Waking up was hard today. I haven’t felt that struggle since working at the bank when I dreaded facing the daily grind. The three Irish backpackers in my room got up one by one in the darkness, readied themselves, and went off to their working holiday jobs. I felt just a little more at ease in the silence of the room.
The night before had been irritating. Two of my temporary roommates spent the night kissing in their bunk bed (read: kissing is being used as a euphemism). The light in the room was harsh, the mattress lumpy, and the electrical port shoddy.
I went to shower in our ‘ensuite’ bathroom (in quotes because ensuite sounds fancier than it is in an aged party-hostel). As the trickle of hot water hit my cold body I observed the streaks of purple on the filthy shower walls. The Irish woman in the room had dyed her hair last night, and the remains of her artsy hair project were stained all over our ensuite shower walls. To make things worse, the wet curtain touched my bare leg as I lathered. Is there a worse feeling in life?
I suppose there is. Undoubtedly, this nomadic lifestyle is thrilling. I’ve seen some of the most amazing natural beauty on the planet, I’ve met the strangest and greatest people, I’ve seen historical ruins, stunning beaches, forested mountains, breathtaking cliffs, ate some of the best cuisines, and literally experienced thousands of other stimulating new things. But there is a difficult side to the nomadic life that goes unspoken of. One that reflects the entire course of life (on a condensed scale):
The cycle of having and then not having - again and again, forever.
This is the most current theme to my journey these days. This is why I’ve failed to keep up with writing my blog after months of dedication. Being nomadic means sacrificing all forms of stability and routine. When I was in Southeast Asia there was a million little goodbyes. I’d say goodbye to a hostel I loved, a favourite food vendor, a city, a new friend.
Ah yes, travellers learn this one early on -the loss of new friends. Where else but on the road can you meet so many amazing people just to lose them again and again? The very nature of nomadic travel is that we're always on the go. It makes sense that our lives cross paths but that we eventually must move on.
It’s tiring. I’ve met so many incredible people. Generous people who’ve taken the brief time we had together to understand my character. Friends who’ve gone out of their way to create fun shared experiences. And I’d do anything to be with them now, but that can’t happen, because in a matter of hours they can be on the other side of the world (and that great geographical space may in fact always remain between us).
My introduction to Australia has been absolutely wonderful, and it’s thanks to being with familiar people in my life. My first two weeks were spent with my parents who flew out to visit me as I began a new leg of my journey. Their timing was impeccable and the time spent was familiar and important.
I stayed in posh Sydney hotels, visited cousins, and then my parents and I drove up the coast towards Brisbane while stopping in beautiful coastal towns along the way. It’s been so refreshing to stay in clean places, eat fancier meals, and live on vacation mode for a little while.
But again, I am reminded that things come to an end, as they inevitably do. My parents flew back to Canada in the morning and I switched from the fancy hotel room back to the hostel world (sadly in a city of dreadfully rated hostels). The checkout process alone was silly as I strolled out of the modern hotel with my backpack on and concierge asked if I needed help with my bags. I told them this was all of my bags and he looked at me confused. Clearly he isn’t used to backpackers staying in his hotel.
I am readjusting, readapting, and realizing once again just how tricky it can be to have to do so at all.
I called Ido in Israel because I just wanted to talk to a friendly voice about the transition. He would understand, he recently went back home after months of travel. He first asked why I hadn’t been writing on my blog. I told him I was feeling down about being off on my own again in a new place. He laughed.
Dan… You’ve done this so many times before. You know this difficult stage will pass soon, just like it always does.
He is the literal voice in my ear, but his voice parallels my own inner voice. I know this game by now, yet I clearly still need reassurance from others. This will pass. I know I’ve made it through this stage so many times in the past year. I know that right now I’m in a new place, looking for work, looking for new friends, dates, experiences -- and all of these things will come, just as they always have.
And then, once I have all these things, they too will be gone. This is the nomadic way of living. It isn’t guided by logic and steady foundations. It is driven by spontaneity, adventure, exposure, and movement. It has its pitfalls, and I’ve only touched on a few of them in this article. But still the pros outweigh the cons at this stage of my life. The challenges of getting through these tough moments make everything worth it. If we look at the same thing too long we learn to resent it. Nomadic living makes appreciation (and loneliness) come time and time again.
This life isn’t for everyone. Some personality types can endure it better than others. For the introvert in me, this lifestyle is difficult. And yet this difficulty is exactly what I’m leaning into these days. For too many years I tried to go with the flow and fit in. It didn’t work. I’m carving out my own future, and even through hard times, I will come out stronger, again and again (just as I always have).
For those of you living a nomadic lifestyle, you know these joys and terrors equally well. You know that the hostel experience I described earlier isn’t the norm, and that the positive travel experiences far outweigh these little blips. For those who aren’t living a nomadic life, it remains healthy to see that true stability isn’t possible no matter where you are. Things will always change and will always be in flux no matter how hard you try to prevent it. We must surrender and adapt to the rolling waves of change. ■
What part of nomadic living both interests and worries you?