A digital nomad in Vermont & Tucson: good friends and the joys of coworking

It’s been quite a while since I wrote on this blog! Finally I’m back to writing (and in Brattleboro, Vermont for the holidays). In the summer and fall of 2016 I had a very enjoyable five months in Brattleboro (June through October), with frequent short trips to Boston. My closest friends live here — they are family to me and we’ve spent our Christmas holidays together since the late 80s. It’s really great to live where you have a community of friends you love and know well.

Tucson for the winter

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Downtown Tucson.
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My neighborhood – Armory Park.
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Just outside my apartment. The sky is so blue in Tucson.

In November I went back to Tucson for my third winter. Since I know the owner of several properties in Tucson, I was able to rent a very cute little micro-studio apartment for 7 months (November  2016 through May 2017). It’s a nice place, recently renovated, and very close to downtown — a 5-minute walk. I love having a tiny apartment of my own, since when I’m in Vermont I live with several friends in a very social (but fun) apartment. It’s nice to switch between living socially and living alone at different times of the year. It’s got beautiful hickory floors, a new IKEA kitchen, and includes wi-fi. It came with a bed frame and a wardrobe, so I only needed to buy a mattress, a chest of drawers, and an easy chair with a small computer table. I bought a Leesa mattress online and had it shipped so that it would arrive at a friend’s house before I arrived in Tucson (yes, it’s possible to get a very comfortable mattress online — and it comes compressed in a portable shipping box).  (Use this link to get $75 off if you buy one). I will sell those items when I leave at the end of May.

I have a handful of friends in Tucson now — so it’s fun to go out and do things with them, like open art studios with JP, movies & other events with Jerry, hiking with Chaz, and so on. See my November and early December albums on Flickr for more of Tucson.

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My micro-apartment in Tucson.
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The kitchen in my micro-apartment.
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The bright Tucson sun shines into my micro-apartment.
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The bed frame came with the unit and I bought a Leesa mattress online –very comfortable!
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The outside of my building as the sun goes down.
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Enjoying Tucson in November (the coating to protect my eyes from so much computer time shows up purple in photos).

Brattleboro for the holidays

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We always have a great time at Xmas!

I came back to Brattleboro (and Boston) for almost a month for the holidays — that’s where I am now. I have a lot of frequent flyer points, and the lowest price (in points) for a flight was to leave on Dec. 13 and return to Tucson on Jan. 10. If I flew any closer to Christmas on either end, the price would have been double (in points). So I figured, why not? I enjoy being with my friends and I don’t mind a month of winter weather. I’m paying my friends for a partial month of rent since I’m in Brattleboro for 3 weeks. I’m staying in their “storage room,” which is much nicer than it sounds. This apartment is beautiful, with high ceilings, 4 very large bedrooms (if you count the storage room), and a beautiful view of the river and mountains. This storage room is bigger than my entire apartment in Tucson!

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More Xmas fun.
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You can walk to places to swim from our downtown apartment in Brattleboro. Summer 2016.
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View from our window in summer.
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Our windows in the fall.
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Our view in the winter.

The benefits of coworking

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Coworking Plus – a very nice space to work in Brattleboro, Vermont.

I don’t like to work at home for various reasons — distractions, not having a good office table or desk, wanting home to be work-free, being too isolated when I live alone, etc. I love to go out into the world when I work and be around other people. Since I started my own business in 2013 I’ve been using coffee shops and libraries, but now I’m a fan of coworking. When you work in coffee shops, you can’t alway sit near an outlet, sometimes the wi-fi is slow or goes down, sometimes there aren’t enough tables, or the tables are tiny, and you can’t leave your stuff there while you take a break. Coworking solves all of that. I love it.

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Local newspaper story about the founding of Coworking Plus.
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Beautiful view in October from Coworking Plus, Brattleboro.

Since I had such a good experience with coworking in Brattleboro, I decided to join a coworking space when I arrived in Tucson. Connect Coworking has been around much longer than the new space in Brattleboro, so it has a large community, many social events, and lots of amenities. It’s $150/month for use of a shared space from 9-5 Monday through Friday. That works well for me, since that’s when I like to work anyway. I joined for a month (mid-November through mid-December), and I’ll join again when I return to Tucson on Jan. 11. It’s month-to-month, which is nice.

At coworking spaces it’s common practice to wear headphones or earbuds when you are focusing and don’t want to be disturbed. When you take them off, that shows that you are open for conversations — and it’s nice to have people to talk with sometimes.

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Connect Coworking wall of member photos – Tucson.

I recommend coworking if you work online and haven’t tried it. It’s so nice to have a regular place to go, where you can count on outlets and fast wi-fi. And it’s a good way to meet other people and to make connections for your business.

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This is Punspace: a coworking space I used last year (Oct/Nov) in Chiang-Mai, Thailand. I just bought a few day passes since I was also using coffee shops.

Location-flexibility has many advantages

When you’re a digital nomad, you don’t have to stay nomadic all the time. I’ve had many fun adventures living in Oaxaca, Seattle, Budapest, Chiang-Mai, and other places, but sometimes it’s nice to stay in your own country and be near people you know well. I had so much fun in Vermont and Boston last summer and early fall.

