Tuesday, November 13, 2012

No Nomad

I am overdue for a vacation. I haven't left Guinea since my long weekend in Dakar in July, and I haven't been gone for a significant amount of time since my trip to South Africa back in March. My next trip will be back to Texas for Christmas, but it feels so far away (37 days and counting!). It's at times like these, when I am desperate for a change of pace, when my alarm goes off on Monday morning and every fiber of my being recoils from the thought of going in to work AGAIN, ALREADY, that I think enviously of people who ditch the daily grind and just go travel.

I have a couple of friends who have dumped unsatisfactory corporate jobs for a few months to a year of globetrotting before settling back down into something new. And then there are the people, like this guy, who go a step farther and make a new life and identity for themselves as global nomads; they live cheaply, own only what will fit in a backpack, and stitch together short-term work and writing assignments for enough of an income stream to keep themselves going. And going, and going, and going.

Why don't I do this? Why am I not on a beach in Bali right now, gazing at a perfect sunset while wrapping up a brilliant, poignant article on pearls of wisdom gleaned from the local fishermen? I am not doing this because, fundamentally, I don't want to. I do love to travel, but that's not the only thing that makes me happy. I love going places, but I also love coming home. I love having a kitchen to cook in. I love eating at fancy restaurants. I love spending time with my friends. I love my cat (and he does NOT care for travel). I also love structure and planning. I love my emergency fund and my 401(k). A transient life of couchsurfing, backpacking, and hustling for the next gig would not be fun for me, just lonely and stressful.

So I joined the Foreign Service instead. "Home" will change every 2-3 years but I'll have one, a place for my kitchen and my cat and my stuff.  Friends will move in and out of my life, but over months or years, not days or weeks. I won't have the total freedom to just go wherever I want, whenever I want, but I will have plenty of travel opportunities and the money to enjoy them. It's not perfect. I could definitely use a few more vacation days, better air connections. I do not spend every minute of every day overjoyed with my chosen life and career. But then, who does? Even when I'm not thrilled with the Foreign Service lifestyle it's hard to think of another one I would really prefer, all things considered. Perhaps I'm in the right place.

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