It’s not always easy to follow a path that others think is “inappropriate” at a certain age. Before I became a digital nomad, I didn’t know many people who had this same raging wanderlust.
Other avid travellers can probably relate: it’s almost like a grown-up version of the game One is not like the others, and you always end up being the odd one out. Work and studying become a waiting game, always eagerly anticipating the next holiday, which only happens once a year. I soon realised nine-to-five was not the way for me to thrive. (no rhyme intended!)
My German friend, Margrit, who is now in her 70s, has travelled to all the corners of the earth by herself. She recently told me about the German expression Über den Tellerrand schauen, which literally means “Looking over the edge of your plate”. Basically, to see how other people live and broaden your horizon in the process. Amazing, right?
In my twenties, this notion of solo travel and broadening my horizon has become increasingly important to me. I felt like I was always trapped somewhere, or in something. Trapped in jobs. In education. Relationships. It became almost like an anchor holding me down. I knew I wanted to see the world. I needed to travel to other places. Experience other cultures. See other soup plates.
I remember the exact moment when I said to myself “That’s it”. The moment I knew I had to give the nomadic lifestyle a go. At work, dreaming about travelling the world had become a habit. But the tipping point was two years ago, when I was doing an internship during a heat wave—in an office without windows.
It was a regular Friday when one of my coworkers closed her laptop for the weekend, sighed with relief and spoke the most horrifying words: “Oh well, only 40 more years to go till retirement.”
Excuse me? This wasn’t how I wanted to live my life. As if struck by lightning, I stopped typing and in a blaze of panic, I stood up so fast and so violently that my chair fell back. While foaming at my mouth like a feral animal, I flipped my desk and threw my carefully organised document in the air. In this whirlwind of paper, my coworkers distinguished a mere silhouette making their way to the door and swiftly sneaking around the corner. I was gone.
Well, at least that’s how I imagined my dramatic exit. In reality I stayed for two more months and, at last, my contract ended. On my last day at work, I closed down my laptop and sighed with relief. Mostly because scouring the internet for cheap flights all day had proven to be fruitful. 40 euros for a one-way ticket to Scotland? What a bargain.
I think it’s safe to say I was not the best office employee. Once I got a taste of “nomadding” (sorry, that’s a horrible word), I knew that I didn’t want to be stuck in an office job ever again. I had fallen in love with this new vagabond lifestyle and the freedom it gave me.
Change takes energy and effort, and by nature we try to avoid it. The successes you’ve already achieved are visible and tangible in the here and now, whereas you don’t know what you will—or will not—achieve as a digital nomad. Your vision is not a reality yet, so we prefer to stick with the familiar. It feels safe.
Granted, this lifestyle is not for everybody. But if fear is the only thing holding you back from living the life you truly want, try to imagine what you will lose if nothing changes. What you will miss out on if you don’t take that leap of faith.
When you finally do go for it, you will probably be left with only one regret: Why didn’t I do this sooner? So persuade yourself to take that step anyway. Because if you do, you will finally go from wondering “what if” to wandering. To live on your own terms. Unapologetically.