That Time I Wanted to be a Nomad
One time, I wanted to be a nomad.
And by one time, I mean for several months last year, I was set on the idea of being a nomad.
I would sell my belongings, pack my car with only the essentials, and set out on a year-long drive across the country, spending my days exploring cities and mountains and deserts and coasts, sleeping on the couches of friends’ or at charming Airbnbs, writing about my nomadic experiences in cute local coffee shops with a mocha in hand.
I wanted to be a wind girl—the kind of girl who lets whim be her guide, who is a minimalist, who doesn’t let fear dictate her choices, and who definitely has a fond love of succulents. I had come up with the wind girl ideal on a Christmas Day phone call with my best friend, laughing way too much at this silly imaginary person. But a part of me longed for that sort of wind girl freedom, the freedom to go.
A wind girl would definitely be a nomad. She’d tell stories of her adventures over wine and charcuterie and cheese with friends, each story beginning with that line of “that one time in…”
I had the itinerary set: I’d start in Atlanta, make my way down to Florida, head west toward Louisiana and Texas, up through Oklahoma and west across the deserts with the unbelievable sunsets to California, up Highway 1 to Seattle, through the evergreen forests and mountain ranges to Colorado, through the fields of the Midwest, onward to the Northeast, and then the final hoorah? Hopping a plane to Europe for a few weeks.
And regardless of whether or not I became a nomad, I was still leaving Nashville. I was over this city with its drunken country music tourists on Broadway and lack of ocean or mountains and awful traffic and skinny-jean wearing boys who have no idea what they want.
That was my constant refrain to whoever asked me what I wanted to do.
“I’m leaving”—repeated at coffee dates with friends, declared on lunch breaks with my co-worker, texted to long-distance friends, said over the phone to my parents, told at the kitchen bar to roommates.
I had grown to hate Nashville. Truthfully, my feelings toward this city were unjust ones. Nashville had been the setting of four years of warm memories, the kind that don’t seem too flashy in the moment yet you remember them long after—late night runs to McDonald’s for $1 cokes with my roommate, finishing off an entire pizza with a friend while studying for finals (and being really sick the next day), snuggling on the couch with my best friends to watch Catfish, group naps with my roommates, trips to the local vineyard with lots of fruity wine. Nashville had offered me a safe space to grow up, and it certainly didn’t deserve my bitterness.
But even with these sweet moments Nashville had offered me, all I could associate with this city were the bad memories—the ones that left me feeling dreadfully lonely and unwanted and worthless.
So I was ready to leave, counting down the days until I could break free from this city’s prison, living my life with one foot out the door, hesitant to commit or invest anymore into this city and the people in it. I could think only of when I could get out of this city’s limits.
Because I believed running away would heal whatever was going on in my heart that made everything seem less hopeful. I believed a new place to call home—or no home at all—would be the trick to finding that settled feeling of okay-ness again.
Spoiler: I didn’t become a nomad. I still live in Nashville. The closest I came to a nomad life was a three-week travel stint in August: Nashville to Shreveport, LA to Houston to Shreveport, LA to Dallas to Seattle to Florida to Dallas back to Nashville. I did indeed see bright red sunsets over the mountains and wild coasts lined with evergreens, and I did indeed sit in local coffee shops writing away with mochas that cute barista boys made for me.
It was a really beautiful three weeks. But what made it so beautiful weren’t necessarily the places—though the places were beautiful—but the people I was able to share those places with. I was able to watch the sun set over peaks and Puget Sound with my best friend. I was able to brunch with my childhood friends from 50 stories up, admiring the Dallas skyline. I was able to play (and lose) Monopoly with my family, enjoying a week of white sand and water.
I could run all I wanted, but as my wise friend once said (and which I repeat continually), “After a while, a place is just a place.” I had made the mistake of putting place on a pedestal.
But a place doesn’t bring healing, doesn’t make everything okay again. Healthy relationships with people do.
I’d rather stories of adventures over wine and charcuterie and cheese with friends, each story beginning with that line of “remember that one time in…” because I had others there to share the experience with me.
The other day, a group of girls gathered in my (relatively) new apartment. With wine and popcorn and Sour Patch Kids spread on the living room table in the most aesthetically pleasing way, we discussed our creative passions and hopes and the blocks that kept us from pursuing our creativity.
And it felt like home.
For so long I wanted to be a nomad, but all along what I’ve really wanted is to feel at home. I want to stay in a place long enough to paint a chalkboard accent wall in the study and to gather with friends over wine and popcorn and Sour Patch Kids. I want a home that feels like a bear hug. Like a deep breath, the cleansing kind, the one that releases the weight of the day.
Today, writing this, I feel at home. I see golden leaves outside my window and a Poodle sleeping aside my desk and I smell the scent of my favorite fall candle. No longer am I desperate to flee across the country to ocean and mountains. No longer do I want to live my life with a one-foot-out-the-door mentality, afraid to commit and invest. I’m ready to take off my shoes and stay awhile.
Maybe one day I will leave Nashville. Maybe one day I’ll be a nomad, even. But right now?
I am here, and I am home.