Google “What happens when you stop travelling?” and you’ll find numerous posts about fellow digital nomads and location independent folk who’ve enjoyed the live and work from anywhere lifestyle for a few years and then settled back home, with all the adjustments that that requires.
It’s almost inevitable and I’m always curious what folk get up to when they stop travelling since their blog posts dry up as their lives seemingly become more settled and – according to them – less interesting.
I know that we kept on living the nomadic lifestyle for at least a year more than I really wanted to because I was afraid of what others would think. But what actually happened when we stopped travelling turned out to be infinitely more interesting than when we were…
Settling back into Dullsville…
When you’ve built up a business/community/audience around your travelling nomadic lifestyle, it’s scary to consider stopping – will you be going back to a dull-as-dishwater life, confined to taking photos of the food you eat ‘cos life’s not that interesting living in the back of beyond?
In fact, one of my biggest worries back in 2008, having unexpectedly found out I was pregnant, was “Shit, what if we can’t travel and be location independent anymore?”. Never mind the small matter of a rapidly growing bump on my stomach, nor the impact it was going to have once born – nope, I was worried we might have to stop travelling and how that would look to everyone else. ?
The answer though was pretty simple* and yet I was still so hung up on travelling as a lifestyle that we took off when our daughter was 4 months old and spent a year traipsing round the likes of Thailand, Turkey, Dubai and Edinburgh until I finally admitted to myself that I’d had enough and wanted nothing more than to come back home.
The rigours of nomadism and extended travel are well documented; it’s no secret that staying in one place is often a far easier choice. And easy is exactly what I wanted, and for the most part, still do.
I’m settled back into the little house I’ve owned since before I first became location independent and appreciate the many, many benefits of the small town I once felt was restrictive. It may not be right forever, but it’s right for right now.
* Being location independent did and does not mean having to be nomadic, it simply means having the ability to live and work from anywhere. That doesn’t mean you have to travel anywhere at all, if you don’t want to.
Shaking up relationships…
When you finally stop moving (running?), you have time and space to face whatever it is you were avoiding before you left. Back then, I didn’t even know what it was that I didn’t want to face but fast forward 8 years and life today looks very, very different…
Jonathan and I are divorced, we co-parent equally and home educate our kids (Mali is now 8 and Samson is 4). I’m in a new, same-sex relationship with one of my best friends, who also has 2 children of the same age.
While travel can paper over the cracks and provide the thrills and spills that a stagnating relationship no longer can, it can also put pressure on an already strained relationship. Travel didn’t really strain our relationship but it certainly kept us busy enough to not have to look at the things that weren’t working for either of us.
While living in a dream cottage in the English countryside, my epiphany came one morning in the bedroom when I realised I was way, way, waaaaay off the life path I actually wanted to be living – and fundamentally wasn’t in a relationship I wanted to be in any more, though it was far from bad.
I set a very specific intention – literally listing to myself exactly what I wanted – which came to fruition barely 6 months later, with the start of a new relationship that is everything I asked for. Jonathan and I separated amicably after 22 years together, and continue to work hard to create a relationship that still benefits our children, and each other.
Finding yourself, wherever you are…
I’m currently exploring what it means to be adopted, a journey I’ve resisted for 39 years. It’s painful, emotional, challenging and enlightening. But I also now know why and how location independence fits into my story…
Being adopted – as I’m learning – typically comes with a set of very specific emotional issues: Abandonment, rejection and separation. There are other themes including choice, belonging, control, trust and more. (If you want to read more details about my own personal adoption journey, I write about it here).
It’s now abundantly clear how some of these have played out in my own life, especially around the theme of location independence:
- I have no real concept of what it means to belong anywhere – to a place, a country, a city, a person, or even myself – because adoption is all about not belonging and also about choice (read here why choice isn’t as positive as it sounds). My nomadic stint to search for somewhere to call ‘home’ was a quest for that sense of belonging, though in hindsight I had no idea what it was I was looking for.
- I’ve always been afraid of putting down too many (any?) roots in any one place because making those kinds of connections requires trust and vulnerability; and I’ve liked the sense of being able to up sticks and leave should I choose (which is also why minimalism is an important thing for me – nothing to tie me down, nothing to hold me back and nothing to have a connection to). Being location independent meets this need very nicely, thank you very much!
But when you stop travelling something strange and mystical can happen…you have the time and the space to think more, to do more and to be more; and in some respects, what you discover can be far more exciting than anything that happens on the road 😉
It’s why I can finally – 7 years after I stopped writing on this blog – start writing again. Because even though I’m no longer nomadic, I am still location independent.
And I’ve realised my search is not for the right place to call home or for the excitement of a life of a travel, but is for something much, much deeper and is a journey I think many of us are on.