So You Want to Be a Nomad?
I remember the snowy afternoon back in December when the travel itch struck me again. It had been laying dormant for a while, letting me enjoy all the comforts of stationary life: stable Wifi, a shower big enough to shave my legs in, never having to question where my electricity would come from--the little things.
But if there's one thing that the shit ton of personal development and seminars and podcast-listening I've done has taught me in the past 3 years, it's that your comfort zone isn't always where you're meant to be. In fact, I would venture to say it's near-toxic.
Without getting too into novel-territory, the entire 24-25 first years of my life I spent seeking comfort, routine, reassurance, and security. Anything that threatened those freaked. me. out. It's only been in the past 3 that I've learned how many more good things are on the other side of fear--in fact, all of them.
Today I'm feeling plenty of fear as I load my RV with everything I own, and drive myself and my cat back East, toward home--toward my family and toward where my heart wants to be (for now). Just a couple of months ago it seemed ridiculous that I would give up the life and routine I created here in Colorado and head back home to where I started. Yes, it's only a 24 hour drive, but the idea of it seemed just as impossible as it had seemed to leave home two years prior.
The nomad life and #vanlife movement are trendy as ever. They were two years ago and they are today, and in both 2016 and 2018, I noticed a lack of real-talk about all the unglamourous parts of that life, which far outweight the National Park overlooks, sunsets driving down the 101, and Instagramable moments.
No one really talks enough about the fear and uncertainty and feelings of failure you can and will have when you're floating freely around the map--whether it's for a week or a decade.
I've seen very few blog posts detailing the feeling of a mental breakdown that hits you in the middle of Arkansas when your RV bathroom door gets jammed shut, or when your generator won't crank and you're in a 100 degree parking lot in Georiga, and all the campsites are booked. No one really talks so much about those bone-jarring moments of "what am I DOING with my life," that tend to hit you when you're left alone with your thoughts long enough.
I know many people are more of the school of thought of "bloom where you are planted." While I respect that, and see a huge value in making the best of your situations, which of course we must all do on a daily basis, that saying actually just pisses me off. We are not trees, or flowers. We can bloom where we choose. We can buck up the courage to leave the place we were planted, explore new ones, and if we want to end up right back where we started, that's a choice of ours too.
I've realized very recently that no matter where I go or where I live, my version of "settled" may in fact be, always a nomad. I've stopped trying to play the game of predicting what my life will look like in 5 years, because I can't even tell you how the next 5 months will shape up. I'm okay with it. And that gives me a great deal of peace that I never felt when wrapped up in the societal pressure to have a long term plan.
The quote in my head ever since I began packing last week comes from Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild, who I figure should know a thing or two about picking up and leaving, to find something better than what you left.
"Be brave enough to break you own heart."
That sums up nomad life for me. Which is often heartbreaking. Which does often leave you feeling tiny and scared and missing what you left behind more than you think you can bear. But despite this heartbreak, nomad life (heck, any life) is, to me, all about leaving behind something good, in search of something great. Making hard choices, ones that scare the shit out of you, because you know it's time to make your comfort zone a little bigger.
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