Nomad Problems Archives - Page 2 of 5 - This American Girl
I’m Sorry, But I Have to Run

I’m Sorry, But I Have to Run

Manuel Antonio

 

I’ve gotten a lot better about adjusting when I come back to the civilized world.

 

Santa Teresa

 

I struggle less in the traffic.

I shiver less in the cold.

I blend more with the crowd.

 

Manuel Antonio

 

I listen patiently as people talk in circles about their unhappiness in their jobs.

I smile and try to understand as they talk passionately about possessions and material things they have, can’t afford, or want.

I remember that I too was there once.

 

Puerto Viejo

 

I choose to see the positive in a world full of pavement.

I dance when I wake up in the morning, play with my hula hoop, walk barefoot as often as I can.

Even if people stare.

 

Montezuma

 

I focus on gratitude.

The joy of shopping in a grocery store, or washing my laundry, or having reliable wifi, or ordering anything I could ever want on Amazon.com.

 

Monteverde

 

But in truth, I’d rather eat from the trees.

I’d rather wear muddy rags.

I’d trade strong internet for a real connection.

I’d give up my kindle, Mackbook, or Canon to be back in the wild.

 

Puerto Viejo

 

I’ve gotten a lot better about surrendering when I come back to the civilized world.

 

Costa Rica

 

I concede rather than fight.

I submit rather than struggle.

I accept that this is the way things are.

 

Pavones

 

Sometimes I even wonder, if maybe I could stay.

 

Costa Rica

 

I imagine myself re-cultivating.

Getting back to a steady career.

Throwing parties in my fancy apartment.

Dressed to kill in shoes that kill.

 

Puerto Viejo

 

I imagine myself re-committing.

Finding a man who’s on the path of entrapment.

Falling in love with his dreams, then awakening in a cage.

 

La Fortuna Waterfall

 

But sometimes I wonder if maybe I’m just hiding.

If the sadness and separation from the real, rawness still rules me.

If all the comforts in society can’t really soothe me.

If I’m only buying in so that I can survive.

 

Sloth Puerto Viejo

 

I wonder if I’ve lost my essence.

My inspiration.

My joyfulness.

My me-ness.

 

Puerto Viejo

 

I’ve gotten a lot better about surviving when I come back to the civilized world.

 

Iguana Santa Teresa

 

I escape into the world of my work.

I justify my existence through “progress” and persistence.

I dissolve into the online world.

 

Manzanillo Puerto Viejo

 

But I wonder if I’ve gotten better about being here, because I pretend that I’m not actually there.

 

Arenal Volcano

 

I wonder if I’m becoming one of them again.

 

Bri Bri Waterfall

 

One of them who gets road rage in traffic.

One of them who grows addicted to work and “achievement”.

One of them who looks at a screen more often than the sky.

One of them who talks through a computer most of the time.

 

Cabo Matapalo

 

I wonder if I fool myself.

 

Costa Rica

 

If I fool myself into thinking that yoga studios and green smoothies are enough.

That spending an hour a day in a park is enough.

That looking at pictures of nature on Pinterest is enough.

 

Puerto Viejo

 

Could I settle, for ‘enough’?

 

Puerto Viejo

 

But then my aching heart reminds me.

 

Puerto Viejo

 

My aching heart reminds me, how it feels to stand alone in the ocean, with no one for company but the trees.

 

Howler Monkey Costa Rica

 

My aching heart reminds me, how it feels to look into the eyes of a monkey.

 

Santa Teresa

 

My aching heart reminds me how it feels, to press my body so hard against the sand, the edges disappear and I remember who I am.

 

Nosara Playa Guiones

 

My aching heart reminds me

to run.

 

The Best (and Worst) Things That Ever Happened to Me Traveling

The Best (and Worst) Things That Ever Happened to Me Traveling

This American Girl

 

Do you ever find yourself getting caught up in the “worst case” scenarios?

 

Obsessively analyzing the probability of what may or may not happen? Doing everything you can to ensure that nothing goes wrong? Feeling nervous to chase after a dream because you wonder about the potential risks?

 

this-american-girl-bocas

 

I used to be like that. And then I left to travel the world.

 

Traveling on my own through developing countries I realized that I didn’t always have the ability to avoid disaster. I didn’t always have control over my circumstances. Paradoxically, that lack of control made me feel more powerful than ever. I could let go of the obsession and let life happen.

 

I believe that even when I feel completely out of control, what I encounter in life occurs as a result of the energy I bring into the world. This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with risk protection and that it’s your “fault” if you encounter tragedy.

 

This American Girl

 

Rather, the point is that I take responsibility for what happens to me in life. I choose to live with a foundation of trust, rather than in anticipation of danger. For the most part it works out for me. I’ve been gifted with beauty far more often than pain. When I have experienced pain, I looked for the lesson, and found the beauty beneath it.

 

Travel, just like life, doesn’t have to be scary. It can actually be the most beautiful, liberating, experience that exists.

 

So today I’m laying it all out there, the best and the absolute worst things I’ve endured in over three years of travel. My hope is that reading them will show you that even in the scariest moments, you have nothing to fear in this world.

 

pavones beach jumping

 

Best: I Overcame My Fears

 

Traveling on your own through developing countries, you’ll likely be faced with fears every single day. Communicating with people when you don’t speak a word of the language for instance. Or learning to ride a motorbike in the remote rice terraces of Indonesia. Jumping off of waterfalls with locals in Morocco. Getting lost in crazy over-stimulating cities. Sleeping in dorm rooms with absolute strangers. Encountering bugs the size of small cats.

 

On the road I’ve been faced with every fear imaginable. Instead of running from them, I worked through them. I stuck it out through the hard times, I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, and I empowered myself to believe that I could overcome it. What I discovered, is that none of the things that once scared me… were actually scary.

 

This realization has granted me so much more possibility in what I’m capable of achieving and how I’m capable of living.

 

surfing playa guiones

 

Worst: I Almost Drowned

 

Growing up near the Atlantic shore, I was no stranger to big waves. As a kid I ran into the ocean whole-heartedly, allowing the waves to tumble me back onto the shore. Back then I had no fear.

