At 04:00 on 28 November 2021, Lauren and I packed up the last of our possessions and drove away from a home we loved. A home we crafted and refined together over a decade, to be just perfect for us. A home, however, that just seemed to, unfortunately, be in the wrong place for us at this stage of our lives.
At the beginning of 2020, like for most people, a dramatic change to our working environments meant being stuck working from home. This also meant seeing fewer people in-person (personally and professionally), not being able to explore as much and, of course, traveling less. If you know us at all, you’d know that travelling, whether locally or abroad, is part of who we are. We love seeing and experiencing new things, and opening our minds to new possibilities in all shapes and sizes, across South Africa and across the world.
After a few months of COVID still being a very real part of our lives, we realised that it wasn’t going to go away any time soon, and neither were travel restrictions or the new way of working from home. So it was no surprise to us, then, that we started talking about leaving Johannesburg to live in a place that gave us more access to open spaces, where we had access to hiking trails, or wine farms, or ocean, or rivers, or mountains, or a blend of it all. Having no official office space to work from brought with it the opportunity to really and truly live and work anywhere.
And that’s what we’ve done.
We classify ‘living’ somewhere very simply: It’s where our stuff is. It’s where at any given moment we have access to all of our essentials. That’s home. Right now, our home is an apartment in Kileleshwa, Nairobi until January when we return to South Africa to continue the adventure.
For the past 365 days we’ve classified 17 places as ‘home’, ranging from 1 week stays to a few months at each place. Every house, cottage, apartment, town, village, city has brought its own special flair (some not so special, let me be frank) and every single place has taught us a little something more about our country, about people, but most importantly it’s taught us an incredible amount about ourselves.
To be fully employed and fully remote working has its challenges, let me get that pretty clear. Standard scheduled weekly meetings with the team, clients and partners means ensuring you’re always connected, always available. Not being connected (for any number of reasons) brings the personal guilt of “this is our choice to be in a new place, so it’s our responsibility to make it work’. Finding the balance of exploring new places (who doesn’t love that?) and smashing a solid week’s work takes a little practice. You’re not on holiday, but you don’t have a home, but you’re in a new environment with new things to do, but you’re committed to putting the time in to work. The battle that plays in your head between these two very different camps is remarkable. I don’t think there’s a perfect balance for everyone, but we’ve seemed to have found our groove.
Anniversaries are great times to reflect. Each birthday you may ask yourself how have you grown personally, each work anniversary you may ask yourself how you’ve grown professionally, on this day – what we’re referring to as our Vagabondaversary – we reflected on what we’ve learnt about ourselves as individuals, ourselves as a couple, and how we’ve grown. We’ve listed them below.
In no particular order:
- Embracing chaos
- Honest, clear communication about what’s working and what isn’t
- Understanding that we experience things differently, we’re challenged by different things at different times and being empathetic with each other when that happens
- Starting conversations with strangers
- Ensuring we keep a routine in a generally routine-less life
- Solving problems
- Accepting problems
- Letting things be
- Surfing (together)
- Trusting our instincts
- Not sweating the small stuff
- Being comfy with the uncomfy
- Not trying to control that which we can’t control
- Not getting upset when people call our way of life ‘a holiday’
- Being okay with peeing in an outhouse
In the past year, we’ve made new friends, reconnected with old friends, lost loved ones, improved our skills, said goodbye to a car, bought a new one, hiked 297,6km, tried new things, eaten incredible meals, collected mussels for lunch, caught fish, smashed a few things off the bucket list, visited the tip of Africa, supported local entrepreneurs, made time to reflect, and have experienced more new and delicious wine than we ever thought we could. All while maintaining a structured approach to work, and life.
Finally (because we often get asked for tips), early into our trip we created a Vagabond Checklist to maintain some semblance of sanity, which we still stick to today. If you’re thinking of giving this kind of life a bash, I’d add some other practical items to the list too: Always travel with one sharp kitchen knife, a pair of scissors, and a decent bottle opener.
And finally finally, while the experience can at times be daunting, the benefits far outweigh the frustrations. Take it slow, take it easy, and immerse yourself in the madness. It’s a helluva ride.