Annapurna Circuit, Himalayas, Nepal 2014
I never had to try to travel.
It’s always been as easy and natural as breathing.
To live a nomadic lifestyle, where the most current location of home changes with the seasons. I might spend summers in the beautiful British Columbia, hop over to the chilled out hippy town of Pai in Northern Thailand when autumn rolls around, then head over to Bali a few months later. Or who knows, maybe another quick jump up to the Himalayas(link) for a meditation retreat. The next home is just a plane ticket away.
I’m often asked “how” I do it. This question always confuses me. How could I not, is more the question. But I will share some of my experience with that tricky temptress which is travel, in the hopes of shedding some light on this and other travel related questions I’m often asked.
I was first seduced by travelling for the shear thrill of it. It made me feel alive.
I spent years country hopping. Spending maybe a couple weeks to a month in one country before moving on to the next. Sometimes hoping back to those that I liked. It was literally all over the map. Overnight busses and trains were the norm, waking up excitedly to another new city.
From — treks though the jungle, scuba diving with sharks, to camel riding through the Moroccan desert or visits to indigenous hill tribes in the mountains – who knew what the next country would bring? The next great adventure was always just around the corner.
And then there were phases where travelling was a crutch. An easy, effortless way to forget about the past and just be effortlessly present.
When my parents were in the process of divorcing and stuff was feeling unsettled back home, I took off backpacking through Europe. When I broke up with my boyfriend, I bought a one way ticket to India(link) and left a week later. (Nothing will bring you to the present like your first time to India. Some countries are more subtle, less of a culture adjustment, easier to stomach. India is not one of them. India is bold, loud, colourful and unapologetic. And beautiful. If you ever want to force yourself to stay in the present and practice an endless surrendering to the now, I highly recommend India.)
India also brought more of the meditation retreats and the ashrams. Oh, and the yoga. Just because every westerner has to do yoga if they are in India.
I am often asked questions like weren’t you scared? Travelling on your own as a young female, to a foreign country – isn’t it dangerous? You’re so brave!
It depends on how you look at it. It was the easiest way out for me. Staying in one place and mentally dealing with whatever adversity I was being faced with – now that would have been a whole lot braver.
Moving was always easier. Moving made staying in the present easy.
(And hey, you couldn’t move any farther than to the other side of the world – hence India.)
As for going to a foreign country, going someplace far away I’ve never been, where they spoke a different language and where I didn’t know anyone. That was the best part! The not knowing.
Even while I was doing the adventure type of travel – not just the travelling to take my mind off things type of travel – I loved the openness, the possibility of not knowing what was going to come next. Or when. In fact, the knowing made me stressed out. Anxious.
I only bought one way tickets.
The only way was onwards.
I blew through passports almost as fast as books and hit my twenty fifth country at the age of twenty four. It was then that I reached what you might call travel burnout. As many expats and global nomads will tell you, the worst part of travelling is often the travel.
My inner restlessness having finally been appeased over the good course of five or six years of continent jumping, I realized that though I had initially fallen in love with travelling, it was now the places themselves – the culture, the lifestyle, the people, the environment – that held the magic for me.
There is a difference between visiting a country and actually living there. I didn’t want to visit countries anymore, I wanted to have more homes around the world.
Places are like people, each one has a unique energy and character to it.
Each country, each place speaks differently to people. You just know when one is speaking to you. The connection is undeniable.
It will whisper to you gently, stay here for a while. This is where you should be.
And so for the last four years or so, I divide the year between those special places where I am fortunate enough to call home, staying for three to six months at a time.
I’m often asked how I manage this from a financial standpoint. Again, this has always been easy. And it isn’t because I have more money than most.
The cost of living abroad is significantly less than most people assume. Particularly if you’re staying in one place for a longer period of time.
My countries of calling have been primarily in places in South East Asia, India and Nepal, where cost of living is significantly lower. When I return to Canada people often ask if I came back to “save up” before heading back. It’s more the opposite – it depends on exactly where you are, but my average monthly cost of living overseas is a quarter to half of what it would be in North America. I end up saving money over there.
I also have an inherently minimalist nature.
Any superfluous “stuff” makes me uncomfortable, part of the reason why living out of a backpack in simple, modest accommodation comes naturally. I’d rather go for a hike than to a formal exercise class. I like wearing the same old, comfy shirts every day, even though I have closets and drawers full of newer stuff back home. I much prefer eating fruit sitting on the side of the road rather than go to a high end restaurant. (I have occasionally been mistaken for a homeless person when I combine the eating on the side of the road thing with the vagrant looking clothes, and it always makes me laugh. Though I may give the impression of homelessness to some, I consider myself blessed to have the privilege of having so many homes around the world.)
Simplicity has always been most comfortable. Finger food over fancy restaurant on any day. Simple, clean bungalow over swanky hotel. Comfy, worn-in clothes over fresh new labels please. Less has always been more. So much more. So I guess I end up inadvertently “saving” without too much effort.
Travel is different for everyone.
And there are different types of travel. And there are different times when certain types of travel seem more fitting than others. My travel experience will invariably be different from yours.
But really, it’s simple: all you have to do it love travelling. And then travel will love you back.
Another question people often ask is if I was ever scared to quit my job and leave the conventional North American lifestyle. Hah! After landing my first full-time, government job I lasted but three months before quitting and booking yet another plane ticket. It made me realize how strongly I did not resonate with the 9 – 5 model. I was more scared to stay at that job and watch my days pass endlessly doing things I found unmeaningful and suppressed from. It wasn’t hard to leave.
It also wasn’t hard to get creative and find the types of work that can be done online. Digital entrepreneurship and freelancing are becoming more common and accessible than ever before.
Freedom, flexibility and mobility have always been the most valuable currencies to me. My most natural, inherent values, whether I like them or not. And so travelling and living a nomadic lifestyle for me has always been easy and natural.
I’ve often been told by people that I am living their dream. But I am simply living my truth. Living my most innermost values. We often confuse our idea of dreams with truth.
Everyone’s truth is different. Travel might be my truth, but that doesn’t mean it’s yours.
Explore what your truth is.
Perhaps it is global nomadism. But maybe it’s being a good mother or father and raising your children to be the best people they can be? Is it being a school teacher and sharing your love and passion for knowledge with other eager souls? Is it being a chef, and creating delicious, artistic creations for others to enjoy? Is it being a journalist, passionately pursuing the undying pursuit of truth? It is working a job which benefits people in some way and that you find meaningful so you can provide for your family?
Find out what makes your soul sing. When do you know you’re alive?
Every soul sings a different tune. Every tune is beautiful and unique.
Take time to uncover how your Truth manifests for you. Be patient with yourself. Treat yourself with the kindness you would show to a child.
Sometimes the voice is not audible at first, unsure. But it will come. You will hear the song when it is ready.
And when you hear that voice telling you, This is where you should be. This is what you are meant to be doing – that’s when you’ll know.
And then it will become easy, effortless too.