Yesterday I received a link to the recent Wall Street Journal article, In Praise of a Nomadic Life.
“It was interesting to read, but not as good as Advice,” the cover note said. It’s a compliment I’ll accept, even if the sender happens to be my mother. After all, she will likely praise this blog as #1 right up until the day my older brother launches one of his own.
But I digress. The article. It’s supposed to be “in praise of the nomadic lifestyle,” though the writer, Andrew Blackman, seems to do exactly the opposite. Sure he and his wife, Genie, are having an amazing time traveling Europe indefinitely, but there are trade offs, he says. There are down sides. There are sacrifices. According to Blackman, life on the road has its rewards, but it’s no picnic – especially when you blow your budget on Norwegian ferries and need to have an actual picnic for two straight weeks.
But I get it. This article is not a travel piece. I imagine his assignment was to write something along the lines of “Explain how this not on an endless vacation,” as opposed to “Tell us more about those Moroccan camels and the five-course seafood dinner.” And that, I assume, is how we ended up with a list of his monthly expenses and detailed instructions on where and how to park a late-model Toyota. Maybe that’s the point: no matter how extraordinary your day-to-day life might be, it will still be bogged down with the mundane.
But I should cut the writer some slack, because he’s right: the freedom to move about the world comes at a price, not just in literal dollars, but in the ability to have and maintain the pillars of adult life: a family, career and community. Life on the road doesn’t make those things impossible, but it certainly makes it more difficult.
I also agree that making a drastic life change – be that switching careers, moving across the country or traveling the world – can (and should) give you a new perspective on life. Call it what you want: “being present,” “finding purpose,” “living on your own terms”. If you choose wisely, the outcome of the decision should leave feeling happier and more fulfilled.
I can vouch for that. Since I made the decision to leave New York and give up my job in PR a little over a year ago, I’ve never felt better. I did have to give up some things – my home, my friends, my hobby – but I got far more in return. I’m seeing the world at my own pace… climbing mountains, learning to surf, and sometimes clubbing a rat with an umbrella. Every day seems like a “once in a lifetime” experience – which is why you’ll never catch me writing about all those “sacrifices” I made during my summer in Spain.
Then again, maybe part of the reason why I’m being so idealistic is because my trip is still in its infancy. I’ve been roaming for just over a year – since February 2016. Blackman and his wife have been at it “for a couple.” I expect that the shelf life on this sort of travel is rather short. It can get exhausting to constantly research where to go, meet new people, and repack a suitcase. I imagine it’s even more complicated when there are two people, each with their own agenda, preferences and opinions. If there’s any advantage to traveling alone, it’s that I don’t often have to compromise.
Ultimately, Blackman has written an honest, albeit a little dreary, account of the nomadic life. It is, as he says, a choice – one that he seems happy to have made. I’ll add to that and say that I couldn’t imagine living any other way. There is no downside, no true sacrifice. To me, it’s not even close to an even trade.