Today while at work I casually clicked on a link for an article titled How I’m Thriving More In My Hometown Than I Ever Did In My “Glamorous” Digital Nomad Life. For those that are unfamiliar, a digital nomad is defined by Wikipedia as “a type of people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles.” The summary of the article, if you don’t feel like reading it, is that a former digital nomad wakes up one day in Costa Rica to discover she is 30, in debt, and with a broken computer. Faced with the dilemma to fix the computer or pack her bags and move back to her small Canadian town, she leaves and moves home. What follows is a realization that “the dream I thought I was living revealed itself to be what it really was: a financial hell of my own making.” She vows to be more responsible and stable, make friends, and find herself outside of travel. Sounds pretty reasonable, right? I venture to say it is the kind of wholesome story a mom would share with her daughter when she’s trying to convince her to stop traveling and get a “real job.” And yet, something about it made me feel deeply uneasy. I had to sit on it for a while and think about what really upset me about the piece and I think I finally have my thoughts together enough to share.
I think my initial reaction was fear. Here I am, actively striving to travel more, including my recent decision to quit my stable job and move to New Zealand, and then a girl tells me it’s a bad idea that will leave me in debt with a broken laptop. But plenty of people, including myself, have told me that I should be more stable and work harder in a steady job. So this article shouldn’t have upset me in the way it did… I think what really bothered me is the way she brushed off her travel experiences as a passing phase, much like a “party phase” that people have when they’re young (I don’t like defining yourself in this way either). While she briefly mentions living in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Costa Rica, she does not elaborate much beyond saying that for the first few months she was in Costa Rica she felt “on track” before her computer breaking ruined everything. From there the article focuses on how much better she feels when she moves on from travel and the “financial hell” of getting to live overseas discovering new cultures. Much like waking up on your kitchen floor after a night of heavy tequila drinking and vomiting vowing to never drink tequila again (I’ve stuck to that promise), she wakes up from five years of travel deciding the whole thing was sort of irresponsible and she’s ready to move on.
Now I don’t have a problem with “moving on” from travel. I am aware that life happens and that travel will not always be my number one. But something I will never do is regret or second guess the choice I have made in my twenties to make travel a priority. The people I have met and the experiences I have had have shaped and changed me to my core. Travel is not a phase for me but an essential part of what makes me, me. And the thought of waking up one day and realizing that it was all a “hell” is what freaked me out while reading the article.
Now I know that the author of that article probably doesn’t regret her travel decisions, regardless of her former financial state. I’m taking one sentence from her piece and blowing it out of proportion. In many ways, her writing about how she had anxiety as she dealt with being “attached to my identity as a traveler” and being “unsure of who I was without it” is something I relate wholeheartedly to, and have dealt with more than once. As well, I think it is important for digital nomads and influencers to be honest and open about their seemingly perfect lives. In a digital world where some people seem to be living incredible lives while others struggle to pay rent, candid discussions like this are necessary.
I guess all I hope is that as the author seeks to redefine herself, she doesn’t forget the blessings of that financial hell: the sunrises at 30,000 feet, nights sleeping under the stars, dance parties, and soulmates met. When I think about a possible day when I could have a husband and kids, I don’t think about telling them about my wild, irresponsible travel days that I grew out of. I think about living abroad with them for a year, traveling with them to meet my friends that I am lucky to have scattered around the planet, and having my sexy foreign born husband teach our kids his native language (kidding but not really..).
Travel will always be apart of me. Travel cannot be simplified into a “bad” financial decision you made when you were young. Travel is vast and complex and life itself.