It’s been a year since I went from 9-5 to a fulltime nomadic life. A year of living out of my backpack, and alternating between the Portuguese ocean, the Swiss mountains and the Dutch islands.
A year since I started listening to the recurrent inner voice asking me "what ifs":
What if I could just take a year off? What if I would be free from all obligations and be able to jump into any opportunity the moment it arises? What if I could spend my time outdoors, feeling fit and being active instead of frying my brain and back behind a laptop? What if I had all the time in the world to turn inwards, to listen to my heart and follow this soft whisper that I have ignored for so long?
Well, I finally listened. And with this longing and many more reasons to break free from a regular 9-5 life (this deserves a post of its own) I quite my job, ended my rental contract, sold most of my stuff and journeyed on a path with no clear end goal or destination.
Was it everything I hoped for? Do I regret my decision of leaving a well paid job "with great opportunities" and a nice apartment close to the beach? What have I encountered along the way that I perhaps didn’t expect? Has it changed me? And the BIG question: What's next? Continue this journey, go back to 9-5 or something completely different?
Time to dive right in! :-)
For those who don't know much about my journey: what have I been up to this last year?
The journey started – pretty random – in the Swiss mountains. You must know that I am a bit of a tropical fish: I don't cope well with European winter and even summers I usually feel cold. So I thought I'd be heading to Latin America again to start off this journey.
Long story short, I found a hotel job in a tiny ski resort about an hour South of Zürich. Mornings I took care of the breakfast buffet (and got to know all about Swiss cuisine, Gipfeli anyone?), to enjoy the afternoons for skiing and exploring. It was truly idillic, having a room with views on the ski pistes, walking early early mornings in snow storms to work, and to be surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty, space and SUN! It's been a big eye opener that I do not need to move to warm climates to avoid winter depression: I have been sunbathing at least 3 times a week in bikini – in January and February! There's plenty of sun when you are high up in the mountains. I fell madly in love with this scenery and the endless possibilities of outdoor fun.
From every day ski to every day surf!
After the ski season, I volunteered in a surf lodge in Portugal. The rhythm and lifestyle were pretty similar, although living and working in the surf lodge meant being surrounded by people all the time. Even the nights I shared a tiny garden shed with another volunteer.
The mornings I cleaned the lodge and prepared food for the guests, whilst the afternoons I joined the surf sessions with the guests. The evenings were filled with delicious dinners with new made friends. As you can imagine: a lot of fun and very intens. For both experiences the main perks are: a simple lifestyle admits breathtaking beauty, challenging your body and mind, gaining fitness and strength and meeting people from all walks of life and cultures.
After Portugal, and a short road-trip through Andalusia (a-ma-zing region), I arrived in the Netherlands for the festival season. The summer I mostly spend volunteering at theater and music festivals on Dutch islands, and I organised an event for Dutchies longing to escape the ordinary. At one of the music festivals I got myself a job as a volunteer coordinator, allowing me to spend several weeks on the beautiful island called Vlieland!
How do I feel about being ‘one year on the road’?
Definitely mixed. It has been exciting, tranquilo, inspiring, freeing, boring, overwhelming, and definitely not easy. A proper roller coaster. The moment I quit my job November 2021 whilst being on leave in Portugal, it felt so right. My mind was finally at peace: all thoughts and doubts that had been present almost daily for years, disappeared the moment I made the decision. And when the mind quiets, I know the decision is right.
But, as with most things in life: the honeymoon phase doesn't last forever. Increasingly challenges started surfacing. I started feeling tired to always look for the next experience, to change bed so many times and to not really find the deeper meaning behind all the travelling. I’d still enjoy it, but is this it? Am I spending my life enjoying beautiful places, meeting people and learning a few new skills, or is there perhaps something more profound to experience? Many seasoned travellers will agree with me: travelling for the sake of travelling after a while can become superficial and a bit boring.
It became clear to me that the initial reason to quit my job – a longing to break free from a very structured life where little is left to your surprise – had been met, leaving room for deeper layers to surface: how to give more meaning to life? How do I want to contribute to this world? This is the phase where I am currently at and I'm progressing slowly.