 

As I got older I developed an ego about this. I ignored red flags and friends who warned me about rip tides. I carried that attitude with me to Costa Rica, notorious for strong currents. On my second trip to Costa Rica, playing out in the waves alone when there were flag warnings, I nearly drowned. I got caught in a rip tide and couldn’t make my way back in. I grew so exhausted from swimming that I actually decided to just let myself drown. Fortunately, the beach had a lifeguard, who came out and rescued me.

 

Since then I’ve learned the difference between fearlessness and ignorance. If you treat the earth (or anything) with disrespect, it will eventually catch up with you. Now I revere the ocean, heed its warnings, and practice moving in harmony with the waves, rather than fighting them. In general, I strive to balance fearlessness with humility.

 

This American Girl

 

Best: I Learned to Relax

 

Before I walked barefoot in the jungle, lived in a house with tropical critters, and rode my bicycle to “work” in a bikini, I was what many people called “high strung”. I needed constant stimulation, had trouble sitting still, and I fell apart when things didn’t go as planned.

 

Then Costa Rica squeezed the stress out of me. I witnessed another way of life called “pura vida.” Where people truly lived the words “don’t worry be happy,” and any problem could be solved by jumping into the ocean. I surrendered to a slower pace, one closer to the rhythm of nature, and for the first time in my life I felt relaxed.

 

The more I travel in developing countries, the more I learn to relax. I’ve witnessed that whether I run out of water in the jungle mid shower or get sick on a 36 hour 100 degree bus ride, stressing about it is never the solution. The key is letting go of what you cannot control and finding happiness anyway.

 

Being able to find peace and contentment when life doesn’t happen the way I want it to, is the single greatest life skill I’ve gained.

 

Bangkok

 

Worst: I Was Scammed. And Scammed. And Scammed.

 

When you travel, especially on a budget in developing countries, you’re bound to get scammed. It doesn’t matter how savvy you are, there will be times when it’s completely beyond your control.

 

For instance, crossing the border into Cambodia from Laos and Thailand. Most of the borders into Cambodia are notorious for scams, which involves everyone from bus drivers to tour guides to government officials. They’ll overcharge you, convince you to pay extra for a different bus, and do whatever they can to get more money.

 

In Central America I’ve also had plenty of transportation scams. Most notably with taxi drivers, who have done anything from drive me around in circles to quote me an inflated exchange rate.

 

I’ve been overcharged, manipulated into playing card games, bait and switched in Morocco, you name it I’ve seen it. As a white American girl traveling on her own, I’m an easy target. The good news is, I’ve never truly been in danger. Usually it has simply involved an unpleasant argument, a longer journey, or paying a few more dollars than I should have.

 

The scamming may be inevitable, but there are ways to minimize the damage. Over the years I’ve developed some basic guidelines. I always research the local scams before I arrive in a country so I know the game that’s being played, I make sure to know the local currency and exchange rates, I feign confidence with strangers, and when I encounter a scam that’s unavoidable I do my best to not let it upset me.

 

For more tips on how to handle scams, read my posts How to Survive a Taxi Ride in Latin America, How to Travel as a Woman Alone in Morocco Without Going Insane, and I Scammed a Scammer in Phnom Penh.

 

This American Girl

 

Best: I Became Independent

 

Before I started traveling, I often blamed others for the limitations I felt in my life. I blamed my friends for not being more adventurous or available. I blamed my boyfriend for not being more open and loving. I blamed my family for raising me to be who I was. I blamed everything outside of me for my unhappiness.

 

Traveling on my own I had to take responsibility for anything from how I would find my way across a country on a chicken bus to where I’d be sleeping that night. I realized that I alone determined how my day, and ultimately my life, would unfold.

 

I learned what made me happiest and I took the initiative and the responsibility to make it happen. I acknowledged that my happiness and my life was up to no one but me.

 

This American Girl

 

Worst: I Ran Out of Money

 

When I decided to commit to a life of travel, running out of money was my greatest fear. And it happened to me. More than once.

 

Like the time traveling in Southeast Asia, when I was working as a freelance writer and didn’t line up enough gigs. Consequently I found myself on an island with only $30 in the bank. Or when I completed my Yoga Teacher Training and hadn’t worked in a month and had a negative balance.

 

It wasn’t easy, but running out of money has been the best thing that ever happened to me. For one, it pushed me to hustle. It reminded me to not get too comfortable. It challenged me to start adding more value to my creative endeavors. More importantly, it showed me that even my greatest fear wasn’t actually the end of the world.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

Best: I Saw More Beauty Than I Knew Existed

 

You can never fully prepare yourself for the magic of seeing a sunrise over the ocean on a deserted island. Or watching the landscape change while riding in a long tail boat across the Mekong river. Or flying through glistening rice fields to a karst mountain and discovering a pristine cave pool.

 

You can never fully prepare yourself for the generosity of people who apparently have nothing. The locals who earn a dollar a day yet invite you to share their meal with them. The strangers on the bus who genuinely try to help you when they see that you’re alone. The children who call you their sister and play with you on the beach.

 

You can never fully prepare yourself for the beauty of the world. Witnessing it first hand is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

 

san blas boat

 

Worst: I Was Stuck on a Tiny Sailboat With a Drunk Captain

 

Few situations are as uncomfortable as being seasick on a tiny sailboat with eight other people in the middle of the story sea with a drunk captain. Despite the many warnings, I took the notorious sailing trip from Panama to Colombia through the San Blas Islands. We were out at sea for five days with no refrigeration, no shower, and a captain who perpetually drank and smoked weed.

 

But I did survive, and I was able to practice meditation on a new level. I managed to stay calm despite enduring incapacitating motion sickness. I also learned enough about this backpacker right of passive to give my readers the best advice in my post How (Not to) Sail from Panama to Colombia.

 

san blas

 

Best: I Realized Happiness

 

Like many people, I once attributed my happiness to my outside circumstances. If I had a great boyfriend, then I would be happy. If I had the career of my dreams, then I would be happy. Consequently, my moments of happiness were fleeting.

 

Since traveling to Costa Rica, I’ve realized that happiness is far more expansive than I once thought. Happiness can actually be experienced in every moment. This idea is embodied in the national mantra of Costa Rica: “Pura Vida.” Directly it translates to “pure life,” but it is used to express much more than that.

