Travel Log Day 348: Nomad Update

coffeeshop-albania-juice-travel-blog

Last Thursday I stayed in bed all day and watched The Blacklist on Netflix. I ate vegan, had 3 cups of tea and did about 25 billable minutes of work (14 minutes of which were a phone call). I booked a flight to Morocco and researched Cape Town. I meditated for 14 minutes and made plans to do yoga, pushups, social media work, blogging and head to the beach - none of the latter was accomplished. 

Marketing schemes that romanticize the digital nomad life are everywhere nowadays. I have to admit, the experience is unreal. It's the sort of solo experience everyone owes themselves for at least 1 month:

  • Research a country
  • Book a ticket
  • Book a non-luxury place to stay for the first few nights
  • Figure it out as you go

But there are some downsides that are often brushed aside and more and more nomads have been blogging about these. Not until you actually experience them does the sting settle in. A year ago I read these lists and brushed them aside, "Pfft I can handle that, I'm the greatest." Well I can say for a fact now that these are all components that I take into account when deciding how long I plan to pursue this lifestyle. Accordingly, here is MY list of downsides - however, I end each on a positive note, because perspective is everything. 

Digital Nomad • Loneliness

As an introvert I avoid over-committing myself socially, and can't do more than a week in hostel dorm rooms. When I do make a friend, we usually have a weekend to get to know one another and then one of us is moving on. Twice now I've used Tinder as a means for meeting people, but there is an implied layer of sex when you meet someone on there - also, it limits the connections to the opposite sex (I don't misrepresent myself as a lesbian). POSITIVE: Being outside of my comfort zone forces me to change for the best. I can't use my introversion as a crutch to stay in a few stale friendships, but instead I am opened up to new and more rewarding connections - should I choose to embrace the challenge. 

Nomad • Drinking

The communal language of bonding is drinking here on planet earth. I've cut down on that (1-2 drinks one day each week) to such a degree that going to a bar to "see what happens" just isn't a thing for me anymore. Believe me, some rich and exotic tales have spun from those nights, but as a solo chick in the Balkans I think it might attract the wrong attention. POSITIVE: I'm drinking less and finding more interesting things to be the basis of new relations - animal rights, minimalism, veganism, travel... Conversations about your new handbag? BYE.

Nik + me hiking in Kotor

Nik + me hiking in Kotor

Nomading • The Whole Enchilada

Opportunities like Remote Year combat loneliness by pairing a group for a month in each location around the globe. Resulting experiences are often very positive, but you're buying in for $2000 per month or more (not including food, alcohol or flights to and from the experience). My daily average for ALL expenses since November is averaging $34 per day ($1020 monthly), half the cost and including everything. I do often arrange trade situations (like my current at Playworking) and that has defrayed a lot on the spending end of things so I am on the low end of cost, but DIY is absolutely less expensive. These experiences simplify finding housing, coworking spaces, friends, events and excursions - but figuring those things out is half the fun and experience of nomading. They're like the cruise ship of nomad life... The Disney cruise ship... POSITIVE: The more people attracted to this sorta life expands global compassion and understanding of other cultures, regardless of how the experience has been packaged. I'd love if these companies could incorporate an eco/humanitarian component to the experiences... (Ok new brainstorm is starting in my head ATM... Adding volunteer opportunities like dog shelters into the experience where nomads walk dogs/assist shelters and donate some $). Speaking of, I convinced the owner of my coliving/coworking space to let me foster a local pup - he said no. And now I have a foster named Nik for 4 weeks... ;)

Digital • Romance

I'm always the one leaving. Or we are both leaving. Yes, there is a romantical component of my brain that loves the idea of getting swept away by a fellow nomad and then pursuing the adventures of the world together, but the more common reality of the situation is that you either meet a fellow traveler and then stay in touch less and less as the miles between you grow OR you meet someone who lives in a place as you pass through and they scheme up ideas of how they also want to travel the world and do things, and then you leave, and then they stay. Relationships are not impossible to find, but are certainly less promising than when you've got roots planted in a location. POSITIVE: Traveling with someone speeds up the getting to know you process. Knowing there is an end date makes it easier to be open and honest about intentions. It's a lot less likely that you'll hold onto someone out of convenience, which in turn leaves you open for the extraordinary - if you believe in those sorts of things ;)

Digital Nomad • Stability

Being on the go all the time precludes you from easily having a pet, a fridge full of your favorite foods, your own space where everything has its own place, exercise rituals. These are things that make me happy! I miss them! POSITIVE: These things and others are not impossible on the road, just harder. By staying 1-2 months in a few places I've been able to get my fix of all these things, but it's an exercise in patience and letting go. I'm an impatient, OCD, occasional control freak, so that's probably a good thing to learn.

