Confessions of A Semi-Nomadic Couple: We Love Coming Home

Posted on June 10, 2013 by

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.

Happy but exhausted on the road

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.

Working in the savannas of Zimbabwe

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.

Granada our home

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.”

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

23 Responses to “Confessions of A Semi-Nomadic Couple: We Love Coming Home”

  1. Wanderlusters June 10, 2013 7:19 am #

    I sympathise with your observations about nomadic life. We've been on the road for a little over two years now and in August I'll be returning 'home' for the first time. While travel excites me more than words can describe, I'm surprised at how eager I am to return to the familiar surroundings of my family home, to see the people I love who I left behind, and renew and refresh for my next adventure.

    For now I'm content to continue living a nomadic existence however I'm sure one day I'll need to put down some roots and to have somewhere to call my own.

    • panetes June 10, 2013 1:17 pm #

      hey Charli, good to see you here! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I'm glad you feel the same. Two years is a long time to be on the road and it's good to know you're excited about going home. When we used to go on extended trips, we always ended up being depressed to be home even though we were initially happy to be home. With this new semi-nomadic lifestyle, it works out perfectly for us since we know we'll be off somewhere exciting again soon!

  2. Steph June 10, 2013 8:04 am #

    I love this because Mike and I have also increasingly felt the need for a real home base to return to at the end of long trips. I think it's just natural that after awhile most people long for a little stability. Hopefully we'll get out home base sorted out soon (and then we'll come visit you!).

    • panetes June 10, 2013 1:18 pm #

      I guess it's natural to feel this way especially for people in our line of work. I'm glad so many people understand how we feel. And yes, once you've found a home base in Italy, come visit! P.S. It was great hanging out with you guys over TBEX!

  3. Craig June 10, 2013 10:40 am #

    I know the feeling! In fact, we don't have a home as such, but we do rent a place to stay for 3-4 months at least once a year… It's nice having that, and even better when we do it near good friends.

    • panetes June 10, 2013 1:19 pm #

      I bet you do — you guys have been nomadic for so long! Sorry it didnt work out the last time you guys were in Granada, but hope to see you soon!

  4. Jac June 10, 2013 11:44 am #

    I'm a fellow Singaporean girl and while I have yet to embark on a full-time travelling nomadic lifestyle, I have an inkling I won't be cut out for a totally nomadic lifestyle either, but who knows until I've actually tried it for myself =)

    I do love the concept of home and a place for you to return to, and I'm glad you've found yours wherever it may be (Granada sounds awesome!)

    • panetes June 10, 2013 1:25 pm #

      hey Jac, good to meet you! I just had a look at your site and love it, especially the scratch maps you're selling. We have a huge world map at home too to keep us dreaming. ;) Thanks for your thoughts. I'm quite happy that we've settled for a semi-nomadic lifestyle. We're thrilled to have almost three months here before our next trip!

      • Jac June 11, 2013 10:02 pm #

        Thanks for dropping by the site =) your huge world map sounds awesome, and have a good break before your next adventure!

  5. Linda Bibb June 10, 2013 8:14 pm #

    The closest we've come to a nomadic lifestyle was a 6-week whirlwind trip through Europe a couple of summers ago. As fun as it was to see new places, we quickly got tired of living out of a suitcase. Like you, we've embraced a semi-nomadic lifestyle, taking off for a month or two, then returning home to recharge and regroup (not to mention catch up on work!).

    Our next big trip is to TBEX in Dublin. Hope to see you there and hear about your summer. :)

  6. Angela June 11, 2013 3:14 am #

    This is EXACTLY where we are right now in our lives. We thought we could do it all, run a business, a blog, travel fulltime and have enough time to explore and spend time together. We are realising more and more that this is somewhat impossible and we really need to find a home. It's not just a want, but really a need. We need some stability, some basecamp from where we can go and discover. In the next few months we'll be looking for this place and I can't wait for the moment I can say with the same grin on my face: “Home. I’ll be home.”

  7. Encarna June 11, 2013 4:34 am #

    Me gusta que sintais la necesidad de viajar constantemente, podais sentiros agusto en casa en los momentos de descanso y reflexión. Un beso

  8. Jeremy Branham June 11, 2013 10:42 am #

    Nearly every summer, I stay home in California. While everyone else is traveling, I love exploring where I live. During other times of the year, I travel. So I can definitely relate to enjoying summer at home.

  9. Katka June 13, 2013 4:45 pm #

    Very interesting account. I guess this depends so much on the persons preferences, upbringing, likes and dislikes. I have to say that I never really felt homesick when being abroad, but I always stayed at places, and did not "nomad around". That might be the difference, Still, living too many months out of a suitcase, I find certain pleasure in being settled for at least a a month when I return from abroad. But what I have learned is, that it is the people that form the "home" around me, not the place itself – just like you remarked about your partner.

    • Nellie June 19, 2013 11:14 am #

      Thanks Katka for sharing your thoughts! I guess it makes a difference when we need to juggle work on the road as well. We used to go on three or six-month long trips (which often involved us leaving our jobs to travel) and I never really felt like I needed a break. Many people think that we\’re on a permanent vacation with our work, but we\’re really working harder now than we ever have. It gets exhausting sometimes.

  10. noel June 14, 2013 5:58 pm #

    Granada sounds like a nice and exotic place to live and recharge, its so accessible to many parts of Europe. I can't imagine a nomadic lifestyle longer than a few months. It seems difficult to juggle the experience, plus doing any on-going projects while traveling, good to know that a pro also wants to go home for relaxation.

  11. House Plans June 17, 2013 1:34 am #

    Everyone love to go home after a long vacation and traveling. Surely you miss a lot from your home town.

  12. Kristy June 17, 2013 11:15 pm #

    Even if we travel the most beautiful places in the world there's nothing beats the comfort of our home. Welcome home guys!

  13. tucson az rentals August 8, 2013 10:27 am #

    Missing your own home is the worst thing you could feel being a nomad.
    But as a traveler, we just have to learn to prioritize things and plan our adventures well.

  14. @tylerlingolive November 16, 2013 1:18 pm #

    I really enjoyed this post, it gave me an idea of how it would be to conquer the semi-nomadic lifestyle. I think we can all relate with those feelings of finally returning home. Thanks Nellie!

  15. Rohini June 1, 2016 6:16 pm #

    I think that is one of the best things travel do. You are away from home that it make you wish for it.You return home to see everything with a new pair of eyes. The best thing here is that you took time to experiment . Thats brilliance

    • Nellie Huang June 2, 2016 10:53 am #

      How true – going home lets you see everything with new eyes! Thank you Rohini for your kind words!

  16. northierthanthou June 4, 2016 8:12 am #

    Nothing wrong with a home base.

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