As you may have noticed, I didn’t end up using this blog during our travels like I thought I would. Come visit me at Nomadtopia instead!
The trip is off to a great start! We left Portland last Tuesday, and have slowly been making our way south to California. We spent two nights with Couchsurfers in Ashland, Oregon, a great little town where they hold a months-long Shakespeare festival (which actually includes lots of non-Shakespeare theater too). Then we headed toward the California coast, stopping on the way to see some giant redwoods in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
Thursday night we stayed at a little motel right on the coast in Crescent City, California. It was really cold and windy for a walk on the beach when we got there, but we did it anyway! (And were really thankful for our new windbreakers/rain jackets we bought in Portland.) Luckily the wind died down overnight, and despite the fog, it was a much more pleasant walk in the morning.
Then we kept going south, through more redwood trees, the highway darting in and out of the fog as we headed inland and then out toward the coast again. We took a little hike along the water, ate lunch at a secluded picnic area outside the state parks, and saw some elk right on the coast. We arrived in Arcata, California, to stay with more Couchsurfers, and had a fun night out with them last night for Mexican food and drinks at their favorite bar (with lots of deer and elk trophies on the walls!).
We’re here until Monday, when we head to stay with friends in San Francisco. Today I think we’ll be hitting the farmers market, a blues festival, and, if we’re not too worn out, an art walk tonight! Tomorrow will be a more mellow day, with perhaps another visit to the beach (about 4 miles from here) and some working and relaxing.
We’ve decided to revive this blog! A lot has changed since I last wrote (in case you’re really out of the loop, Roberto and I got married!), and we’re back on the road, so we figured it would be a good way to keep people up to date on our whereabouts, our impressions about the places we visit, upcoming plans, and more. I have a hard enough time keeping up with the other two blogs I’m now writing (here and here), but it’s nice to have a place with no pressure, no need for SEO, no worries about visitor statistics, where I can post updates and share my thoughts. Good practice to get more writing done, too! Roberto will also be posting, so you’ll have a chance to work on your Spanish. :)
We’re in Portland, Oregon, right now, housesitting for my brother and his girlfriend. On Tuesday, we start our epic adventure south to San Diego and back. In a stroke of luck, we’ve managed to score a loaner car for the next few months, and we’re thrilled to have the freedom to go where we want, when we want.
After almost a month in the States, I think we’ve slept in something like eight different beds (more for me, since I went to Vancouver by myself and stayed in two more places!). It’s been great visiting with friends and family in New Jersey, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, but we’ve also learned the value of staying put. As usual, it’s all about balance, tempering movement with stillness. We’ll continue to seek that in the coming months (and years), no matter where we are.
We’re in the States until early December, but our plans are more up in the air than ever. We had planned to be on the West Coast until late September, when I was supposed to be back on the East Coast to co-lead a retreat. But the retreat has been canceled (the location fell through), so we’ve suddenly found ourselves a little less sure and a lot more flexible, with no totally concrete plans until Thanksgiving in New Jersey. It’s fun to have a wide-open itinerary, but it’s also rather daunting, especially when we know we don’t want to moving around constantly. All the more reason to find more housesitting gigs and other opportunities to stay in one place for longer. We’ve been invited to visit people all over the country, but the cost in getting to some of those places is a bit of a deterrent, so we’re still figuring it all out.
For now, I’m excited about the road trip, and I can’t wait to see old friends and new, and to show Roberto around San Francisco and other treasured spots in California. It’s going to be a great adventure!
P.S. Our place in Buenos Aires is for rent while we’re gone! If you know anyone interested in a vacation rental, check it out.
In case you haven’t heard, I’ve started a new blog called Nomadtopia. It will still include a lot of my personal experiences, but presented in a way that I hope will appeal to a more general audience and help and inspire others who’d like to live an unconventional life of travel and adventure. Check it out, sign up for email or RSS updates, and let me know what you think!
Anyone who lives a fairly nomadic life will likely spend some major holidays outside their home country eventually. It’s an enlightening, interesting, and yes, even challenging experience that can vary a lot depending on what your own traditions are like, and the traditions of the place you’re spending the holiday. Here’s my thoughts on spending yet another Christmas abroad.