 

When the sun is shining, you’re having fun with friends, you’re falling in love, and you’re riding the high of the wave, you absolutely say Pura Vida. But you also say Pura Vida in your moments of greatest struggle. When it’s pouring down rain, you’re fired from your job, and when you’re heartbroken, you still say Pura Vida.

 

Pura Vida means choosing the path of happiness regardless of your circumstances. That happiness exists eternally. That happiness requires simply turning within and acknowledging that happiness is not only a choice, happiness is your true nature.

 

For more on Costa Rica, check out my ebook The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica.

 

Generosity in Cambodia - 25

 

Worst: I Got Food Poisoning… A Lot.

 

I like to travel adventurously, and a big part of that means eating adventurously. However, with a sensitive immune system from a lifetime of Western medicine and antibiotics, I got food poisoning… a lot. We’re talking unable to keep anything down on remote tropical islands and in crowded hostels in developing countries. A couple of years ago it got so bad that I wondered if I would have to stop traveling.

 

Then I discovered an extremely effective probiotic beverage that I could make a continuous supply of while traveling, for free. Read more about what kefir is and how you can make it in my post How to Travel the World and Never Get Food Poisoning.

 

Even chronic food poisoning ended up being a blessing. It introduced to me the world of holistic health and wellness. Now I eat, live, and feel healthier than I ever did before I left to go traveling.

 

Ultimate Guide to Puerto Viejo - 045

 

Best: I Found My Tribe

 

How many of us go through life with people around us, but lacking true connection? Despite my outgoing personality, I struggled with cultivating and maintaining friendships for most of my life. I often felt left out and wondered if I “fit in.”

 

On the road I discovered so many other misfits. People who defied convention. People who marched to the beat of their own drum. I befriended yoga teachers, healers, nomads, surfers, all kinds of people on a quest to discover more in life and more in themselves.

 

Today I have inspiring friends all over the world who come from all different perspectives. More than that, I have a tribe of like-minded individuals who support me.

 

Bocas del Toro

 

Worst: I Got Bitten by a Wild Dog

 

The only time I’ve needed emergency care in over three years of travel was when a wild dog in Thailand bit me. Even this situation could have been avoided. I couldn’t get a good wifi connection at my hostel, so I decided to walk over to a restaurant on the beach in the dark. With my laptop open, the screen blinding me, I accidentally stepped on the dog. Terrified, he bit me multiple times.

 

How could this have been avoided? If I had been more mindful and aware of my surroundings, rather than distracted by trying to get wifi, it would not have happened. Though even this emergency wasn’t all that bad.

 

I went to a 24-hour clinic, got the rabies vaccine, and after about 6 courses of treatment over the following month I only spend $250. That cost was without having health insurance or travel insurance and it hardly broke the bank.

 

Cat Ba Island

 

Best: I Discovered My Life’s Purpose

 

As humans we’re blessed with the incredible privilege of discovering the meaning of life. Though sometimes that privilege can feel like a curse. I remember feeling unsure about what I should be doing with my life. I knew that my purpose extended beyond working in a cubicle at a Marketing company, but I didn’t know how.

 

Leaving to go and travel the world was the first step I took onto the right path. Since then, the world has continually revealed the meaning of my life. What I mean by this, is that I’ve discovered how I can experience the greatest bliss and use my unique gifts to better the world.

 

If you’re hoping to do the same, check out my post How to Figure Out What the F*&K You Should be Doing With Your Life.

 

San Jose

 

Worst: I Endured a lot of Sexual Harassment

 

Let me start by saying that sexual harassment happens everywhere in the world. It’s an unfortunate manifestation of fear. I believe that when men sexually harass women, it’s because they’re afraid of their own femininity and in turn try to dominate all femininity.

 

Nonetheless, there are certain parts of the world where sexual harassment seems to be more rampant than others. The places where I’ve experienced the worst sexual harassment include Nicaragua and Morocco, however all of Latin America has a well-deserved reputation for sexual harassment being “normal.”

 

It does get exhausting, at times even disillusioning. However I’ve never felt like I was in danger, and if I ignore people they usually stop. I’ve also noticed that when I confront the person they usually become embarrassed. The more you can humanize yourself, the less likely the harassment will be.

 

If you want to avoid it altogether, I experienced little to no sexual harassment in Southeast Asia (with the exception of one man who exposed himself to me and masturbated on the street in Chiang Mai).

 

Ultimate Guide to Puerto Viejo - 032

 

Best: I Fell in Love

 

People ask me if I’ve ever found love on the road.

 

I find love on the road constantly. It’s there every time I look out the window of an airplane, when I run recklessly into the ocean, when I taste something I can’t pronounce the name of, when I sit in silence watching a sunset, and each time I exchange a smile with someone new.

 

The true, lasting love I’ve found on the road is a love for this beautiful world. Mother nature and all of her wonderful gifts are my greatest loves of all.

 

Bocas del Toro

 

Worst: I Had My Heart Broken

 

Mother nature isn’t the only one I’ve fallen for. There have been a few times where I’ve fallen in love with men on the road, and each time I’ve found myself heartbroken. The relationships have ranged from disappointing to disastrous.

 

I’ve met my soul mate only to realize he was more of a one night. I’ve fallen for someone who told me from the start it had an end. I’ve been swindled by a Latino lothario who even had his sister beat me up one night in a bar.

 

But I don’t regret any of it.

 

As much as it hurts, when I’m heartbroken I feel the most gratitude. I experience a rawness that reminds me that I’m alive.

 

Ultimate Guide to Puerto Viejo - 019

 

Best: I Found My Home

 

I may have lived there for most of my life, but Seattle never really felt like my home. I think many people feel that way about the place where they grew up, and possibly even the place where they live now.

 

Traveling opens us up to different possibilities. We see other ways of living and through that process we become more in touch with what feels naturally good. The more I travel, the more I discover where I truly belong. For me, that place is Costa Rica.

 

Ultimate Guide to Puerto Viejo - 022

 

Worst: I Realized There’s no Going Back

 

I never planned to be a life long traveler. I thought I’d go to Costa Rica, relax for a bit, and come back to my conventional life. When I kept traveling, I thought I just needed to get it out of my system. Three and a half years later and I’ve accepted that this is in fact my life.

