Staying in one place for a while as a digital nomad

One good thing about having location-flexible work is that you can choose when to live as a nomad, and when to stay in one place for a while. After “nomading” for 4.5 years, I’ve been staying in one place for almost 9 months (a record for me)! It’s beautiful Brattleboro, Vermont.

Before this 9-month period, I spent my third winter in Tucson (Nov. 2016 to May 2017), and it was lovely. The weather is so great during those months (especially compared to New England), and I have some Tucson friends that I enjoy spending time with. I loved riding my bike, living in a micro-apartment, and using the co-working space in downtown Tucson. See my last post for details: A digital nomad in Vermont & Tucson: good friends and the joys of coworking.

Dating as a digital nomad

As you can imagine, nomads have some challenges when it comes to dating. When people hear that you’re not staying for more than a few months, they tend to lose interest. I’ve seen other nomads talk about these challenges on their blogs. And I’ve also seen stories of nomads who found a partner to travel with them — lucky! (Benny Lewis, Niall Doherty, and Gigi Griffis).

For most of my five years as a nomad, dating was not my priority. I was totally focused on my business and travel plans and staying in touch with old friends. It wasn’t until my third winter in Tucson that I decided I was in the mood to meet someone for a longer-lasting relationship.

You might remember in my last post, that I said this: “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.” Well — that has worked out beyond my expectations!

James is such a good match for me. Our personalities mesh in ways that make it very easy to be happy with each other. I’ve known him since August of 2016. I met him in Brattleboro, Vermont and we dated for only 3 months before I left for the usual 7-month winter in Tucson. I wondered if it could last with a break that long — I thought he would move on, but he was great at keeping in touch daily and we had so many fun virtual dates! I came back to Vermont for several weeks at Christmas time, he visited me in Tucson for a week in February, and I visited him in Vermont for a week in April.

Here we’re at a butterfly conservatory in Massachusetts called Magic Wings.

Having that much time apart actually helped us get to know each other well since we had many, many long, fun conversations online. He loves to travel and has spent time in various parts of Europe and the Caribbean. Until recently he owned a retail store in Vermont — not a location-flexible job. So I decided to come back to Vermont and spend more time getting to know him since my work is location-flexible.

It’s been an extremely fun nine months (since June 2017). In the fall James made the decision to close his store at the end of 2017 and go back to the location-independent work he used to do (science journalism and web design). That would free him up to move back to Tucson with me. And it lends itself to more digital nomadic adventures in the future.

James’ store was called Positive Geek and was a fun gathering place for geeks and nerds in the local area.

We are both tired of New England winters and ready to escape to the beautiful southwest. He loved what he saw of Tucson when he visited me there last February. So we are planning to move there and get a year-round rental, beginning in May or June. The rental prices are so much cheaper in Tucson than Boston or Vermont, that we can afford to keep a place year-round and go off on adventures from time to time, while still paying rent in Tucson.

My nomadic life so far

Committing to a year-long lease is not what I’ve been doing these past five years. I sold my condo in the Boston area a couple of years ago (where I had tenants since 2013) and I’ve been moving to a new place about twice per year. I usually spend 3 to 6 months in one place. It’s affordable when I have no rent or mortgage to pay elsewhere. And it’s easy to move when I have very few possessions. The apartment I’m living in now is a bedroom that I’m subletting from one of my best friends while she house-sits in Boston. The bedroom is in a very large apartment shared with two other friends.

Our large apartment on the 5th floor, overlooking the river between Vermont and New Hampshire.

I committed to subletting my friend’s room in Brattleboro from June 2017 through April 2018. That’s one of the reasons James and I didn’t move to Tucson right away in January after he closed his store. It’s been fun living in such a social situation with my Vermont friends. James has been living in a tiny house (mother-in-law cottage), in the yard of some friends of a friend. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from my place, but it’s up an icy hill and can be a slippery, dangerous walk on the worst winter days.

So at the beginning of February, James moved in with me and my apartment-mates and got rid of most of his stuff (he didn’t have a lot of furniture anyway, living in a tiny house). He brought his cat Fiona along with him, and I’ve been enjoying her immensely! We’ll bring her to Tucson with us when we move.

This is Fiona.
She loves her brush!

My nomadic life in the future

No one really knows what the future holds, but I hope to continue getting to know more places around the world by living in them and working remotely. That’s what I love about being location-flexible. I can move around or stay in one place, whatever makes sense at the time. James wants to come with me on more adventures. We have our sweet cat to think of, so I don’t think that both of us will leave Tucson for months at a time, leaving Fiona with cat-sitters. Instead, we’ll probably just go away for a couple of weeks here and there, with a friend watching the cat. And there might be chances for me to go away for longer segments of time with James visiting for shorter segments. We’ll see what makes sense.