I’ve spent three of the last four Christmases in Buenos Aires, where I’ve discovered some of the pros, as well of the cons, of spending this holiday abroad, and in Buenos Aires in particular. Since Argentina is in the Southern Hemisphere, one of the biggest differences for those from the North is celebrating Christmas in the summer. Those images of Santa Claus that are becoming more predominant here are pretty hard to relate to when it’s 90-plus degrees outside! And it’s a real challenge to get into the Christmas spirit if you grew up associating this time of year with cozy nights spent in front of the fire, getting bundled up to play in the snow, and decorations with winter-themed images.
Over the last month, locals have been preparing for summer vacation, and they waited until December 8, Día de la Virgen, to even think about doing any decorating. Meanwhile, online, I saw articles from U.S. sources describing ways one can avoid the stress of the holidays, and was bombarded with comments about how many shopping days were left until Christmas. I sweat through most of December feeling truly thankful to be away from the world of a million holiday parties and the pressure to buy lots of presents. I suspect that those who, like me, would rather move away from the consumerist traditions that have overtaken Christmas in the States find that spending the holiday season abroad is a great way to shift the focus back to the things that really matter, like spending time with family and friends – and eating plenty of tasty food (but not getting stressed out about preparing it all)!
However, it is exactly this focus on “what matters” that can make holidays abroad difficult. For the first time since I moved to Buenos Aires, none of my family came to visit for Christmas, and I didn’t go back to the U.S. I didn’t think it would be that big a deal – after all, I do have family here now – my fiancé and his family – and I knew we’d spend December 24th, Nochebuena, together. But in Argentina, at least, Nochebuena is celebrated a lot like New Year’s Eve – a big dinner with family as the anticipation builds until midnight, when people set off fireworks in the streets and everyone makes a toast to a Feliz Navidad with sparkling wine or cider and some traditional treats. December 25th is then a lot like January 1 – a day to sleep off the food and alcohol of the day before and just relax – and not much more. I found myself feeling pretty sad yesterday, realizing that being in a place where the traditions are so different made me feel even farther from my family and friends than normal.
As we create independent lives and families apart from the immediate family we grew up with, we all have to create our own traditions, and many of us have to get used to not having all our friends and family together at every important event or holiday. Creating new traditions might be even more important for nomads, who will likely find themselves a long distance from familiar ways of doing things but may be seeking some sense of tradition. Or perhaps the best solution is just to throw yourself completely into whatever traditions you find around you, and give up trying to make it something it’s not. Roberto suggested yesterday that we spend Christmas in a different country every year, sampling different ways of celebrating that we can incorporate as we create traditions that are uniquely ours.
What’s your experience been with spending holidays abroad, or far from friends and family? Wherever you’ve celebrated, have you combined family traditions with new ways of doing things?
I’m starting a new blog! It’s not live yet, but I just had to share. Nomadtopia is about, as the current draft of my tagline says, “Creating your ideal life, wherever you are, wherever you go.” This means that I’ll write about a lot of the same things I’ve written about here – traveling, freelancing, finding community and enjoying domestic pursuits abroad, and more – but in a more universal way, and on a more regular basis, with the goal of appealing to an audience beyond friends and family (nothing personal!). I’d like the blog to attract enough readers and interest that I can eventually make some money from it. (I won’t go into all the nitty-gritty of that, but in most cases that means creating products like e-books or courses, as well as participating in affiliate marketing programs, where I’d sell other people’s products and earn a commission.)
My current plan is to eventually retire this blog, perhaps after moving/reviving some of its content for the new site. I hope you’ll continue to follow my adventures on Nomadtopia!
Today I really just wanted to curl up and read a book, but it hasn’t quite happened (yet, the day’s not over!). Roberto and I watched Eat, Pray, Love a few days ago, and one of the images that has stuck in my head was of the main characters having a quiet evening at home, reading and listening to music. Yes, they were in Bali, and the gorgeous open-air design of the house might have been part of the appeal, but when I saw that scene I thought, When was the last time I (or we) did that? Relaxing with a good book, being in the company of a loved one but not talking, in comfortable surroundings with nice lighting – that’s a pretty great way to spend an evening, in my opinion.
