Coming Up For Air

Where did the past three months go?

I’ve found myself uttering those words a lot to myself lately. It feels like just the other day that I’d taken my seat at an outdoor cafe in Montevideo and penned my characteristically optimistic post “looking over the horizon” of Remote Year. The glimmer in my eyes was a reflection of the monumental leap that I had just made. I knew my life was about to change in a dramatic fashion, but there was a perspective of romanticism I’d already taken for how the next year would pan out.

But amidst my glaring positivity, I penned a graf to my future self:

…There’s something inherently powerful about writing down your goals while on the cusp of a transformative new experience, full of optimism and possibility. Perhaps most importantly, it can serve as a place to continually return to, when that optimism gradually makes space for the adversity that inevitably evolves from taking risks.

I always knew that this year was going to be a marathon, not a sprint. But as it turns out, that adversity presented itself far sooner than I’d expected. It wasn’t more than a few weeks into the beginning of this trip that the inevitable bumps of a major life transition started to introduce themselves. The pressures of a new job forced me into working grueling hours; the language barrier made daily errands an unexpected hassle; my morning routine fell by the waistside. Deadlines began to line-up while the stress began to pile-on.

Rather than turn to my typical safety net – friends, gym, my favorite coffee shops – I found myself unsure of where to turn. One can’t truly appreciate the grounding elements of a routine until it has been yanked away, and you’re put in the position of crafting an entirely new one from scratch.

As it turns out, the digital nomad life isn’t a piece of cake. The typical things that are a custom to moving to a new city, like finding grocery store or figuring out the hours of my new gym, are reset each and every month. Just when I’ve begun to grasp a semblance of routine that makes a busy life sustainable, it’s time to start over.

Serving to exacerbate these issues has been the “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out). Every single weekend has presented an opportunity to do something new and exciting, whether it be a fourteen-hour train to visit the famous Bolivian salt-flats or a group outing to a Buenos Aires club. At home, I had a carefully cultivated balance between fun outings and personal time to decompress and work on my personal projects. That routine was thrown completely off-balance, especially after shifting to a new city each month. I’ve gone back and forth between burnout from trying to do far too much, and “FOMO” for not doing nearly enough.

But amidst it all, I’ve begun to find sustainable methods to counter these issues. I’ve taken up learning Ashtanga Yoga and practicing daily meditation, in combination with sessions at the gym. I had my first session with a life coach, who helped me distill my goals for this year. I’ve gotten in the habit of taking daily, unplugged walks during lunchtime around the spectacular areas that I’m privileged enough to call home this year.

There have also been beautiful moments that put everything back into perspective: a tour through one of the toughest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires that is housing a beautiful street art collective; shabbat dinner with the family of total stranger who overheard that I was Jewish in Montevideo; a birthday party in the awe-inspiring garden terrace of another new friend, dancing in the rain and trying on costumes from his eclectic closet. A few weeks ago, while trying to sit down to pen this very post, I caved into procrastination and drove an hour to the outskirts of La Paz for an afternoon hike in the breathtaking “Valley of the Spirits” with a group of new Dutch and Danish friends.

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Writing this “why I’ve been silent” blog post took me so long because I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to say. As a perfectionist, I wanted it to check every box of how I was feeling in an eloquent way that effectively captured my thoughts. But that missed the point: this trip and year is about living in the moment, as hard as that might be, and using the hardships that come from unfamiliar conditions to make myself a more cultured, curious and resilient person.

I signed up for this trip explicitly so that I could experience this discomfort, not the contrary.

Now that I’ve moved past writer’s block and begun to chart a path forward, I have no shortage of material that I’m itching to get out and share. I also have my first published Mic piece from Buenos Aires, which is in the final stages of editing and will be published soon.

I’ve finally come to terms with the benefits and drawbacks of my new life.

And you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for anything.