“I want to travel forever.”
Be honest–you’ve thought this before.
All travelers like to fantasize about living a permanently nomadic life. Perhaps you’ve even gone so far as to verbalize this desire to other nomads, knowing they’d empathize with the sentiment.
It’s a romantic idea, isn’t it? To travel the world indefinitely, exploring as many corners of this earth as possible in the limited number of years our lifetime affords us; to live a minimalist existence with little more than a backpack, a few changes of clothes, and a laptop.
It’s the ultimate definition of freedom–working on your own terms from wherever you feel at home at that precise moment.
And these days, it seems that many travelers are hell-bent on making this a reality. With the rise of the digital nomad and online entrepreneurship, making a living completely independent of your geographical coordinates is becoming more accessible than ever.
I’d be lying if I told you the above words hadn’t crossed my own lips in the not-so-distant past.
But lately I’ve begun to question just how feasible–or desirable–a permanently nomadic lifestyle actually is.
Allow me to explain.
Travel is a selfish endeavor. I’ll be the first to admit that. I’m not on a mission to save the world, or even a mission to improve the lives of anyone in it.
We all know I’m not traveling for my family and friends–they’d much rather I stay at home where they won’t constantly wonder (and often worry) of my whereabouts and well-being.
How very misguided it would be to think that my travels are benefitting anyone but me. The only mission I’m on is a mission to better myself by opening my mind to new ideas and ways of living by experiencing them first-hand.
I want to know that I have options in terms of how I live, where I live, and who I will ultimately become as a person. I want to live a life that makes me excited to wake up every morning. I want to die with memories, not unfulfilled dreams.
The nomadic lifestyle that I have lived for the last four years and will continue to live for the foreseeable future has afforded me all of those things.
But the nomadic lifestyle can’t last. At least, not for me.
Because there’s one thing a nomadic life can’t afford me.
I want to know true happiness.
As I’ve gone on my merry way from country to country, exchanging Thai baht for Colombian pesos for Albanian lek, I’ve realized there’s a vital piece of the puzzle missing.
There’s something keeping me from achieving the happiness I’ve been seeking all these years, and I understand it now more clearly than ever: My nomadic lifestyle has robbed me of the ability to form a community.
I’ve written before about how traveling has affected my friendships over the years.
The community I once felt a part of in my hometown now feels foreign and unwelcoming, and the bonds I’ve formed on the road have been tenuous at best. I can’t blame people for keeping a traveler like me at arm’s length–saying goodbye isn’t easy.
Meeting people with whom you truly connect on the road is a rarity, and even if you do meet these kindred souls, perhaps travel together for awhile, these are not the people that will have your back in times of need. While you’re together, sure. But after parting ways? You likely won’t see them or even speak to them regularly, and Skype calls can only provide so much.
I certainly feel a part of many online communities, but as much as I love connecting virtually with fellow travel bloggers, the people I’ve met on the road, and the friends I’m able to keep in touch with from home, those digital communities just don’t hold a candle to face-to-face human connection.
A digital relationship can never compare to having a literal shoulder to cry on, nor can it mimic the rush of oxytocin elicited by a lingering hug, a gentle stroke of the arm, or hell, even a simple high-five.
Physical human contact cannot be replaced by the glare of a computer screen, no matter how tender the messages or how many emojis are attached.
Trust me–I’ve tried.
This is how I know the nomadic lifestyle can’t last forever. I’ll always be longing for something I can’t find on the road.
Travel will always be a major part of my life. My curiosity to experience the world will never fade–of this I am sure. But one day, I’ll need a home base. The place I choose is inconsequential–it’s the staying that matters.
I’ll need to stay somewhere long enough to cultivate real relationships. I’ll need to create a place where I always feel welcome and that I long for when I’m away.
These things are essential to my happiness, and while I’m content enough postponing them for the time being in order to explore the world on my own terms, I can’t picture my future without them.
And when the day comes to plant myself in a place where I can begin to build the sense of community I’ve lacked for so long, you can bet your ass I’m getting a dog.
Do you think the nomadic lifestyle can last forever? Can we find true happiness without a sense of community?