If someone would have told me in January of 2014 — the year that Chicago experienced one of its coldest winters on record — that I would soon trade that frigid landscape for sunny winters in the Mediterranean or balmy days in the Caribbean, I would have been over the moon. At that time I didn’t have a clear understanding of what it would take to live a digital nomad life, but I knew two things: I had to get out of Chicago and I wanted to be able to take my work with me wherever I went.
I wanted to be able to take my work with me and start a nomad life
I had endured the Midwest’s brutal winds and months-long gray skies my whole life, and it had worn me down. At that time, I was working as editor of a technical magazine that covered the science of extremely cold temperatures. Sounds a bit dull, but the job was actually interesting and allowed me to travel occasionally, and of course, Chicago is an incredible city, but daydreams of blue skies, palm trees and the ocean persisted.
My sister, who was my roommate at the time, had started to flirt with digital nomadism. She worked from home and went on a few extended trips to New York and Mexico, and I was itching to do the same. By June of that year, I had a new job as a freelance editor at a local magazine, and that was the green light we needed. We dropped most of our belongings off at the Goodwill, left our apartment and friends, and boarded a flight to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, our first stop in an ambitious six-month travel itinerary that included stops in cities in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
Now, almost three years later and still on the road, I find myself drawn to the sun and warmth over and over again, an addiction that’s not helped by my current job as editor of BeachDeals, a travel deals site. Last winter was a blur as I traveled (while working) in Europe. I saw Nice, Marseille, Monaco, Barcelona, and Porto, plus some beautiful Mediterranean resort towns along Spain’s eastern coast. Though I was alone for that trip, I somehow avoided those dreaded feelings of loneliness that solo travel can bring. My three months in Europe were like a dream from the moment I stepped off the plane until the moment I boarded one for home. I was enchanted by the people, the food, the architecture, and of course, that unmistakable blue-green water of the Mediterranean Sea.
After a little down time back in the U.S., I embarked on a trip that included stops in Myrtle Beach, Kiawah Island, Miami Beach, the Florida Keys, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and finally, the Dominican Republic. Skipping winter is a beautiful thing in itself, but each of those places has its own distinctive culture and history worth immersing yourself in. Driving from Miami down to the Keys was one of the most memorable moments of the past year for me, along with spending a month in the multicultural seaside town of Las Terrenas in the DR, home to my favorite beach bar in the world. While friends and family at home were shoveling their driveways, I spent hours sitting in an oceanfront hammock, drinking passionfruit mojitos. Quite a change from winters in Chicago!
The pervasive cliché about travel is that by experiencing new places and putting yourself in new environments, you’ll undergo a huge personal transformation and become some newly enriched version of yourself. But I think what is really enriching is simply the freedom of the whole thing — freedom from routine, freedom from the familiar, freedom from being stuck in one place. And it gives you the space to figure out what kind of life you want to lead when you do eventually settle down, and helps you decide the extent to which your career drives your lifestyle.
Travel gives you the space to figure out what kind of life you want to lead.
Even if I do end up at a desk job again one day, I won’t regret anything I’ve done or seen in these past years, because of what it taught me about the basic things I need to be happy. But I hope, at the very least, that I’ll always have access to blue skies, palm trees and the ocean.
About The Author
Theresa Boehl is a digital nomad and editor of BeachDeals.com – a travel deals site focusing on beach getaways. She hops from beach town to beach town, with occasional trips back to the Midwest. She just completed her first e-book, “Vegan in Santo Domingo: A guide to meat-free, dairy-free dining in the Caribbean’s largest city.”