We can hardly call ourselves “nomadic.” Not in the way that some of our friends have been nomadic. But, we’ve been without a certain home for almost 5 years. And, we realized it was about time to remedy that. There were a lot of factors that influenced the decision to settle after 5 years of travel. A lot of factors in saying farewell to the nomadic lifestyle. But, as this week is the 5 year anniversary of when we left the US, it seemed like the perfect time to explain our decision. Happy Travelversary to us!
What Is a Nomadic Lifestyle?
We have nomadic friends. Friends who are way more nomadic than we have ever been. Our friend Kerwin (as in #WhereIsKerwin) claims Houston as a home base, but doesn’t have an apartment there. The Hecks from Hecktic Travels have been nomadic for the last 7 or 8 years until they recently settled down (for reasons out of their control). The Queen of the Nomadic Lifestyle has to be our friend Sherry over at Otts World, who just settled down after over 10 years of travel. The closest thing she had to a home was a storage locker in a borough of New York.
In comparison to these folks, we barely can consider ourselves nomadic. We often explain the last 5 years this way: We left the US, we traveled for about 10 months, we had a home base in Bali for almost a year and a half, traveled for about 9 months, and then had an apartment in Bangkok for about 16 months, and then we traveled for 3 months.
That pretty much takes us up to our current situation. We are at the end of the “traveled for 3 months.” A few weeks into that three month stint I was tired.
As much as we cannot be considered as nomadic as some of our friends, I haven’t felt settled during the last 5 years of travel. Every place we “lived” was certainly temporary. In part because we lived in Bali and Bangkok on tourist visas. We needed to leave the country every 30 or 60 days on visa runs, which is exhausting. And, we often wondered whether we would be let back in the country. Everything was temporary, and tenuous. I didn’t like it. But, I didn’t know where we wanted to settle down, or if we would ever find the right place to actually call home. As much as I didn’t embrace the nomadic lifestyle in its entirety, I wasn’t ready to walk away from it either.
What Does It Mean to Be Settled?
I’ve truly enjoyed the flexibility we have to travel when and where we want to. Heck, I like the freedom to take a nap when I want to. To have a drink in the middle of the day. To take a day off on a Wednesday instead of the typical Sunday.
We will still maintain those freedoms.
So, what does it mean to be settled after 5 years of travel? One of the main reasons why we called Bali and Bangkok each a “home base” rather than a “home” was that we always knew it was temporary. It was a year commitment, and one that we could easily walk away from. Each time, we stayed longer than a year, but everything we did was with an understanding that it was temporary.
Now, we are living a different kind of settled. We have a one year lease, with an option to stay in our apartment for 3 years. And, that is what we intend to do. The apartment we rented is pretty fully furnished, but we bought a good quality mattress and other household goods (like a good set of knives and a Dutch oven) with the intention that we will use them for at least three years.
I don’t want to go back to our old life, with a 3 bedroom, 3 bath condo, loaded with expensive furniture and a cat. But, I just can’t be nomadic anymore. I do want “stuff.” At least, I want to own more than a carry-on, wheelie suitcase full of stuff. As Dalene Heck recently said “I want to own more than 5 pairs of underwear.” I want a comfortable bed, reliable pillows, and a place to keep my red high heel shoes. I don’t want to be excessive, but I would like just a little bit of stuff to feel more comfortable.
Now, this is one of the most important questions. When we set off on our travels 5 years ago, we had no intention of remaining nomadic for so long. One of the main reasons why we left was to search for a home. To search for a place where we could grow some roots. To find some place that we could nest. Over the years no single place seemed right. There was always something, and often something big, that kept us from committing to any one locale.
We’ve thought about moving to Limerick, Ireland, for quite some time. We have family there. Eric has an Irish passport. It would be easy. But, I just can’t handle the weather. Seriously, that’s all it is. I don’t like the cold and rain. I don’t like freezing in summer. Plain and simple. Ireland also misses one of the main things we love about being in Europe: wine. Yes, you can get it, but there is no local tradition of wine, and that was a problem for us.
Another option was Bologna. And, a few months ago, we had made the decision to move to Bologna. The decision was firm enough that we told a couple of people our plans. We love Bologna, and Emilia Romagna, and the food and the wine. And, I think we would have been happy there. But . . . there’s always a but.
When we arrived in Girona in April, it was the first time we had spent time in the city. We explored Costa Brava for about 6 weeks back in 2015. But, we didn’t spend any significant time in Girona. This visit we remedied that.
We stayed in Girona for 2 weeks, in this amazing apartment (Alemanys 5) in the old town, while exploring the region. After another 2 weeks out in the small towns, we returned to Girona for about a week in an Airbnb (get free Airbnb credit) before heading to Ireland.
While in Girona, something clicked. It just felt right. From a practical perspective, there is a diversity of cuisine here that doesn’t exist in Bologna. There is a casualness that appeals to us, as oppose to the properness of Italy, where I feel out of place because I’m not wearing Gucci loafers or Versace sunglasses. We believe there are some business opportunities for us being both in Europe, as well as in Girona.
But, there were a few things that we had trouble expressing. We couldn’t really explain why Girona. Despite this it just seemed like the right move. We just felt comfortable here. And, after 5 years of travel, and wondering whether we would ever find a place that fit, it kind of hit us. Girona just fit.
So, we rented an apartment (for up to 3 years!). We are applying for our residency. We bought a bed! And, we have walked away from the nomadic lifestyle, maybe for good. A perfect way to celebrate our 5 year anniversary of leaving the US!
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.