Notes on my way to becoming a digital nomad.
I sit 30,000 feet high, writing this as the sun sets above cotton-shaped clouds. The last two months have been a roller coaster ride, along the beaches of Karnataka, the backwaters of Goa, the terraced valleys of Kumaon, the forests of Madhya Pradesh, on trains and buses, and now, on my Indigo flight, headed to where it all began, Bangalore.
It’s been two months since I packed up my life from Delhi and went location independent (Read: I’m Hitting The Road, Indefinitely). I’m euphoric on most days and nervous on some. I’m introspective on some days and carefree on others. As Shams of Tabriz once said, with a home nowhere, I have everywhere to go.
Here’s an honest look at the things I’m loving, and the ones I’m still learning to deal with:
Becoming a digital nomad: HIGHS
The single best thing that’s happened to me in the last two months is my introduction to slow travel. Despite travelling off and on for the last four or so years, I’ve never slowed down to fully experience life in one single place; get to know my neighbours, wait for the bread man each morning, gather the village gossip, see the seasons change (Read: My Travel Bucket List for 2013). My itchy feet always made me leave sooner than I liked, with an empty promise of coming back.
Going location independent changed that. With nowhere to go back to, and the illusion of plenty of travel days ahead, it was easy to decide to spend three weeks in Goa (Read: Wake Me Up When September Ends), and two in a small village in Kumaon. It is rejuvenating to be immersed in a single place that long, to make friends rather than acquaintances, to be a regular at the next door cafe, to watch travellers come and go and be the one who stays.
Travelling with a friend
I’ve spent the most part of the last two months travelling with a close friend, and what can I say? It’s done my soul, weary of my fleeting encounters, a world of good. Sometimes I look back on my solo journeys and feel melancholic at having forgotten details of some intimate encounters on the road, because there’s no one to remind me. Were they figments of my imagination?
I still wander off alone sometimes, and enjoy eating by myself sometimes (yes, I’m strange that way), but it sure is nice to have a partner in crime.
Mending a broken heart
There’s no relieving that pain of leaving behind a place you’ve fallen in love with (Read: How Travelling is Breaking My Heart). But the excitement of going somewhere new, somewhere you’ve never been before helps a little bit. If I didn’t have Kumaon after Goa, or Madhya Pradesh after Kumaon, or Auroville after Madhya Pradesh, my withdrawal symptoms would have lasted much longer!
More travel = more opportunities
That’s a secret in the travel blogging industry that I’ve only recently discovered. Every time I’m on the road, I get more invites to travel and write. And now that I’m perpetually on the road, I often have more invites than time, and I’m trying to make my choices wisely. I’m prioritizing slow and responsible travel over everything else. I’m turning down international trips that don’t let me explore a country the way I like to, or that don’t compensate me fairly for my time and effort. I’m grateful for the opportunities that come my way, but I’m choosing to travel the way I love. Enough said.
Becoming a digital nomad: LOWS
I’m a wifi addict; if I can’t have fast Internet connectivity, I may as well choose a different field. It’s not just a matter of addiction; it’s a matter of livelihood. I can’t work or earn if I’m not connected (Read: How I Afford My Travels and How You Can Too). After two weeks of travelling without connectivity in Karnataka, I had missed deadlines, accumulated unfinished blog posts, was lagging behind on assignments, and losing control of India Untravelled. You get the picture.
Slow travel has relieved that stress to some extent, since I base my choice of accommodation on the availability of Wifi. My Reliance dongle has failed me, and for some reason, my Mac won’t tether from my iPhone. Any bright ideas?
Also read: 21 Months On, Digital Nomading Feels Normal
The clean clothes challenge
How many clothes do you need to travel indefinitely, you might ask. The answer is as few as possible. Even with an 8 kg backpack, I sometimes struggle while running to the train station or doing that long walk to save a few bucks (Read: The Art of Packing). I’ve ditched my jeans for harem pants, and gotten rid of my what if conundrums. And that only means one thing – laundry every week. I can’t decide what I hate more, washing clothes myself or asking someone else to wash my clothes. Why don’t more places in India have washing machines?
Balancing work and travel
This one can be quite a downer. I’ve become used to working on the go over the last two years, but it was consoling to know that whatever work I missed out on while travelling, I could make up for once the trip got over. The end of every trip is now the beginning of another. And that means I need to work atleast 3-4 hours every day. Add to that, the constant temptation to lose myself in the snow-capped Himalayas, beaches or backwaters and do nothing. I’m trying to find the fine balance between the work that lets me travel and the joy of travel itself.
Show me the money
You’re probably thinking that at this pace, I’ll go bankrupt soon. Luckily, that’s only partially true! In the initial days of my location independence, I lost out on freelance work and other opportunities; the flow of income from my account was mostly outward. But things are changing now, or shall I say, I’m getting my act together. I’m choosing my freelance work wisely (mind over heart), and hard as it is, I’m starting to think of blogging with a business hat (Read: Saving Money For Travel: 9 Practical Tips). I’m working smarter, because staying on the road a little longer is worth that extra effort.
My flight is about to land now, and a stay at Asia’s first Fairfield by Marriott awaits me. Lined up ahead are a few weeks of volunteering in Auroville, and two “bucket list” international trips. There’s no end in sight.
What’s the longest you’ve been on the road? Do you ever see yourself becoming a digital nomad?
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I’m the founder of this award-winning travel blog about offbeat and sustainable travel, and author of the bestselling travel memoir, The Shooting Star.
In 2011, I quit my full-time job, and gradually gave up my home, sold most of my possessions, stored some in the boot of a friend’s car and embraced a nomadic life.
Connect with me on Instagram to hear more about my adventures and personal journey.