Home: The Death of a Nomad

Black and white photo of town houses in NYC, my non-nomadic home
When I decided to move to New York City, I had this vision of what would happen: I would move to NYC, settle down into my own amazing apartment, decorate it with lots of cool stuff, join a gym, take cooking classes, and, in between all that, take numerous trips to JFK airport and jet set around the world. I’d come back, stay for a few weeks, and do it all over again.

I’d be able to balance my twin desires: settling down and my love of travel.

I was naive.

Since moving here in January, I never managed to spend more than a couple weeks in New York City before having to leave again. When I moved into my own apartment in July, I left the next day. I came back for a week before leaving again for two months.

I never got to settle down.

I never took those cooking classes.

I never joined that gym.

My apartment is still bare with curtainless windows, books longing for a bookcase, and walls longing for art and paintings.

The famed—and much desired—end to my travels never really materialized as I’ve spent much of the last year on the road.

“I thought you were slowing down,” people would say to me.

“I’m trying. I’m trying,” I’d reply.

No matter how hard I tried, slowing down never seemed to happen.

There were many false starts.

But last month while in Europe, I began to feel really homesick. I was tired of traveling and just wanted to be home in my comfy bed.

I realized I was tired of delaying my roots.

Roots, after all, can only take hold if they’re in the ground. I’ve been trying to develop habits and routines without giving my roots time to grow. I keep uprooting them and then trying to replant them in hopes they’ll grow.

But it doesn’t work that way.

You need to till the earth, plant the seed, and let the roots take hold.

You can’t uproot them.

It’s time I give my roots a chance.

I’m tired of saying “OK, I’ll do it next time.” Each time I’m about to hit my stride in New York City, it’s time to get on a plane again.

Except this time.

I’m not traveling until the end of December when I go to the Philippines.

There’s a lot to do in NYC, and it’s finally time to do it.

I’ve purposely filled my schedule with things that will keep me in the city. This week I joined a gym, got a trainer, and paid for a desk at a co-working space.

I’m having friends visit.

I’m here.

I’m home.

It’s time to grow some roots.

Nothing will stop me now.

  1. Shannon

    Matt, that’s great. And no better time to sit still in NYC than during the holidays:) Still so much to do and it is a truly magical time to be there. Enjoy your time at home!

  2. Jack

    The road is your home, fellow travelers, your family. As for roots… you already have them.. Don’t think of yourself as a tree but rather a vine. It is what it is.

  3. I’m on the other end of the spectrum, but I’m sure every traveler comes to this day sooner or later. The desire to have a home seems to be built into our DNA.

  4. Congrats on settling in. It’s going to be difficult, but having roots feels good, and having a ‘home’ is a very soul-satisfying thing. As someone who’s in the process of doing the opposite (uprooting myself out of a need to travel), I feel your pain in going through the process of rooting/uprooting. Best of luck to you!

  5. Kathy Clarke

    I have very deep roots in my wonderful city, but have never gotten over the feeling of wanting to explore another place. I did have a long period of time when I was raising my family that I couldn’t do overseas travel.
    All I need is a good travel article(or blog) to get that feeling that its time to plan the next trip!

  6. Great post. After spending so much time traveling I’m not surprised that you’re ready to settle down. Ive been traveling for two months and sometimes find myself fantasizing about a decent bed and a gym!

  7. Just did a podcast about staycations that totally relates to this post. I’m sure you will have a great time staying in New York for a bit. Travelers seem to always be able to make their location a destination to be explored. And in NYC, the possibilities are endless… :-)

    Welcome home!

  8. Great post. I feel the same way as you do. I constantly am on the move yet I too want to keep a routine here at home in NYC. On a weekly basis, someone is asking me where I am although I have not left the city for a couple of months now (in grad school, so I cannot just get up and go whenever I want now, only on breaks).

    Enjoy your adventures in NY as there is a lot to do here as well. Can’t wait to keep reading 😀

  9. Good for you Matt.
    Have been on the road with my family for 3 months now (on a yearlong sabbatical) and there are times that we miss our neighborhood dearly. I think that putting down roots, makes traveling all the more sweeter.

