There are so many ‘digital nomads’ out there telling you to quit your job and travel the world. About how they used to work 80 hours a week in a windowless cubicle in a job they hated. How they were miserable until they quit to travel but now their lives are perfect.
What I want to know is why does it have to be so extreme? Why can’t you have both – an awesome life when travelling as well as when you are at home?
Maybe some of their lives sucked before travel but having a ‘regular’ life doesn’t have to be like that. It doesn’t have to be all long hours and cold weather. You can live a fulfilled life in the ‘real world’. That’s exactly what I do during my stints of normalcy between trips.
I refuse to live life for the weekends or counting down till my next big trip. I want to be happy and in the moment ALL the time, not just when I am travelling.
I have made some sacrifices to live a life that makes me truly happy, but they were worth it to me. All roads in this life should lead to happiness, like the Dalai Lama I believe that being happy is the purpose of life.
The first step is to expand your tunnel vision. The vision that tells you that travel is the be all and end all. It isn’t. It is fantastic and one of my greatest passions in life but it isn’t my only one.
There is more to life than travel and a lot of earthly pleasures can be easier to indulge when you have a home base. I truly believe that finding balance is the key to a happy life and it is something that I am always striving for.
Everyone derives happiness from different things. Some of the things that make me happy may be hellish for you. Some of the sacrifices I have made might not be worth the trade-off for some people. Not everyone is as lucky in life as I have been and many people don’t have the same choices that I have had. But I believe that everyone has it in their power to make their lives better, at least to some extent.
I want to share with you the steps I have taken to live an enriching and happy life when I’m not travelling. Maybe they will help you create your own path to happiness.
Taking a job with less money but more freedom
My current job is as an Education Officer at a Medical College. It isn’t the most exciting job in the world but the people are nice, the atmosphere is relaxed and I have flexi-hours. I can start anytime between 8am and 10am each day and as long as I do my 7 ½ hours of work per day, it doesn’t matter to my boss what hours I work. This allows me to finish early when needed, to take a long lunch or to fit in some hiking before work.
I am making about $15,000 less per year than I could have been making if I accepted a Personal Assistant job in the corporate offices of a Recruitment Agency that was offered to me. I knew that job wouldn’t make me happy and that I would have little free time with lots of client events I would be expected to attend as well as daily overtime. Coupled with working in a fast-paced and result-driven corporate environment (yuck), the difference in salary was negligible in the end. What is the point of making lots of money if you aren’t happy? I know not everyone has a choice and are just happy to have work at all but I did have a choice, and I don’t regret my decision to settle for a lower paying but less demanding job for a second.
Experiment with cooking to make it exciting
Cooking dinner most week nights can get pretty boring. To combat the boredom and to work on my cooking skills, I pick something new to cook every week or two from Pinterest. That way I am challenging myself as well as getting to eat something different than I would normally cook. Some meals don’t turn out that well but some have been a huge success and I felt a sense of pride that I created this amazing meal.
Fitting in some weekday hiking
This is probably the one activity that makes me the happiest both when I am travelling and at home. My flexi-hours definitely come in handy here as it gives me time to fit in a 7-8km hike before I start work a couple of days a week, or in summer I finish work early and go hiking on one of the trails around Manly with Trav or go for a swim at the beach. I also love hiking in the weekend but it is such an amazing thing to have this beautiful experience in nature to start or finish a day in the office. On days when I don’t have as much time I do a 30-60 minute walk during my lunch break. My office is close to the Rocks and the Botanical Gardens and both are fantastic places to break up the work day and get some fresh air.
Live in a place I love
Living within walking distance of the seaside village of Manly on Sydney’s Northern beaches is a dream come true for me. When I lived in Sydney back in 2004 I spent a lot of time in Manly with friends and I was determined to live there this time around. Manly is definitely not a cheap area to live in so we rented a small two bedroom apartment just up the hill in Fairlight where rent is cheaper, while still only being a ten minute walk away from the action. Manly has beaches, fantastic bars and dining and lots of hiking trails – all things that make me very happy. And to top it all off I get to catch a ferry to and from work in one of the world’s most beautiful harbours. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Meet like-minded people at local events
We knew a few people when we moved to Sydney but everyone was so busy with their own lives that we started attending events to meet some more like-minded people. We have been to a few Couchsurfing meetups, an Air BnB Hosting event, and I have been to a couple of Travel Blogger meetups. A lot of my friends don’t have the same interests as me so it is nice to meet more people that do.
Hosting on Air BnB
Air BnB has been a tool that we love to use when travelling but I think I love it even more when we get to host people in our home. We have hosted numerous people in our spare room over the past year and I have loved getting to meet fellow travellers from around the world and learn about their cultures, as well as teaching them about life on this side of the world. It is something that we will continue to do, hopefully for years to come.
Plan for future travel
Half the fun of travel is in the day dreaming and planning, well for me anyway. When I’m not travelling, it makes me happy to plan future trips and to learn about new places that I want to visit by reading travel blogs, books, watching movies, and reading articles online.
Finding time for reading
I was always a big reader when I was a kid but I let my reading lapse once I entered adult hood, when I mainly only read when I was on holiday. Reading does give me joy so it is something that I make a point to do on a more regular basis nowadays. I generally read for about an hour a day when I am commuting to and from work and sometimes in the evening. It feels good to get back into it again.
Create Bucket lists for local stuff
I don’t know about you but I have so many lists of things that I want to do around my current home (including a ridiculously long list of places I want to eat). For example, me and a couple of girls from work are slowly working through all the burger places in the CBD. I also have a list of amazing bars I want to go to, museums I want to visit and hikes I want to do near the city. Maybe you want to find the best Pho in your city or to visit every underground bar or to be a groupie for your favourite local band. There are so many options for local bucket lists.
Learn new skills
It can be hard if not impossible to find time to learn new skills when you are travelling so I use my free time at home to do it instead. When I was living in London I took six months of Spanish night classes which I really enjoyed. At the moment Trav is teaching me to drive a manual car (I only ever learnt automatic). I am constantly learning the technical side of setting up and running a blog with the help of google and my blogging friends, and I have even delved into the world of freelance writing, learning about AP style and how to follow strict copy-writing guidelines by getting stuck in. I have more time to do these things when I am not travelling.
Volunteering my time for something I am passionate about
I love animals so when we moved to Manly I signed up to be a Penguin Warden for the National Parks and Wildlife Service. I volunteer for a couple of hours on Saturday evenings in the breeding season to look after these little guys, protecting them from idiotic people and dogs, along with educating people about them. It has really made me feel like part of the community and I have met some wonderful people through my volunteering. Volunteering has given me a deep sense of satisfaction. When I get back from my big trip I will be volunteering as a cat foster parent for the World League for Protection of Animals, a rescue operation with a no-kill policy. Cats are an obsession for me so I can’t wait.
I am always exploring my own backyard
There is always something new to experience in Sydney, as well as many places that I love and want to return to. Rather than get stuck doing the same thing over and over again, I make sure to get out there and explore!
What it comes down to in the end is that I simply focus on the things that make me happy. The first thing you need to do to enjoy your life at home is to gain awareness. Really think about what you want to do, what makes you happy.
And put a plan in place to follow that happiness.