One of the joys of being retired is that I have the time and luxury of thinking deeply about things. It’s not that I didn’t think about things before, but I have the time now to stop in the middle of the day to relax, empty my mind and focus on something without feeling rushed or pressured.
Lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about why I feel such joy whenever I think about us becoming nomads again. Why, beyond seeing new places, and having new experiences, did it make us so happy before? It certainly wasn’t a perfect lifestyle, by any stretch of the imagination, and yet it was a very good fit for us.
Brett and I have always been “restless people,” probably stemming from our time in the navy where we moved every two and a half years or so. Although the parameters of Brett’s job basically remained the same, moving to a new location was always an adventure, especially since we knew it wasn’t permanent. We had a limited time to explore the areas we lived in, try new foods, and get to know about the place. There were some locations we enjoyed more than others, but on the whole we always found something to like about every place we lived, whether that was the central valley of California, southern Maryland, Key West, or Japan.
When I think about embracing a nomadic life once again, I realize that the aspects we liked about of our previous semi-nomadic navy life are what continue to appeal to us now.
Our nomadic life cost less. During our navy days we had to live within our means, and live minimally because the navy was only going to do a certain amount for us; there were always limits imposed. Any purchase, from groceries to household items, had to be carefully weighed against a fixed income, and we learned not to accumulate things because of household goods weight limits when it was time to move. Those skills were put to good use when we traveled, especially living within our means and not accumulating more than would fit into our suitcases (as well as keeping them under a set weight limit). The goal was always to get all we could from and make the most of what we had.
Being a nomad meant freedom from things. We were tied only to what we could carry in our suitcases. Returning to a settled life has made us realize we no longer enjoy owning a lot of things. We also liked being free from the chores and maintenance of home ownership or even renting when we were on the road, and from things like utility payments. Yes, we had to pay for our lodgings, but utilities and maintenance were included and we always tried to choose places where the furnishings and decor fit our preferences. We still kept our lodgings clean and tidy wherever we were, fixed or repaired on our own what we could as necessary, but the burdens and responsibilities of ownership belonged to someone else.
A life on the road allowed us to experience the world in all its beauty . . . and ugliness. Meeting new and different people and experiencing a variety of cultures was an obvious benefit, but seeing both the good and the bad, from stunning architectural, historical wonders, and eating mouthwatering foods, to oppressive poverty, urban ugliness, and extremely crowded conditions went a long way toward helping us to reassess and balance our world views. We were always grateful for the chances we were given to see life through a different lens than our own, even if we sometimes felt we were taking and not giving back.
Even as seniors, our nomadic life strengthened character. Things went wrong and weren’t perfect. Our lodging sometimes wasn’t what we expected, or transportation fell apart. We got sick. The pandemic had us making decisions and changes without a lot of time for thought. However, having to leave the safe bubble of American life and our comfort zone gave us loads of opportunities learn what we were capable of. We sometimes had to push ourselves to new extremes to accomplish goals or get where we needed to be under less than idea circumstances, but the hard parts made the good ones so much better.
We off course missed family and friends while we traveled, but technology kept us connected, and we found we worked harder at making sure we did get together once or twice a year, or in the case of our son and family in Japan, for longer stays than we would have otherwise been able to do. Since we’ve settled back on Kaua’i, we’ve come to see that it was actually easier for us to arrange reunions when we were on the road than it is now that we’re located very far away from everyone.
The best part of being a nomad is that travel changes us; we are never again who we were before we set out. That’s what excites us and brings us joy: we still want to continue to grow and learn about the world and travel provides that for us and more. We’re still not ready to settle down and accumulate all the stuff that goes along with living in one place. Instead, we’re looking forward to embracing the nomadic life once again and whatever it brings us, challenges and all.