Here it is. That dreaded post that eventually happens to most, if not all longterm travel bloggers. The post that says they’re finally ready to stay in one place.
When I say I’m settling, I don’t mean in the way that I’m settling for less than I deserve, but more that I’m settling for my sanity and productivity. I’m settling for me, and I’m okay with that.
I remember reading these types of posts from the bloggers I used to follow religiously, and I would always feel let down, like they were a sellout somehow. That they gave up on travel. But the truth is, this lifestyle that I’ve been living for the past 4+ years, it’s not sustainable, at least not for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love what I do. I still plan on running my own business and working remotely when I can, but constant travel is something that I’ve realized for awhile now isn’t working for me.
I enjoy spontaneity but in the framework of already established routines. I like being able to have a core group of friends that I can call to go hang out with for the weekend, in addition to making new connections with people from all different backgrounds.
I appreciate dating more when there’s not always that end date looming over my head, usually my next departure date. Travel romances, they’re fun while they last, but let’s be real, they hardly ever last.
I want to be defined by more than just the places I’ve seen. I want to give back, have time for the people I love in my life, build a community again, and maybe even go back to school for a masters or just for fun.
I want to feel like I have a sense of home to go back to.
So, grab a cup of tea (or a bottle of wine), maybe stretch it out before you find a cozy place to sit, and read on. This post is long one.
Here are the main reasons why I’m settling and what that means for this blog.
Having a Routine Again
One of the aspects that endeared me so much to Crete, other than it being an awesome island in Greece, is it’s the first place that I’ve actually stopped and stayed in one place in over a year.
Even though I focus on slow travel on this blog, usually spending at least a month in each country, I’m still constantly moving. When you think about it, a month is not actually that much time to see a place, especially if there are 4-5 cities or must-see spots at minimum to visit.
I find that even when I have a lot of time in a country, I’m still traveling every few days, or at most, once a week.
In Crete, I easily fell into a routine that gave me peace of mind every day. Not having to think about tickets or accommodation I had to book for next week, what cafe I was going to work in that had good WiFi, or how best to get around, it was everything I wanted and needed.
I had my favorite spots, people that would recognize me when I walked in and who would wave hello enthusiastically. I wasn’t just that transient stranger, a persona that I’ve embraced over the past few years.
I felt like people were glad to see me, and that I was forming relationships that were based on more than just a few epic days in a hostel together.
Having that routine again and reluctantly saying goodbye to it after six weeks, only made me realize more how much I miss having a place that felt like my own.
I will always love spontaneity, but I don’t want my whole life to be one spontaneous adventure. I enjoy having routines and setting down roots that help ground my free spirit.
Sometimes when I only have constant travel, I feel lost, unfulfilled, and anxious about my place in this world, something that I’m finally starting to realize about myself.
With routines comes more brain power to think about work, my business, and improving my productivity.
It’s no surprise that if I’m always on the road, it edges out time that I could spend on my business, and I don’t want to put my business second to travel anymore.
When I’ve just had another 10 hour travel day, or even a four hour travel day, the last thing I want to do is then sit in front of my computer for eight hours catching up on work.
This lifestyle, it can be exhausting and it isn’t always the best for creativity. Maybe some people can make it work, but I understand now that if I ever want to do everything that I want to do for my career and in life, I can’t always be moving.
I need time to reflect for writing and business strategizing. I need days where I don’t feel like I have to go sightsee or travel, when I can work on that new biz project without feeling guilty.
There are so many things that I want to do with my life: create a seven-figure business, become a successful freelance writer, a novelist, a part-time musician on the weekends, a yoga teacher.
I want to have time to create a charity that I’m passionate about, probably involving animals or child literacy. I want to volunteer for other charities. I want to have more purpose and influence in this world than just being a traveler.
I want to truly inspire other people. And I’m ready to seriously work toward all of those goals.
There’s no doubt that relationships, whether friendships or otherwise, are hard to maintain on the road.
I always try to make an effort to stay in touch with those I appreciate in my life – scheduling Skype dates most weeks, sending postcards, and taking the time to leave comments and messages on social media, but it’s not easy.
Luckily, I have the type of good friends where it feels like no time has passed at all when we see each other again, but I still miss out on so many important things in their lives when I choose travel first.
I want to be able to be more involved in my friendships and to not always be leaving. I miss having those groups of friends that I know will always be down for a night of dancing, or who I can always count on to catch-up over dinner and a beer.
And romantic relationships are another ball game completely. Pretty much all of my relationships in the past four years have ended in some part due to my insistence on travel.
