After four months of traveling around the Caribbean, Pacific, and North America, we’re finally back home in Granada, Spain. I can’t begin to describe how comforting it is to be in a place we’ve come to be so familiar and at ease with: the smell of our sheets, the sounds of kids playing in the park right behind our house, the view of the mountains on our rooftop terrace and the fragrance of pine in the air that’s quintessentially Granada.
Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely love traveling – so much so that we turned our biggest passion into a job and built a lifestyle around travel. The rewards have been endless and the experiences extremely fulfilling. In fact, the more we travel, the more we realize travel is the only thing we want to do and we would never trade our lifestyle for a cubicle.
But traveling for months on end while running a business can be exhausting – both physically and mentally – and we have never been happier to come home.
Being Nomadic: Dreams vs Reality
When we set off on an open-ended trip as full-fledged nomads in January 2012, we didn’t know how hard it would be. We had the dream of working our mornings away at a beach bar, then spending the afternoon surfing or lounging around. But the reality was far from it. Even though we were traveling, we had a business to manage and deadlines to meet — that means that in between hikes and temple visits, we were cramping in as many hours of work as we could. Because we were working with several tourism boards, we had to stick to a fixed travel schedule, attend casual meetings with our partners and churn out articles along the way. After just six months on the road, we were burnt out.
We felt that both our personal and professional lives were suffering — we weren’t as productive as we were back at home, we weren’t connecting as much as we used to as a couple, and we hardly had any time to socialize or build long-lasting friendships. But worst of all, we felt that we were losing the sense of awe we used to have for travel. We were no longer as excited to discover a city for the first time or explore a world-famous temple. Train rides soon swooshed into one big blur, waterfalls looked the same to us, and beaches were just a way to escape from the stress of work. It was on a hike on the Great Wall in Beijing when it occurred to me, how jaded we had become. Even on one of the most magnificent wonders of the world, we didn’t feel the sense of amazement and awe that had first gotten us hooked to travel. That was when we decided to cut our trip short and return home to Spain for a much-needed rest.
Back home, I wrote about the reality of being a nomad — sharing with you our experience as nomads, including both the good and the bad. It took us awhile to accept the fact that we were just not cut out for a nomadic lifestyle. And granted, there were so many things we could have done better: we could have chosen to travel slower, plan better, fund our travels ourselves, take more breaks in between, look for new experiences — but we knew this wasn’t the kind of life we wanted to live together.
Sure, we loved (and still love) the flexibility and freedom that comes with a nomadic lifestyle, and we are thankful to be able to build a life with what we love doing most. But we also loved having a sense of belonging, stability, being able to build deep-rooted friendships, and having some down time to reflect and collect our thoughts.
Now, we consider ourselves semi-nomadic, going back to our home base in Granada in between trips to recharge our batteries, refuel our minds and work on non-travel-related projects.
Concept of Home
In retrospect, even though we’ve been living in Granada for almost four years now, something feels different this time. Perhaps being away for so long (for the umpteenth time) has finally cemented the concept of home for me.
I’d never felt this way previously; “home” was always a volatile concept as we moved from one corner of the globe to another over the past decade or so. Home was Singapore, Miami and London then Madrid. Life was exciting relocating from one continent to another, and we embraced the challenges along the way. But something was always missing — I felt lost at times, as if I didn’t belong. Eventually, we decided to stop looking and settle down in Granada — as long as Alberto was by my side, it would be home.
It hasn’t always been an easy journey, but I’m glad we made this decision. At the beginning, I struggled to find my bearings in Granada; but I worked hard to learn the language, find a job (I used to teach English and Mandarin), make new friends, and essentially build a life of my own. Alberto and his family made me realize what home actually means now.
Several friends and readers have been asking me about my summer travel plans, I’ve never been more excited to reply with a wide grin on my face, “Home. I’ll be home.”