Of course, my inner struggle is apparent yet again when I think of the other images that have remained in my mind since I watched the movie, of each time she arrived in a new country (first Italy, then India, then Bali, for those not in the know). Those first-day-in-a-new-place sensations are so palpable for me–that first day of wondering where the heck you are, everything new and different and wonderful, trying to figure it all out, and hardly able to believe that you’re really, finally, there. I think that yearning for new experiences is a big part of why I travel, what makes me so eager to get back on the road.
We’re both antsy to do more traveling together. I guess I better bring a good book with me, so when we find a spot of comfort somewhere along the way, we can curl up for a nice evening “at home.”
If you’ve been following my adventures over the years, you may remember hearing me talk about the concept of voluntary simplicity, or simple living. I wrote a post about it on this blog in October 2007, The Satisfaction of Enough. At the time I felt it was one of the most important/meaningful posts I’d ever written, and I remember being a bit disappointed by the lack of response from my readers (all 10 or so of them)–though it did bring out of the woodwork a kindred spirit that I’m still in touch with, though we’ve never met in person (hi, Leigh!).
I gradually “forgot” about simplicity again after I wrote that post. Although I was reading blogs like Zen Habits and The Simple Dollar that were based on similar philosophies, I guess I figured, “I moved abroad with only two suitcases – how much simpler can one get?” But somewhere along the way, while “simplicity” morphed into a whole new movement called “minimalism,” I bought an apartment and furnished/equipped it, mostly by filling those same two suitcases with more things every time I went back to the States. (Amazingly, the TSA agents hardly blinked an eye when they had to hand-search my carry-on because it contained a stainless-steel stockpot!)
After my fiancé, Roberto, moved in with me in July of this year, I tried not to take it personally when people would sometimes ask him how it was going, and he’d say “Fine, but the apartment’s too small.” Around the same time I read an article in the New York Times about how buying things doesn’t make us happy (“Duh,” was my general reaction). The article led me to the blog of a woman mentioned in the article, and then to a whole slew of new minimalism-related blogs that had cropped up while I was busy filling my new apartment with stuff. And I turned to Roberto one night and said, “The apartment’s not too small, we have too much stuff! (And haven’t figured out where to put anything.)” Intrigued, he agreed, and I started telling him more about this whole concept of simple living/minimalism. We now often talk about the choices we make regarding our spending, etc. in terms of minimalismo, and are slowly beginning to work on paring down our possessions as well as better organizing the ones we want to keep.
I’m hoping you’ll come along for the ride as Roberto and I begin our life together, motivated by minimalism, travel, and so much more–we have a lot of exciting plans in the works, and I hope that in some way we can inspire others just as we have been inspired. Stay tuned!
My apologies for the blog silence… there’s been a lot going on at Nomad headquarters! The last few months have seen two really big changes in my life, one that has had a significant impact in the short-term, and one that will have a major impact in the long-term: I took a full-time contract gig in an office in Buenos Aires until March or so, and Roberto and I got engaged!
It’s been crazy trying to balance my return to a regular work schedule, freelancing, and Roberto’s work and classes (he’s been in school three nights a week, studying graphic design). But he’s nearly done with school for the year (it’s nearly summer here, remember!), and my freelance work has gotten a little more tranquilo, so it’s the perfect time to bring this blog back to life and work on a bunch of other projects we have pending. Stay tuned for news, musings, and more!
Three years ago tonight, I was heading out to a pub quiz at Sullivan’s bar, on my first night (living) in Buenos Aires. I remember being proud of myself for being out on the town right away, and for finding my way to the bar on the bus (when I called South American Explorers about the event that night, the girl said, “OK, do you have a Guia T?” Not yet wise to this incredibly handy guide to BA’s amazing bus system, I said, “What’s that?”). I probably said over and over again that night as I met new people, “I just got here this morning. I’m not sure how long I’ll be in Buenos Aires; we’ll see.”
I certainly never dreamed I’d still be here three years later, sitting in my very own apartment, waiting for a group of great friends and my awesome boyfriend to come over and help me celebrate my time here. It’s been quite a ride! Here’s to many more years of adventure, friendship, and love, wherever I am.