I’m not focused on having any serious relationships right now anyway, but I’m also ready to leave behind the faux romances I tend to find on the road.
As much as I would sometimes love to be that ‘cool girl’ who is fine with the whole no strings attached, no commitment thing, that’s not me and it never has been.
And that’s what most travel romances are because what’s the point of getting attached if you’re both moving on to exciting new locations in a few days, next week, or maybe a month?
I can do that for a short time, but in the end I usually care too much because that’s who I am.
On the plus side, I’d like to think that’s what makes me such a good friend and partner as well though. I take my relationships with others seriously because I’m sincere, honest, and appreciative of the people who I keep in my life.
I sometimes forget that even though this is my life, and I’m exactly who I am in Laos as I am back in California, for many others who are on holiday, they become their ‘vacation self’ when they’re abroad.
The romance is whirlwind, exciting, and usually in a foreign location. And that’s fun…for the first few times, but when you’ve been traveling for over four years, it gets old after awhile.
With that said, the only relationships that I’m really interested in nurturing right now are the friendships that I value. And I think that will be much easier when I’m in one place.
So I Can Enjoy Travel Again
I remember when I was young being told to never do what I’m truly passionate about as a career because it will ruin it.
My dad used to say, “yes, choose a job that you love, but don’t turn your passion into a career, because you won’t enjoy it as much once you turn it into a job.”
Well, I didn’t quite adhere to that advice obviously, but I agree with it completely.
Turning travel into my life, my full-time job has kind of ruined travel for me in certain ways. I know, you’re probably thinking, wow I sound like a spoiled millennial. The privilege is dripping off this post, right?
I’m complaining about being able to travel full-time. For a career. What is wrong with me.
Isn’t that what everyone’s dream job is? Well, at least that’s what people tell me about 8 times out of 10 if they ask me what I do for a living.
I understand that I’m incredibly lucky to have found myself in a career path of my choosing that allows me to get out and see so much of the world. I don’t take that for granted in the least. But I also know now that it’s not always everything it’s cracked up to be.
My life on social media, it’s not fake or a sham, but it’s also not the whole picture. It’s the highlight reel.
It’s meant to inspire, to encourage others to get out and see the world because that’s something that I do truly believe in. To show people who are interested and capable of traveling that it is possible, even if you’re a solo female, or don’t have much money, etc.
But you don’t see the hard days.
You don’t see the three days in a row that I have to work 12 hours in a cafe just to catch up on work, even though I’ve been traveling and I’m exhausted. You don’t see the part where I’m in front of my computer 70% of my travels just to stay afloat with my business and work.
And you definitely don’t see the days where I’m crying in a cafe because it’s the fourth place I’ve tried that doesn’t have workable WiFi, I have a deadline due in a couple of hours, just spent $20 on stupid coffees that I didn’t want, and I have clients emailing me where their work is.
Because that shit is embarrassing and not exactly inspiring, but it happens more than you think.
The breakdowns, exhaustion, and times when I feel utterly lost or, yes, even homesick sometimes, they add up after awhile.
It’s difficult for me to enjoy the new places I’m traveling to when I always have work in the back of my mind.
It’s harder to remind myself to just enjoy the moment when I’m thinking about all the emails I have to send later, the meeting I have to prep for tomorrow, and that Facebook post I was meant to schedule out an hour ago.
And at the same time pushing aside that guilty feeling of not having a chance to explore the new place I’m in, even though I’ve already been there for three days because I’ve had to work.
The aspect that first drew me to travel was that concept of living in the moment, feeling free, and letting go in order to really appreciate a new culture and who you’re meeting on the road.
I don’t have the time to appreciate those aspects as much, because it’s near impossible to run a business while constantly in motion.
Now, I just feel a slight sense of dread whenever I have to pack up my bag again or I have another long travel day. And I don’t like that.
I want what me and travel used to have together, and I think I can get it back if it’s not my whole life anymore.
So, I want a base from where I can take maybe 3-4 small trips per year. I don’t want to live out of a travel backpack anymore – at least for an extended period of time like I’ve been doing. I want to appreciate life on the road again and the good aspects that travel has always given back to me.
What this Means for The Atlas Heart
This post in no way means the end of The Atlas Heart. On the contrary, one of the reasons why I want to settle is so I can spend more time on growing this blog and writing more.
The Atlas Heart will continue, but it might not always be about travel. I still plan on being a regular traveler, but I just won’t be a nomad anymore. And I’ve made peace with that.
