Thinking completely the wrong way about travel

The flexibility to change travel plans is great and all, but it plays havoc with our packing.

You know how Airbnb has basically revolutionised the way people travel? How our lives would be impossible without it? How you can get a wonderful apartment with a full kitchen for a fraction of the price of a tatty hotel room?

Well we don’t care. DAMN we hate it this week.

OK, after a calming green tea (Rob) and bowl of porridge (Mish), we’re willing to admit that it’s not strictly Airbnb’s fault. Really, we just left it way too late.

Our plan was to go to San Francisco in September, then Portland, then New York on the way back, taking us through most of the rest of the year. It’s the perfect time of year to visit that part of the world, Rob’s never been to the West Coast, we’ve got friends there…ideal.

Yet we ummed and ahhed for two months over whether it made sense from a business and family perspective, and by the time we decided to go for it, everything had been booked up. We’d be paying over $2,000 per month to live in a crummy basement half an hour outside the city, and we just couldn’t face spending all that money to live somewhere so far from our ideal.

So this week involved countless hours scouring Airbnb (Mon-Wed), an almost total breakdown and bout of soul searching (Thu), and countless more hours on Airbnb booking somewhere in a totally different part of the world (Fri). Oh, and we also listed one of our apartments in London on there this week, so the immersion has been pretty much complete.

By the time we eventually booked somewhere (in Madrid, as it happens) and closed our 35 browser tabs, we were a bit ashamed of ourselves.

Because although being a digital nomad and having to constantly make travel plans is genuinely more of a pain in the ass than people realise, we caused ourselves an incredible amount of unnecessary angst. Why? We got wedded to our plan to go to San Francisco in September and spent days trying to make it work, forgetting that we can go any time. And that’s kind of the point.

Here’s what we should have thought:

Oh, we left it too late. Well, there’s no point spending all that money on something substandard. But that’s OK! We can go at any time in the next 40 (hopefully) years! Yes, even if we have kids! Even if we don’t get the chance again until we’re 50 – it’s a good incentive to stay fit so we can handle the hills!

We go on about it the whole time, but we forgot about it when it came to ourselves: there’s no time limit on being a digital nomad. There’s no need to rush around the world trying to pack it in like you’re trying to “do Europe” in your two weeks of annual vacation. The whole joy of it is that your plans can change as the circumstances do. Even if for some family reason you had to stay in the same country for a couple of years, you’ve still arranged your business, your possessions and your mind in such a way that you could start moving again as soon as circumstances allow.

In the end, we feel a heck of a lot better just for having made a decision and got our lives back – because much as we’d love to be in the US, we’re very happy in Europe too. We might have to go shopping for some warmer clothes, but we’ll get to discover new places and go back to some old favourites.

And really, we’re happy pretty much anywhere. Because we’ve got each other, we’ve got our laptops, and we’re spending every day doing exactly what we want. A few hours a month drowning in browser tabs, squinting at over-saturated photos trying to work out if there are sufficiently convenient power outlets by the bed? We can deal with that.

  • Hey guys,
    I am in that exact situation right now.. Came from the Western Australian summer into New Zealand, where it is now the middle of winter and I am moving to Thailand in 3 weeks where it is 30+deg… Snowboarding gear, jackets, jeans, footwear… In Thailand, all I need is flip flops, boardies and a t-shirt. The joys of the lifestyle!

    • Yep crazy huh? I normally spend the first month in a new climate stubbornly refusing to update my wardrobe, until I nearly succumb to hypothermia or heatstroke as appropriate.

  • I feel like the “eff Airbnb there’s nowhere to stay!” meltdown is a right of passage for all digital nomads. Based on your (seriously outstanding) photo, I think you handled it quite well. 🙂

    And hey… back to Madrid! Now you can check out El Tigre!

  • Wow thanks for the honest post. Now I know it’s not only us making it unnecessarily complicated. Happy travels!

  • Get out of my head! My husband and I were JUST discussing this very topic the other day.

    We’re in the middle of our 5-week sprint through Germany, and although our current plan (3-5 days in each city) is actually a really good pace, it’s hard to turn down tips & suggestions from other travelers that could keep us running off in other directions, and keep in mind that we can leave things for another opportunity. Europe will still be here, after all.

    Sometimes I think that the “gotta cram it all in NOW” mentality is a lingering effect from the 9-to-5 lifestyle, in which you really only do have 2 weeks (for starters, in the U.S.) or 4 weeks (in Brazil) of vacation, and once you use it up you really don’t get any more until the next year.

    Or perhaps the effect comes from people who tend to see travel experiences as “the trip of a lifetime” rather than “traveling as a lifeSTYLE.”

    • Exactly – I think it’s a sign that our deprogramming from the 9-to-5 mindset isn’t quite complete. Thinking of travel as a lifestyle rather than a temporary escape takes a while for the subconscious to get used to, I suppose.

      Glad you’re enjoying your sprint through Germany – are we likely to see you in Berlin in the next few weeks?