NET POSITIVE:

I still get Netflix and chill days where I encounter no other human life forms, but despite those, my brain is constantly igniting with ideas, dreams and schemes. I broke out of a materialistic rut that had sucked my soul for the past decade. I'm creating a life I love on my own terms, and after stripping away the bullshit, I'm learning what I want to add back in. 

Am I Crazy

I am crazy. Fact.

I am crazy. Fact.

The title of this post is a rhetorical question. Hence the lack of a question mark. I already know I'm crazy. Take a peek into my unedited brain. I've attempted to write an authentic Stream of Consciousness. It goes in order of my thoughts as they popped up tonight (Saturday), post yoga, post a half-assed meditation, while dinner cooks on the stove.

Ok. My pointer finger knuckle hurts. Pretty sure it's arthritis. 
Not exactly insured. Now it's a pre-existing condiiton.
Should stir the curry.
Curry stirred. The electric range is supposedly fancy, yet trying to get it to work started this joint pain.
Am I actually thinking something more important now? 
Not really no.
I want to bike to the beach tomorrow, but not bring my laptop. I really don't want to work tomorrow. 
Yet that requires me to work for 90 minutes tonight.... It's 8:47. Ok, I can work.
I don't get paid enough to work on a Saturday night.
Tonight's dinner is vegan. I'm not getting skinnier.
Oh yeah, alcohol.
What am I thinking? Not much. I like the silence - in my head and this apartment.
Yoga will be good for me tomorrow. If I can find it. I know I will be a rushing anxious mess bc the train arrives at 7:59.
Setting myself up for anxiety. Cool.
Does my internal monologue sound whiny?
Am I mentally healthy?
Will I ever find someone who loves me 100% including the craziness?
Am I actually really normal and just like to think I am crazy to seem interesting?
No. I am crazy.
I think not in a diagnosable way - just like a little OCD and anxious.
Ha when ____ flipped out because I chucked the shampoo bottle and shattered it. He was a little scary then.
Not scary to me in general.
Why do I get myself into those messes?
Dinner smells good. 
Stop trying to force thoughts into your stream of consciousness to seem more interesting.
Seriously. This is a learning exercise.
I wonder if this is boring to read?
Oooh. I seriously don't give a fuck about ______. Maybe I should just ____. So close to zero fucks.
Is a vegan Vietnamese themed dog rescue cafe really my dream? 
A lot of times when you get what you want it isn't what it was cracked up to be. 
I should hustle some more and put money into savings. Paradoxically, people live on so little and are happier. So maybe "should" is really relative.
Money absolutely has almost zero correlation with happiness.
_____ are pretty miserable. 
Toys are nice though. White Vespa and white Specialized bike.
Why white? 
Because it's trendy or because I like it? Also, a Fiat.
Those things cost money. I don't have money.
Well some. 
Where do I want to go next? Do I even care to get to Africa? 
It's scary. But scary things are what help you grow.
Maybe I am done growing.
I like being alone. 
Banana pancakes for breakfast. I should try and meditate again now. 
I wonder if other people think I go off on ranting tangents when I talk to them. Sometimes I see people's eyes glazing over. I talk less now.
That's sad.
__ used to say I had melancholera. A disease of unhappiness. Maybe it was because I was dating him.
Or maybe I am just bound to be unhappy with whoever I am with.
Or maybe I just need to find the right person.
Maybe I need to be the right person.
I wonder if my list is too specific. Tony Robbins thinks no. He and his wife seem happy. 
"Seem" so many smoke and mirror shows.
Who really is happy?
WTF is happiness?
Why couldn't I get out of bed this morning? 
I need to figure my shit out. 
Or don't I?
No one saves anyone. 
I want to find that thing that makes my soul expand. 
It's out there I think.
I have almost traveled all the way around the world. In December I will have done it, plus 400 miles.
Where will I end upppp? Fuck.
My contacts are dry.
It's 9pm. I should probably work.
I should do whatever the fuck I want.
I don't really want to drink. Drinking alone is pointless. 
Hm, Does drinking ever have a point?
I drank too much Thursday. I don't like how that feels.
My stomach looks fat. Maybe another month off the sauce.
I want to travel. But from this as my home base.
A few plans already.
Maybe re-downloading Snapchat was a mistake. Too many channels to get worn thin on.
Another social media cleanse?
I should blog more.
When I die will I look back on my life and think "I should have blogged more"? No. Shut up.
Dinner is probably ready. I didn't make rice. On purpose.
I hope I don't go blind.
Why did I cry?
"I am not empty I am open" - remember that horoscope. 
Am I boring now?
I want a hug. Now I am sad. Fuck I sound like a crazy person. 
Well mom said it was brave to do an unedited stream of conscience. Is it conscious?
Sadness passed.
Numb now. 
Definitely crazy. 
I probably have a layer of thoughts I am not tuning into, maybe they are more interesting than this layer. 
I wonder if she will be mad if I _____.
Some things are too personal to type out.
I want to be off computers and phones and technology 100% for a while. I won't be able to work though. Maybe I should WWOOF. Will I write postcards?
I want Frank's phone number. Not to get an inheritance. Because I miss him. I will bet that's why that bitch wouldn't give me his number. I will just write him a postcard. I have been planning on doing that for 8 months. Why did I delete his number? Oh right. I am crazy. 
I blocked a lot of people and deleted a lot of numbers through the years. I wonder if I owe anyone an apology. Yes. I do. I wonder who the most? Probably _____. Or __. Or _____? Oh I apologized to him already.
Emotional warfare. But not intentional. 
Oh or _____. He hates me.
No comment. 

