I created The Modern Nomad in the hope that it will serve as an inspiration to others who wish to adopt a nomadic lifestyle. Such a transformation, like all journeys, must start somewhere. Mine began on the first day of 2011.
I got up early on that New Year’s morning. I tiptoed into the kitchen, stealthily toasted some bread and made coffee. I begged the kettle to keep quiet so as not to wake my flatmate. I normally enjoy eating breakfast with him, but not today. Today, like previous New Year days, was reserved for deep reflection and making sense of my life, a task that tolerates no spectators. As I buttered my toast, I had no idea that by the end of the day I would have decided to uproot my life and take it in an entirely new direction.
Back in my bedroom, I locked the door. (Actually, I blocked it with a bureau since my door has no lock.) Barricaded, I unplugged my computer and removed the battery from my mobile phone. I tidied the room until both my space and head were uncluttered. I sat down on a chair, closed my eyes and quietly agreed with myself that today I was not going to get anything done apart from this one exercise of self-reflection.
So there I sat, on a chair facing the wall, simply evaluating my life. I thought about the year that had passed and the things I had done. I revisited old dreams and aspirations and compared them to where I was going. I paid particular attention to areas that made me uncomfortable, gently removing layers of mental scar tissue and self-defence mechanisms.
Slowly and painfully, I realised that things were not quite right. I had stagnated. I had been in London for ten years and my job for five. It doesn’t sound too bad, but when I was young, I vowed never to stagnate. It has been a personal motto and a promise to myself; nevertheless, there I was, entirely without adventures in my everyday life. I was too good at being me. I knew London as the back of my hand, and although it is a wonderful city, it did not surprise me anymore. I realised that I was similarly unchallenged at work. Nothing truly new happened there either. There were only variations on the same old thing.
At that point, I really wanted to plug my computer back in and escape onto the internet where I could lose myself in YouTube and lolcats. I did not want to look more closely at the things I did not like about my life. Who does? It hurts and demands hard work to fix. Mindlessly surfing the internet is much easier. Facebook and other social media are the modern equivalence of the mythological sirens, luring us away from our path with irresistible songs of procrastination. However, like Odysseus tied himself to the mast of his ship to resist the song of the sirens, I had locked myself into a room without internet or TV. I persevered and continued my reflections.
So, I was comfortable with my life but not fulfilled. Boo hoo. I want to make it clear that I never felt hard done by. Not at all. I was proud of what I had achieved in the ten years since I left school and my little town in Sweden. I had taken risks in leaving then and they had paid off. Now I needed to take on new risks and new challenges to be similarly proud of my next decade.
I paced the floor a bit to stretch my legs, then sat down again to figure out what concrete actions I was going to take. I gave myself total freedom to explore any idea, no matter how crazy or seemingly unrealistic. It eventually became clear that what would truly excite me would a life in where I could move more frequently, perhaps every four to six months.
My subconscious almost discarded the idea before I had time to look at it. This nomadic life was too different from the life I knew and thus shrouded in vaguely defined reasons why it could never work. But I had given myself the right to entertain seemingly unrealistic ideas, and as I did the shadows receded and the idea didn’t look so unrealistic anymore. I am a software engineer. Armed with a laptop, I can do a lot of things such as work remotely or pick up contracting jobs.
And what would this new nomadic life bring with it? A bottomless well of fresh experiences and adventure. The time and freedom to explore the world, not in weeklong holidays but by living it. A future dictated by my next decisions and not those made years ago.
The idea flooded my mind and made me positively giddy. I watched myself grin like an idiot in the mirror. I wanted to shout out ‘Eureka! I’ve got it!’ I knew that this would mean a drastic change to my life. I would leave everything I had built up in London to go in search of something new, but I felt no apprehension or fear. I felt only excitement and happiness!