The whole idea behind the Atlas Heart when I first created it over four years ago was well roundedness. My tagline is The World through a Kaleidoscope Lens, because I wanted this little piece of the internet to provide different perspectives on the world and the many wonderful things that can be found in it.
Travel is one major passion that I have always had, but it’s one of many. I look forward to sharing more of my other passions with you through my writing – either on here or through my published work.
Where I’m Thinking of Settling
I guess the big question now is where I actually plan on settling, and it’s one that I’m still figuring out how to answer.
My goal in the next year is to travel to a select few places that I’m thinking of settling down in for awhile, to really see if I could actually live there.
One of my biggest regrets when I tried to settle down in Portland, Oregon a couple of years ago was not listening to my gut feeling when I arrived. On paper, Portland should’ve been perfect for me.
There’s a great craft beer scene, creative locals, plenty of good eats and award winning restaurants, hiking just outside the city – I could go on. But when it came down to it, no matter how attractive Portland looked from the outside, it wasn’t for me.
I tried to force a love with a city that I was never meant to fit into, and it made me miserable in the process. I don’t want to make that same mistake again.
I want to find a place that I could really see myself being happy in, not just a place that I think I should be happy living in.
This is the short list. Obviously, things can change in the course of a year and new places may pop up as I start my search, but this is what I’m thinking so far.
Okay, well obviously the easiest place for me to settle in would be the US, California specifically. I already have a built in community and friends in a lot of cities in California, and that’s where a good amount of my family is based.
Not to mention, California is pretty great you guys. I love my home state for many reasons.
However, I’m still not convinced that I’m ready to move back to the US right now, and not just because of our current president, although that’s definitely a factor.
When I tried to move back to the US last time, I felt like I was constantly butting heads with my own culture. That I didn’t really fit in anymore.
Maybe that was due to being based in the Pacific Northwest, which is much more different from California culture than I thought it would be, but there’s no denying that there was a deep disconnect that I felt with US culture that surprised me.
With that said, I’m not taking the US off the table.
Last time I was back, I knew that it would only be temporary because I was in a relationship with a New Zealander, and we promised each other only one year in the States (although that turned into 1.5 years).
I knew he couldn’t stay with me forever in the US, unless we put in a lot of work with near-impossible-to-get visas, and that was always in the back of my mind.
So maybe I didn’t allow myself to fall back in love with home, because I knew that I would have to leave it again if I wanted to stay in my relationship.
When I go back this time, single, I think I’ll have a better idea of what I really think about returning home.
And if I did settle in the US, this is where I could see myself living.
BAY AREA – OAKLAND/BERKELEY
I’m not going to delude myself into thinking that I could afford to live in San Francisco right now, and even Oakland or Berkeley are a bit of a long shot financially, but this area of the world is essentially home for me.
I have a lot of friends who live in the Bay Area, it’s not too far from where I grew up in Santa Cruz, and San Francisco is a great airport to be near for other travels.
I honestly don’t know if I could see myself living in San Diego again, but I put it on here because it will always be a piece of home to me.
I think it would be hard to move back there, because it’s the place where I decided to start this crazy travel adventure. There are so many memories from that city – it’s where I grew into an adult, really found myself, and went through all the ups and downs of college.
It would be a hard adjustment to go back to that. Maybe I’m just scared of reverting back to the person I was before I left for Australia, although I’m sure that wouldn’t happen.
I always used to have this glamorous idea about living in LA since I was a kid. And even though I’ve been to LA multiple times and I’ve seen its many negatives (i.e. traffic, smog, vapidness, people who steal my shampoo from the pool locker room), I still have never shaken off the idea completely of living in the City of Stars.
The thing is, LA is the epicenter of so much. I mean there’s the obvious Hollywood mania in the city, but it’s also one of the best places in the world for live music, extremely driven people, entrepreneurs, and creative types.
I don’t know if I would ever completely fit in with the culture in LA, but one day I wouldn’t mind seeing what it’s actually like to live there. If I can get past the whole “who do you know” mentality than it might be a place I could live. Who knows.
And finally, breaking away from California, the next place I could see myself moving to in the US is Chicago. I was surprised with how much I loved the city when I visited for my 26th birthday. It’s dynamic, versatile, and just different enough from California to be intriguing and foreign to me.
I’m not used to midwest vibes and I’ve always wanted to live in a few different areas of the States, because my country is huge and extremely different depending on where you go.
It also helps that one of my best friends is living there right now and she absolutely loves it. I wouldn’t mind being in the same city as her again.