      • Alexandra

        That would be my dream, to have a home in a major city – I’d pick London or Paris over NYC but hey, that’s cause I grew up in NJ/PA. And then I could pack up and leave for weeks or months on end to wherever my heart desires. I’m afraid I’ll always be homeless once I start traveling because I’ll never have quite enough money to have a place to call home somewhere in the world.

  10. Sara

    Matt, I can identify having gone through the same thing this year. I made my transition from North American tour guide and world nomad for numerous year to a steady job (in the travel industry) and settling into a scary (one-year lease) on an apartment and taking on the adventure of settling in one place and learning about the area I live in…doesn’t mean it will be forever, but is definitely a new and exciting challenge!

  11. Although, I can’t relate to the feeling of wanting to stay in one place for a bit (VERY ITCHY FEET RIGHT NOW), I am happy to hear that, instead of just saying “I will eventually…” you are taking control of your life and making it happen. NYC is a great place to stay for awhile – especially around the holidays – and I hope your time there is everything you hope it will be :) Kait xx

  12. Nah, Matt don’t do it. Believe me, it will get old very quickly. You’ll start to get bored after 2 weeks, after 3 months you’ll be begging to leave again. You’re a nomad to the core man, don’t fight it 😉

  13. I think it just takes time, really. To finally get it. Most people who settle down don’t even realize they’re settling down. I don’t think anyone ever makes a conscientious decision to do so either. It just kind of ends up happening.

  14. Can’t really think of a better city to settle into. Even if it falls apart, you can still say you spent a few months in NYC; and that is always a good thing.

  15. Lea C

    Hi Matt! I’m an aspiring backpacker from the Philippines!

    I recently came across your blog about choosing the right backpack.
    Then on, you inspire me to do the same thing with your travels around the world. I hope you come to Cebu! It’s amazing in here and come January, we are going to celebrate our Sinulog festival. The beat, the street dancing and many many more. It’s going to be a great experience for you!
    I hope I can meet you by then too. I’m thrilled for your visit. I wish you a pleasant trip to my country.

  16. Monica

    Hi Matt, it took me 5 yrs to accept that settling doesn’t mean the same as being stuck in 1 place.. Once I accepted that, I was free to roam the world while my roots in Holland were giving me balance and peace of mind.

  17. Enjoy! There’s so much to do in and around NYC, that putting roots down doesn’t have to mean you stop seeing new places and doing new things (:

  18. Good for you Matt.

    Sometimes travelling can get you weary especially when you’re travelling because “you have to” rather than “you want to” and it gets a little boring.

    When I moved to Berlin, I’d been moving around for years. At one point, I told my UK boss I was going away for 6 weeks and I didn’t come back for a year! I think, going to India was where I finally appreciated that it’s good to have a base. It was the only country where I finally said, “you know what. I want to go home” and I left.

    I didn’t go back to Britain which is my home-country (Ha!), but to Berlin which is the country of my heart and soul. I’m still here.

  19. Sound words, but I don’t know.

    (since you deleted my ‘when a name becomes a brand you start to babble’ reply on Facebook)

    You seem to be a nice guy but remarks to keep you down to earth (fame is nothing, business is not life) seems to throw you in a fit.

    Ah well.

    • NomadicMatt


      The reason most of your posts and comments get deleted is because they are negative, mean, or rude. Whether that happens here on the blog, Facebook, or on Twitter (where you recently insulted a friend), I will no longer tolerate your trolling, especially when you join in conversations and hurl insults.

      Your comments are not meant to have a spirited debate but are meant to be mean spirited and they will no longer be tolerated.



  20. I’m in the same boat Matt, feeling the same way. Just returned from a 5 week trip in Europe and before I got home I started making plans for a South American adventure. But now that I’m home I feel like staying in one place and just getting things done. Not starting anything new, but finishing all those half-baked ideas, and putting into practice those things that I learnt along the road. I’m prioritising. Travel will follow in a few months time when I ready.
    Do what you feel is right for you, not what others are expecting of you.

    • NomadicMatt

      I have meet-ups every couple of months. I’ll be having one on Nov. 14th. Still working out the details but I’ll announce it on Monday.

  21. Lived there for six years loved it!
    I worked for many years, now its time to be a nomad :-). Actually, when I had an apartment, I never stayed there anyways. I was only there during the week when I worked. Weekends and sometimes Mondays and Fridays I was not there. So it finally made sense to not have an apartment.

