I’m writing to you from Robe, a little seaside resort in the south of Australia where I’ll be staying the night. I’m currently in the middle of a road trip in the land of kangaroos, and it’s time for me to evaluate my new nomadic lifestyle now that I’ve been traveling for six months. Since I left Toulouse on April 1st, I’ve thought a lot about my personal goals, needs, and my personality. Without further ado, here are the ten insights that I’ve gained since I started this adventure.
1) I feel at home everywhere
One of my biggest fears when I first set out was, how can I feel at home when I’m spending just one to two nights in each location? I’ve realized how important rituals are: I need only slip into my pajamas, and immediately I take out my Kindle and spend the evening as I would in my own home! The most important factor for this is of course that the accommodation or room must be comfortable enough for my taste. It’s a small detail, but simply taking my toiletry bag out of my suitcase is enough to help me feel “settled.” I’ve also learned fairly quickly that rituals are essential, and I try to stick to, for example, my meditation session every morning, even if I’m on the other side of the world, or my Mariage Frères tea (I always keep a few sachets in my suitcase)!
2) I’m not as materialistic as I’d thought
Let’s go back a few months to February, when I was at my home in Toulouse and sorting through my clothes. I already didn’t have a lot of things, nor did I have many clothes, but I still had to give up two-thirds of them. I felt like I was leaving with so little, but today I feel like I have much more than is necessary. I see clothes differently now—I only have a few pieces, and they have to be versatile, comfortable, easy to care for and not prone to wrinkling, without negatively impacting my style and femininity! And in the end I’ve realized that now, having a wardrobe stuffed with clothes is no longer one of my priorities.
3) This nomadic life is a catalyst for new experiences
In just six months, I’ve matured much more than I did over several years of a stable lifestyle in Toulouse. It’s true that I traveled a lot, but this is completely different! Living abroad, and moreover changing countries frequently, requires constant adjustment. It means that I find myself in situations on a daily basis where I have to adapt, and this of course helps me to grow every day. From the Bangkok taxi driver who doesn’t speak a word of English but with whom you have to communicate, to the shopkeepers in Portland who are super friendly and chat you up without even knowing you, there are big differences from each country to the next!
4) I don’t define my schedule too much in advance
At the very beginning, I thought that making a schedule for the next six months would be reassuring, but it’s exactly the opposite. We had planned to spend five months in Bangkok (from mid-April to mid-September) but we left after only two months. It’s hard for me to know how I’ll like a particular city, or if I’ll want to try something completely different after a few weeks; this is why today I don’t plan very much in advance. At the moment, I’ve made plans up through January 2nd, 2018 (and only because the holidays require that we make early arrangements) but otherwise I don’t like to anticipate, and prefer to go wherever the wind takes me.
5) Socializing becomes more complicated with the nomadic life
It’s hard to make friends when you’re always on the move. When I spent two months in Bangkok or even during my trip to Portland, Oregon, it was easy to meet people living there, but this becomes “mission impossible” when each trip is only a few days long!
I’ve realized that it’s important to go places where the locals are friendly if you want to socialize a bit, for example chatting with the server when you have your morning coffee. This is something that I missed when I was in Bangkok, as the locals (and even younger people in Westernized places) speak very little English, so it’s hard to exchange even a few words with them!
6) Daily planning is a full-time job
I spend a great deal of time planning each day. Every time I move I have to find the supermarket, a nice café to have a drink, a good restaurant for dinner, not to mention hotels and apartments, and activities… it’s really a full-time job, one that I love of course, but not exactly relaxing. Luckily I’ve spent the last few years planning numerous trips, which has taught me to find and choose good hotels and restaurants rather quickly!
7) I’m deeply attached to France
Before I left, if you had asked me if I was attached to my home country, where I’d spent my whole life, I surely would have said that I could do without and not come back for several years. Well, now I realize that’s completely wrong! It turns out that when I traveled far away from the daily life that seemed so universal to me, I realized how attached I am to the essentials of French culture. The most obvious example is French gastronomy; it’s difficult for me to part from the pastries I love so much, or French cheese. It’s the same with architecture; after spending some time in the U.S.A., Canada, and Australia, all rather “young” countries, I’ve realized how much I admire French architecture and culture.
8) I need a change of scene… in a modernized country!
If I’m going to spend a few weeks someplace, I need to be in a modernized country. Obviously, when I’m traveling I can adapt myself to a variety of cultures, but when it’s a question of daily life, I absolutely need to have certain amenities. Bangkok for example is an exotic location, but you can always find malls with bookstores, attractive boutiques, and other niceties that help you feel comfortable.
9) What’s important to me
I had to leave Bangkok after two months for the simple reason that I missed being close to nature! We set off for Canada (where my thirst for nature was quickly sated) after realizing that even though Bangkok is a fantastic place to stay, it’s also a city where trees and greenery are nearly absent. When I lived in Toulouse, I went horseback riding every day and therefore had my daily “dose”, which allowed me to make the best of my life in the heart of the city. But in Bangkok, the lack of nature grew too intense, and I realized just how much I needed it for personal balance.
10) I have to listen to my body
Maintaining a daily rhythm like this one is rather intense and exhausting. For example, we’ve now been road tripping it through Australia for two weeks, changing accommodation constantly and driving two or three hours every day. We’re going to continue on another road trip until December 17th, for a total of a month and a half on the road. I’ve learned that even if I travel someplace where there’s plenty to see and do, it’s also important to rest, and to spend a relaxing afternoon reading even if the sun is shining and the other tourists are out exploring. I need to know how to save my energy and not do too many things in a row, or I’ll run out of steam. I tend to miss my former home in Toulouse on tiring days like this, and wish I could curl up on my couch with my books for a nice day of relaxation… but I get over the feeling quickly, and the next day I’ve already forgotten!
While writing this post, I’ve realized how much these six months of nomadic life have helped me to learn about myself and my needs, and to put into perspective my dreams and priorities. I hope that these next six months will teach me just as much! This lifestyle is above all a way for me to progress on a personal level. As for the end date, I don’t yet have one in mind!