In August I met a great guy who I’ve been dating and it’s been going so well that I’d like to spend more time in his location getting to know him better. He owns a store in Brattleboro called Positive Geek. It’s a fun, playful place full of pop culture items like comic books, costumes, action figures, and games. He’s in his second year of business and he really enjoys it. He told me once that his vision is that it should be like Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (2007 movie with Dustin Hoffman) — and I believe that he has succeeded at that! So I’m enjoying this month with him in addition to our time last Aug/Sept/October. He’s coming to visit me in Tucson in February, and I’ll come back to Vermont in June — I’m intending to stay for at least a year this time.

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Dustin Hoffman in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium – Positive Geek was inspired by this.
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The Flamingo Diner with James.
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Games, books, comics, and more in James’ store: Positive Geek.

Keeping in touch during times away

These days there are so many ways to keep in touch with people you care about when you’re far away. Some of my friends prefer text messages, other prefer Facebook messages, either synchronously or asynchronously. Hardly anyone seems to talk on the phone these days. I like that — here’s why.

  • With texting, you can reply right away or later when you have time (not like interrupting someone with a phone call). People seem to treat it like email these days and wait to reply until it’s convenient.
  • You have a record of what you said.
  • You don’t have to be in a private, quiet place — you can reply from anywhere and not be overheard.
  • You have links to things you want to point people to.
  • You can use funny photos, animated GIFs, and stickers to have a playful conversation. There is something so fun and humorous about this… it’s so different than talking out loud.

If you are a young person, you already know this. But I have many friends over age 60 who don’t quite understand why we don’t use the telephone more. So this is for them.

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Getting silly with talk of cats in space.
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Getting silly with GIFs.

A fun idea for virtual dates

The guy I’m dating, James, likes the show Westworld as much as I do. So when I was in Tucson (and he in Vermont) we figured out a way to have virtual dates, watching Westworld together. Here’s how it works: on our computers, we open Facebook Messenger in one window and the video in another. We set a time to watch together and we aim to hit the play button at the same time. We do a countdown by typing in Messenger…. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go! Then we hit play and we’re each watching the same episode at the same time. While watching, we type funny and snide comments about the show in our Messenger window. It’s so fun — kind of like MST3K. Feel free to use this idea for watching anything with any of your faraway friends!

I really think that having conversations by text is a good thing for any relationship, whether between friends or romantic partners. It’s such an fun way to interact, and you bring your imagination to it in such a way that it reminds me of reading a novel. It’s a very good way to keep in touch when you’re far away.

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Not from Westworld, but this photo makes sense if you know the show. (thanks to Jurvetson on Flickr)

Balancing comfort and adventure

So I’d like to close by saying that:

  • coworking is worth trying,
  • living near a community of close friends is great,
  • location flexibility means you can alternate having nomadic adventures with the comforts of staying near those you love,
  • and texting (especially with animated GIFs and stickers) is a lovely way to communicate.

One more thing

By the way, I totally enjoyed my writing projects for the second half of 2016! I wrote a technical report for the American Library Association and a book to be published by Libraries Unlimited. Both will be published in 2017. Check out the table of contents in these posts on my other site.

 

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It was nice to be with my friends on my birthday in September!
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A brisk walk on Christmas Day in Vermont
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A snowy day – the view from our window.

9 thoughts on “A digital nomad in Vermont & Tucson: good friends and the joys of coworking

  1. rwiggins

    great entry. good advice on coworking, and also virtual dating!…and wonderful pictures contrasting winter life in both Tucson and VT.

  2. Heather

    Thanks, Nicole. I really enjoy reading your entries! While I’m not in the position at this point to live nomadically, I found your tips on coworking very helpful. Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2017 filled with adventure!

  3. Happy New Year, Nicole!

    I found your blog about a year ago and it has been inspiring and helpful as I sort out my own mix of travel and rootedness. For me, this will probably be part-time in a Class B RV and part time in our home here in Tucson.

    I now live in neighboring Barrio Viejo and would love to connect for tea sometime, if you would like.

    Thank you for so much useful and fascinating information!

  4. HI Nicole. I am Charlotte and am a friend of Andy Procopis. I have a farm in Kimberly, Oregon where i hope to make industrial farming obsolete by showing farmers how they can make more money regenerating the land and growing really nutritious food, because they do not have to use either fertilizer or irrigation.. quite a breakthrough. i came to the boston area for the winter and have gotten involved here with a program called YIMBY gardens where I am showing people how to put in plants and microbial inoculations to get their gardens to retain water which ends up stopping droughts (longer story). anyway would love to meet you for tea. i hear you are in boston this week and so am i until friday. then i am going to a NOFA conference over the weekend. i a at victorygardensforall@gmail.com

    1. Thanks for writing! That sounds really great. Unfortunately you just missed me — I’m on the way to Tucson today. I’ll be back to New England in June. If you’re around then, we could meet.

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