Self-Realisations from Being a Part-Time Digital Nomad

(This article is a sequel to my previous article detailing Why I Choose to Take My Job on the Road)

Beyond the simmering excitement behind the nerves for the solo adventure I was embarking on, I often wondered and over worry about two things:

  1. Not having anyone around to hold me accountable for my missteps
  2. If my introverted ways would lead to me feeling lonely on the road

#1 Not having anyone around to hold me accountable for my missteps

I must admit that I have some travel quirks that only those who love me will tolerate.

For one, I like travelling without a plan and preferably without having to check google maps half the time. I enjoy navigating new places by drawing my own city map in my head and annotating landmarks unique only to me.

Anyway, in the spatial domains of urban geographies, most cities follow the usual urban grid system which also makes wayfinding much easier without google maps – 3 consecutive right turns and find yourself back at the original spot where you were.

But many times, even with the grid system as an underlying structure, urban forms are resultant extensions of people’s way of life which can turn out way more organic than we think.

Thankfully, nothing too disastrous happened throughout the trip without much pre-planning work done although I did almost get stuck overnight in a suburban mall, with a 4% phone battery life, zero Uber in the immediate 5km radius, a very ugly tan line and just 2 hours left to scramble my way home before sun sets.

All in search of a nature trail that guarantees 100% sighting of baby wallabies.

Priorities, I know.

#2 If my introverted ways would lead to me feeling lonely on the road

While I didn’t have anyone to chat with on long car rides to the countryside and there was no one sitting across the table from me during mealtimes, I found my time alone on this trip being surrounded by a colourful kaleidoscope of fond memories from the past.

When I go for my daily morning run past the dog park that seems almost the size of a football field, I remembered how my dog would wait outside my room patiently from 5pm onwards everyday without fail and how his eyes would lit up immediately when he sees me closing the lid of my laptop.

When the Airbnb TV suddenly stopped working one day, I remembered the interesting conversation my two year old nephew had with my dad, trying so hard in his limited toddler English to convince my dad that it is time to stop watching TV and go take an afternoon nap.

When I succumbed to my Mala cravings on my last week in Melbourne, I remembered the time when a few of us in the office made it a point to have Mala for lunch every Wednesday, coining it Mala Wednesday with a real cool hand sign.

Through this period of solitary, I also managed to establish genuine, if fleeting, connections with an entire community of people I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

From the car rental receptionist who offered me a complimentary upgrade to the friendly museum docent who offered to charge my phone in the backroom to the jovial Ben Franklin impersonator who offered me directions on the street.

I may have been very much alone on this trip but I have definitely not felt lonely.

At least not till my last day in Melbourne.

I was taking a long stroll along the Yarra river towards Flinders Street station, soaking in all that Melbourne city had to offer when I first caught a familiar tune.

It was my wedding march-in song.

Beautifully played by a street busker with ruffled blonde hair wearing a blue and grey flannel shirt right outside the National Gallery of Victoria. He looked like he has a curious past and the music coming from his old, wooden guitar triggered a strong nostalgic emotional response from deep within me.

In a rare moment of vulnerability, I teared. Because I realised I missed my husband so much and I wished he had been right here with me on this adventure.

Life is nuanced and if this trip has taught me anything, it’s that joy and sadness can exist at the same time.

Working from anywhere is great because you get work done while living your life but the truth is, that hundredth mesmerising sunset is just less mesmerising when you are not accompanied by the people you love.

It occurs to me that I may just be guilty of ‘materialism’ that takes on a different form. Instead of an addiction to money, status and possessions, I crave for experiences and freedom. And the end result is the same. Our relationships, our connections to what is real, sometimes take a backseat.

And for the first time in the two months I was away, I quietly wished that I was home.

This is an original article written by Nataly Ong, Lead of Brand Management at Providend, Singapore’s First Fee-Only Wealth Advisory Firm.

For more related resources, check out:
1. Story of Yong Cheng: The Little Things That Make Him Feel Warm and Fuzzy
2. The Providend Conversation: Living the Good Life with Philip Ng
3. 9 Investment Lessons That Make Me a Better Cyclist

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