I still traveled a bit in 2017

I’ve never been really a small-town person, always preferring cities. I enjoyed living in Boston for most of my adult life. During my nomadic adventures, I preferred Mexico City to Oaxaca, Seattle to Portland, and I loved Budapest! (Not that Oaxaca or Portland are small towns — just that I love larger cities). So Brattleboro feels small to me. It’s beautiful but small (population about 7,400). Since I’ve been here, I’ve gone away several times: Boston for a few days here and there, Budapest for 3 weeks, and Martha’s Vineyard for a few days (twice). So I felt like my world was larger than what’s available here.

In-person work — something new for me!

My work has been almost completely virtual these past few years, so it was fun and different to do some face-to-face work this past year. In 2017 I did three in-person jobs:

My keynote talk in Florida was about how to keep up with emerging technologies.
The librarians at this table are taking my quiz: What’s Your Tech Personality?
I’m in the middle with the 4 librarians from Myanmar and Diane, the directory of CEU Library.
A break during the technology workshops I offered for librarians on Martha’s Vineyard (November and January 2017-18)

 Fun short trips in 2017

Even though I was staying in one place, I took several trips just for fun.

  • February: James visited me in Tucson for a week in February. We went to Sabino Canyon, Kitt Peak Observatory, Mr. Lemmon, and more.

    A day trip to Kitt Peak Observatory — one of the most fun things we did near Tucson.
  • April: I visited him for a week in Brattleboro, VT in April (I was still living in Tucson then).

    Hiking with James in the woods near Brattleboro, Vermont.
  • June: We visited Manchester, NH, where James grew up. We went to the lovely Currier Museum of Art.

    The Currier Museum is worth a visit if you are ever in Manchester, NH.
  • August: To celebrate one year of knowing each other, we visited Magic Wings — a butterfly conservatory in South Deerfield, Massachusetts.

    This butterfly conservatory is a fun place to visit. They also have geckos and other fun creatures.
  • August: We saw the full solar eclipse in the path of totality near Omaha, Nebraska (where I grew up). We joined thousands of people at Homestead National Monument, where Bill Nye, the Science Guy gave interesting talks before it happened. So fun!We stayed with my cousin Jennifer and her family, and my sister Christine went with us to see the eclipse, so James got to meet some of my relatives (and yes, they liked him and he them).
    It was cloudy, but the clouds parted just during the few minutes of the full eclipse!
    We were with thousands of people at Homestead National Monument, near Beatrice, Nebraska.

    Using our eclipse glasses.
  • September: In September, to celebrate my birthday, we went to MassMOCA for lots of amazing art, and especially to see the virtual reality exhibits by Laurie Anderson. (We celebrated my birthday early since I would be in Budapest on my actual birthday).
Mass MOCA is an amazing, huge museum in western Massachusetts.
We especially enjoyed the virtual reality exhibits by Laurie Anderson.
  • October: James met me in Boston when I returned from Budapest. We had a great time on Columbus Day at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It was their free admission day.
So much art! We especially enjoyed the Summer of Love exhibit and the Frida Kahlo exhibit.

Now I’m in Tucson for a month

So as you can see, it’s been a fabulous nine months living in Brattleboro and visiting all those other places. As of March 6, I’m in beautiful Tucson for four weeks, staying in a cute little house rented on Airbnb. I’m so happy to be done with winter and to be riding my bike again. (A friend stored it here for me during those 9 months away).

I planned this month in Tucson long ago when I thought I’d be staying in Brattleboro for all of 2018 (before James decided to close his store at the end of 2017). James is going to join me for the last week of this month and we’ll look for an apartment here (and have a fun vacation). We’re aiming to move here on May 1.

We’ll go back to Brattleboro in April to get our stuff ready to move (we don’t have a lot, just a few boxes — no furniture or anything). We’ll bring Fiona the cat with us in her special cat carrier that fits under an airplane seat.

Fiona with her toy mouse, enjoying the comfy carrier. Little does she know it will be her transportation on the plane!

Having spent three winters here gave me a good idea what it’s like, so I know exactly which neighborhoods I want to live in, in order to maintain our car-free life. I also have a few friends here now, so it’s the beginning of a new life. James and I are looking forward to living here!

Here’s my bike on the porch of my Airbnb rental in Tucson.

2 thoughts on “Staying in one place for a while as a digital nomad

  1. So happy for you and this new chapter of your life! I still love Oaxaca and my life there (and José!) but also my life in the states, where both sons and now both granddaughters live. Keep on writing!

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