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.
Also read: How I’m Financially Sustaining My Digital Nomad Lifestyle
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.
Also read: What It’s Like to Travel Solo When You’re in a Relationship
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!
Also read: Inspiring Places to Live, Work and Explore as a Digital Nomad
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.
Also read: How Croatia Compelled Me to Rethink Travel Blogging
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?
Also read: How to Travel as a Vegan and Find Delicious Food Anywhere in the World
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.
Also read: Responsible Travel Tips for Meaningful, Authentic Experiences on the Road
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?
Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, “sustainability influencer,” social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes that travel – if done right – has the power to change us and the world we live in.
Can’t believe it’s been 2 months already. It’s amazing, this life you’re living, and it’s amazing to be able to live it along with you. Auroville is going to be so wonderful! Laundry sounds like a pain, though. I always had washing machines nearby (because all my long term traveling so far has been in Europe), I really feel your pain 😛
My longest time on the road has been 5 weeks, but that was super fast travel at only an average of 3 days per city. I have another 3 weeks coming up, and that is tentatively planned at a similar pace.
I know, me neither Surya. It’s literally gone by in a flash, but I’m glad you’re living it with me and hope you’re feeling a little bit of the exhilaration I often feel too!
Really jealous of your access to washing machines / laundromats in Europe, as well as your extended travels there. That’s the continent I want to be in once I need a break from India. Where are you travelling those 3 weeks?
Grass is always greener on the other side I think 🙂 I’m dying to travel India. But, yup, I’m extremely happy traveling here.
My plan is tentatively Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia (and maybe a day trip to Helsinki), 2 days in London to visit my sister and then back to Milan for my graduation ceremony. And THEN… Macedonia and Bulgaria before I finally come back to India. But it might change at a moment’s notice because I usually decide each destination when I decide to leave the previous one.
You should visit my blog too… Guru shishya situation, ours 🙂
Sounds awesome! We should swap notes when we swap places 😉
I’ve read your blog of course. Been meaning to argue your pepper spray philosophy 😉
Hahaha 😀 I’ll live in my bubble till I’m forced out of it. Waiting to swap notes 🙂
Dear Shivya This was not only interesting & informative post, it was inspiring also. Fortunately, after 2.5 years of doing what I hated each day, I am taking THE step of quitting. I will travel for few months and then proceed for anything else. This post is specially important for me. More from practical pov. Hope to share my experiences. For once I can say, I am not jealous of u 🙂
Glad you found it inspiring, Yash! And wow, that’s a big leap forward 🙂 I wish you all the best, and you know where to find me if you have any questions or need any recommendations. Keep us posted!
Very honest post, Shivya.
I am a nomad at heart, too, and often cry (really!) when I am leaving a particular place I have travelled to, because I can’t be a regular at that cafe or watch the seasons turn or get up, close and personal with the locals, as you say. I am tempted to become a complete gypsy too, but I don’t think I am cut out for that. Nor is the hubby. I need a home to come back to and we want to have children.There goes my dream of non-stop travelling, I hear you say. 🙂 That said, I find the way you lead your life and chase your dreams very inspiring.
Welcome to namma ooru. Would love to meet up with you, if you think it is okay.
Thanks! I hear you about the leaving a place behind part; similar emotions here.
Haha, I’m not judging you at all. You love to travel and the best way to do it is at your pace, and to an extent that makes you comfortable 🙂 I’m loving being location independent right now, but who knows, maybe a few months or years down the line, I might want to call a place home again. As long as we follow our own dreams and inspire each other, it’s all good!
And thanks for the welcome to Bangalore. I’m leaving tomorrow, but hoping to do a little travel meetup here towards the end of the month; hope to catch you then.
I think you should maybe consider getting a android phone, only used just for tethering. I’m writing this on my microsoft surface tablet, tethered by my windows phone. Works great for e!
I think the problem is with my Mac though; my iPhone tethers well on other Macs. Need to make a trip to a service centre.
Fawning over your storytelling!
I hope to get a friend like yours to start my road journey too before going solo.
🙂 Here are some solo travel alternatives I penned a while back – http://the-shooting-star.com/2013/04/18/travelling-alone-alternatives/ – hope they help!
