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I became a nomad🥲
adios san francisco?
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A few weeks ago, I found myself on a bus with kids whose ages were impossible to guess. They were clearly older than fourteen but could’ve been as old as twenty-two tbh. Young enough to be fiercely idealistic but not quite old enough to be broken and resigned as corporate pawns.
They still had lightness and levity in their steps. Unencumbered by the stress of a quarter life crisis or lower back pain.
I shamelessly gobbled my chicken and chips—the only food I could find in a pinch (forgive me FitFam, my summer body will be ready next year) and I peered out the window as we swerved through tiny towns of Andalucia in pursuit of Nerja.
Seasoned readers of this newsletter will know that I choose my destinations based purely on vibes. Before I boarded that bus, I knew Nerja had miles of warm beach and that was enough for a day trip. Five euros later and the adventure began.
As a tropical baby who delights in the sun, the allure of a hot beach is too much to turn down. For fourteen years, I lived in Lagos, Nigeria; a city whose heat pries your pores open and robs you of your sweat. I didn’t even know what “humid” felt like until I came to America—that humid feeling is what I thought heat was. Dry heat was the anomaly to me.
On the surface, I’m buzzing, waiting for the sun to slap me silly. But there’s a silent rumble underneath. I had twenty-four hours to make a decision that scared me. A looming deadline I had avoided until the last minute.
See, when I left for Barcelona in January, my landlady let me go for free. I didn’t break the lease and she didn’t charge me rent. I simply packed my bags and left. I’m going to rewrite those words, because I wouldn’t believe them if someone else told me. My landlady in San Francisco, the city with the second-highest rent in America let me travel for two months without charging me. She used the apartment as a studio while I was gone.
“You’re young, why would you want to be shacked up in this dark loft when you could be traveling?”
Aye-aye captain. Mind you, the loft gets some light and I miss it dearly, but more importantly I miss my SF friends. The one who only leaves his couch to pick up DoorDash. The runner who thinks I’m going to elope and never return. The sister who will murder me if I go to Bali without her. The one besotted with bidets.
The one who put me onto Naïka. The boys next in line to visit me. The enabler that causes sweet chaos. My Yiddish teacher. The guy I fear when he gets hangry. The lad who hibernates until it’s time for Carnival. Mr PescoPollo.
I miss the hungover Saturday footy. The dinner parties that regrettably end up at Blondies. The potlucks. The double-dates. When we pretend to be sophisticated and go for afternoon Moroccan tea. Winning football titles with my friends. Debriefing their dates and playing therapist for free. When we squash the fake beef. The lovely nonsense of life.
But…back to the dilemma. My landlady offered another deal:
“I’ll put your stuff in storage, give you back your security deposit and a month’s rent so you can keep traveling”
Was I bloody dreaming? Who gets deals like these??
My gut decision was quick and obvious. I have to take this deal. It’s not really up to me, the deal is too sweet to turn down. How could I turn down money to effectively travel for free? What was the alternative—I return to San Francisco now? When I was just getting the hang of this traveling thing? Or I pay double rent, one for my travels and another back home. Couldn’t be me😐.
My body wrestled with me. If I closed my eyes, I could see my apartment with all the fixings that turned a space into a home. The cream and brown accent pillows I spent way too much time researching. The light-grey faux fur blanket that sheltered me from predators outside. My favorite wok. The plants I left to die. My Peloton bike, my biggest cheerleader and sworn enemy that elicits such gnarly grunts that I could never recreate elsewhere.
My overpriced, light wooden brown Thuma bed that I regret buying. My speakers that transformed my home from a neutral space to a meditative monastery to a party bus at the click of a button. My yoga mats that guilt trip me into occasional stretches. My slightly color-coded closet…curated so I had easy access to earth tones. The view from my desk where I peeked at my buddy next door as he begrudgingly stepped into the sunlight to receive his takeout.
Sigh, I wasn’t ready to give these up. But I had to.
As I sat on that bus, I felt like something was trying to send me a message. Call me superstitious or delusional, but I felt what I felt man. We passed a small village called Lagos (same as my hometown in Nigeria). On some level, that shouldn't be too surprising, “Lagos” means lakes in Portuguese and we were on the southern Iberian coast. Lakes should be close by.
Then, I saw what looked like a Nigerian flag. The greens and whites of my flag present but in the wrong orientation. Eerily close to me. I’m sure there’s another logical explanation for this. But it felt a little odd. Maybe this is what my Gen Z fam call main character energy...it probably had nothing to do with me. But how many coincidences before you start to perk up and listen?
We stepped off the bus and found our way to the beach. I lay on the beach bed and let the breeze brush up against my cheeks, ushering me in its wings. "Let go, my child. Stop clenching your fist." I desperately tried to turn off the optimizing, maximizing brain that was always running analyses on everything all the time. This wasn't a question for analysis. I drew up a metaphorical sword and slashed all the "shoulds" from my mind.
Eventually, it became clear. There was no decision to make. It was all-but done. My logical brain just had to come to terms with it. It would catch up. This is the way I’ve made most of my big decisions….moving to England, moving to America, quitting both jobs. It’s always a deep-gut decision followed by coherent reasoning. Pros/cons lists don’t do it for me. I can always smudge the “data” to fit a narrative.
On that beach bed, I learned “Nerja” means “abundant spring”. A name that ties back to when the Moors ruled Spain. They named it such because it has many water reservoirs. In that moment, it finally clicked for me. That name gave me the reason I needed. I was scared to say yes because I was rooted in scarcity and familiarity. There were so many open-ended, daunting questions: “Where would I go? For how long? When next would I see my people? I was cowering and curling into a ball, when I could be opening myself up, letting abundance and optimism abound in my body.
Those questions were figure-out-able. I didn’t need to answer right there or then.
I told my landlady I was down. She and her assistants packed my stuff more precisely than I would’ve. Everything was carefully labeled and pristinely loaded onto trucks. I felt so grateful. She sent me pictures of my stuff. A friend went over and confirmed that she wasn’t secretly auctioning my clothes away.
To compensate her effort, she asked for my pressure cooker and some spices. I happily agreed. I used that pressure cooker three times in eighteen months, plus I could always buy another one if I needed to.
And that, my friends is how I became a nomad. I’m currently in England soaking up some much-needed family bonding time while I shudder from the disrespectful cold. I don’t know how long I’ll be nomading for. But I know I can always cut the cord if I need to.
I’ll be in South East Asia next month. Wish me luck and send any travel tips for Thailand and Bali. Grazie!
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