In the last 6 months, I’ve lived in 4 different cities and have driven along the entire West Coast. I never expected to be doing this in 2020, but with so many surprises this year that have derailed everyone’s plans and uprooted people’s lives, this was actually a pleasant change of events that kept me sane. I guess the nomadic life up and down the coast is the silver lining amidst all the chaos that 2020 has brought.
I left San Francisco at the end of June to travel to different cities and live off of Airbnbs, with a plan for only 2 months. For someone who plans for everything, the uncertainty definitely brought a bit of anxiety, but I learned that deciding on a city or finding the perfect Airbnb aren’t actually that important in the grand scheme of things. Over time, I’ve gotten more comfortable with ambiguity and winging it along the way.
Even though I traveled during the pandemic, I made sure to wear masks, socially distance and avoid crowds both indoors and outdoors. If anything, being on the road made me extra cautious.
My original intention of this post was to show the pros and cons of being on the road. Wasn’t a fan and thought about scrapping it altogether. But then I figured why not spit out random thoughts I have about this lifestyle. So here it goes:
Living in a city is so different than a weekend trip
All the cities I’ve lived in, I’ve visited at some point in my life, some of which I’d even say I’m quite familiar with. But a weekend trip just isn’t the same as living there for a few weeks since I’m only seeing the best the city has to offer. I’ve been to the best sunset spots in San Diego and the most hip breweries in Portland, but I’ve never experienced the lifestyle of actually living there. The beauty of spending weeks in a new city is that I still feel the excitement of all the novelty, but I don’t feel the pressure to do things immediately. I love being able to go at my own pace and explore low key places that aren’t filled with tourists (except for myself). It’s like testing the waters at being a local to see if I’d like it long term.
The newness of each city is exciting and gives me a lot to look forward to
This is a ‘no duh,’ but it’s been a hard year staying motivated. It’s a huge bummer not being able to see friends and family and having so many pre-planned trips being canceled, so the idea (and reality) of exploring a new city, finding local gems and going on hiking adventures is really exciting! I love spending my evenings and weekends researching what cool things I can do and then going out to actually do them. It not only allows me be more creative, but it also helps me focus better at work. If there’s one lesson that 2020 has taught me, it’s to appreciate the small wins in life and I count these as a series of small wins.
I actually don’t need that much stuff
Everything I bring needs to fit into my Subaru hatchback and every new thing that I buy also needs to fit. This has forced me to downsize significantly and evaluate if I really need everything I think I need. When I first left my SF storage, I brought way too much unnecessary things like a bike, longboard and too many clothes that I ended up not using. So when I revisited the storage to swap out summer clothes for winter clothes, I brought only items I know for sure I’ll use. Two months later, I haven’t had a point where I needed something from storage. I do think, however, that I can be even more minimalistic.
Most of my days are actually not adventurous, but that’s ok!
Social media is highly curated and only shows the best of the best, and mine is no different. It’s something I remind myself frequently and it’s something we should all be aware of. It’s unfair to compare people’s Instagram stories to our own lives because it’s comparing an idealistic (and unrealistic) representation to reality. My daily activities are actually very mundane. I have a full-time job Monday to Friday, and I mix in some exercises, neighborhood walks, Costco runs and a lot of Netflix. Most weekends I stay local and will occasionally do a day trip to go on a hike or discover other areas. This is nothing out of the ordinary even if I weren’t doing a nomad life.
Looking back at nearly half a year on the road, I’m very happy with my decision to leave SF and explore different cities. The constant novelty creates a lot of excitement, but more importantly, it gives me something to look forward to and keeps me motivated. Being able to stay for several weeks at a time also allows me to go at my own pace without burning out. For now, I have a plan until early February but who knows where I’ll go after.