A preface: this life is exciting. I'm adventuring, exploring, discovering. I've now lived in four countries this year and already have memories that will last a lifetime.
I knew that I'd need to sacrifice a few things in the pursuit of nomadism. When I was sitting on a cozy sofa in Durham, those sacrifices seemed tiny and completely manageable. Almost like non-sacrifices, things I'd use as oh but it's not ALL incredible statements, without really feeling the strain.
I was half right. These sacrifices (thus far) are TOTALLY manageable. But I certainly feel the strain.
One happy surprise: my fear of losing friendships has, thus far, proven unwarranted. iMessage, Skype, Google Hangouts, and other electronic means have resulted in still feeling close to the people I love most. I might not know what Chloe ate for breakfast or what Amanda bought at Loft, but I still feel close to them and that makes me so happy.
On to a list of 4 things I gave up:
There's a gal on the second floor of our coworking space today who is dressed in the most Taylor of outfits. Layered gold jewelry, loose curls, black leather leggings, ankle boots, and a long gauzy blouse.
I have that outfit, tucked away in storage thousands of miles away. But today I'm wearing the only pair of jeans I own. These jeans don't quite fit - they're slightly too short and slightly too big in the waist. On top, I'm wearing one of my three "nicer" shirts, i.e. not a beat up grey tee from H&M. I suppose it's cute, but it has lost all allure in my eyes.
Fashion is sometimes touted as a shallow indulgence. I'm not convinced it's wholly shallow. Fashion is a way to communicate who you are. It's a creative expression, an outward extension of self, and sometimes even art.
My fashion sense is (usually) a bit nuts. I've been known to wear loud jumpsuits, prints that Amanda calls "circus pants," and plenty of leather. But not on Remote Year. On Remote Year, I'm all jeans and tee-shirts and black and grey. Function above form.
Under no circumstances will I be able to look as good as I did in the above pictures on Remote Year. Ugh, should have packed that purple lipstick. Oh well.
I gave up that outward expression, the ability to look more than "okay." I gave up the ability to appropriately dress for an occasion. I show up to a fancy rooftop wine tasting, shake the hand of our dapper host, and think oh, you look nice, hi nice to meet you I'm not a sporty spice impersonator I promise. This is as fancy as I can get - and even then, I'm wearing beat-up sandals, a cheap dress from Target, and a bomber jacket. Not exactly glitz and glam.
I don't need glitz and glam. The experience of constantly feeling shabby is, I hope, a moment of growth. Because if I'm honest, I found myself focusing on body image and aesthetics far more than ever during the year after divorce. I was self conscious about my lack of a thigh gap, about the gums that show when I smile, about things that don't really matter but suddenly feel like a niggling discomfort when you're trying to be alluring for the first time in five years.
I'd love to say that I don't care about the way I look. But of course I do, don't we all?
I miss my Free People motorcycle jacket, my (faux) leather leggings and my layered gold jewelry. I miss my emerald green jeans and my Nars lipsticks. I miss dressing to the nines and feeling like I stepped out of a street style blog.
So this experience of never getting to daaaaaamn, girl is a good one, I suppose. But it's an adjustment - one I didn't really expect.
My immune system has never been great, which is to my disadvantage in a context like this.
In two months of nomadism, I've experienced the following:
- Three hellish nights of vomiting, none of which were caused by alcohol
- Too many experiences with Traveler's Diarrhea to count
- One nasty cold
- Altitude sickness like WHOA.
All in 60 days. Before Remote Year, I couldn't remember the last time I threw up all night. It happens quite frequently now, whether because of food poisoning or tainted water or maybe the germy cesspool that is a large group.
As I sit here, recovering from a bout of altitude sickness that left me curled up on the floor of a cafe in La Paz, tears streaming down my face, I can't help but miss the days where I didn't have to deal with health issues more often than not.
Remember when I wrote about staying healthy on the road? Yeah, I haven't done any of that.
I was pretty good about exercising in Durham. I went to the gym regularly (and made good progress) in the months prior to Remote Year. Before I broke my stupid ankle, I would run 10-20 miles per week. And before I was a runner, I was a regular at a local barre studio.
I've learned that it's easy to stay active when you have a home. When you have a shelf of exercise clothes, a reliable shower, a predictable schedule. The latter is the most important.
I'm pretty much a lump in South America. And I had the best intentions! Here's why I haven't gotten to the point of forcing myself to exercise on the road:
- I'm nearly always tired. To be fair, the exhaustion is not generally a result of physical exertion. I'm usually just overstimulated and mentally drained. A session at the gym would turn that right around, but unfortunately...
- Gyms are more expensive than I thought. The Remote Year fee is not exactly cheap, which means my 'spending money' is much lower as a nomad than in Durham. I anticipated one-month gym memberships to be cheaper than in the states, but thus far those expectations are proving false. A membership in Montevideo was ~ $80 (USD). Buenos Aires isn't much cheaper. La Paz is $60. I can't quite stomach that cost, at least not yet. I might feel differently in a couple of months.
- I'm walking quite a bit. Which is great, don't get me wrong, but allows me to make excuses to myself. Yeah, but I walked like three miles today. Probably an overstatement, self, do a push up.
- Running isn't going so well. My injury is constantly sore from the amount of walking I do on a daily basis. I went on a couple of jogs in Uruguay, but woke up the next day to a swollen and throbbing ankle. It's really frustrating. I'm scared I may never run long distance again.
And yeah, I know, here are the things I should be doing:
- The apps I mentioned in my previous post, like the 7-minute workout
- Do calisthenics in a park or something
- Reach out to the group for an accountability buddy
- Just make myself do it.
1. The comfort of familiar.
This is a big one. It's easy to walk the streets of your home city and tell your friends that you're ready for a big change, for something completely different.
And I was, I really was. I needed a massive change, a shake up in my life. In my head, I equated the "change navigation" experience of Remote Year to the experience of moving to a new city. Yeah, the sights and restaurants and friends would be different, but I'd get used to it. I'd have a community and I'd find my stride.
Yes, I have a solid community. If I didn't have that community, I'm not sure I'd make it through the year. My Remote Year friends are my rock, my support system, my constant source of joy and my favorite part of this adventure.
Yes, I find my stride in every city. I'd say it takes around three weeks to feel like I really LIVE in our cities. I find my go-to spots, my daily walk to work becomes second nature, and I start to feel more like a local than a visitor.
But as soon as I find my stride, as soon as I breathe and settle into a new home, we move. We pack up and adventure to a new country where absolutely everything is different and I have to navigate the change all over again. It's an exciting adventure, but it's also a huge mental strain.
Hardly anything is constant. Nothing is familiar. And as soon as something becomes familiar, it ceases to exist in my reality.
So my new routine is one of constant change, constant shakeup. I am becoming ever more adaptable, ever more willing to say yes to everything new and leave behind the things in which I find peace.
I really didn't grasp how much change this year would bring. It's tough.
It's wonderful, yes, but it's tough.