Summary: My thoughts on the value of a “home,” and what a digital nomad’s home means.
Just got off the phone with Dr. Mo of Digital Nomad Physician and feeling super inspired!! He is living life on his own terms and pursuing all his passions. Financial independence and early retirement from mandatory work, living primarily abroad, and helping others in so many ways. He is exactly where I want and hope to be in 5-10 years’ time.
I had previously been saving up to throw all my assets into an investment portfolio, but he actually got me thinking about buying some kind of home to call my own, as he had. Not as a mortgage, but to buy a cheap property all in cash.
One of the biggest criticisms I’ve gotten from my family is that I don’t have a space to call my own since I started this digital nomad journey in November 2018. It makes them feel that I’m still dependent on them, though I have been living on my own since starting college in 2006, and been entirely financially supporting myself since 6 years ago when I graduated medical school. It causes them embarrassment and makes them see me as a “homeless hobo.”
It is true that I didn’t see the point of paying rent for a place I would not be in for most of the year, so I did not sign a year-long lease of any kind, but have been paying monthly rent as I traveled, whether to AirBnBs or landlords directly. I moved the rest of my things back to my parents’ house after I graduated residency, from Michigan to New York.
But since I only take a backpack and a carry-on suitcase with me on the road, the majority of my stuff is still at their house. Though I have embraced the minimalist lifestyle and don’t use them, I didn’t have the heart to throw them away. Lots of my old artwork and projects are there, along with old video games and manga/comic books. They bring me a nostalgic joy and comfort, but to my parents, they are seen as junk. Space is not an issue in their house; it’s more the thought of me still relying on them for storage.
I’ve thought about if paying for a storage space is worth it so they can feel more at ease. I didn’t want to fall into the old habit again of doing things just for other people, but maybe there’s a part of this for myself, too.
I hadn’t wanted the hassle of dealing with a property I barely spent time in, but there is a certain comfort to knowing that I will always have a roof over my head and always have a place to go, if push came to shove.
I’ve tried to reassure my family that I always keep a huge financial buffer so I can always pay for shelter as I go and will never be out on the streets. I know I am so fortunate to have family and friends who would not turn me away if I found myself in need of shelter, but I would still feel bad relying on them or inconveniencing them.
What truly is a digital nomad’s “home”? I loved this quote from Sam Horn, author of “Someday is Not a Day in the Week”:
“Home is where we feel love, where our feet may leave, but not our hearts. Home is where our heart is. And the ability to create a heartfelt home wherever we are is in our hands.”
I truly felt that way when I was on the road, that no matter where I went, there were beautiful souls and breathtaking nature to give me everything I needed to feel at peace. I yearn to help the world see us all as one. We have so many more similarities than differences; I dream of a day where we can see things as “we” rather than “us vs. them.” I see the entire world as my home, full of people to love, learn from, and give back to.
Though I’ve been grounded due to the COVID pandemic, I can’t wait to go back out there to continue my journey. I recently found out about World Schooling, and this post from Hannah, who was World-Schooled herself, speaks directly of this same philosophy:
“The upside to that is that a house isn’t necessarily a home. The entire world is my home! Not tied down to a single location, I can be perfectly satisfied wherever I am, thanks to my strong family! The downside to not having a house is that I can’t figure out where my “favorite place” is…I honestly don’t know. I spent the first eleven years of my life in New England, so there’s definitely a sense of connection to that region. But then there’s Guatemala, with its volcanoes, crystal blue lakes, and wonderful people. There’s Italy, with the incredible architecture, and unbelievably delicious food. There’s Belize, with its luscious jungles and colorful reefs. New Zealand, with its indescribable scenery. And Canada, with its maple leaf cookies (not a good example, I know, but they taste like home!) and gorgeous forests. Not to mention all the other countries there are on this spectacular planet. How could I decide? Strangely enough, I find that I’m home wherever I’m at, but that I’m never “home” as everyone else knows it.”
I am still processing what a home means to me. A digital nomad’s home is different, yet should not be considered any less valid than a more traditional person’s home.
I know I don’t need to prove it to anyone, but I do want to reassure my family that I am self-sufficient and truly happy with the lifestyle I’m choosing, even though it’s “not mainstream.” (Why would I mindlessly want to follow everyone else, especially when most Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and/or in a lot of debt from mortgages and car loans? I question everything and never do things without having thought them through and coming up with good reasons for them.)
What does a home mean to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!