I live here.

I live here.

Chocolate Cake

Last night I got 2 wonderful presents. 1 was chocolate cake. 

I'm a few days into a 30 day social media cleanse - removing Insta-gratifications and the pseudo-connected feeling that apps can bring, while adding free time and a considerable amount of mental space. Yesterday was devoted to sightseeing, including a Port wine tour, climbing an ancient church tower with 2 Korean friends, and eating at a vegan co-op with some hippie guys that are obsessed with Rainbow (note: don't call it a festival - also of note, don't let them know you work in marketing, because that's totally like, selling out man). 

Porto, the home of Port wine

Porto, the home of Port wine

At one point I was skipping down a path and taking panoramics of gorgeous Porto, giggling at my good fortune. This moment was in sharp contrast to a meltdown, hours later. Let me explain, I am so grateful to be alone right now and devote a considerable amount of time thinking about what this means. The train of thought led to questions on why we need a partner at all. And if that's the case - why the fuck are we even here on the planet, when all we do is destroy it? Cue the tears - thanks wine. 

And the tears wouldn't stop. And then I was sobbing and leaning on a park fence in the dark, crying into the night when 2 girls stopped. 

They asked me if I was OK. And they cared about my response. And they didn't leave. Because I wasn't OK. Then they insisted I join them for coffee. This gift of kindness was exactly what I needed. My loneliness stemmed not from a lack of people to interact with, but from a lack of loving interactions. This love doesn't need to be a romantic one, and it's defined by special human beings that come and go and sometimes stay. But really, the length of time is irrelevant. 

I spent a few hours with my new friends and they bought me chocolate cake. It was the best cake I've ever tasted. And today I walked to the Atlantic, pranced into the waves and waved to the East Coast and my friends back home. We are looking at the sun at the same time now ♥ 

Badass Guide to Vietnam

And just like that, my 3 months in Vietnam has come to a close. I jumped in over my head to experience as much as possible, and still only scratched the surface of this kickass country. To sum up it up, I've created the Badass Guide to Vietnam. This Guide is in no way recommended and will most likely not workout for others as well as it has for me. 

a canine constellation

a canine constellation

Breakup with Boyfriend, Force Solo Travel Upon Oneself

  • The topic of my breakup is getting old and I'm bored talking about it. Ultimately, I manned up against my fear and decided not to run home after the breakup. This journey will be defined by something greater than a failed relationship.

Tattoo Coverup - Ninja Ink, Hanoi, VN

  • At 21 I thought it was cool to have a bear paw tattooed on my ass. At 31 I want something with more meaning. I have a note in my phone of places people that I meet suggest I visit - low and behold I had a mention of a tattoo shop in Hanoi (recommended on an island tour in the Philippines). I am in LOVE with the watercolor creation Nini made possible. It symbolizes a lot too:
    • ∵Δ∴Δ is a math poem my cousin Natalie has tattooed on herself. "Because Change Therefore Change" - simple, beautiful, geometric.
    • The moon and paws create a *canine constellation*. Dog paws symbolizing my relationship with my dog Olive whose death ultimately gave me the freedom to take off on this journey, as well as the ongoing relationship I have with pups and animals around the world (and my recent decision to be a vegetarian). The moon a nod to Vietnam and the Communist hammer & sickle

Walk the Shit Out of Everywhere

  • Springing $20 per month for a data plan was absolutely worth it. I've found hidden gems up crumbling staircases, seen some weird shit (dog meat alley in Hanoi...), and avoided a sedentary lifestyle without fear of getting too far lost.

