On a frisky morning of 2009, around this time of the year, I was standing alone in a half empty airport, holding a one-way ticket to Paris. I was moving out of my hometown and of my parents’ place, on my way to my Erasmus semester. It was the first time I ever travelled alone. I was overwhelmed by a mix of hope, excitement, anticipation and fear. It was supposed to be a short Parisian get away from my otherwise fully Italian education and future, but life had different plans for me. On that frisky morning of 2009, little did I know that I’d never really come back to my parents’ hometown if not for short layovers. That I would have continued my studies in France to then relocate again and again going through 11 houses, 21 jobs and 8 Countries in a little less than ten years. But most of all, I didn’t know that I would get hooked to that one-way ticket feeling for life.
A primal crave for drastic change,
for bigger challenges,
for pressing reboot
I’ve seen the same hunger in backpackers and expats, fortune seekers and off the grid hippies, van-lifers of all ages and citizens of the world I met on the road. “There is not only one way” they said “we built our own”.
I’m not sure where this hunger comes from. My family isn’t really of the explorers’ kind. It might have stared on that very frisky morning of 2009, while I was standing at the airport alone for the first time. Or four years later, while I was crossing a much bigger airport clutching a one-way ticket for Australia in one hand and my then boyfriend’s in the other. He used to say that I’m a travel-bulimic: always craving for more until it gets too much. I know he’s right, but that’s the best way I know for growing as a human being. Moving, changing, binging on experiences, stories, faces and life in general.
Back home though, some said that it was just a matter of struggling with commitment. Usually these people are those who can’t conceive a different lifestyle from their own. “Ok, you went traveling, but now you’re back and it is time to adjust to real life.” I never got this thing of real life. I fear that many people use “real” because they’re ashamed of using less flattering adjectives. As I see it, for someone with my education, real life usually means spending most of the day at work staring at a computer screen, to then go out and squeeze whatever is left of your life into a 2-3 hours’ window before passing out in bed. Moreover, life in big cities is expensive AF and working ten hours a day barely gets you by. But hey, you got to save some cash to buy yourself a decent car and maybe one day open a mortgage for a nice small house in the suburbs. And don’t be such a fool to believe that someone is going to pay you back when you’ll be retired, so you better start saving for that as well.
Despite all of that freaked me out, I tried. I really, really tried. In 2015, after coming back from almost two years of work-and-travel, I pushed myself in the 9-to-7, steady income, subscription at the gym and to the phone company lifestyle. Of course the cracks were plainly visible from day one, but I tried to push through. Despite I always worked as a freelancer, I still struggled with the amount of time I spent in an office. I cried almost every given morning when crossing Milan on my way to work. Anxiety and numbness came in waves and I never really got to love (or even like for that matter) the city. But hey, you got to adjust to real life sooner or later right? Especially if you’re almost thirty! I got to the point where sometimes I stayed late in the office kinda-working just because I had nothing else to do outside that interested me. All of my friends were still working anyway. That actually scared me out for real. So I cracked. As I always knew I would.
On 2017 new year’s eve I was sitting around a bonfire on a small island of the Philippines with a mixed bunch of people I met just days before. Each and every one of us was in their twenties going thirty and struggling with the rat race. Some of them just jumped out of it, the others were figuring out strategies. That’s when I decided that I would give myself another year to understand if the real life really wasn’t for me, to give love the chance to make up for all the rest, or to find the courage to really go freelancing outside of my comfort zone, to travel extensively alone and to face for another time that mix of hope, excitement, anticipation and fear that only a one-way ticket can give you.
I spent the year asking myself what it would be like to do that alone, with no boyfriend on my side. This required a lot of peace-making with my infinite traveling-couple souvenirs and to find the courage to take the leap as a solo woman and becoming digital nomad. Strangely enough (or maybe not) I didn’t really meet any real life advocate anymore, instead I kept meeting free women from all over the world that did choose to jump on that train made of hope, excitement, anticipation and fear and were happy with it. Top level marketers that travelled the world and became surf teachers. Airways hostess that quit to surf full time and freelance under a palm tree. I reconnected with girlfriends of mine that have called at least half of European countries their home or explored the world on their own since they were nineteen. And then I talked to my beloved mum, my all-time role model and biggest supporter. A woman that considers even a short day trip outside of her hometown a tiring chore. She said “I’m scared off my mind, but go girl. Go and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t because you’re a woman. You want to be an explorer? So just be it.”
So let be it.
Looks like a great quality time!
That is such a big jump You go girl! I feel like I’m stuck in the work stage too! I am hoping one day to take the leap to full time travelling.
