When my mom uttered the words “I wish you a long and happy career” as I left for my first day of work, I realised that now is the time to say goodbye to my nomadic life and that no other sentence could sound as depressing. Since my first travels to South America while still studying, I have wonderously managed to visit a different continent every year until 2009. This last year was the longest portion of time I have spent solely in this country, not leaving. At all.
This is is not to say that I didn’t put roots down anywhere. Seoul got to know my face for nearly two years and I called Hawaii home for 3 months. This manifesto doesn’t mean that I can’t or won’t travel, I will become even more active in seeking out adventures on weekends closer to home, explore new parts of my country and those exotic ones nearby. But it does mean that I will try with all my might to commit to South Africa and stay in the same place in a job for a long time.
Here are some of the reasons I can no longer just pack up my bags, volunteer in the Middle East, laze on Phi Phi Island or surf in Rio ( for now):
1. I’m broke
I for one know that money is never an excuse for not getting what you want. That’s why I found a job teaching English where all my expenses such as flights, housing and food where paid for. Plus I earned a salary. No input money required. But now, I’ve just completed an 6 week unpaid internship at a magazine and gained a world of knowledge, but survived off my parents. Most of my savings went to my beloved Nikon, a priceless purchase but one that totally cleaned me out. Hence why I needed a job.
2. I have a permanent job
Another one of my crisis words that gives me shivers is ‘permanent’ or ‘real’. Permanent is reminiscent of a bad hair colour that will take forever to fade or a permanent scar that will only disappear with time. ‘Real’ when used in the context of people, feelings and authenticity is great, but a ‘real’ job implies that I have to be a grown-up, join the so-called ‘real’world and move alongside all the other rats in this race. And worst of all do the same thing everyday for heaven alone knows how long. Routine is a killer. But luckily for me my job happens to be in social media, writing and digital producing. So if I’m going to do the same thing everyday, at least it’s going to be that.
3. Need to experience SA’s job market
The only jobs I’ve had in South Africa were being a waitress, barista at a coffee shop, promotions lady, professional hip hop dancer for gigs, admin assistant for my dad’s tourism company, dance teacher, radio presenter and digital intern ( the last two are unpaid). Since surviving my four year business science degree in marketing I escaped at the soonest possible hour and left to work as a teacher in Asia. So I’m guessing that gaining some valuable experience in this job market won’t be such a bad thing after all and aid me in my long-term goal of becoming a digital nomad.
4. I’m nearly 27 years old
Just writing it makes me scared. It means that come October I’ll officially be past my mid-twenties. Still young but not as carefree. Things such as medical aid, pension and tax start cropping up in your papers and bills more frequently and actually have to be considered. I have to seriously devise a savings strategy not merely as a means to see the world but for life, property, assets and other expensive things looming in the future. While having kids is still very far off in the distance, that distance is way closer that it was when I was 20. You start to realise you’re getting along in years when you’re invited to more baby showers and hen parties than 21sts. Plus you may just end up being a nomad all alone.
5. It’s a season to build
Two other words that fill me with dread are ‘settle down’. Perhaps because it was used on little me when my parents wanted me to calm down, stop being over-excited and sit quietly at mealtimes, but until now they cause my heart to palpitate slightly and insinuate that I should resolve to stagnate, slow down and put indefinite roots down. So I have chosen the word ‘building’. While I am not in a mogul in the making, have never been one to desire an accumulation of massive amounts of wealth, a mansion or shiny sports cars, I do feel that it’s a season I need to start saving, investing and building for more than one plane ticket,the here and now but for the future when I won’t want to work as hard and it’s not just me. And not forgetting a passive income stream that will fund my travels one day.
I always imagined that independence meant being away from my parents; not having to answer to what time I came home, where I’d been or why my nail polish was on the lounge table. But because I live in their house, I have to fit into their groove of life which thankfully is one I enjoy and am very comfortable in. But I can’t live here forever and they cannot continue to pay for my meals, cellphone contract or petrol forever. I know, I am totally spoilt and that’s exactly why I need to work towards total financial independence and give them a break after 26 years.
I understand just as well as the next backpacker that not knowing where you will lay head down, what you will eat and when you will get money again is madly thrilling and leaves you feeling more alive than ever. One night you’re couch surfing, another you’re in a comfy bunk bed. Some mornings, you wake up to a mighty hostel breakfast and hoard for the entire day and others you get a mini-breakfast consisting of crackers and Dulce de leche and devour a juicy steak, with dessert and drinks in the evening. But having had to eat Korean food for over a year ( not my favourite), I enjoyed South African cuisine so much more upon my return and realised just how good it gets with my mothers cooking at home. You can rely on the fridge always having food, being taken care of and your warm bed which hasn’t been slept in before by dirty,dodgy backpackers.
8. Need to kick my travel addiction
Call it travel addiction, travel bug, wanderlust or itchy feet the symptoms are all the same and leave you with a constant restlessness and compulsion to book the next flight on a plane to who cares where. Any country other than your own looks wildly appealing, you feel claustrophobic if you have to stay in one place for a lengthy period of time and you constantly replay your travels in your mind like a sweet song or photo slide show until you get to travel again. You dispense of all your savings or available money to get you there and back with no regard for the consequences thereafter. Because travel becomes all that matters and you’re ok if you always have the option to escape. So I’m told that the root of the problem is escapism. But living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world with the sea, mountains and vineyards in my view it hardly constitutes a war zone I’d want to escape from. I have met the man of my dreams (who I can’t wait to travel with), have a incredible family and all round blessed life. So perhaps I need to seek adventure, the unexplored and freedom here in my own city and its outskirts.
10. I’m tired of flying
Slowly but surely I will begin to recover from a life of blissful travel and find contentment in the normal. I know it’s possible to have jobs that allow to have both, but I’m not there yet. So for now, I’ll hold onto my digital nomad dreams, build my empire to fund my future frequent-travelling life and do mass amounts of weekend breaks and holiday escapes this side of the southern hemisphere.