Going Vegetarian

  • It will be hard they say. The food is boring they say... LIES.

  • Not going to turn this into a soapbox, but really it's my own blog so yeah I am. I had such an extreme problem with the Vietnamese eating dogs, "How Barbaric!!!" I thought. But then, I've been eating slaughtered animals (preferably bloody, rare steaks) my entire life. Why should it bother me with dogs? And I've loved many a cow, pig, goat that I've met. Then there are concerns like the quality of meat from slaughterhouses and the truth that eating meat creates more carbon emissions aka ruins our fucking planet. Personally, it's been an easy choice, with occasional slip-ups due to language barriers.

Redefine My Career

  • A work in progress for sure, but I have found a part-time role with a yoga brand that pays the bills. The remainder of my time is my own, and I am using it to create the life I've dreamed of. This life will not include a traditional 9-5, it will include animal welfare, and it will include a shitload of autonomy (go ahead, try and manage an INTJ...).

Book Now, Research Later

  • I really like knowing things, but I've noticed that there is a very low level of pre-planning necessary to yield a better experience. Musts include: Visa details, low-cost transport to-from airport, accommodations for first 2 nights in a new place (skim reviews for cleanliness and mattress quality). Also, don't book pricey tours ahead of time - once you're on the ground there is always a better option.
  • For people traveling through places more quickly than me this probably isn't an option, but when applying the principles of slow travel, I find the most joy meandering along and making conversations with strangers.

Also, in no particular order:

  • Pet all the dogs. All.
  • Use the block feature when you know you're about to take a turn down a toxic path.
  • Feel the feels. Bad, good, happy, ecstatic, depressed, confused, lost. 
  • Invest in yourself - I bought a Fujifilm XA-1 before I had a steady income because I believe in myself and what I can do with it.
  • Take risks - like a 54km bicycle ride through the mountains of Da Lat on a shitty mountain bike. Worst case scenario? At the 40km mark it rains, the gears break, you hail a bus. Simple ;)
  • Make friends - say yes when they ask you to hang out and accept their kindness. Realizing I'm not alone but a part of an ever-changing community melts my ice-like heart. 

Paradise Found: Phu Quoc

I <3 Maggie!

I <3 Maggie!

I'd suggest that anyone go to Phu Quoc to recover from a breakup. Or to recover from... The common cold, general malaise, seasonal affective disorder, boredom... Make up any excuse you can and go! Plus, once you're in Vietnam the hopper flights can drop as low as $50 round trip from Saigon! 

My Buffalo-Boston-Creative-Soulmate Maggie (and ultra-talented jewelry designer) visited me for 10 days and we treated ourselves to an island getaway to Phu Quoc. This little island has its high season from November through March, but felt relatively quiet while we were there (March), which was perfect. The weather was also consistently perfect.

For accommodation, we went from luxe to luxury, choosing to treat ourselves to 2 different non-hostel resorts. We recommend them both for their own reasons:

puppy at MyPlace Siena

puppy at MyPlace Siena

MyPlace Siena is a quiet little boutique resort in between the city center and the airport (10 minutes to each). The rooms smell of cedar and the grounds feature gardens and fountains; it feels like a tiny slice of paradise. The rooms are priced reasonably (approx. $40 usd) and a simple (delicious) breakfast is included. I was in heaven here thanks to the menagerie of sweet pets that freely roam the property: 3 cats, 1 puppy, 1 dog, frogs and lizards. We rented a motorbike through the resort for under $7 per day and kicked off the vacation exactly as we had planned - stress free! We checked out after 3 nights to be closer to the beach, but it's important to note that MyPlace is building a swimming pool which will be a perfect addition!

phu-quoc-cassia-cottage-digital-nomad-blog

Next up was Cassia Cottage - this resort has created the ultimate island wonderland. Their infinity pool overlooks a pristine beachfront with lush seating options. At check-in we were greeted with a hibiscus juice and given a tour from Mariz. There are 3 pools in total and the resort was renovated last year, offering guests the option to stay in traditional garden cottages or luxury premium suites, we chose the former. Rooms are around $150 / night and are worth every penny. Included is wifi, unlimited breakfast (omelettes, croissants, VN foods...), aircon, pool, beach...

Other musts while on the island:

Rory's: The island was quiet during our stay, but Rory's always had a crowd! This beachside bar is where people flock to watch the sunset and get white-girl-wasted. If HJ is there you're sure to laugh your ass off. He's the Asian bartender with the Australian accent, and no, HJ doesn't stand for Hand Job (I asked...).

