Looking Back on 4 Months of Nomad Life

on December 13, 2017

4 months ago I clicked “submit” on my Masters dissertation, stuffed every single last belonging into the trunk of Dan’s car, and…became a nomad.

What happened next was an adventure in living a nomadic lifestyle: no home, living out of suitcases, and no firm plans further than a month out. For a generally type-A planner, this was a shock to the system to say the least. But it was the adventure of a lifetime, including both the ups and downs, and I would do it all over again!!

Why did I decide to live nomadically?

I worked two part-time jobs during my full-time, 24-month MSc. Although I loved living in England, this definitely restricted my ability to travel.ย I wanted to use up the remaining days of my UK visa fulfilling all the travels and adventures I had been dreaming of.

Living a nomadic lifestyle in Europe sounds pretty awesome written on paper…but what ACTUALLY happened? I thought we could review it in numbers ๐Ÿ™‚

Me after just moving out of my house, with Dan’s VERY full car of all my belongings!!

What ACTUALLY happened during my 4 months of nomadic living?

12 countries visited: England, Wales, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, France, Iceland.

10 planes flown on.

Exactly 129 sunrises. (Some I was awake for… others, not.)

29 blog posts written. Some of my favorite are here, here, and here.

7 weeks working in the Northern France refugee camps. I’ll never forget the feeling, sitting in the drizzling parking lot painting with the children, when a helicopter flew overhead. The children ooh-ed and ahh-ed, like all children do at planes or helicopters. Until these children cried “Police! Police!” – The feeling of shock, realizing that at age 3, how much of these babies’ childhoods have already been taken from them. That, or moments drinking tea around campfires, hours in the warehouses, feelings of genuine fear and those small but important moments of joy. You can read more about those moments here.

I HAVE A REQUEST// Two weeks without a single Instagram… what kind of blogger am I?! ๐Ÿ˜จ I've been back in France at the refugee camps working for @refugee_womens_centre , where social media scrolling seems so distant, the most important things are blankets and tarps and legal rights and memorising essential Kurdish phrases and, oh yeah, being covered in stickers by two of the cutest lil girls ever. ๐Ÿ‘ญ This photo shows one of the happy moments โ˜€๏ธ but for each happy moment, there are hundreds of others: cold windy muddy nights, the police confiscating all their belongings and destroying them or spraying them with tear gas concoctions, being beaten on buses merely for being a different shade. ๐Ÿ’” Tonight we went to deliver a blanket to a particularly vulnerable and disabled young refugee, but the police banned us from entering the camp carrying the blanket. They said it is a new rule: no more blankets. ๐Ÿ˜ฅWhat world are we in where one human cannot give another one a blanket? ๐ŸŒ Anyway, that is my small update for you – HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN DO: please follow our new account @rwc_womenscentre and show your support, EVERYONE can make a difference, even if that difference is just reading an Instagram caption and being that much more informed. ๐Ÿ‘Š๐ŸฝIf you don't care, who will?

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10 books read. You can see which ones were my favorites in my monthly recaps!

Reading ‘Questions of Travel’ in my pod at Galaxy Pod Hostel in Iceland. A poetic and beautiful book that any traveler can relate to.

21 straight days Eurotripping with Dan.

Dan and I in Bled, Slovenia... struggling with my camera's self-timer. We couldn't be seen doing something so basic during daylight... :P

Which included gallons of sweat. We barely survived Budapest.

And 1 mile through the Slovenian forest followed by this random ginger cat that found us at a war memorial. Ghost-cat anyone?!

Me & ghost cat

3 packs of polaroid film. In Vienna, we went on a tour with Sophort HQ where we photographed the city through vintage polaroid cameras. One of my favorite tours to date, and responsible for my new polaroid addiction.

Playing with my Instax during our Polaroid tour in Vienna with Sophort HQ.

2 ziplines. Flying through Slovenian mountains, or under Welsh mines… I discovered a new love of adrenaline.

2 “travel respites.”ย Twice I went back to Dorset and stayed at Dan’s family home for a week. I didn’t want to do anything except work, sleep, and eat… it turns out that constant traveling can take its toll, and I missed the regularity of a home base more than I expected.

Looking out over Durdle Door in Dorset, on a Sunday out.

2 seasons of Stranger Things.

3 roadtrips. From 11 days through Slovenia with Dan, to a roadtrip to Wales and back (through a massive snowstorm!), to the guy who literally picked me up on the side of the road to roadtrip Iceland’s Golden Circle with… they were three pretty great roadtrips.

2 mountains.ย One driven up (where we convened with a motorcycle gang and exchanged photo-taking), and another almost-climbed-up (there was a snowstorm!).

Thousands of calories consumed.ย You can read about their delicious details in my gluten free guides.

1 charity fundraiser designed and marketed! You can check it out through the Refugee Women’s Centre facebook page.

2 gorgeous Slovenian lakes.

Dozens of hikes. In Slovenia

In Italy

In Germany

5 hostels,ย 4 Airbnb’s,ย 2 Agriturismos, a few hotels, and some comfy couches.