    You’ll be fine in NY, its so central; good luck.

  22. Lynnette

    Welcome to the Philippines! This place is amazing. It’s such a beautiful place with the world’s best white sandy beaches, countless waterfalls, endless hiking possibilities & biggest malls for shopaholics. You won’t regret your upcoming visit here. I just love this place. Here are the top picks: Cebu/Bohol (beautiful but not sure if it will be ready by then after the earthquake), Palawan (Coron/El Nido/Puerto Princesa), Siargao (surfing/beaches), Camiguin, Boracay, Banaue Rice Terraces/Sagada/Baguio, Subic, Laguna (Pagsanjan Falls), Dumaguete/Siquijor, Vigan/Laoag/Pagudpud… The list goes on & on. It’s really hard to choose. Happy trip!

  23. Hi Matt,

    You’re so lucky to call NYC home, I was there in April and love the energy. I also noted that you’re going to the Philippines end of December. My best friend and I are planning to celebrate new years in El Nido. It would be her first time to visit Philippines so am excited for her. Would be nice to meet you and ask for advise about our planned sabbatical. Cheers.

  24. One of the reasons I never tired of cruising was that my home traveled with me. I’d leave the boat someplace safe during hurricane season & spend the time in the U.S. in my motor home. Caveat, Matt: culture shock is most common when you return to your home country for a period of time. I felt it most in U.S. supermarkets. The sensory input–lights, sights, sounds, so many choices to make–sent me flying out the door after a mere 10 minutes. I even found living in a house difficult–too much space made me feel vulnerable, & it was weird not falling asleep under the stars so bright I always felt I could reach up & touch them. It took me several years to be able to use a bath towel instead of a laundry-saving hand towel post-shower.

  25. I have struggled with similar aversions to settling down over the years. Maybe not on the same scale as you… As i did manage it for a while! But after several bouts of unpaid leave, a number of longer than average holidays and quitting my job last year I’m back on the road. 6 months in and I keep trying to think about heading home, only I’m not sure where that should be anymore!

    I’m glad to see you are giving it another try. I personally think the answer is to find something that makes you want to stop moving.

    Good luck with it. I look forward to the NYC and Philippines posts ;).

  26. I feel that for someone who truly has a love for going places, the nomad at heart never leaves you. Whenever you slow down, there is always that nagging feeling to go plan the “next mission”, and whenever you’re on the road, you long for the moment when you can finally stop living out of a backpack/suitcase and have your own place and furniture. I find that some people (especially those who don’t get the whole nomadic concept) might probably laugh when you settle down, for “finally throwing in the towel” and join the “real world”. Well, to each his/her own. You have our backs here.

    This constant back-and-forth inner struggle will probably never subside, but I guess it’s part of being a world citizen-urbanite-nomad. Enjoy your time settling down, and then enjoy when it’s time to get rolling again.

    Cheers x

    • Irenee

      Matt the realization hits us all at one point. After travelling the world I got tired of living half my life in rentals. Tired of 4 plastic plates and grungy kitchens. 4 yrs ago I bought a condo in Mexico and now have all my own stuff around. However at 78 yrs my travelling is not at an end, just shorter fun trips

  27. Hey Matt,
    I totally hear ya. But I don’t think you can truly stop :)
    You will always be a nomad at heart.
    Either way, youll never stop being Nomadic Matt!
    All the best to you,

  28. Hey Matt, Know totally what you mean about ‘settling down’ – we left the UK in August (for good) to travel indefinitely, going to Greece as a transition and then a bigger leap to Asia which is where we currently are, but the aim of our travel is not only to see the sights but to find a new place to ‘settle’ – that place which feels like home and yet is not where people expect you to be. Why is it that people expect you to stay in your country of birth?? Maybe the place which actually feels like home is about as far away from your birth country as you can get! We will keep travelling and looking until somewhere feels right for us. Perhaps that’s all you are doing too…and perhaps ‘settling’ is only right for the period of time that you ‘feel’ settled….

    • NomadicMatt

      I settled in Thailand for a while. Now, home is NYC but the location doesn’t matter…it’s where you most feel comfortable.