 

The worst thing that has ever happened to me traveling, is realizing that I can never go back.

 

I’ll never again live in the states and see my family every weekend. I’ll never again live a “normal” life. I’ll never again call my birth home, my home. The people whom I love more than anything in the world, will never be part of the lifestyle that I love more than anything in the world.

 

But even the worst thing that has happened to me, is also the best thing that has ever happened to me. Because though there may be no going back, I know that I’m moving in the right direction.

 

What’s the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to you traveling?

 

Enough Bullsh*t, This is What Being a Nomad is Really Like

Enough Bullsh*t, This is What Being a Nomad is Really Like

Koh Rong

 

How often do you open Instagram to see lustful photos of paradise, and wish that were your life?

 

I’m willing to assume it happens every single day. It even happens to me.

 

Bocas del Toro

 

A snap of an umbrella clad cocktail in the foreground of an infinity pool. Or a selfie next to a tiger, from atop an elephant, or on the back of a camel. And then there’s my personal favorite, a yoga pose at sunset on a deserted beach.

 

otres beach cambodia

 

As someone who posts photos like these multiple times a day, I want to tell you that a lot of what’s out there… isn’t real.

 

Could You Be Love - 02

 

Last Fall I went on a press trip with the Costa Rica tourism board. We walked across hanging bridges high in the tree canopies and stumbled upon a family of howler monkeys. We soaked in hotsprings and rode horses to volcanoes and waterfalls. We skipped and played on Caribbean beaches.

 

Could You Be Love - 21

 

You can imagine, the photos were amazing. It looked like paradise. Collectively we had hundreds of thousands of followers seeing how awesome it is to be a travel blogger and live nomadically around the world.

 

Could You Be Love - 09

 

Our trip, however, was very stressful. We spent more time in the car than we did exploring, checked into most of our hotels after dark, barely had time to sleep, and couldn’t even eat a meal without being on camera. Not a single blog reader nor Instagram follower nor Facebook fan, would have had any idea.

 

Karmic Love Story - 34

 

A likely story among millennials. We share what others will envy, we create facades and egos, we present pretty packages that don’t begin to tell the whole story. We share everything, but we don’t really share much at all.

 

Why I Left My Fancy Life - 23

 

The same way that airbrushed magazines can cause us all to wonder why we don’t have the body proportions of a Barbie doll nor the skin of a newborn baby, lifestyle bloggers can make us wonder why OUR lives don’t look that good. Despite good intentions, they disillusion us into thinking that they have perfect lives.

 

I see the danger that exists here.

 

Koh Lanta

 

While a life of travel is exhilarating and blissful and eye opening and so much freaking fun, it isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. It isn’t all perfect. It takes dedication and sacrifice and a lot of self work.

 

Why I Left My Fancy Life - 11

 

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know how important it is to me to always keep it real. So, today I’m shedding light on the life of a nomad. I’m sharing with you the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. I want you to not only see that nomadic life isn’t “perfect,” I want you to see that your life is beautiful, no matter what it looks like on camera.

 

This is my experience, of what it’s really like being a nomad, traveling the world:

 

koh rong

 

Countries and People Undoubtedly Change Your Life

 

We’ve all heard it before, “travel will change your life!” And honestly, it will. At the very least, it will dramatically change the way that you perceive the world. Meeting people who spend their days surfing in the ocean, sleeping in wooden shacks, and eating everything that comes out of their own jungle, will do that to you. So will having impoverished children beg you for money, squatting over a hole to use a toilet, and getting food poisoning on an overnight bus ride.

 

One way or another, travel reveals the myriad ways of living that exist in this world. It broadens your perspective on what’s possible not only for others, but for yourself.

 

Before I ever traveled to Costa Rica, I never would have thought that living off the grid in the jungle was remotely realistic. Then I met tons of North Americans and Europeans who were doing it. Before I started backpacking on my own, I never thought that being nomadic and making an income online was possible. Then I met bloggers, photographers, journalists, and all kinds of people dedicated to living that lifestyle.

 

In the process I discovered new sides of myself. I discovered that I can speak another language when the situation requires me to. That I love coconut curry and Moroccan tagine. That I’m capable of sleeping in bunk beds with strangers and taking 36 hour long bus rides. That I’m not in fact a fashionista city girl, but a tree hugging barefoot beach bum.

 

If you’re open to new experiences, a nomadic lifestyle is the surest way to expand who you think you are, and consequently your capacity for happiness.

 

angkor wat sunrise

 

You Experience Rapid Self-Growth

 

Remember the way it felt as a kid when you went away for summer camp and came back feeling like a different person? Multiply that by a thousand, because when you’re a nomad, the summer never ends.

 

When your time is no longer consumed by a “career,” long traffic jams, or energy draining relationships, you can focus instead on yourself. Few people in Modern society practice self-reflection, though on the road, it’s necessary for survival.

 

In the years I’ve been traveling, I’ve found myself lost in dodgy neighborhoods, horribly ill on remote islands, and confused in so many situations where no one speaks my language. In those moments, there’s no one to blame and no one to fix it. There’s just me. I’m required to sit with myself and figure it out. To ask how I can better the situation and not make the same mistake again. That brings great responsibility, but all responsibility brings opportunity for growth.

 

Once I realized that I was capable of solving any problem, surviving most experiences, and choosing my own happiness, I evolved profoundly as a human being. And it never ends. The road constantly reveals new lessons to those who are brave enough to keep moving forward.

 

koh tao

 

You May Outgrow Others

 

This self-growth often comes with a caveat. It can make returning home to see family and friends harder. Even after a month on the road, you may feel like a completely new person, while at home, nothing seems to have changed.

 

I struggled with this for years. I saw shadows of my old self in others and it scared me that they might pull me back into my old patterns. I could no longer relate to people swept up in materialism and unhealthy relationships. They couldn’t relate to my gypsy lifestyle, my comfort with filth, nor my newfound spirituality.

 

Meeting people constantly and forming so many friendships across the world, I inevitably had to start letting relationships go (or at least lessen), in order to have space for new experiences. Though, more importantly, I had to let go of my expectations of what I thought my old relationships should look like. I had to learn to love people without hoping for them to change in the same way that I have.

