. The monotony would drive me crazy, especially after the last year I’ve had around the world. I’ve done the whole 9-5 thing and my biggest life goal is to never have to do it again.
I’m not looking down on either life. I’ve done the average 20s, and maybe one day I’ll want the average 30s, or at least a few aspects of it.
Just not a part of either
It just feels like when I go home now I’m detached from pretty much every conversation, or at least my empathetic examples are getting old. I’m not being a bitch, I like to hear my friends’ stories and conundrums, love it in fact, but I don’t have much on the topics to say back.
I don’t hate my job, I don’t have any housemates or workmates to moan about, I don’t have a wedding or a baby to plan for, or even a partner who I’m worried about. I don’t have in laws, meals to cook, a house to clean or kids to worry about. I don’t even have a car to slag off how much petrol is these days – in fact I’d have no idea how much it’s cost for the last eight years. I don’t know what was on TV last week, I haven’t watched a box set since Breaking Bad and I don’t need to be persuaded to watch Game of Thrones. I can’t fathom spending money on landscaping a garden and I won’t get excited over a kitchen appliance. I wouldn’t really notice if I got stuck in traffic and delays don’t bother me at all.
Can we just talk about where you’re going on holiday instead?
What if my friends feel detached from me?
I worry that it works the other way round too. What if my friends feel detached from me? I’m very conscious of not starting every sentence with where I was at the time or what I was doing.
“When I was on my gap yaaaarrr, in Indiaaaaaa” etc.
But y’know I do have a lot of stories from my gap year in India (the three weeks I spent there). The trouble is friends can talk about ‘Amy’ and I have context because I know her, I have to give a bit of a background if I talk about someone: ‘Jess from Guernsey who I met in the Philippines’. Like that.
I really don’t want to sound like a traveller douchebag, but I worry that’s the way I’m heading.
Lives are all about places and people, mine are just a little more far fetched than others. See, I even sound like a traveller douchebag saying that.
“Don’t you ever get lonely?”
I get asked this all the time and I can honestly say, no. Obviously I am alone, not in a sad way, in a factual way, but I’m not ‘lonely’. From recent conversations with different friends I’d actually say that whether you’re alone or not has no bearing on whether you’re ‘lonely’. People I know in marriages, relationships or fabulous Facebook lives sound a lot more lonely in reality than I feel travelling by myself.
‘Loneliness’ and feeling detached are two very different things. This isn’t what I mean.
I’ll admit I am sometimes envious of couples who travel and work together, who always have a partner. It would be nice to share all these amazing places with someone, and I hope it will happen some day. It would be great to meet a worthy (super beaut, ridiculously funny) guy with a similar life outlook to me. We could travel the world and have little nomad babies who’d traversed our favourite spots before they could say “BabyFlipFlop”.
But we’ll see, thats a long way off.
I work quite a bit, sometimes, so I know that if I travelled with a non blogger / non nomad, I’d be annoying in how tied I was to my laptop anyway, and I’ve kind of gotten used to not justifying myself to anyone.
Finding ‘my people’
– All photos by Or Kaplan from when I was at the Mizpe Spa in Israel
I’ve slipped between worlds, like Matthew McConaughey on Interstellar (see, I can talk films… and music sometimes too).
Some of my closest friends are travel bloggers, but nearly all have a home base, others are teachers, project managers, buyers and journalists too. They’re all my kind of people, but I’ve signed up to a nomad conference this weekend in Berlin to find my kind of people who have my kind of life too.
I’ve been to a few travel blogger conferences now – Blogstock, TBEX, TBU – now’s the time to hear how all the other nomads in the world are making a living. The more you delve into this world– people who’re making a living on their own times – the more you realise it’s this whole underground movement and the digital nomads are everywhere.
I thought I would’ve met more on my travels, but I guess they’re all hiding in Wi-Fi cafes somewhere, working on their start ups. This weekend I’m going to get in the thick of it with over 300 others. From what I’ve seen in the Facebook group for it I’m going to be meeting a whole load of inspirational, passionate and interesting entrepreneurs. Who knows what could happen…
How would you feel about travelling solo as a digital nomad?
Friday 7th of August 2015
I had no idea you were 30! This makes me feel so much better, I'm turning 30 next year and desperately want to do some proper solo traveling but worry that I am too old for that lifestyle & I should be settling down rather than uprooting my life. Thank you! x
Sunday 9th of August 2015
Ha yeah, not long till 31 now (October) – getting on a bit :) I kind of thought that too, when I started, but honestly, I've met so many people my age and older on the road I really don't think you need to worry about it. I actually wrote a post on this for gapyear.com, take a look: https://www.gapyear.com/articles/253972/how-to-take-a-gap-year-when-youre-30
Tuesday 4th of August 2015
I can so relate to this post! Why is it okay for 'normal' people to start every sentence with, my sprogs are... or our house is... but us 'nomads' have to hold their tongue from starting every sentence with, oh that one time when I was in... or have you ever been to... - okay little rant over ;) So thanks for sharing, it's nice to know I'm not the only one who feels like this.
Thursday 6th of August 2015
Ha, jealousy probably!
Monday 3rd of August 2015
Interesting and honest post! I worked abroad for Thomson for five years in my twenties - doing everything from organising weddings in the Caribbean to cruising the Nile. Fantastic days that can't compare to office life but as you get older the desire for financial security seems to win out.
Monday 3rd of August 2015
Wow, that sounds like an interesting job! Yeah I think there's a time in your life that doing all this travelling is really fun, but just like anything, too much of a good thing can be... too much.
Sunday 2nd of August 2015
I'm very interested to hear what you thought of the conference; it looked a bit pricey, so I had to pass on it this time!
Nice post and yeah, even as an expat this rings true. Although I'm so far not on the road - keeping a base in Berlin - I'm thinking about this a lot as I'll be doing my first proper nomad test trip in September. I'm interested in the possibility of trying to get the best of both worlds, so subletting my room/apartment while travelling and working and then coming back, grounding in 'normal' things and reconnecting with friends for a while before heading off again. But I guess that kind of arrangement could be a problem if you're continually needing fresh blog content, though...
Monday 3rd of August 2015
Hey Joe, I've got a full review going up on Wednesday so I'll let you know when it's live. What you've described is exactly what I want to do. I think you can definitely mix the two lives – I've met plenty of people this weekend who were doing it! I think you can get content from where you are, if you're somewhere like Berlin or London. I've got a whole backlog of articles I want to write from this year of travelling so I think I'll be alright!
Friday 31st of July 2015
Great post, it made me think a lot. I haven't tried solo travel yet, but the "digital nomad" lifestyle has always intrigued me. I've always veered away from the 9-5 lifestyle rut (as much as is possible), and know how that sets you apart from the "norm." Travel in general does. But it shouldn't completely disconnect a person from friends...
Monday 3rd of August 2015
Definitely not. I think I need to go back for a bit, just to recharge my batteries. I will always live the digital nomad lifestyle but it doesn't mean I have to travel as insanely as I have. I think I got too drunk on the freedom and booked myself into a crazy schedule!