France is one of the main countries that I’m thinking of moving to. I’ve set myself a goal that I want to be fluent in another language before I turn 30. I’m tired of being monolingual, eventually I’d love to be fluent in French and Spanish, but for now I want to focus on French.
And I can’t think of a better way to improve my language skills drastically than throwing myself head first into Francophone culture.
I have always loved French culture – I may or may not have had a French-themed 18th birthday at my favorite creperie in Santa Cruz, complete with an eiffel tower drawn on my cake.
Yes, I’ve always had a thing for the French way of life. I’m not exactly sure why, but maybe it’s because I love good bread and cheese…and French movies.
I’ve also always loved the sound of French. It was my favorite language to listen to growing up. I wanted to take French classes in high school, but my dad told me it wouldn’t be practical, so I took Spanish instead.
I finally took those French language classes for three years at university, and learned more than I ever had about French culture from my teacher who was Parisian.
My love for Francophone culture died away a bit once I got to university and especially once I started traveling – how cliche, an American woman who goes to France.
It is overdone and it became a place that didn’t really appeal to me anymore, because I’d read so many travel memoirs and blogs about France from an American perspective – kind of like Greece I guess.
But, without a doubt, my love for the language is still there. So, I want to spend a decent amount of time in the country over the next six months to see if it’s a place I could see myself in.
France is also one of the easiest European countries for Americans to get a visa. They have student visas and longterm visas. I’d probably try for a student visa and enroll in a language school for 30 hours a week.
If I enjoy France enough, I could potentially apply for a longterm visa once I have more money saved. They usually want to see that you’ll be able to support yourself for however long you’re staying in the country without working (even though I work remotely).
These are the two spots I’m considering right now.
When I visited Paris six years ago I wasn’t blown away, but it was also my first time ever traveling solo and I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing. I think my 21 year-old self also focused a bit too much on partying and I was tired for most of the week I was there.
I’m heading back to Paris at the end of September for a quick visit, and I think I’ll be back toward the start of 2018 to give this city another chance. The thing is, Paris would be great from a writer’s perspective. There’s a huge community of creative types in the city and writer groups that I could join.
The romantic side of me also doesn’t mind the fact that so many great writers spent their days writing in Parisian cafes – Victor Hugo, Jules Verne, Marcel Proust, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, just to name a few.
And my favorite writer died in Paris in 1900 – Oscar Wilde.
I’ve only been to Nice in the south of France, but I’ve been hearing great things about Aix-en-Provence. It’s a student city, near some of the most beautiful spots in France, and they have a few language schools that I’ve being eyeing.
One in particular only costs 50 euro a week, and came highly recommended from a fellow American I met in Greece, who spent a year studying there. It might be nice to go back to that student feel and a slightly smaller city in France. Maybe it would be better for learning more about French culture as well, compared to Paris.
Along the same lines for my French studies, Canada is another option that is a bit closer to home. I’ve visited Canada three times and loved my time spent in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan (okay that one was more of a drive-thru), and Ontario.
However, one place that I’ve always wanted to see is Quebec. And guess what? They speak French there!
One of my close friends who I met in Thailand this year is living in Montreal, so that would be a potential option as well.
LISBON OR PORTO
I’ve been considering Portugal for awhile because it seems to tick a lot of boxes for what I’m looking for.
Lisbon actually has a decent expat community, including some other travel bloggers who have decided to settle as well. And Porto has, well, port. That’s enough of a reason to move somewhere right?
Portugal is another country that is relatively easy to get a visa as an American, especially student visas. I still have more research to do in terms of this option, but I know they have some semblance of a longterm visa in Portugal as well.
I think I could get along nicely with the laid back Portuguese culture, nice weather, and living near the ocean.
And lastly, there’s Germany.
This was actually the place I was meant to move to last year instead of Asia, but then I decided at the last minute to go to Asia for awhile before Europe.
Germany is the only country (that I know of) that has a freelance visa. If you can prove that you make a certain amount of money as a freelancer and that you have a steady income, you can stay for years in the country. Of course, I’m sure it’s not the easiest visa to get so this one may be a long shot, but this is one of those options in the back of my mind.
I’d probably look at Berlin first, then maybe Hamburg or Frankfurt.
If you made it to the end of this post, I congratulate you! Even if you just skimmed to the bottom, thanks for sticking around, I’m sure your fingers are sore just from scrolling all the way to the end.
If you have any other ideas of where I should look to settle, let me know! I’m open to suggestions and seeing where my travels finally lead me next year. I’m also looking forward to having more of a fixed-life soon.
Here’s to the many adventures and anecdotes that will surely come from this next step in my life.
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