 

koh tao

 

Getting Work Done is Really, Really Challenging

 

In the beginning long-term travel may feel like a perpetual vacation, but if you’re committed to sustaining a nomadic lifestyle, you’ll probably have to work at some point. Except that all of the people around you are still in vacation mode.

 

Imagine trying to write articles in the hostel lobby, surrounded by fresh faced backpackers in Bangkok. Or answering work emails from a beach bar with spotty wifi. Or constantly surviving the temptation of ditching your to-do list for a day of surfing and a night of partying.

 

It requires unbelievable discipline.

 

While I won’t say that it’s impossible, in my experience the only way to get work done is to travel more slowly than you would otherwise, to find a place to call home base, and learn to be a little less of a social butterfly. Typically I alternate days, having one day for pure adventure and the next focused on work in a coffee shop. Other times I’ll devote my morning to accomplishing my tasks and have the afternoon free for play time. I try to stay in my own room instead of a dorm so that I can have space without distraction.

 

Though honestly, when I really need to get sh*t done, I hole up in a cabin in Costa Rica or I fly back to stay with my family in the states.

 

koh tao

 

There Will Be Times When You Run Out of Money

 

Alright, let’s get real for a minute here. Most people living nomadically, are barely making ends meet. Seriously. Pretty much everyone I know who travels for a living, myself included, has struggled or still struggles financially. Somehow, we all make it work, but there are times when it gets scary.

 

Like the time traveling in Southeast Asia when I wasn’t able to focus on work, and consequently found myself nearly out of money. We’re talking $30 left in the bank and no flight home. Or when I did my Yoga Teacher Training in Costa Rica and had been meditating for 12 hours a day instead of hustling to get freelance work. I had to borrow money from friends, stay with people for free, and figure out how I was going to improve my business while I was essentially homeless.

 

Though each time I’ve run out of money there has been an incredible lesson for me. It’s been a reminder to not get too comfortable. That relaxation is wonderful, but we all need to strike the balance between effort and ease. In fact, running out of money was precisely the motivator that drove me to start this blog in the first place. Imagine if I had been able to just chill on the beach all day on a trust fund? This unbelievable source of inspiration and fulfillment in my life, my blog, wouldn’t even exist.

 

Dominical

 

You Learn to Roll With the Punches

 

I used to try to control everything. Whether it was my color coordinated closet to my perfect stacks of coffee table books, I liked everything to be in its place. I didn’t like when plans changed or when people changed. I lacked the ability to go with the flow.

 

It didn’t take long before I realized that on the road I have very little control over what happens around me. Sometimes buses will be late, other times they will break down. People will treat me with unexpected kindness or they might ruthlessly scam me. Living nomadically means living at the mercy of the world.

 

There’s actually something extremely liberating about that. The surrender that travel forces upon you brings a freeing flexibility. Like a tree swaying in the wind, you realize that your strength lies in your ability to bend. The more able you are to roll with the punches, the more you can handle whatever comes your way.

 

Pai

 

Staying Put Feels Scary

 

Constant movement and stimulation can teach flexibility, but it can also create restlessness. When you’re never required to stay put in one place, running away becomes an appealing option in situations of struggle.

 

“Should I work through this conflict, or should I pack up and change countries?” is actually a realistic question for most nomads. We have such freedom in our ability to move that we’re never required to stick around when things get uncomfortable.

 

What many people don’t realize, is that the inability to sit still is actually a cage in itself. Many times I’ve felt terrified, wondering if I’ll ever be content being in one place. It feels like being homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist.

 

The only cure is stillness. Not necessarily stillness in space, but stillness from within. Embracing the idea that it doesn’t matter where you are or where you aren’t, because you are always home. You are home. The key is not finding a place in the world that you love with all of its imperfections. The key is loving yourself with all of yours.

This American Girl

 

You’re Never Alone and You’re Alone All of the Time

 

People often ask me if I get lonely traveling on my own. The answer is a resounding “no” and also an “oh my god yes.” There’s always going to be people to hang out with when you’re traveling. In fact at times you’ll crave solitude. However, it’s not always going to be the people that you want to be around or the conversations that you want to have. There’s a huge difference between company and intimacy. You’ll learn that you can be in a crowded room and still feel lonely.

 

You’ll have times when you miss your best friends who have known you your whole life. Your family who loves you even when you’re at your worst. The people who don’t mind if you break down and cry or have a hundred TMI moments.

 

But you’ll learn to find independence. You’ll understand who you are better away from the relationships that you once considered part of who you are. You’ll learn to love your alone time. And the more comfortable you become being alone, the more you attract the people who you can develop deep relationships with, even on the road. Many conversations never make it past the surface, but some dig deep and grow fast and fierce.

 

I’ve met some of my best friends traveling, from yoga teachers in Southeast Asia to health coaches in Costa Rica. My roots will always come from the states, but people in the road are on the same journey as my soul. The key is knowing yourself well enough to know who you want to share your time with, and loving yourself enough to enjoy your own company.

 

This American Girl

 

Relationships Take a Back Burner

 

It’s been over four years since I was in a romantic relationship. Yep, four years. Honestly, I love being on my own, but there are moments when I wish I had someone to experience this adventure with. I feel fairly certain this solitude is because of my nomadic lifestyle.

 

Think about it, how are you going to meet your future partner when you’re constantly changing locations? Or spending long stints in touristic beach towns with oversexed locals?

 

Of course, when you’re traveling it’s possible to sleep with a different person every single night. And plenty of people do. But I’d rather be alone than with someone who I don’t feel something for. I’d rather be in bliss by myself under the full moon than have an orgasm with someone I’ll never look at again.

 

The times when I have fallen for men on the road, it’s always short lived. Perhaps the moment passes too quickly and we both continue on with our journeys. Though more often than not I meet people who seem to be not only living nomadically, but running away from themselves. And when sex on the road is easy to find, they lack the motivation to invest in anything.

 

But even the men who weren’t open, opened something within me. And despite these alleged “failures,” I still believe that if I keep continuing down the path that I love, my path will cross with the man I’m meant to love. Otherwise, honestly, I’d rather walk it alone.

