Issue #16 · Embracing the Blank Canvas
An attempt to convince myself that not taking action is the appropriate course of action.
September 1, 2023: Greetings from Valencia, Spain — yep, still here! I have ten days left in my new favorite European city (bold statement, huh?) and have been thriving, mostly thanks to a great daily routine:
Wake up by 7:30am
Go for a run in the park
Coffee + an hour of writing
Work on my ecomm empire (major updates on that coming soon!)
Ride my bike to the beach + volleyball
Bring home a pound of sand into my shower
Tapas and maybe a cheeky tinto de verano
What’s not to love?
Next weekend, I’m finally off to the winner of the 2023 Schengen Escape Lottery: Belgrade, Serbia. It seems like an interesting city, and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the September weather with long runs in the massive park near where I’m staying. Since it’s a solo stopover, I also hope to get ahead on work, because at the end of the month, I’m off to another big group trip in Cyprus (though I’m determined to not succumb to another episode of self-inflicted social overload).
Continuing with this ‘Where in the World is Emily’ update, in mid-October I’m going to Oaxaca for Día de los Muertos and then finally back to my beloved Puerto Escondido where I’ll camp out for the winter, as usual. Beyond that? Who knows, which leads us perfectly into my latest post:
Embracing the Blank Canvas
I’ve always found comfort in concrete plans. For better or worse, I’m an obsessive planner-aheader. The way I see it, knowing exactly where I’m going to lay my head at night alleviates a lot of the stress that comes with living out of a suitcase.
To some extent, it's also because I genuinely enjoy researching trips and travel planning. A cup of coffee and a free hour to go down a Skyscanner rabbit hole? I'll have a hypothetical hiking trip through the Himalayas meticulously mapped out in no time. Planning ahead is also helpful for slow travel, which I’ve been leaning into lately. It’s really hard to find an accommodation that’s still available for 30+ consecutive nights just a few weeks out (and those that are available are often prohibitively expensive).
But come March 2024, I don’t know what city, country or even continent I will be on.
Now, let’s not get dramatic here — I realize that March is still (*checks calendar*) six months away. And six months is an eternity in in nomad years! In fact, some of my travel friends don’t plan more than a few weeks in advance. When I arrived at that summer camp group trip last month, there were at least 3 people who didn’t know where they were heading once it ended…seven days later. My anxious brain could never.
My version of spontaneous travel is more along the lines of:
Wandering around a city without Google Maps
Staying put in one place long enough to take side trips
Booking refundable accommodations (8+ months out)
So even though March is still a ways off, I can already feel those uneasy, unsettled, holy shit Emily you don’t have a home nor a life plan feelings starting to creep in, as they often do. Normally, I’d just tack on a couple of future trips to the end of my already mapped-out calendar, kicking the can further down the nomadic road. But the problem is, I’m starting to approach a crossroads with this lifestyle. Lately, I’ve been craving a more regular, settled life, and spending two full months in Valencia with that great daily routine (“I could totally live here!”) has only intensified that craving into a full-blown hunger.
“What should I do next?” is a question I often ask myself, but recently it’s been less about which country should I visit next, and more in terms of “what sort of life do I want to design over the next three to five years?” I know a few things: I want a simple life. I don’t need a lot of material things, and I couldn’t give a shit about keeping up with the Joneses. Throughout my entire life, I’ve always been on the left end of the [minimalist ↔ materialist] spectrum, and needing to fit all of my worldly possessions into a carry-on suitcase has only solidified that. Eventually, I also want an address, a home, and the chance to put down roots and build community. Oh, and house plants. Man do I miss my house plants.
But at the same time, I’m not ready to hang up my nomadic boots just yet. There are several places still on my bucket list that feel like I *must* see before settling back down. Don’t get me wrong, this internal conflict is a great problem to have — but these mixed feelings are strong enough that I’ve decided to hold off from clicking any “Reserve Now” buttons. Instead, I’m just going to wait and see what I feel called to do when the time comes.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t daydream about the options:
I could jet off to Southeast Asia, finally. This entire region has somehow eluded me for years — is it finally time to eat my way through Bangkok’s street food or live my best beach bum life in the Gili Islands? I could finally taste a real bánh mì, and DAMN that turquoise water in El Nido looks majestic. But on second thought, a several-months-long fast-paced journey on the other side of the world is pretty much the opposite of settling down…
On the flip side, Guatemala is just a hop, skip and a jump away. Plus it’s been at the top of my Spanish-speaking bucket list for a while now (besides Equatorial Guinea, obviously) — and I could quell my nervous flier brain by driving there from Mexico! A few weeks exploring the cobblestone streets of Antigua and hiking around Lake Atitlán would probably offset any 10-hour bus ride…
But wait, I still have an outstanding credit with WiFi Tribe, my travel community. I was disappointed to not be able to sign up for any official trips in 2023 — the dates and locations just didn’t shake out. It’s fun to fantasize about the mysterious destinations they’ll eventually unveil for that March time slot. But come to think of it, large group travel is always overwhelming for me. That credit might just have to continue burning a hole in my pocket…
There’s a big part of me that thinks San Diego is the answer. Okay, so I’ve never actually been to San Diego, but after hours of in-depth internet research and recommendations from friends it’s the leading (and maybe only?) contender for the next U.S. city I want to try out as a potential homebase. But California is expensive expensive. And in the back of my mind, there’s the fear that the novelty of owning a doormat will quickly wear off and I’ll regret having settled down too soon…
Told you I had an anxious brain.
I wrote this today as a time capsule for my future self, as it’s always fun to re-read old posts and journal entries and teleport straight back to the moment it was written — but in hindsight with more wisdom and clarity, which never fails to provide a good laugh. For now, my only plan is to embrace the blank canvas that is life and be grateful for the abundance of possibilities that the future holds: Will I be on a whirlwind tuk-tuk ride through the streets of Sri Lanka or planting the first seeds of a new long-term life on the west coast? Maybe by March I’ll have accepted a corporate job and will be commuting to an office again — hey, you never know 😉
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Here’s a list of every issue if you want to keep reading!
Issue #16: Embracing the Blank Canvas [Sep 2023]
Issue #15: In Pursuit of an Endless Summer [Aug 2023]
Issue #14: Follow Me to Weird Places [Jul 2023]
Issue #13: Self-Inflicted Social Overload [Jul 2023]
Issue #12: Schlepping It 🎒 [Jun 2023]
Issue #11: Finding My “Next Thing” [Jun 2023]
Issue #10: Book the Damn Flight and Just Go [May 2023]
Issue #9: Choosing Your Own Life Adventure [May 2023]
Issue #8: Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat [May 2023]
Issue #7: My First Month of Indie Making: An Honest Review [Feb 2023]
Issue #6: Ten Years of Making Money on the Internet [Jan 2023]
Issue #5: The Modern-Day Mission Trip [Dec 2022]
Issue #4: Ready, FIRE!, Aim [Nov 2022]
Issue #3: A New City Every Month: An Experiment in Change [Aug 2022]
Issue #2: Defining My North Star as a Nomad [Dec 2021]
Issue #1: One Year on the Road: Looking Back [Oct 2021]