  29. Meghan

    I had this feeling so much when I was last travelling. Now I’m home, and have the desire to carve out a ‘career’, but can’t help but look at old travelling photos, and other overseas job options, especially when it is so difficult to find a rewarding career in England, even with a degree. I’ve gone from teaching two different high school year groups in Thailand to working for minimum wage as a waitress. Go figure. But good luck to you, and good for you.

  30. Laura

    I just did the same, settled down for a while after nearly a decade of travelling.. still no curtains yet but have finally stopped looking for the next flight away (but got a flat just mins away from our only international airport in Finland!). Good luck and thanks for your blogs!

  31. Janice Temple

    Adieu to Matt The Nomad and Bienvenue to Matt the New Yorker. Yes, recreate yourself to fulfill the dream of a life with roots. Sign up for those cooking classes, set up your kitchen to accommodate those guests dinner guests and it is done you have a home.Go for it!

    • love that quote too! its from marcel proust.
      as “rootless” nomads,my family and i have just left our base to travel the world. in my goodbye email to my friends i had used the same wise words of m.proust. that i want to see landscapes with new eyes rather than new landscapes…..
      when we used to backpack south america for some years i had the same feeling you have now,matt. one part of me was too curious to leave and the other part was longing for a simple coffee with my friends back home…than we had kids and now are on the road again. this time with our small children….as someone above had brilliantly said: making roots is in your dna. and than you take your seeds with you.
      i hear you,dear matt and feel with you! good luck and and all the very best from down under!
      p.s. and thank you for your blog,we love to read it!

  32. To go where you heart leads you is always the best choice. It means now is Nyc and as long as it makes you happy,it s the right place to be!! Although I m at the opposite now..starting my travel blog and craving to be on the road, i totally agree and support ur choice..and NYC is so capable to make U feel home!! =)

  33. Bill

    Yes, I too tired of constant travel, namely a day or two here and there, but when I settled down it was in Viet Nam. When I return to N America, almost everything seem so irrelevant, and of course, the politics are too stupid to believe. It seems that my worst culture shock is upon returning home.

  34. Finding the place you want to settle is the hardest part of the life journey. For some can take years and for others can take a life time. Depending what are you looking for: a place, a person, a dream…

  35. Same! As soon as I got off working on a ship this summer, I wanted to travel to SE Asia. On my layover to Bangkok in Turkey, I was thinking I’m tired, scared and lonely. No desire to explore foreign culture. When usually I am excited and doing everything. Realized I actually have been living out of my suitcase for 6 months…so just picking a spot in Bali and not moving for the moment. Could the wanderlust be gone for good?? And how did you choose the place you wanted to root down in?

  36. Oh I wanted to be really cheesy and add that I have actually changed the purpose of my trip into an internal journey, as I am taking a pause to cleanse, heal and shift my perspective.

  37. Alice

    A true nomad knows when they should stay and when they should go– although you’re in one place you’ll always be a nomad to all of us!!! Thank you for all of the stories. 😀 Welcome home!

  38. I can really feel the longing behind your words in this article. I bet you must be tired after so much traveling, and you deserve a break, no matter how long or short. Thanks for taking the time to share your stories, you’ve inspired many people to travel.

  39. It’s nice to have a home base. You can always travel from new york and visit places. I’ve been traveling constantly for the last 2,5 years but eventually you end up missing a place you can call home. Have fun settling down!

  40. While it is always nice to travel, settling back in at home after busy travels can be just as relaxing, if not more. I agree too that once you find someone to share life with, travels and home life get substantially much more enjoyable! Welcome home.

  41. Beto

    The urge to settle down is something completely normal. As fancy and wonderful perpetual traveling sounds like, the physical and emotional weight of having to be always in the move, unable to build long-time relationships and habits, picking yourself up only to drop yourself off somewhere else starts to take its toll after some months. I am currently doing a personal journey through South America and while I have been through some great experiences, I have also been through other experiences that made me wish I was back home. But this is all part of the deal. I already have a set date where I will be back to my old “normal” self. For now, I may or may not have a chance to do this again. So I’m doing it now that I can. Seize the opportunities, they say. And seizing them I am. What else?