 

thailand temples

 

Letting Go is a Constant Practice

 

If you want to learn to let go, you could become a Buddhist, or you could become a nomad instead.

 

At some point everything you own will get lost, stolen, or destroyed. You’ll have to say goodbye, often forever, to most people that you meet. You will fall in love with countries without an idea of when you might return.

 

Constantly letting go isn’t easy, but the beautiful part is that it allows you to remain an open vessel for the new miracles that life has in store.

 

Koh Lanta

 

You Will Get Sick. You Just Will.

 

There’s a reason they call it traveler’s diarrhea. I’ve never met a nomad who didn’t have food poisoning at least a dozen times. It’s hands down the worst thing about this lifestyle.

 

Feeling sick in the best of circumstances sucks. Feeling sick in a crowded dorm room with a toilet all the way down the hall? Terrible. Feeling sick in a hut with a sand floor on a tropical island with no air conditioning? Even worse.

 

I got so sick and tired of being sick and tired, that I spent one summer in Costa Rica figuring out how to make sure it never happened again. I discovered probiotics. Not just any old probiotics. Extremely effective, practically free probiotics, that I could make myself and travel with all over the world. They’re essential and everyone who travels in developing countries needs to ingest them. Read more about them in my post How to Travel the World and Never Get Food Poisoning.

 

this-american-girl-hue

 

Travel Burnout is Inevitable

 

It might take a while, years even, but eventually your battery will run out. Constant movement without rest is simply not possible. Particularly when you’ve got work to do and your immune system is fighting a constant battle against foreign bacteria.

 

I didn’t truly experience travel burnout until about two years in, when I was backpacking in Southeast Asia. Always having to figure out where I was going to sleep, living on a shoestring, and trying to stay healthy in a world that loves MSG, wore on me. I was sick of having the same conversations with people “where are you from,” “how long are you traveling for,” “where have you been?” I even wrote to all of you that I Don’t Want to be a Backpacker Anymore.

 

In the past I would retreat back to Puerto Viejo whenever I got tired. Traveling in Central and South America, Costa Rica was close by so it was easy to spend a month relaxing at the beach in my favorite little town. But in Southeast Asia, I didn’t have that.

 

So when I got so tired that I wanted to go home, I decided to make a place my home. I spent three weeks on an island with no cars in Indonesia, Gili Air. It revitalized me. I finally caught up on my work and processed through my recent heartbreak. I stayed long enough to make lasting friendships with people who I’m still deeply connected with today.

 

Travel burnout is inevitable. Which is why if you’re living nomadically, you need to find a place that you consider home. A haven, a retreat where you can find sanctuary whenever you want to rest, have real friendships, and some sort of routine. For me, that place is Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

 

This American Girl

 

It’s Easy to Become Jaded

 

Then there’s the nomads who seem to be burned out perpetually. Many years on the road have left them jaded. And I can see how. I’ve seen my own wanderlust eyes glaze over at times. I’ve felt my wonder slip away at times.

 

I’ve stood at glorious gushing waterfalls and thought, “I saw a better one in Laos.” Or snorkeled in the gulf of Thailand and silently stated, “It’s not as impressive as Belize.” I’ve gone on trips that would be a dream come true to so many people and completely taken them for granted

 

What I’ve learned is that we can’t always expect travel to spontaneously show us the magic. The more we experience in this world, the more we have to practice opening ourselves to it. The less it becomes about being moved from what surrounds us, and the more it becomes about being moved by what is within us.

 

And taking more moments of gratitude never hurts.

 

Chefchaoeun

 

You Understand the True Meaning of Freedom

 

If you’ve spent your whole life in an office working a job that you don’t love to pay for a life that you don’t love, it’s easy to realize you don’t have absolute freedom. You may even fantasize about how freeing it would be to leave everything behind and travel the world.

 

And it is.

 

But then it hits you. You find yourself faced with the same problems that you ran away from. Only now, there’s nowhere left to escape. Because you’re already in the wide open space of the whole wide world and you can’t book a flight to the moon.

 

Some people keep running. And running. And running. Always wanting to feel the rush that they felt when they first started traveling, unsure how to recapture it again.

 

Some choose to look within instead. They realize that wherever they go, there they are. That they’ve always had the key to unlock their own cage, they just couldn’t see it until the walls of convention came down.

 

No matter where you are in space or in circumstances, you always have the choice to be free. Because freedom comes from acceptance. It comes from deciding that where you are right now in this moment is perfect. Who you are right now in this moment is perfect. Whatever that may look like today.

 

freedom-tribe-promo

The Hardest Part About Leaving Home

The Hardest Part About Leaving Home

A follow up to my post The Hardest Part About Coming Home

 

Pacific Northwest

 

Yesterday I was hula hooping in my pajamas with my Mom.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

I was blending green smoothies for breakfast and driving myself to ecstatic dance.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

I was taking steamy showers and snuggling on the sofa with my cat Tom.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

I was reading stories to my nephew, sharing yoga with my family, and talking about dreams over dinner.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

I was home.

 

The Hardest Part of Leaving Home - 13

 

Now I’m sitting on an airplane, an entire ocean away.

 

The Hardest Part of Leaving Home - 11

 

Knowing that if I didn’t force myself, I would probably never leave.

 

The Hardest Part of Leaving Home - 12

 

Because no matter how much I love to travel, it’s still always so hard to go.

 

The Hardest Part of Leaving Home - 10

 

And not because of getting on the airplane, though I fear I’ll die every time we take off or hit turbulent air.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

Not because of the weight of my bag on my back, wondering where I’ll sleep that night, and not feeling like I have a home.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

Not because I’m bound to butcher foreign languages and sleep in dorms with people who snore.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

Not because of the cold showers or the overnight buses or the border scams.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

Not because of fearing I’ll run out of money and have nowhere to go.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

Not because of getting sick with no one to take care of me.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

Not because sometimes I feel alone.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

The hardest part of leaving home, is knowing that the people whom I love more than anything in the world, will never be part of the lifestyle that I love more than anything in the world.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

That as much as they love and accept me, as proud as they are of me, I know that every time I leave I make it harder for them to understand me.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

It’s knowing that the final days and hours and hugs and goodbyes will never be perfect enough to make up for all of the time I spend away.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

Realizing that every time I leave, it becomes less and less likely that I will ever call this place home again one day.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

And once I find another country to fall in love with, I know that I won’t miss them nearly the way that they miss me.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

I know that I can walk away from our struggles and not feel the weight of them anymore.

