With the desire to see all and do all, I uplifted my roots with the intentions to start a fresh life. Breaking free of the societal norms, I sold all my possessions and began a new life as a nomad. Little did I know, bouncing between countries would not only feed my wanderlust but would teach me how to live more mindfully.
My life in America was controlled by routine, materialism, and negligence. My week as well as my weekends were consistently the same; work, go out to eat, sleep, repeat. I was living on autopilot unaware of how my actions were negatively impacting my life. I was not living in the present but constantly worrying about the future, the next step. I would try to jazz up my mundane life with new shoes, a pumpkin spice latte, or an impulse buy. As a society, that’s what we have been trained to do. My happiness came from instant gratification, from meaningless stuff. Aside from overspending, I was also neglecting my wellness. I was not taking care of myself, focusing energy on everything else but my own needs.
When making the ultimate decision to roam, I knew I was going to change. However, I could never fathom how powerful the change would be to my mind, body, and spirit. These are the lessons I have learned along the way.
Since being abroad, I have realized that a simpler life is an easier life. Letting go of my car, my clothes, and my apartment was far easier than expected. In fact, it was quite freeing. Before traveling, I felt weighed down by my belongings and endless bills. I would spend money on unnecessary household goods, cable television, and clothes. The second I made the decision to travel, I purged. I did not want my possessions to define or hold me back anymore. In fact, while spending 6 months in South Korea, I refused to buy cellphone service. In my eyes, it was an unnecessary purchase and I did not want to be tied down to a contract. Since traveling, I have also noticed the smallest things in life that brings the most joy. Sipping a coconut on the beach, strolling through a Japanese garden, or exploring a new part of town. Life shouldn’t be complicated; letting go of the unnecessary, whether it’s people, possessions, or negativity, is the key to happiness.
From language barriers to interesting cultural customs, my patience was tested on multiple levels. Being in a new place, it can be frustrating to try to adapt to cultural norms. I learned quickly that it was a waste of energy to get upset over something that is completely out of your control. I had to be mindful that this was not my country; therefore, daily routines and rituals were handled differently.
In America, I had difficulties fully engaging with life. Whether it be stress or my iPhone interfering, I was never fully present. I would let these things distract me from my friends, relationships, and beautiful moments in life. It wasn’t until I started traveling that I stopped and began to soak up the moment. Instead of looking at a sunset through a camera lens, I began to look at it with my own eyes. Instead of having a disconnected conversation with someone, I began to respectfully listen and value the time someone else was giving me. I learned to embrace the moment, since I may never have that moment again.
I have never been ungrateful for what I have been given or have had in my life. However, sometimes we lose sight of how fortunate we truly are, in all aspects of our life. Seeing how others live across the globe, often battling adverse situations, has been sobering. From underpaid and mistreated domestic workers in Hong Kong to inhumane living conditions in the Philippines. Seeing children dropping out of school at the age of the 13 to support their family to the elderly struggling to survive due to a broken system. These put everything into perspective. Instead of griping about my job, I should be grateful that I have a job where I’m not abused. Instead of complaining about my small apartment, I should be grateful that I have a stable living environment with running water and electricity. Being in America, I never quite felt content; I wanted more, complained about trivial things, and took basic privileges for granted. Seeing how others live has helped shift my focus, allowing me to see the bigger picture.
By living a nomadic life, I have had the chance to reflect on my old life and the lessons learned. By exploring new places, I allowed myself to be vulnerable to new experiences and open to growth. I knew my life before lacked something but it took getting out of my element to reveal what it was. Through travel, I have developed a more meaningful life filled with mindfulness.
Your turn–have you thought about (or tried) being a nomad? What lessons have you learned?
Also by Jess: I Tried It: Traditional Chinese Cupping
Inspired Living: Choosing Between Passion and Love
Related: Why You Should Travel Alone as a Woman
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Photo: Jess Davis