  42. Sophia

    Love your blog– used it when I went to Thailand a few weeks ago, and am using it for Cambodia (leaving on Thursday)! I am currently studying as an undergraduate exchange student in Hong Kong, but am originally from New York City. Manhattan and Brooklyn are alright, but I think you’d have a great time exploring Queens. There is a lot of great hidden ethnic food along the 7 train (Queens Plaza for Greek/Egyptian food, 74 St.- Jackson Heights for South Asian food, Woodhaven for Filipino food, and my hometown of Flushing for Chinese/Korean foods). You can feel like you’re in a completely different country in some neighborhoods in Queens. Enjoy!

    • NomadicMatt

      I’m happy to hear this website helped you on your travels.

      I plan to eat my way through a lot of Queens. Such good food up there. nomnomnom.

  43. Alex Bellink

    I’m from the New York tri-state area and spend a week traveling in the midwest last month. Love being on the road, but I too, after some time away realized that there is SO much to do in this area alone. And it sure did feel good to be home! If you ever feel the need for some lite local traveling around the NYC area you should take a trip up to Westchester County. We’ve got some amazing things here that I can suggest to you!

  44. Sebastian

    It is interesting to read that somebody who was on the road for so long finally settles down. At least you have the intention to do so, only the future will show whether or not you stay in New York for a long period of time.

    I am in my early twenties now and I also ask myself if I should design my life in a way where I travel permanently and where I don’t have a real home or if I should get myself a small apartment in a city I like and travel every few months or weeks.

    I imagine this apartment as a kind of “home base”, my home from where I travel the world but to which I can come back every time I want to.

    I am not sure yet how I will do it.

  45. Adam Weitzel-Leishman

    I agree with Mick above, just because you are rooted to one spot doesn’t mean you lose the ability to travel! And as you said, NYC has two main airports you can Jet-set from. My wife and I love travel more than anything, but we’re still trying to find careers and buy a home for our small family.

    I wish you all the best, Matt. You’ve had one hell of a run so far!

    Ps. Ireene, I wish some of my family were more like you!

  46. Gregory Jones

    My work requires a lot of traveling (7 countries this year), so I too feel the pull from smewhere in the US to call home. My problem ?s finding where that might be. However, that is still a mystery to me. I know that somewhere there is somewhere ? can park my suitcase and settle down. But as you have said, it takes some work and time to do.

  47. Emily

    Welcome to the greatest city on earth!:) After traveling a good deal, I still think that NY is definitely the greatest, most unparalleled city there is.

    I wouldn’t say this is a farewell to your nomadic lifestyle–just the opposite, really. you’ll see that all your world travels are just condensed within the city. You will probably revel in similar views and familiar sites that you have already experienced abroad, perfectly existing within this diverse microcosmic world in and of itself.

  48. Emily

    OH! and as you know already…this is the city of nomads. Queens alone is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world ….Let me know if you want tips for navigating authentic, secret digs :)

  49. Mary Jane

    Hi Matt,
    I started checking out you web site last March. We were on our way to Bangkok to meet our youngest son Chris. He had been in South East Asia since December. We missed him, so I maned up for the 18 plus hour flight to China then Bangkok. All your info sure helped with the planning, what to do, and what to miss. We had a fantastic adventure. The people were great and the snorkeling was the best we’ve done in 30+ yrs. the restrooms were tricky, but I got it together and always had a roll of T.P. With me. So we love your blog, web site keep up the great info. Next trip I think is Bora Bora, in one of those water bungalow. Not so long a flight. You have a great time in Thailand!

  50. Awesome article, Matt.

    I love how honest you are with the struggle you are having between your desires. I foresee having a similar problem of my own at some point and it’s refreshing to know how you deal with it. Thanks for sharing.

  51. Hey there Matt, just wanted to say I recently discovered your site, and have been really enjoying reading your thoughtful and insightful posts, and travel suggestions, as I plan for my next trip (to Central America).

    Having lived in the same country all my life (although travelled extensively), I can only imagine what it must be like to have travelled constantly for nine years, without being able to put down any roots or have a family. It sounds as if you’ve come to something of a crossroads, and it’s time to make some changes. I wish you all the best!

