Unlike many people who chose the nomadic life, I didn’t leave for a life of travel because I was disgruntled with my life, to find myself, or because I disliked my job. I wasn’t unhappy with my life, country, etc. I wanted to travel indefinitely for various reasons, and now that I’m back I’ve been surprised at just how much I appreciate my home and having a more traditional lifestyle.
Work and the Nomadic Life
Once the decision was made to return to the US, I began considering what I would do for work. Would I continue doing freelance work and/or medical transcription? There are definitely some pros to working from home, but the more I thought about it the stronger the cons seemed.
For starters, while I’m mostly an ambivert, I tend to lean more toward the extrovert side. Working from home doesn’t really provide the interaction I need.
I’m also the type of person who likes to feel like at the end of the day they’ve made a difference, that somehow they’ve helped lighten someone’s burden, etc. While I thoroughly enjoy writing, it doesn’t give me the sense of purpose that working in hospice did.
Doing freelance work can also be a royal pain in the tush. You’re constantly pitching, trying to find new clients, drumming up more business, etc. You don’t always know when you’ll be paid, and quite often you have to nag people to get paid.
With medical transcription (MT), I know when I’m going to get paid and how much, but since I’m paid by production that figure is always changing. If there’s no work in the pool when I sign on, I don’t get paid. There have been many times where we had an extended dry spell (often seasonal) at the MT job and I was earning only a fraction of my usual income.
As an independent contractor, it also means I don’t get holiday or sick pay, and if I take a day off, I don’t get paid. When I participated in a press trip to Thailand, I had to set money aside since I wouldn’t be able to transcribe during that week. I also wouldn’t have time to pitch, search for new clients, and so on. And the press trip was a lot of work, so it definitely didn’t count as a vacation or time off.
Sure, I’ve been traveling the world for the last 5-1/2 years and having a lot of fun, but I haven’t had more than a day or two off from working in all that time. So one big perk I’m looking forward to with full-time employment is being able to enjoy a holiday or take a vacation without having to save up even more money so that I still get “paid” while I’m not working.
It was tough leaving a job, company, and coworkers I loved. It was especially scary because jobs in my field are not easy to find. But I clung to the “Leap and the net will appear” philosophy and trusted that things would work out.
Shortly after returning to Washington, I decided to start looking for a job. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted to work on-site somewhere. Within two weeks of applying for the job I wanted (which was also in my preferred field of work), I was hired.
I leapt, and the net did indeed appear.
I was overjoyed when I was recently hired by a hospice to manage their bereavement program. Hospice is a passion of mine, and I really enjoy working with people as they go through the roller coaster that is grief and mourning.
Life in the US
There are definitely things I wish would change in the US, but for the most part it’s been great to be back home. While traveling long term is a great adventure and a constant challenge, there are a lot of perks to being able to shop online, get things delivered to my door, to being able to fully understand the language, to not have to deal with visas and visit restrictions, to be able to find my favorite foods, etc.
While I have really enjoyed being in places with good to great public transportation, and I’ve enjoyed not having to have a car, there is also a lot of freedom in having an automobile. I really love being able to decide I want to go somewhere and not having to check public transportation routes, hours of operation, etc.
And I just enjoy going for drives. There’s something wonderful about simply getting in the car and admiring the scenery, the music playing, and so on. It’s probably one of the few things about me that is very “American.” I was able to buy a car, and it’s amazing to me just how liberating and just how “right” it feels.
I love the convenience of life in the US. I do most of my shopping online and have things shipped to my door. For the most part, I can trust our postal service and shipping providers unlike other countries where I’ve lived.
I can readily get almost any food I’m craving. And if I can’t find it, chances are the local supermarket will have the ingredients I need to make it myself.
We’ve been back for over a month, and I’ve been to an ATM machine once. So far it just hasn’t been an issue to pay with my debit card. Even the local food truck accepts cards.
It’s also hard to beat US customer service. The other day we decided to go to McDonald’s and take advantage of their all-day breakfast menu (we love their Egg McMuffin, and I’m not ashamed of that). For some odd reason, it took an unusual amount of time to get our food. When I went to pick up our order when it was finally done, the manager handed me a card for a free meal “for the long wait.” I hadn’t even said anything!
When something isn’t functioning correctly, you generally get an apology instead of an obviously unconcerned shrug and a look that communicates “Not my problem.”
I’ve also missed central heating. I don’t have to wear a hoodie while I’m in the kitchen or freeze while using the bathroom.
Long-term travel has made me much more laid-back, so when staff are apologizing for slight delays/issues, I just shrug, smile and say “No worries.” And I actually mean it. The look of astonishment and relief on their face surprises me, but then I remember not all my fellow Americans are as understanding.
Having dealt with weird red tape and often confusing (to me) processes in other countries has increased my ability to just shrug off idiosyncrasies here.
It’s so nice being able to handle much of my business, etc., online.
I love that when I’m shopping in a store, a mall, in a public place, etc., if I need to use the toilet, chances are there is a free one for me to use. I don’t have to search high and low only to be disappointed and left wondering if I’ll get in trouble if I use the alley for . . . my now-urgent need.
If I get thirsty, chances are there is a water fountain nearby. I don’t always have to carry a reusable water bottle with me just in case.
I’ve greatly missed having evergreens, the ocean, and mountains all within one view. There really aren’t a lot of places in the world where you can find this kind of combination.
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from nomadic travel is that no place is perfect. We have lived in so many wonderful places all over the world, and many have captured a piece of my heart. But none of them is perfect. Some places talk to your soul more than others, and some are perfect “for this moment.”
It’s also been a reminder for me that happiness truly comes from within. I can be happy while swinging in a hammock and looking out over gorgeous Caribbean waters, but I’m sitting here smiling just as broadly as I watch the rain fall on the deck and brown leaves get tossed from the maple in the yard.
When we left the US, I never really imagined that my search for home would lead me back to Washington and the US. Sometimes you really do need to leave something to realize just how much you really loved it.
What are your thoughts? Have you had a similar experience?