11 revelations from another year of nomadic travel
April 6, 2019, marked my second year as a wandering nomad. I celebrated this anniversary by plonking myself down in my current two-cat house sit and contemplating all of my life lessons over the past 730 days. Pretty rock and roll, right?
Exactly one year ago I formulated my first 11 nomadic travel revelations and, while the dramatist in me wants to believe the days have flown by, in truth, they haven’t. Time has continued to slow down since my life’s reboot and I can’t comprehend how much I’ve compacted into the past 12 months, let alone two years.
Here are 11 more revelations from another year of nomadic travel.
1. Find your passion or lose momentum.
When I left Adelaide to travel back in 2017, I didn’t know what I’d find. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what I was searching for, but, I knew I needed a change. I needed to unearth my passion.
After house sitting stints in the metropolitan hubs of Melbourne and Brisbane, my journey led me to Western Australia. At the time, my purpose was cloudy and my motivation had evaporated. However, after several road trips up and down the state’s scenic coastline, I discovered my love for the great outdoors.
Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it.
I took some time to realise that ‘travel’ wasn’t my passion. While I still cherish all of the opportunities the nomadic lifestyle provides, I recognise it doesn’t drive me. I now spend my spare time planning hiking excursions and stalking camping store sales.
2. Comfort is paradoxical.
As humans, we’re drawn to picking the ‘easiest option’. With helter-skelter lives, we inevitably make decisions that minimise stress and avert risk. We’re all familiar with this headspace: the ‘comfort zone’, a secure mental state that provides regular happiness and low anxiety. In many ways, it’s nurturing nature is perfectly suited to the human condition. However, too much comfort can become uncomfortable.
After years of nuzzling into a convenient nook, I felt oddly on edge. I lived a life of untested boundaries with little idea of my true capabilities. While my professional productivity was through the roof, the rest of my existence was stagnant. But, it wasn’t long before the ever-changing tapestry of the nomadic experience changed all that.
I sometimes dream of a less chaotic life, living in my own space surrounded by my own possessions. And someday, when the time is right, I might again embrace domestication. But, I hope I never again reach the deepest, darkest depths of the restrictive comfort that nursed me through my mid 20’s.
3. Simplicity helps you appreciate the small things.
Have you ever marvelled at the ingenuity of hot water flowing from a tap? Nope? I hadn’t either until I’d hiked through South Australia’s underdeveloped wilderness for two months. After long stretches of solo showerless walking along the Heysen Trail, my appreciation for life’s small things grew exponentially.
We enjoy convenient lives, with everything we could possibly need at our fingertips. This primal trek raised my bar for daily gratuity. Spending lengthy amounts of time with limited resources and even less companionship reset my expectations. I enjoyed every hot shower and embraced every hug that little bit more when I eventually rejoined civilisation.
4. We can all own less crap.
Over the space of two years, I went from renting a house filled with material possessions to living and working out of a rucksack. While this level of extreme minimalism won’t work for everyone, it shows that we can all live with less ‘clutter’. For example, my wardrobe reduced from an entire dresser of infrequently worn clothes to a concise ensemble of multi-purpose outfits.
A decrease in ‘stuff’ also brought a drop in expenses. With fewer assets to maintain, my outgoings have never been lower, while my debts are currently zero.
5. The most challenging tasks are the most rewarding.
My Heysen Trail trek was, without doubt, my most demanding project. I was pushed to my physical, mental and emotional limits throughout the journey. On top of walking 1,200 extraordinarily diverse kilometres, I also lugged around cumbersome camera equipment, organised a community event and raised money on behalf of the Black Dog Institute. Nothing like testing your boundaries on your first long-distance hike, right? Although, through all of the challenges, I had never felt so fulfilled.
I look back at this isolated adventure in stunned amazement. It doesn’t seem quite real. Everything I accomplished on the trail, from hiking the extensive distance to documenting my story to generating awareness for mental health issues, energises me with an enduring sense of pride.
6. Make your journey bigger than yourself.
I’ve enjoyed some of my life’s most incredible highlights over the past year. Hiking the Salkantay Trek to Macchu Picchu in June, finishing the Heysen Trail in October and snowboarding down Sweden’s forest-lined slopes in December to name a few. However, none of these experiences come close to the joys of contributing, even in some small way, to a better world.