Nice to read about your recent travel experiences! Travel blogging is really interesting and rewarding. I understand WiFi could be an issue sometimes. But your experiences have been really cool! 2013, so far, has been quite eventful for me in terms of travel – I, too, moved from Delhi to Mumbai, and then Mumbai to Hyderabad. I spent four months in Mumbai and I can say that has been my most valuable slow travel experience. 🙂
That’s awesome Renuka! Time to move to Bangalore now? That’s a city I love. And the food is SO good.
I’ll be in Bangalore in December. 🙂
Sadly, my longest trip lasted only 32 days, though the most amazing part of my life. Filled with adventure, volunteering and unforgettable acquaintances.
Well, its money what else can stop me from indefinite travel.
Anyways, hearty congratulations for completing two months successfully, I am happy you are living to your dreams.
Thanks Ajay. And 32 days is a fairly long time. Hope you’re saving money now to take off again soon 🙂 All the best!
Your every post brings out information wrapped in the spiritual and practical insights. As a student, i look forward to a life like you. Keep travelling and keep inspiring. 🙂
Thanks Kamal; glad you found the post insightful. The sooner you can get a start, the better. All the best!
I Like It :). In my opinion one of your best article
About the travel partner part, I feel we realize the importance of people/things when we don’t have them. When I went for solo travel there were some instances I felt I should have my friends with me. e.g To shout ‘wow’ along with me while witnessing beauty of Cappadocia. I value my friends more than earlier :).
Thanks Makrand, that means a lot!
Haha, I know what you mean. Have had those moments myself sometimes 🙂
I can not even think of travelling like you !! Rather i think I may get depressed like the rockstars get and finally it gets into their head . I would like to keep travelling as my hobby and not the mainstream profession, though it may change 😉 !! Travelling during a sabbatical is ok but yours is an extreme case.
You are an inspiration !!!
Haha, what have you been smoking? 😉 Fair enough, I suppose you might appreciate it more when you can’t do it all the time. Been through that stage too!
Shivya, this write-up makes so much sense, especially the clean clothes challenge 😀
Could you please have a look at my blog post: http://soumyajitpradhan.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/a-backpackers-wanderlust-dream/
Thanks for sharing the link, Soumyajit. You’ve dared to dream, and I wish you all the best!
PS: Chattisgarh has such a wealth of experiences to explore. Don’t wait another day, start travelling where you are.
True about Chhattisarh, and guess what came up right on my doorstep today morning!
Happy Diwali Shivya!
Great to hear that you’re making it work for you! 🙂
I am, Anisha, and loving it. How are things going at your end?
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As Buddha says ” There are only two mistakes one can make on the road to truth; not going all the way and not starting. But by sheer luck or matureness you havent made any. Your very inspiring , your the Sachin on Indian travel world and your here to stay(i mean travel). I have travelled a lot within India and a bit around the world but never wrote. You inspire me to write thanks a lot .
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Hi Shivya, been reading your blog for many years and commenting for the first time. It’s a pain not to have internet access, and if you can send me your Mac and iphone details, I can perhaps send you simple instructions to solve the tether problem. I need to know whats the OS on your Mac and which iphone do you have and what’s the OS.
I travel lot too, and am paranoid about internet access. My phone wifi hotspot is the most reliable access to date. Dongles have often failed me.
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I can completely understand when you mention about forgotten details during solo trips…I have also lost some of the mental notes from my solo trip to eastern central Europe and have nobody to remind me of that. Now I prefer to have a company because though I like solo travel discovering myself and stuff but I have experienced depressing moments too sometimes that I feel taints my journey.
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I must say that there’s a dreamy touch to your writing. While reading your travel accounts, I was swayed in some junctures. All I would say is: keep on writing and traveling!
Thanks Katie, I’m glad you liked it 🙂
Greetings ftom Florida! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to check out
your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the knowledge yoou provide here and
can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed
at how quick your blog loaded on myy phone .. I’m not even
using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, wonderful blog!
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I so agree with you Shivya, my best opportunities have come when I am on the road. Call it serendipity or a sign.