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Lessons from the Nomad Life

In April 2015 I made the decision to give up my comfort zone. I stepped out of a corporate job that I’d been holding for the past five years, threw out or sold the large percentage of my possessions, and packed what was left into a handful of boxes and bags, intent on setting off on a new adventure.

Had I known what an adventure that would be, I wonder if I would have started it at all. Admittedly, my initial expectation was that I’d be moving to a new job – something that didn’t quite pan out as expected, and suddenly I was relying on my writing to keep myself going. My long term goal had always been to write for a living, but the conservative, logical, sensible part of my brain told me that I should keep a job down until I had enough business elsewhere to be able to quit that job without ever losing income.

So much for that idea.

After the initial shock of finding myself without a safety net, I realized what an opportunity I actually had. Here it was. My freedom! Suddenly I had the world at my feet and the opportunity to do what I’d been dreaming about doing for years. All I had to do was start.

So, I did. I started. I stumbled. I struggled. I stood back up. I started again. I learned a few things.

I know that I’m not the only person who wants to do this, so here’s a few things I’ve learned over the first six months of nomadic life.

Just start.

Nomadic life is kind of like having a baby. Okay, so it’s also the exact opposite of having a baby, because you’re throwing off everything that ties you down to a single location. On the other hand, though, unless you are really lucky, and just happen to have the cards fall perfectly for you, you’re never going to be ready for it. You can sit back in your comfort zone for years, saying that you’ll take the leap once you’ve built the right safety net, but the reality is, it’s not happening. The only reason I ended up jumping out without a safety net, is because circumstances pulled it out from under me. If it hadn’t happened that way, I’d still be sitting at that desk, staring out the window, saying,

“One day.”

A washing machine is a gift from God.

One of the first things I’ve discovered from my adventures so far, is that having your own washing machine that you can use whenever you need to is a blessing that’s so easily taken for granted. Hanging clothes out on a washing line to dry is even more so. $5 or more to wash and dry your clothes adds up rapidly, and you very quickly learn that perhaps you don’t need to wash that T-shirt just because you wore it for an hour or two in the afternoon between lunch and dinner.

You don’t need it.

It’s amazing, how much stuff I don’t have anymore. At the beginning of 2015, I had a two bedroom house of my own that was full of stuff: furniture; white goods; books; DVDs; clothes; the list goes on… Now, most of my life fits into a 90-litre backpack and a satchel (not a manbag. Indiana Jones has one). Sure, some of the more precious items are still stored away with family or friends, but realistically, my life’s gone from struggling to fit into a two bedroom house, to squeezed into a backpack. It’s liberating. Once you get over the horror of throwing out so much of the crap you’ve accumulated, you start to really see how little of it you actually needed – and how little you actually used.

Nothing’s beneath you.

If someone ever invents time travel, then please, go back to January 2015 and tell me that by the end of the year I’ll be mopping floors and cleaning the kitchen of a backpacker hostel in return for free accommodation. Video the reaction and email it to me, because I’d love to see it. My expectation of the nomad life I wanted to live was one of hotels, houses and resorts. Once you pass thirty, you’re too old for backpackers’ hostels or futons, right? Wrong. So very, very wrong.

I’ve once again felt the gaps between wooden slats underneath a thin foam mattress, I’ve wiped the food scraps from someone else’s cooking out of a dirty, water-filled sink as I cleaned the kitchen, and I’ve carted my towel, clean clothes, and bathroom gear from my room to the shared showers. All those things that I thought I was too old for? Well, turns out I’m not.

It’s completely worth it.

For all the lessons I’ve learned, the discomfort I’ve been through, the fear that I’ve struggled with and the doubt in my mind, this whole adventure has been totally worth it to date. I’ve had almost six months, now, of adventure throughout Australia, and am not too far from taking it global. Sure, it’s taken some getting used to, and required a few changes in my own attitudes and expectations, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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