  52. NYC is a great home base. I can totally relate to wanting to settle down. I’ve only been on the road for 6 months and it is quite exhausting. The awesome thing about life is that we go through periods of experiencing different things as we grow. We can always find a sense of adventure with changing up routines without ever leaving home. Regardless of settling down, thank you for sharing this side of travel that many may or may not have thought about. Cheers to an amazing run!

  53. That’s terrible.

    Give it a few months, you’ll feel you want to jump from the window.

    You need to find a balance but settling down (before your knees force you to) is not the answer. You wanted rest? Why not rent an apartment some place for one month before moving forward again?

    Settling down in NY? That’s great. Why not 3 months in Rome, 3 months in Venice, 3 month in Rio?

    Traveling should never be about checking Vs on a bucket list, it should be about really getting to know a place and it’s people.

    Extended stays? Yes. Settling down? Never.

    Anyway, good luck

  54. Welcome to NYC! For cooking classes, take Fine Cooking I at ICE– it’s fun (after class they serve wine with the meal you prepped), a great way to meet people, and you’ll learn enough to throw a dinner party with ease (and be very popular since hardly anyone cooks here).

  55. I think this is what gets most digital nomads in the run. The longing for some base, something tangible as a social group or routines to perform. Of course this can be abroad too, but at one point you will start to travel slower and slower until the point you establish a base and do the holiday thing again. Its natural. But as long as you have the option of location independent freedom, it is still great.

  56. Annie

    Truly a great article Matt! I’ve been following your posts for a few months now and this is my first time commenting (absolutely LOVE your work by the way). I’ve been abroad for the last 8 months and I’m getting tired of seeing foreign things every day and dragging my life around in suitcases. As you mentioned in one of your recent blogs, I’ve gotten to the stage of “if I see another church I’ll scream”. Thank you for providing such clarity to a situation that some people can’t comprehend (I was in denial myself). Perhaps it won’t be long until the nomadic Matt wants to come out again, but otherwise be proud of yourself for being true to you. Wishing you all the comforts of “home” and ongoing fantastic success.

  57. I wouldn’t worry too much, Matt. Living somewhere like NYC is almost the same as travelling! I don’t think you could go more than a couple of days without discovering something new about the place. Amazing city. Good luck though, mate, whatever you decide to do!

  58. Megan J.

    I’ve been following your blog for a while and I found this post fascinating.
    As a TCK (Third Culture Kid) I am constantly torn between a desire for adventure/travel and another for community/roots. The ultimate question is of course – can we have both? I hope the answer is yes.

  59. Hay Mat,
    Even if my trips are some different than yours, but I use to be on read all the time, so I try to stop when I was 31 but star again 2 years later and I stop again when I got 35, now I’m almost 38 and I’m preparing me next trip a month later.. The question is when is it finally too late for traveling? There is a traveler with an of my favorites blogs, (www.ottsworld.com) Sherry she is 42 but still traveling, I tried a few times, and I make my stays longer in each place, now three years in the same place, I changed my home address five times and finally I’m moving next month, I’m starting from one of your last destinations Matt!!
    I hope you can have good success back home, take it just as some months or years of rest. People go traveling for holidays, for taking rest, you went back home for taking rest!!!

  60. dee

    I love your blog stories…and how you inspire people to travel…I’m from the Philippines and would love to travel the world someday…I suggest a couple of must see places for you to visit when you get here…Oslob Cebu City and get a chance to swim with baby whale sharks but Cebu city alone is amazing, Vigan Ilocos del Sur it is a laid back province with a very rich historical background and breath taking view of the coast line…the Hundred Islands totaling 124 at low tide and 123 at high tide..those are just a few tourist spots I think you would enjoy…I hope you enjoy your trip to the Philippines and may it be one of your unforgettable

    lots of love, dee

  61. Mike

    Hey Matt, I moved to the Philippines 3 years ago from the US. When you come, get out of Manila asap and visit Cebu (where I live) and Palawan. I’ll be looking forward to reading about your trip.

  62. Scott K

    I”ve been back from my 11 months abroad for 12 years now – and no there is job, no good enough length of time, no .. [fill in the blank] to make up for the feeling of “home.” I’m curious how you’re adjusting and am excited to read more of your blog now that you’re back in the land from which you once came.

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