Yay Olivia!! It’s a big leap but is made of the many mini-leaps I took before. Even if you can’t leave your job or change your routine right now, I’m sure there still something that you can do in order to live a more balanced life or go towards a new lifestyle 🙂
Wow I relate to this post so much! I have just come back from a semester in Australia and a trip to New Zealand and am trying to settle into my studies at home.. It’s so difficult! But it’s nice to read someone else’s experience of this 🙂 Thank you!
Hi Josephine! Keep it up! Life is a journey, and now you just moved on to somewhere different.. but it’s still the same journeys, it’s always yours! So if after finishing your studies you still miss Downunder.. you can always go back! Especially bcs both Oz and NZ offer working holiday visas! <3
“real life” is such a subjective notion. Why any other kind of lifestyle wouldn’t be real ? It was a really interesting read, lof to thoughts about. Makes me happy I’m still a student with plenty of free times for now ahah. I wish you plenty of success on your new adventure 🙂
Totally agree with your view on the subjectivity of “real life”, that’s why it freaks me out when people use as it was a matter of fact! Lyne, enjoy your free time while you’re studying and keep fighting for it even when you’ll be in the magic working world! 😀
This is so inspiring!
I’m at the same point in life, I’m 26, and need to take the big decision.
Usually I just try to get seasonal jobs so that I can travel for a few months before getting back to work. Very inspiring!
Ciao Irene, switcho all’italiano dopo aver fatto un giro sul tuo sito e su insta.. poi sono tornata qui per risponderti e vedo che hai solo VENTISEI ANNI!! quante cose che hai già fatto, quante belle esperienze! Con un portfolio così sono certa che avrai successo anche se ti metti on the road full time come travel photographer! Che poi è la stessa cosa che dicevano a me un anno fa quando ero in mezzo a una banda di weekend warriors nelle filippine: “be ma se sei freelance… cosa lavori a fare da Milano!?” Io di solito non incoraggio nessuno a fare passi giganti da zero.. Ma mi sembra che tu sei già bella lanciata! 🙂 (dove sei basata ora?)
This is so inspiring and I am almost moved to tears. “Real life” is different for everyone and for you, it is exploring and seeing the world. Why can’t it be just that?
I am currently at a job that I do not really enjoy and staring at a computer screen for 8 hours is really quite depressing. It pays the bills but we were not born to pay bills and die.
I may not want to travel fulltime because I honestly like the feeling of coming back home and having a family/base/community. But I do want to have total control over my time and be able to travel when I want to. Thank you for motivating me, this article has motivated me to take the plunge and start my own company soon.
There is so much life to live, just so much, to waste time not following our dreams. That will be a shame.
You’re right Ufuoma! It’s not about traveling full time but about having control of your life! And go go go for your entrepreneur move! I’m so glad that this article inspired you! Gonna follow your journey on social medias 🙂
I love that your mom is so encouraging and supportive, it seriously is amazing. I am of Asian descent and none of my family or friends would ever advocate for that lifestyle. Truth be told, I shouldn’t blame the Asian side of the family as my Western side also do not support it. Glad you figured out your digital nomad path. But yes, similar to you, I’ve worked a number of years in a 9am to 10pm job, and not convinced about that “real life” lifestyle so I know how you felt!
Hi Eve! Yes, I’m very lucky to have a mum that supports me 🙂 But it has been a long path for us both. In the last 10 years we took baby step after baby step to understand each other needs, like my need to travel extensively and her need to get in touch with me more often than I would. I see that you travel a lot with your babies and your partner, that’s so good! The family that you created is made of travelers finally! Keep it up with the tiring job, I hope that the working situation will got better for you as well! 🙂
I love your post and it’s so inspiring! Not to mention you’re an excellent writer. I’ve struggled to understand and cope with the idea of “real life.” Being raised to think that when you grow up, there’s this rigid plan you need to follow—it can really be confusing when you find yourself taking a different path. Good for you and best of luck!
Hi Kristen, thank you for your kind words! Considering your (gorgeous) blog, it seems that you managed to find a way to work around the beaten track of “real life”!! PS: amazing insta account! <3
I loved reading through your journey. This is so inspiring! However i cannot travel full time and i need to get ‘home’ at point in time. Generally after a month on road i get home sick. Though i would love to take up blogging full time i cannot become a digital nomad.
Hi Ketki! I feel you 🙂 In the sense that I have many girlfriends that are well seasoned travelers but the love their home base! I reckon that their life is way more balanced then mine, lol. Enjoy! I’m gonna follow your journey on Insta!
Congrats on taking such a huge leap! There’s definitely excitement in the fear of the unknown.
Amazing! Just what I needed to read! In a months time I will be standing in an airport, whit a one way ticket to Australia in hand. I am terrified of the unknown, but also excited to escape my shitty boring job!!
Go go go Chiera! I have a full series on moving to oz step-by-step: here it is: https://www.junglexploring.com/moving-to-australia-5-steps-to-nail-your-gap-year/