What has been most challenging so far?
I have to debunk the romantic idea that I am going about life, following what brings me joy, and along the way one opportunity arises after the other without putting in much effort. That as soon as you are 'walking the path to freedom and joy' it would be a succesion of wonderful experiences that are thrown into your lap just like that! Well NOPE…
First of all, there is the 'issue' of being a person with a lot of interests, so what do I do with all my free time? I am very aware of how spoiled this sounds, and still, it is the reality that I am facing. Having a lot of opportunities and little limitations, can make decision making stressful and a very time consuming job. Google a little, and you will find tons of research on choice overload.
Once I have done my soul searching, there is the next challenge: How do I find that experience that allows me to remain the flexible free bird that I want to be without falling into new, albeit temporary, unwanted constrictions in that environment? In order to maintain a sense of freedom, I have only done short term commitments up until now, meaning that every few weeks or months I go through the same process of thinking what do I want to do and where do I want to be next? It is a tiring component of this lifestyle: it takes a lot planning, thinking, organising and researching.
Another big challenge is finding routine while continuously changing environment. I have shortly written about it before. I am particularly a person who thrives well with routine, even though I have a lot of resistance to it as well (I mean, boring..). A good nights sleep is not my biggest talent and I live with a condition called endometriosis, meaning I thrive best with a certain sleep, diet and sports routine. The lack thereof can lead to feeling unbalanced, both physically and mentally, having a lack of focus and feeling a bit 'lost'.
Given all the challenges, I did wonder if going back to a regular job and a steady house will do me good, but that thought is quickly encountered with thoughts of a bit of disgust to that previous life. A life so unfree and so bound to external factors and believes that are not my own. I rather have the current challenges (which are plenty!) than the challenges I had while being in a regular 9-5 job and steady living situation. The key now is finding the sweet spot between freedom/flexibility and a sense of stability and belonging.
What do I miss most of my previous 9-5 lifestyle?
Mostly to enjoy my own private space where I can rest in between travels, and rummaging through my stuff that I have now partly stored at my brother and parents. I don't mind living with little stuff, but I sometimes miss to have a guitar around when you suddenly feel like picking up that old hobby, or to read a certain book that I know I have stored, or to wear something else for a change when there's a nice occasion.
As I often work for board and lodging, I sometimes miss cooking meals that meet my body’s needs. And I definitely miss sleeping in the same comfy bed every night.
What have I gained from this lifestyle?
A feeling of living a more truthful, authentic, rich and free life. The uncertainty and openness of this lifestyle has also brought a certain humbleness, sensitivity and softness to my personality that I think is really beautiful.
It's funny, because it feels like I am only lately realising that this journey has not been much about travelling, but rather a journey within. Who am I really? Living a life away from conventions and people that hold you to these conventions gives the opportunity to really explore your depths and your truth. It is not easy, because there is so much time to ponder and reminisce, but nevertheless I definitely feel like I am slowly but surely becoming more of the woman that I have always been, which makes me smile writing this.
I would have hoped that my general fitness has increased due to a more active lifestyle. With regards to my condition and strength this is probably true, but the lack of sleep and some bad lifestyle habits weigh down those positive aspects.
Has this lifestyle changed me?
Not really, or maybe more than I realise. I must say this is also not the first time I experience such a lifestyle; it has always been a part of who I am and how I go about life. In that way this choice and lifestyle never felt so much 'out of the box'. I do think this last year I have become more spiritual, more connected to my heart (which for me is what spirituality is about), and more open to being vulnerable.
Do I regret anything?
I can be short on this one: nope. Regret is pointless anyway, but also: as long as I keep learning and growing, it’s never a waste of time.
Lots of ideas, no clear plan yet. I just came back from Switzerland and I need some time to get back to my center and feel into my needs and wishes. I do know that I am ready to bring more depth into my life. Where this last year has been more focused on exploring interests and places, I really want to bring out things into the world that I think are needed and wanted. To finally create something that comes from my heart, instead of creating for someone else, and that feels so exciting!
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