 

4 thermal pools. Two in Budapest, one in Italy, and the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.

4 doctors appointments.ย It turns out that nomadic living isn’t all pretty, and one major downside is not being able to regularly attend doctors appointments if your health takes a turn for the worse.

1 Graduation.

4 family members who flew all the way from the USA for my graduation.

Countless cold showers. The caravan I lived in in Northern France had a broken water heater…and the rather disagreeable caravan park manager apparently didn’t deign to communicate with non-native French speakers. Hence the 7 weeks of freezing cold showers (or, as we discovered, putting kettle-heated hot water in plastic bottles with holes poked in the top and then squeezing that over yourself. Or just…not showering).

1 birthday celebrated.ย 

Lots of tears. Cried in joy (when Mohammed told me his wife and baby son had made it to the UK from the refugee camp, and we both sobbed in the raining parking lot), and cried in sadness (on the street in Amsterdam, when I finished the audiobook of Anne Frank’s diary).

Dozens of shooting stars. Viewed on a night I stayed out until 4am with two strangers-turned-friends, hunting for the Northern Lights in Iceland.

 

A depth of experiences wrapped up in numbers.

It’s hard to believe this adventures is over, but I’m excited for whatever comes next. And I’m ready to be in one place for more than a week, with regular eating, exercise, health, and sleeping routines. But one thing is for sure – these moments from 4 months of nomadic living cannot be reduced to numbers, even though it may be fun to try. I’ll forever remember what a journey it was, living this transitory and adventurous lifestyle. {If you are thinking of trying it – this is your sign!}

Sarah xx

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What ACTUALLY happened in 4 months of nomadic living

 

 

  • amazing experiences

  • These are such evocative adventures Sarah – memories that wil saty with you forever!

  • Gorgeous writing and images. I felt like I was there with you. I am so in awe of your 7 weeks in the refugee camps. Putting your money where your mouth is, so to speak, and really inspiring. It’s got me thinking about how I can help more, too. Thank you for that.

    “2 โ€œtravel respites.โ€ Twice I went back to Dorset and
    stayed at Danโ€™s family home for a week. I didnโ€™t want to do anything
    except work, sleep, and eatโ€ฆ it turns out that constant traveling can
    take its toll, and I missed the regularity of a home base more than I
    expected.”
    This excerpt really resonated with me. I felt the same on my recent two months abroad. Tiny things like a cup of tea you made yourself, knowing your bed is cosy and definitely doesn’t have bed bugs (not that I ever encountered them, but it was always a niggling thought…ha!), being able to hail a bus and know where it’s going without thinking. Travel is amazing and obviously, I love it too, but I was also surprised and humbled by how much I missed insignificant home comforts.

    Thanks for sharing your reflections, really love your blog!

    • Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚ There are so many ways to help the refugees in Northern France, even if you aren’t able to spare the time to volunteer. Purchasing things from our fundraiser, collecting donations, and even doing a donation transport or picking up tents from music festivals are all awesome ways!
      Yes, as lovely as travel is, I definitely missed just… being at home, not doing anything in particular… glad I’m not alone in that!

      • Thanks for the ideas, Sarah. I’ve bought items from Choose Love as donations for Christmas this year. Heartbreaking, the simplicity of the items. I will look at your fundraiser too. Thank you for everything you do. x

  • What a seriously incredible 4 months, wow!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I love the wide variety of activities and places you have packed into the time, seriously impressed! As for those shooting stars, seeing one of those is something I dream about ๐Ÿ™‚

    • ahh they really were! Looking back I can’t believe I fit so much into 4 months.. no wonder I’m so tired haha.

  • You really packed a lot into those 4 months! We were away for a total of 3 weeks in one go this year and by the end I was seriously craving a home base – turns out I’m not cut out for long stretches of travel either. Sometimes you do just need to go home for a bit!

    Also this has made me really want to go back to Budapest. Those baths were everything.

    • I know right!? I get tired reading through it lol.
      Did you get a chance to go to the Rudas baths when you were in Budapest?! If not – put it on your list for next time!! They are really small with a rooftop hot tub looking over the Danube <3 I would do a post on it, but I don't have any photos (Dan told me to take a photo "with my mind") – but maybe that's why they are all the more memorable.

  • What an incredible adventure and the perfect opportunity to pack in all these experiences. I think I would struggle being on the road for this long – the bit of balance you managed to squeeze in sounds like the ideal way of doing it to me!

    • I definitely struggled a bit, which I wasn’t expecting! Hence the “travel respites” ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m glad I experienced it though, because now if I want to do any long term traveling I know it’s going to have to be in a more chill/relaxing style.

  • That sounds like an amazing four months! Not only are you a kickass blogger who went through so many countries but you also did amazing work with refugees, go you!

  • What a fab 4 months! I can’t believe you managed to do SO much! Gorgeous whimsical photos too – and I especially love the ghost cat ๐Ÿ˜€

    • I know – writing this post made me realized how much I squashed in, and I have to say I’m a bit impressed with myself haha!

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