On Becoming An Accidental Nomad

[Editor’s Note: This is the first post from Sara, one of my dearest friends and now a monthly contributor to The818. Need more details? Click HERE. -m-]

This isn’t the life I expected to have.

When we sold our house in Los Angeles 2 ½ years ago and moved to New York to be closer to family, I actually remember uttering phrases like “forever home”, and “never move again.” We would take advantage of the fantastic public schools and have campouts in our large backyard. We would decorate and renovate. We would host Thanksgiving dinners. We had plans.

Unfortunately the plans that looked so good on paper fell apart once we actually tried to live there, crumpling under the stress of trying to find the right house, the right community, the right friends, all on my own while my husband traveled extensively for work.

frequent flyers

Travel has always been a part of Sean’s job – but as tax incentives drove movie production out of California and New York, more and more of the jobs he was offered were far-flung and in cities we’d never been to. The year we moved to NY, he spent eight months traveling to Baton Rouge, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Iceland.

The main thing I learned during my stint as a single Mom was that I did not want to be a single Mom. I don’t sleep well when I’m the only adult in the house. I really don’t like taking out the garbage. I like shoveling snow even less, and it’s especially hard with a small child strapped to your back. My children missed their Dad, and I missed my husband.

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at a hotel pool in Baton Rouge

Which is how we found ourselves making the decision in late 2012 to pack all of our belongings into a PODS container, move out of our rental, and become nomads. Disenchanted with the life plan we’d spent so many months cultivating, it felt like an easy decision. Still, I arrived at our temporary Nashville home full of trepidation. This wasn’t the plan. This wasn’t the life I expected to have.

As it turns out, we had a pretty amazing time in Nashville. We reveled in the balance of ease and access living in a smaller city affords. I trained for and ran a half marathon. I made some lifelong friends.

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teaching Dashiell to ride a bike in Nashville

We took a month off when Sean’s project finished and traveled back to Los Angeles to visit our old home and dear friends. Soon after that, he got a job in Brooklyn and we moved into the subletted apartment of a fussy violinist. We spent the hot Summer swimming on Coney Island with my sister and driving upstate to see my parents on the weekend. Just as the weather started to turn, we learned we would be packing up and moving to Chicago.

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the boys on our street in Brooklyn

That August, instead of buying a new backpack and box of crayons for my five year old in preparation for sending him off to Kindergarten, I headed to a coffeeshop with a binder and color coded markers and planned our syllabus for the year. I had officially become an accidental homeschooler as well.

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math and pancakes at a restaurant in NY

Traditional schooling wasn’t the only thing we gave up in deciding to prioritize keeping our family together over having a permanent home. I no longer have old friends within a fifteen-minute drive (or even a fifteen hour one, sometimes). Our “old standby” restaurants are ones that we discovered six weeks ago. It gets exhausting finding a new babysitter every few months. I miss hanging things on walls, finding the perfect spot for a vase I bought, and being able to cultivate a backyard garden. I also gave up something I have a long-standing, deep-seated, passionate love for: the ability to plan anything beyond the immediate future.

On the flip side, there have been great advantages: I get to sleep in the same bed as my husband most nights. I have a built in partner in kitchen cleanup, crossword puzzles, and after-bedtime drinks. I got to experience firsthand the joy and triumph of my little boy as he mastered reading. When my kids made Valentines this year, we sent them to friends in five different states.

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with friends all over the country

I have watched my children frolic in purple lupines at the base of a glacier in Iceland. I have taken them for popsicles under the Brooklyn Bridge and made snow angels with them in the coldest Chicago Winter since 1884. I have been impressed by how well they handle a nine-hour flight. I have been amazed, constantly, at how they navigate cross-country moves with the flexibility and ease that so many of us grow out of. It has been a great lesson in letting go, this life, especially for someone like me who spent most of my former years holding on very, very tight.

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playing with baby goats in Iceland

As I write this, I sit under a sun-drenched window in Georgia holding my baby daughter (who at six weeks old has already been in three states and on four planes), watching my husband and boys race around the backyard of another temporary home. I know it won’t last forever – or maybe even much longer – this accidental gypsy life. I know I will mourn it once it’s gone.

This isn’t the life I expected to have.

But in so many ways, it’s better.

Feed Me Seymour