When you’re young the thought of living in a bunch of different cities all over the world is very appealing. You think it would be great and don’t get me wrong in a lot of ways it is. I’ve lived abroad three times and have lots of fond memories of it. But I’ve also come to learn that it’s draining to move around a lot. You end up feeling impermanent and lonely. Friendships and connections take more than a few months to build and it’s hard to hop on a plane and leave the life you’ve built behind.
One of the things that attracted me to Edinburgh was the thought that I would be somewhere for a full year and have something to do while I was there. That impulse seems a bit distant now but after all the short-term jobs and moves all I want at this point is to have some stability and be able to make long-term plans.
This morning I found an interesting article on digital nomadism on Quartz. It captures these feelings of loneliness and impermanence.
“I was standing in my apartment in Medilla, Colombia looking out the window, and I realized I don’t know anyone here,” he recalled. “I was thinking this is not what I should be doing. Like, this looks really great if I take a photo, but I don’t feel any connection.”
Then the depression set in. “I started feeling lost. I started asking, ‘Who am I?’ A large part of [your identity] is your environment. When you’re moving around from place to place, and you aren’t making long-term friends, you lose a big part of your identity. I’m a pretty strong and stable person, but I wasn’t prepared for that.”
I still want to travel I just want to be in a place and have that be my place. I need a base and some roots. I need to be able to answer the question where you’re from without pausing and not being sure what the answer is. You can think this is selling out and getting old but all of this glorification of moving around fails to capture how hard it can be.
It’s nice coming home to my friends from university and high school. These are people who have known me for years and get me. I went for brunch with a couple of my friends and explained that I’d parked a little bit farther than them because there’s one street with free parking that I always use in that neighbourhood. One of my friends nodded and said knowlingly, “You are a creature of habit.” It is nice to feel understood and loved in a way that you can’t build in three months.