Which makes me feel selfish.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

Yet at the same time, no matter where I am, away from my family, I know that my heart will never be fully whole.

Which makes me feel sad.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

But something within me that’s bigger

than countries and boundaries and space and time knows

 

Pacific Northwest

 

that I have to keep going

I have to keep moving.

 

Pacific Northwest

 

Something bigger

than sadness or worries or fears knows

 

Pacific Northwest

 

I have to leave home.

 

The Hardest Part About Coming Home

The Hardest Part About Coming Home

I originally wrote this post on Go See Write when I first arrived back to Seattle after 9 months away in Southeast Asia. It still speaks to my feelings about reverse culture shock today.

 

Guest Post - 01

 

One week ago I was living in my sarong and floating in still cerulean water. I was swimming in waterfalls and driving a motorbike through rice fields and pepper farms.

 

Guest Post - 02

 

I was tasting bizarre tropical fruits and eating street food for $1.

I was befriending other writers, artists, wanderers, healers, tuk tuk drivers, and even an American Vietnam War Vet reincarnated as a three-year-old Cambodian boy.

 

Guest Post - 03

 

I was in a world of color and intensity.

I was in Southeast Asia.

 

Seattle 2014 - 35793

 

Bundled in a sweater and socks on the sofa on a gray day in Seattle, I can’t seem to grasp why I decided to come home.

 

Guest Post - 05

 

Living nomadically for the last two and a half years, this is my sixth time back to the city where I spent over half of my life.

This is my sixth time couch surfing with friends and family. My sixth time adjusting to cold weather and English speaking store clerks and clean, paved, empty streets.

 

Guest Post - 07

 

My sixth time not relating to the conversations the lifestyles the mentalities of my peers. My sixth time being the Debbie Downer who constantly compares the aquarium to the barrier reef in Belize. The Pacific Northwest pebbles to the South Pacific white sand. The wind and rain to breezy Caribbean mornings and tropical Thai monsoons.

 

Guest Post - 08

 

This is my sixth time experiencing reverse culture shock.

 

Guest Post - 09

 

You might think that it would get easier. In theory I should feel more prepared and develop more realistic expectations over time.

Exactly the opposite transpires.

 

Guest Post - 10

 

The more times I leave, the greater the shock I experience from the differences between my “home” and what I now consider “the real world.” No amount of preparation or lack of expectations seems to soften this thud.

Each time I feel less connected to my culture. I feel out of place. I become more certain that I don’t want to live in this world.

 

Guest Post - 12

 

Each time I return I speak to people who sound unhappy and stuck in their professions, in their relationships, in their lives. On the road every day feels like a lifetime, yet in this world nothing ever seems to change.

 

Guest Post - 13

 

Each time no one seems particularly interested in where I have been or what I experienced. They nod along through my stories, offering “sounds like you had a great time.” They remain understandably too preoccupied with their “real” lives to hear about my “fantasy” one.

 

Guest Post - 14

 

Each time I become more protective of my personal growth, afraid to let in the messages and patterns I worked so hard to deprogram. I shut down when I witness my friends, my parents, my culture, behave in ways that explain why I used to be a laundry list of things I never wanted to be.

 

Guest Post - 15

 

More than anything this is the hardest part of coming home.

 

Guest Post - 16

 

Not the cold weather or the sticker shock or sleeping on a sofa or having seemingly meaningless conversations.

 

Guest Post - 17

 

The hardest part of coming home is seeing a side of myself in others that I never wanted to look at.

 

Guest Post - 18

 

On the road I can be anyone I want to be. I can reinvent myself every moment if I wish. Each jungle path or expansive rice field or cluttered market remains untouched by memories of my past.

 

Guest Post - 19

 

On the road I am easy going, I am fearless, I am strong, I am healthy, I am happy.

 

Guest Post - 20

 

But in these familiar neighborhoods with familiar faces I’m reminded of who I was before I left to travel. A woman I now view as inflexible and overly attached who never exercised and cried herself to sleep most nights.

That scares me more than hiking in the jungle with wild pumas or riding in rickety sailboats in open water or driving a scooter down winding gravel roads.

 

Guest Post - 21

 

I’m scared that by simply being in her former surroundings and engaging in her former relationships I will easily slip into her old familiar ways. Being in Seattle reminds me that as much as I don’t want to be her, she will always be part of me.

This reminder makes me wants to pack up and leave the moment I return home.

 

Guest Post - 22

 

So I find myself today in Seattle with a choice. I can catch the next flight to anywhere or I can allow the lessons I am meant to learn in this moment seep in. Perhaps here I will not learn a foreign language or exotic cooking skills or how to breathe underwater, but I can certainly learn something about compassion towards my “non-nomadic” former self.

 

Guest Post - 23

 

After all, she is the one who paved the way for me to be the person who I am today.

She is the one who booked that flight, packed up everything she owned, handed over her keys, and headed off into the unknown.

 

Guest Post - 24

 

The sooner I learn to love and accept her, the sooner I can learn to love and accept the fact that at least in some ways, this place will always be my home.

 

What is the hardest part about coming home for YOU? 

Check out my blog post: How to Transition Into Your Real Life After Travel

 

How I Stay Grounded When Traveling

How I Stay Grounded When Traveling

koh phangan

 

For as long as I can remember I’ve walked on my tiptoes.

 

Seriously.

 

koh phangan

 

I bounce around like Jan Brady, my feet never fully making contact with the ground.

Friends tell me they can spot my gait a mile away.

 

koh phangan

 

Originally I assumed it was the result of wearing stilettos almost exclusively from the time I was a preteen. In fact I’ve even heard that old Italian nonnas wear slippers with wedges because their Achilles tendons are so shortened from wearing heels their entire lives.

 

koh phangan

 

However after two years of traveling the world barefoot

I’ve come to believe that this behavior has less to do with my footwear and much more to do with my muladhara.

 

Have I totally lost you?