I began the Heysen Trail hoping to raise a little bit of money and awareness for mental health issues in Australia; the response that followed was overwhelming. Thanks to the outstanding support from followers, we raised $11,939.03 for the Black Dog Institute – far exceeding all expectations. Once I’d finished the trail, I then had the opportunity to spread the message in South Australian schools and community groups.
I’m certainly not out to ‘change the world’, but I am immensely proud to have left a small imprint.
7. You leave an impression, whether you realise it or not.
After vegetating in a sheltered design office for many years, I felt I hadn’t left a meaningful impact on the outside world. The industry is a strange beast, you give life to so many different businesses, but often never share in their overall success. It’s a simultaneously gratifying and devaluing profession for many designers stuck in a cubicle.
I embarked on this nomadic adventure, in part, to find an avenue to leave my mark, without realising I had already influenced the lives of many. On Day 17 of the Heysen Trail, I stumbled across a brand that I had designed six years earlier, some 275 kilometres away from its original location. It then dawned on me, I’d left impressions for years, and they were scattered all over South Australia and the world.
Impressions don’t have to be physical objects, they can be words, gestures, actions or simply listening. Leaving an impression is inevitable, make sure it’s a good one.
8. Don’t compare your life with others.
Question time. Raise your hands if you’ve ever, even for a whimsical moment, entertained the idea of becoming an ‘Influencer’. Earning squillions for posting the odd photo on Instagram with your butt hanging out while lazing around the pool. Sounds tempting, right?
Comparing your life to this fantasy world will do far more bad than good. This ‘lifestyle’ is largely unobtainable and, in most cases, it simply isn’t real. Trying to relate to others’ heavily curated social media highlights – which focus on the best moments and ignore the mundane – can lead you down an incredibly depressing path.
After working myself into a state, I took several months off Instagram before recently rejoining the platform. It was the break I needed. I’ve now re-entered the social media world with fresh eyes and a new perspective.
Not I, nor anyone else, can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself.
I now compare my progress with previous versions of myself – it’s the only reliable way to gain an accurate perspective. I can’t believe how much I’ve grown over the last year and I look forward to tracking future evolvements in the years (and Instagram posts) to come.
9. Social media takes more than it gives .
I think we can all agree that social media has made us less sociable. I know, the irony. The time we spend glued to our screens (especially when trying to leave a professional impression) borders on obsessive. According to Global Web Index, internet users spend an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes a day on social networking and messaging platforms. That’s 16 and a half hours a week!
Now, I’m not subscribing to the idea that we should cast social media aside – it clearly has many powerful positives – but, with every habit-forming behaviour, a level of moderation is required. Imagine cutting your scrolling time in half and putting those hours toward learning a new language, exploring nature or developing a side-hustle.
I spent far too many transit hours over the past year blindly scrolling through feeds, leading to a stocktake of both my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I’ve been locked in a perpetual battle to keep my screen time down ever since, but after a period of constant monitoring, I’m finally making progress.
10. Don’t fear that you’ll miss out.
On my first handful of international adventures, I found myself in a perpetual state of hurry. Hopping hostels, catching flights and rushed rendezvous were a persistent travel companion. I barely had time to scratch my butt. But, no matter how tightly I milked my schedule, I never saw ‘everything’. It’s impossible. Once I got my head around this deflating notion, immersive travel became the focus of my itinerary.
The value of travel does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport. The slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of 40 countries.
Experiencing a new place should be inspiring, not exhausting. I now spend weeks in regions as opposed to days, and I’ve stopped counting countries and started investing time in specific locations. Savouring slow travel and absorbing your surroundings is ultimately more valuable than hurriedly ticking off bucket list items.
11. Everybody needs time to reflect.
I spent the 2019 new years period pondering my previous calendar year. It had been far too long between reflective drinks, so, by the end of those tipples, I had uncovered a lot. Everybody should allow time to consider all they push out into the world; the good, the bad and the ugly, only then can there be meaningful change.