When I left the US last November, I had this idealized image of what life would be like as a digital nomad. Of course I had never lived as a digital nomad, so I was making up stories in my mind of what life would be like. On the professional side, I was completely right: I would work out of coworking spaces; I would collaborate with other nomads and online entrepreneurs; I would soak up as much knowledge as I could; and, I would scuba dive on the weekends.
That was the easy part.
The more challenging part was adjusting to traveling and integrating myself into this new world.
In my mind, I would be devouring Asian food. I would easily float around to any country I wanted with my magical blue passport. I would make the decision about the next phase of my life after being abroad for a year.
Ummm. Things did not actually go this way. The first sign that my idealized life was taking a sharp U-turn was when I realized that I actually don’t like Asian food.
I know. Shocker. Apparently I’m the only one.
After a few bad meals (and the immediate location of a Mexican restaurant), I had the abrupt realization that my passport isn’t a free pass to any country I wanted to visit.
Since those epiphanies, things have changed a bit. I understand now that overly preparing for my life in Asia would not change immigration laws, the taste of food, or how I felt when I was in certain places (I’m looking at you, Cambodia). Nothing has happened that has been absolutely awful, but these realizations have altered my plans a bit.
First, let me start with the food. I want to like the food. Really, I do. But, similar to coffee, tea, and wine, I just don’t like the taste. It’s the same for much of the food in SE Asia. There are a few go-to dishes that I can appreciate, but mostly, I don’t care for it. I think I have narrowed it down to the ingredient curry that I don’t care for, but unfortunately that is a main ingredient in many Asian dishes.
Second, my blue passport isn’t so magical. There are a lot of restrictions for Americans that I constantly need to manage. There are rules about how long I can stay in countries and sometimes I need to do a bit of pre-work to have some documents and visas ahead of time. (I learned this lesson the hard way when I almost became an illegal immigrant after realizing I didn’t have the right documents to leave Bali for Australia.) I’m pretty sure Americans are taught that we can go anywhere and do anything. That is a big ‘ole lie!
Apparently I needed to check my American privilege at the border.
Third, my Type-Aness has taken a backseat. When I was sitting in a cushy cubicle, I planned out a trip that lasted a full 12 months. I imagined staying in each exotic location for 3 months before I moved on. Boy, has that changed! That original plan has been altered so much that it’s entirely unrecognizable. This has been a hard pill to swallow, but it’s been really good for my personal growth.
As of about 48 hours ago, I made the executive decision to return to the US in August, after only 9 months of traveling. I am doing this to spend quality time with my family, who I miss more that I thought I would. (I guess I’m not as strong as I wanted to believe I am.)
I’ll be going abroad again in September, but I don’t know for how long or where that adventure will take me.
Adapting to these changes has shown me that the freedom lifestyle is what I’m really after. I want to be able to adjust my itinerary based on when my family needs me most. I want to know that I’m can work nonstop for 48 hours to take the whole weekend off to scuba dive. I want to have this kind of flexibility in my life. I want to take the opportunities to visit amazing places and participate in unique activities. I also want to work really hard.
This, to me, is freedom.
Quitting my job has allowed me to travel the world, meet great people, and devote myself to my business. Quitting my job has given me the chance to get to know myself on a much deeper level.
Most importantly, quitting my job has made me realize that I’m choosing freedom above anything else. I’m working very hard and learning more about the entrepreneurial world than I even knew existed. I’m also learning what freedom means to me: the ability to change my mind, to change my itinerary, and to make the most of all of my opportunities.
What does freedom mean to you?