 

koh phangan

 

In the yogic belief system, muladhara, also known as root chakra, is the energy center at the base of our spines that connects us with the grounding energy of the Earth. This ball of nerves sends our brains important messages about whether we are safe or whether we are threatened. Consequently it triggers our response to tense or to relax. Why? Because our root, our foundation, communicates our state of survival, the basis of all of our fears.

 

koh phangan

 

When our root chakras are balanced we feel secure, fulfilled, and present. We know that our needs are met and that our safety is ensured. We have the confidence to chase our dreams. When our root chakras are imbalanced we can become anxious and needy. We often fixate on the past or worry about the future. Worst of all, we may act based on fear.

 

koh phangan

 

As the basis of our entire foundation, our root chakra establishes our connection with our selves, our family, our surroundings, and our earth. Therefore having a balanced root chakra is clearly imperative in being balanced in life.

 

Do you see what I’m getting at here?

Being grounded is like, really important.

 

koh phangan

 

So how is a nomad, thousands of miles from family, whose surroundings constantly change, who never stands on one patch of earth long enough to call it home, supposed to be grounded? How does someone with this lifestyle solidify her foundation to be a stable human being, rooted in the present moment? Especially someone who has never even been able to plant her feet fully on the ground?

 

koh phangan

 

One word: practice.

 

koh phangan

 

When I lived in the jungle of Costa Rica with little more on my agenda than practicing yoga, swimming in the ocean, and dancing to reggae, feeling grounded was easy. But today, backpacking through Southeast Asia, never spending more than a week in a town or a month in a country, operating almost exclusively in survival mode, I feel my heels creep up often.

 

koh phangan

 

I find my mind drifting to the last country I visited, the last guy I felt for, and my god does my mind wader back to Costa Rica. Other times it moves forward. Where should I go next? How will I sustain this lifestyle? Will I ever find love again?

 

Stay Grounded - 17

 

When this happens, I turn to these practices:

 

koh phangan

 

Do Something Physical

 

Beyond the man made structures we dwell in and the cities and countries we come from, we have one physical home that never changes. Our bodies. Our bodies are our physical manifestation of ourselves and therefore our vessel for connecting with everything that surrounds us. Sometimes we become so caught up in our thoughts and our worries that we forget about the flesh and bones that is also us.

 

Go for a run until your heart pounds. Dance until you drip with sweat. Stretch and notice where you hold tension. Let someone touch you and let it feel good. Do something that reminds you that despite your bank balance or the hurtful thing someone said, you are still alive.

 

koh phangan

 

Perform Pranayama

 

Without breath our bodies would lay lifeless. So clearly the way in which we breathe affects our connection to our physical selves. Notice how you breathe when you are stressed, fearful, or approaching a difficult moment. Most of us naturally hold or shorten our breath in these moments.

 

By using pranayama exercises we can actually train ourselves to control and deepen our breath. One method is to inhale deeply and hold the breath. Count to ten. Release the breath then hold it at the bottom of the exhale. Count to ten. Repeat. This simple practice immediately calms us, reconnecting us with our bodies and keeping us in the present.

 

koh phangan

 

Make Peace With Family

 

Our root chakra, our sense of survival, originates from our creation. Often our level of security depends on our upbringing and our relationship with our families.  If these relationships feel solid, then we feel solid.

 

Familial relationships are always complex, but by accepting our parents for who they are, and our relationships with them for what they are, we can feel greater stability within ourselves. They are, after all, who we come from.

 

koh phangan

 

Spend Time in Nature

 

Our parents may have created us, but our deepest origin is the earth. Connecting with the ground, the forest, the mountains, and the ocean, reminds us of our humble roots. Ever noticed a deep feeling of calm after walking barefoot on the beach and listening to the ocean? How about a serene peace looking at a valley from the top of a summit? There’s a reason why it’s called being grounded.

 

koh phangan

 

Walk Barefoot

 

Walking barefoot on the earth has actually been scientifically proven to decrease inflammation, lower stress, improve sleep, and help a whole host of health problems. How exactly? Just like an electrical device, our bodies are charged with positive ions. We acquire them from working on computers, flying on airplanes, even going about our normal routines. In excess these ions can leave us wired, depleted, and inflamed. When we make contact with the ground these positive ions are actually discharged from the negative electrons in the earth, just like a grounded electrical plug. Our bodies are thus designed to seek balance through physical contact with the earth.

 

The problem is, most of us never actually ground ourselves. Rubber soles, tiled floors, and paved roads all put barriers between our bodies and the actual ground.

 

So why not throw off your shoes and run through a field? Walk barefoot on the sand even when if air and the sea is cold? Wiggle your toes in the soft, powdery dirt? I promise that if you do you will instantly feel more present and calm than you have all day.

 

koh phangan

 

Meditate

 

Nothing hones our ability to be rooted in the present more than mindfulness meditation. Try focusing on one thing. It can be an object, a mantra, or even your breath, but as your mind begins to stray, bring it back. I like to inhale the word “let” and exhale the word “go” or imagine the tide pulling out with each inhale and crashing in with each exhale.

 

This practice trains the mind to remain on an intention rather than aimlessly wandering. With the ability to have full awareness of what is actually happening around us we gain greater agency in steering the direction of our lives.

 

koh phangan

 

Resist the Urge to Move

 

My life often becomes a compromise between my wanderlust tendencies and my internal wisdom. As someone deeply passionate about travel, movement is inevitable. However I recognize that often the best way to find balance, clarity, and grounding, is in stillness.

 

When we sit still we begin to minimize the distracting changes around us. We begin to focus inwardly more than outwardly. This practice shows us where we, as individuals, are physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Most importantly, if we don’t like what we see we can’t move to distract ourselves. We must face our discomfort and ourselves. This brings us incredible awareness of who we are on our most base, earthly level.

 

Stay Grounded - 20

 

Find Gratitude

 

There is nothing more grounding that remembering everything that we have to be grateful for. When we worry about whether our bus will come on time, if our business deal will fall through, or how we will afford luxuries like a new car or a bigger home, remembering that we have everything that we need in ABUNDANCE already brings us right back down to Earth.

 

We can always find a silver lining and we can always find something to be grateful for. The world is full of magic and blessings in every single moment. When we root ourselves in the now we can fully see and appreciate them.