Issue #2 · Defining My North Star as a Nomad
Right now, I’m writing this from a hammock under a palm tree, in arms reach of some homemade guacamole, with an empty to-do list, zero social obligations, and not a morning alarm in sight.
Greetings from my little slice of paradise!
Right now, I’m writing this from a hammock under a palm tree, in arms reach of some homemade guacamole, with an empty to-do list, zero social obligations, and not a morning alarm in sight. I’ve been laying in this hammock for a month now — not physically, of course, but rather floating through each day in this carefree, barefoot state-of-mind.
That’s because in Puerto Escondido, life is easy.
This little surf town sits on Mexico’s stunning Oaxacan coast — remote and unpretentious, it’s both geographically and behaviorally miles from the Americanized touristy resorts and spring breakers that you’d find in Tulum or Cancun. Laid-back is an understatement, as your biggest worries here will be finding an open seat at the fish taco stand or not getting both socks back from the lavandería. It’s the kind of place that if you wear a t-shirt out to dinner, you’ll be overdressed.
Sure, it’s growing in popularity, but I’m hopeful that it’s seclusion and notoriously abysmal WiFi will help keep it hidden from the masses for a bit longer — that’s what “escondido” means in Spanish, after all. But under wraps or not, one thing is for sure: the snail-like pace of life here isn’t speeding up any time soon.
I spent the first few months of 2021 in Puerto, falling madly in love before I even stepped out of my airport cab. This no-frills tropical paradise quickly sucked me in and immediately felt like a second home. But all good things must come to an end, and after three months of this near-utopian lifestyle, I finally felt the itch to return to “reality” — plus, my Mexican visa was up. I spent the next few months hopping between three continents, nine countries, and dozens of cities — it was an unforgettable experience, but when it was all said and done, I was burnt out.
Fortunately, I knew an instant cure, and decided to return to Puerto in November, essentially bookending the year here. So far, it’s been just what the doctor ordered: countless burritos, naps, sunsets, and mezcalitas, not to mention the perfect escape from the winter blues. I’ve also finally had the chance to digest the past twelve months, and more importantly, think about what I want to do next.
Regrettably, I’m one of those suckers who always sets unrealistic goals and claims “new year, new me” when the ball drops each December 31. But this year, I’m going to try something different: Rather than setting impossible-to-keep resolutions that will inevitably be broken before MLK Jr. Day, instead, I’m going to create a few overarching guidelines of how I want to travel in 2022.
With the freedom to wander anywhere in this world (border closures and Covid restrictions aside), sometimes nomading makes me feel like a lost puppy. Don’t get me wrong — it’s an incredibly privileged, great problem to have. But I want a compass to follow, rather than just spinning a globe and going wherever my finger lands. I’m optimistic that traveling with this North Star in mind will allow me to achieve more of my personal and professional goals, avoid travel burnout and help ring out every last drop of excitement that this nomadic lifestyle provides.
So now that I’ve gotten my rookie year of traveling out of the way, here’s how I want to approach 2022:
I want to slow down.
I’m leading with this, because without a doubt, it will be the most difficult guideline to follow. In 2021, I moved accommodations 43 times. FORTY-THREE! I pride myself on packing light, but this was hands-down the biggest reason for my exhaustion. Plus, slow-travel allows you to experience places on a deeper level. I love having a go-to morning café, a daily running route, a grocery store, time to make friends, and the chance to discover a city’s hidden gems. For me, living like a local is what makes traveling the most fun.
I’m already feeling the pull from friends to start planning 2022 trips (okay to be fair, I’m often the instigator — Thailand in September, anyone?!) But I’m going to try my hardest to stay put for a minimum of one month in each place that I visit (keyword = try).
I want to focus on Spanish-speaking countries.
For the past two years, I’ve been studying Spanish rather seriously — I’m a self-proclaimed Duolingo fangirl (currently on a 774 day streak) and just last week, I completed twenty hours of in-person lessons — shout-out to my incredible teacher, Gustavo! I’ve recently turned a corner where I’m now confident enough to have actual conversations, and it’s unlocked this whole new exciting facet to traveling.
And while Budapest, I really did love you, I just don’t think I’ll be mastering Hungarian anytime soon — “gracias” is a heck of a lot easier than “köszönöm” so I’m going to go ahead and double-down on Spanish.
That being said, I need to go to Southeast Asia.
I plan to have noodles, dumplings, and banh mi five times a day, every day, for at least two months. That is all.
I want to keep saying “yes” to new things.
This year, for the first time, I went whitewater rafting, took a pasta-making class, learned how to play tennis, went off-roading in the Moab desert, took language lessons, went horseback riding on the edge of the Grand Canyon, tried dozens of new types of foods and performed a duet with a Brazilian girl during karaoke night at a random hostel in Zagreb.
When they say “traveling gets you out of your comfort zone” this is what they mean.
But I also need to say “no” more often.
It’s cliché, because it’s true: you’ll learn things about yourself when you travel. So far, my biggest lesson is that I’m much more of an introvert than I previously thought. Now, I realize that I often need alone time to recharge my social batteries — unfortunately, my lifelong, chronic case of FOMO (self-diagnosed) often tends to get in the way.
But the next time I get invited to an overwhelming sixteen-person dinner, a museum I’m just not interested in, or a last minute weekend trip that entails a $300 flight and/or a six hour layover — I’m just going to say no.
I want to continue writing in order to document my travels.
Simply put, traveling makes me want to write. While I’d love to churn out a piece every week, I’ll reiterate that I’ve never been great at sticking to self-imposed deadlines. So instead, I’ll save this hobby for whenever inspiration strikes, or more likely, when I’ve got an eight hour WiFi-less flight ahead of me. And even if nobody reads this haphazard blog, likes my dumb tweets or appreciates my shitty Instagram photography, in ten years, I know I’ll be glad that I captured all of it, simply so that I can re-live this journey once again.
There’s a decent chance that this time next year, I’ll look back and say “well that whole North Star thing didn’t age well.” This lifestyle is awesome, and I want to make the most of it. After all, there’s so much more of the world to see — there’s five other cities on my bucket list just within Mexico!
But slow and steady wins the race, and spending the last few weeks of 2021 in this chilled-out surf paradise has already given me a head start on all of these goals. So for now, I’m not going anywhere — it’s too hard to climb out of this hammock, anyway.
Help Me Continue Writing 📝 💛
By officially subscribing to Extracurricular Pursuits rather than just reading online, you’ll help me grow my email list which increases my surface area of luck for future writing opportunities. Your support means the world!
PS: I’d love to hear what you thought about this post. If this landed in your inbox, just hit reply! Or if you’re reading this online, send me an email at [email protected] and I pinky promise I’ll reply back.
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]