I sat tapping away on my laptop, oblivious to my surroundings. Suddenly, my senses were enticed by a strong waft of freshly brewed coffee. Until recently, I had assumed that Starbucks had the best coffee that was strong enough to keep me caffeinated through the day. I was now glad to be proved wrong.
I blindly reached out to grab the steaming cup of the divine brew, with my eyes still in the screen, and my other hand typing away, when it was mercilessly taken away out of my reach. I growled out my displeasure and tried again only to meet the same result.
My tormenter was none other than my partner and my fellow travel companion, Josh. “Time for a break, wildcat!” he chided.
I looked away from the screen to glare at him, but the look on his face made it certain that I was taking a break and a long one at that!
Moments later, as I sipped on the now lukewarm coffee, I reflected on how surreal life felt now. Had someone told me five years ago that I was going to be living the life of a vagabond I’d have probably had a good laugh and walked back to my tiny cubicle, one amongst the crowd of overworked employees who had passion drained out of them minute by minute just like one drains blood off a dying animal that is about to become a meal.
Travel was reserved for leisure, and was a privilege reserved for the weekends and long holidays. If one is lucky, then one manages to squirrel away enough leaves to scurry away to a ‘dream vacation’ once a year, memories of which are reminisced upon for the years to come.
Yes, I was a certified corporate workhorse. I was amongst the few whose job lets them explore their passions as I was a copywriter in a mid-sized marketing agency, but I still did a lot of things that kept me from experiencing the complete power of my passion.
Aligning creativity with a brief was a task in itself, and I was expected to think out of the box by literally being confined to a box.
My job paid enough for me to rent a tiny pigeon hole of an apartment I called home that was perpetually in the state of clutter. Somewhere in the mess laid my travel bucket list that held photos of my dream destinations that I had cut out of magazines and newspapers. Life seemed good. I did fairly well at work. My occasional outbursts were ignored as that of a creative mind refusing to be tamed.
While I was engulfed in my pseudo-creative haze, I completely failed to notice that other areas of my life were being seriously impacted. My social life was a sham, and my non-work personal relationships were dwindling to nothingness. I was barely updated of my friends’ lives via occasional social media posts.
One day, my worst nightmare came true.
For a writer, a prolonged block is nothing short of a death sentence. A couple of weeks passed by, and I couldn’t get the right words together. My brain was officially broken. Was I all tapped out?
I tried everything from taking a break to quitting coffee, to binge reading, but nothing seemed to work. I knew I had to do the inevitable and regroup myself. I was completely clueless about what I wanted to do, though. I took an unpaid leave of absence from work for a month, and started dabbling around to discover some hidden superpower.
During one of the soul-searching Google browsing sessions, I came across a few articles that talked about the changing work trends and how the digital nomads were on a rise. Some criticized the lifestyle while most made it sound like a dream.
I wished my story of transitioning to being a nomad was as dramatic as me picking up my passport and taking off into the sunset, but in reality, I started to reflect on whether I should give it a shot. Could I be one of those who could live out of a backpack?
Usually, I was the one carrying 2/3 bags for a weekend trip. I also wasn’t sure if I could survive long without having a place that I could call home. While my brain tried to talk me out of it, my heart had found its passion projects, and I made most of my insomnia by putting together a plan. I gave myself six months to try living like a nomad.
First came the list of places I would go to. There were several blogs with gazillion suggestions. I shortlisted the common ones that featured in all of them first. I also added a few destinations I wanted to see within the country to the list. Then, came the question of survival. I had very little savings that could give me a head start, but what if I ran out of money? God forbid if I had to turn to parents for help. That would be the end of what they would see as a ‘whim’.
I began making a list of things I could do while travelling.
One of the most common jobs was to manage a restaurant or a hostel in exchange for meals or accommodation, or if I was lucky, some stipend. This definitely wouldn’t work, because firstly, I hated cleaning up after myself and had no intention of doing it for others while I was on a vacation, and secondly, I had hustled too much within my career to go through it again.
The upside of a growing trend, however, is that there are solutions to the most potential issues are pretty much out there.
I began making another list of potential remote jobs that I could enjoy. While writing made the list, the block was still very much there, so, I started shortlisting translation and editing jobs. Other interesting ones like social media management, tutoring, remote learning etc also made the cut. Once the basic plan was in place I got my stuff together I took off to find my destiny.
It has been 3 years since I began the life of a digital nomad. All really need is my laptop, phone, and an internet connection. My remote gigs pay more than my stable job ever paid, and a minimalistic lifestyle also enables me to have a steadily increasing pool of savings. I meet new people and make new friends from across the globe.
Despite all the planning, my nomadic lifestyle does have its moments of unpredictability that sometimes, is a boon, and sometimes, a bane.
Throughout it all, coffee was a blessing. One of my trips took me to a remote island that was modern enough to have internet, but had missed the art of good coffee. I was scheduled to be there for two weeks, and I was on day 2 of wincing through terrible coffee.
“That doesn’t seem too good.”
I looked up irritated at the interruption, ready to shoo away the intruder. Instead, I was left speechless. It was like I had conjured this man from my imagination — tall, light brown hair, hazel eyes, white tee, blue jeans, and a black leather jacket.
All I could manage was a squeal of an agreement. He took my cup without my permission, all while maintaining eye contact, and took a sip and couldn’t able to hold the coffee. I was appalled, and apparently, all I needed to find my voice again was coffee encroachment.
“You might be hot and sexy, buster, but coffee is sacred!” He threw his head and laughed. Not those fake laughs, full-throttled rumbling laughter. I was lost again.
“So, you think I am hot, huh? It’s not every day a pretty lady is so candid with me. Looks like I owe you a coffee, but I cannot subject you to the sludge they serve here. How about I brew you some?”
I hesitated. I wasn’t going to go into a stranger’s house, no matter how tempted I was. He seemed to read my mind.
And continued saying, “You don’t have to come up. Wait downstairs, and I will get our cups and we can walk around.”
I was relieved. Needless to say, that cup of coffee was the beginning of a new relationship. Josh too was travelling around, and we aligned our travel calendars and have been travelling together for last 6 months.
Sometimes, I still miss parts of my old life, and will eventually set up my roots somewhere, but until then, I am quite consuming my nomadic lifestyle.
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