Winston's: I've decided to become a vegetarian (yes it's true); however I went out with a savory bang. The burgers here are stateside quality and the buns have a lovely sweet, pastry-esque appeal to them. We also met Winston, an expat from the States (duh), who had great recommendations for the rest of our trip.

Gecko Bar: A solid option for a cheap (delicious) Vietnamese bite. We had pho and veggie + noodles here, and a few bottles of their finest Dalat red (of note, Dalat red wine is wine from Dalat, VN, it is not fine, it is not even nearly fine...).

Sau Beach: Day 1 we motorbiked here - DO IT! Beautiful white sands and plenty of cheap VN places for a bite to eat on the main drag. However, resorts like Paradiso charge if you use their lounge chairs (150,000 dong each), so make sure to bring your own towel. We did park the motorbike for free there though, which may or may not be allowed.

Peach Coffee: Yummy and affordable, vegan and vegetarian options (See what I am doing now? Subliminally weaving my new agenda in!), fresh juices, smoothies, and on the main drag.

Photo cred shared between Maggie + me for this post. See more from her here!

Where in the World

Last night it dawned on me that there is a 1 in 7.4 billion chance that I will ever see my ex again. That's some deep shit.

flowers for the woman at UPS who SAVED MY LIFE!

flowers for the woman at UPS who SAVED MY LIFE!

I'm ok with it and I am also crying less. And talking to boys. No comments on that topic though. Seriously. I am not putting a dude on this blog again unless there is a fucking ring (but not a blood diamond ring). It's pretty apparent that my "picker" is broken, so perhaps I stop that stuff altogether for a bit. But there is that whole sex part. Dang...

More importantly, what is next? WHERE? Making travel decisions with your partner takes both of your interests into account. Like motorbiking north from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. But as we all know, I am a terrible driver (Exhibit A, Exhibit B), so in the absence of boyfriend the simplest way to keep myself alive is sans motorbike. 

The luxury of being able to work as a digital nomad does not escape me. I have paying clients, a low cost of life, and until the end of April until my visa expires. But I feel frozen in making a decision. Typically decisive and rash, all of a sudden I cannot even identify what climate I want to be in. Part of me wants to hop on the next flight to Buffalo and hole up in the spare room at my mom or dad's. But a bigger part of me has decided that this "trip" will not be about a failed relationship.

Peace, respect, love? I'll add them to the list...

Peace, respect, love? I'll add them to the list...

As luck would have it, opportunities keep coming up. A roommate (Gary ♥) told me to watch for signs from the universe; more specifically, 3 signs to guide any one decision. Since then, I landed a part time gig with an awesome yoga brand, I have an offer in Portugal, and my awareness for coworking spaces and the digital nomad community has expanded. I was also kicked off one Facebook Group for nomads after cracking a Chaturbate joke. It's all a learning experience, and my brand of humor isn't for everyone, apparently. 

Next week one of my favorite people in the world, Maggie, is visiting me. We are taking to the islands, blogging, working remotely, hiking, and I get some soul-achingly-necessary girl time. 

I am drenched in the opulent luxury of choices. And I feel really fucking lucky.

Mental Shift

It a mental exercise to remember what side of the road is the correct side to drive on. It's the opposite in the States and sometimes I just can't remember!

Another mental exercise is redefining my worth. I never put a ton of stock into being a "career woman" but I was fairly successful in <5 years of digital marketing from going from $18 per hour to $80+k. Now I am looking for scraps and odd jobs for freelance work and volunteering at a circus for free room + shift meals. This is not a complaint or a bad thing, however it is a weird mental shift. It's the space between.

elephant-girl-pai-thailand-travel-wander

The space between finding a place to live for a few months and getting divemaster certified.

The space between defining my budget and what I can earn.

The space between knowing for certain (or as certain as we can) that we should stick together as a couple or if we will part ways amicably or catastrophically.

I didn't save much to begin this lifestyle - in fact I basically only have what was budgeted for November's rent. So in terms of being an equal partner with finances I feel like I'm on really shaky ground. This isn't an issue between us, it's my issue. a lack of control and mobility. I'll have it back once there is a defined stream of income, but currently there is a certain scramble-mode in my brain.

The easy solution is pack-up + head back to the states, save some money, define income streams that are sustainable overseas... The creative solution is one where I find a way to create an sustainable income that allows me to save + live. The kickass part? I am debt free + that isn't going anywhere. I can live on very little and be happy. Pairing down my belongings to always fit in my 50L bag is an exhilarating feeling.  The rest? Ha, just noise. It will work it's way out.