The End of My Solo Travels

Nomadic Matt taking photos alone in Thailand“Africa will change you,” people said to me,”There’s something about it that affects us all.” Well, Africa didn’t change me. I’m still the same old me, but that doesn‘t mean Africa didn‘t teach me something or, should I say, reaffirmed a long-felt feeling. If 2012 was defined by anything, it was my personal struggle over coming to terms with settling down. 2012 was an internal struggle between knowing I was ready to settle in one place and my desire to hold on to my backpacker lifestyle.

And as I sat there one night in Namibia, staring out at one of the most perfect sunsets I’d seen in a while, I realized why I never wanted to visit Africa alone. Sometimes the beauty of travel is not as beautiful when you don’t have someone to share it with. And there I was, staring out at this gorgeous sunset, and I was alone. I had no one to share that moment.

Sure, there was my tour group, but it’s not the same. Sharing a moment with people you have a bond with is much different than sharing it with strangers. Days later, I kept coming back to the sadness I felt at that moment. There was nothing wrong with anyone on my tour—they were all nice, polite, and talkative, and we got along fine. But tours are hit-and-miss, and sometimes you closely bond with people (eight years later, I’m still close with my roommate from my Costa Rica tour) and sometimes you don’t.

Here, I didn‘t.

Sunset in Etosha National Park in Nambibia

And as I sat there looking at this beautiful sunset while zebra drank from the nearby watering hole, a truth hit me like never before—I am alone. And I am tired of it. While I’m an introvert and I like my “me” time, after 6.5 years, solo travel isn’t for me any longer. I no longer desire to wander cities or gaze upon African sunsets alone. I want to travel with people I know. I want familiar faces. I want to share moments. I make plenty of friends on the road, but I’m tired of having to start over in each new city. My heart isn’t in jet setting somewhere new alone anymore.

I think everyone should travel alone at some point in their life; you learn a lot about yourself doing so. I never regret the solo travel I’ve done in the past and never felt alone or bored during those years, but Africa made it clear that it’s time to move on to a new chapter of my life. I couldn’t hold onto the past any longer. What I want from my life now doesn’t involve any more late nights on the backpacker trail.

Nomadic Matt thinking on the reflective on the beaches of Thailand

After a number of false starts, right before the new year I finally moved to New York City. I’m living with a friend at the moment while I search for my own apartment. I’ve stocked the fridge with groceries. I’m cooking again. I’ve joined a gym. I’m seeing friends. I’m happy. I’m ready to be only semi-nomadic. While I have conferences, festivals (see you at SXSW!), and a book tour that will send me periodically out of NYC over the next few months, my next adventure isn’t until May when I go to Europe (with a friend) for two weeks. That’s five months away. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m happy I’m not going anywhere soon.

I’ve always defined travel as an adventure, exploring the unknown and breaking out of your comfort zone. I don’t look at this new move as giving up on travel. Travel is my life. I don’t want to stop, just find a better balance between a home life and a road-warrior life. New York is my new adventure. There’s plenty to uncover in New York City, plenty of secrets to find, food to try, and things to learn.
The end of solo travel and starting out into the unknown in Costa Rica
It’s a new start in a new year. It’s time to explore a new city, a new way of living, and new parts of myself. Going from a nomad to someone with a fixed address will be as much of a life-changing adventure as going from cubicle worker to nomad all those years ago.

I don’t know if this feeling will last forever. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to slow down. But I’m ready for this new adventure. It’s been a long time coming.

  1. Steve

    I can totally relate to this post. It is heart breaking to experience a once in a lifetime moment on the road and have nobody to to talk to later and say “remember when we were…” Now I be sure to head out with my fiance or a friend, and can never say that I once wished I was alone instead.

    • Nesya

      Nice post Matt. I wish you get what you want in this year, keep Move On! Maybe you’ll find someone to share with in this year, we never know God’s plans, keep praying Matt 😀

  2. Good luck on your next step. As much as I love to travel and want more of it in my life, I don’t think I could ever be a permanent nomad. There’s something nice about having a home and a little routine. For me it’s about balancing the need for routine and the need for change. Solo travel is great, and definitely something everyone should try at least once, but having someone to travel with and share those moments like the sunset in Namibia is wonderful too. Congrats on your move to NYC, and hopefully slowing down a little will bring you what you’re looking for.

  3. I definitely understand the feeling of being torn between being a nomad and having a feeling of home. And it sounds like the struggle is over for you — at least for now. And that’s fine. That’s the thing about life — it’s always changing… we’re always changing. Even if that lifestyle seemed perfect for you for forever at that moment, your wants and needs have changed. It’ll be interesting to see how you adjust to a more permanent living situation. There’s beauty in routines and monotony — but at the same time, there always seems to be an itch to go and discover. I’m still trying to find my balance with this. Good luck and I can’t wait to read more.

  4. Good for you! It took me far into life to realize that balance is important. And as we change throughout that life, your balance will change too. I’m happy that you have noticed it, and you are changing along with it. I’m eager to follow new adventures of yours even if they are just down your street. I’ve actually never been to New York and I’m certain that you will find loads to discover right around the corner. Enjoy cooking!

  5. I came to this very conclusion during my recent 3-month sojourn across Europe. Just because you can do something in terms of money, time or both is not enough excuse. I went solo, on my own, as I’ve done many times in the past.

    But this time I felt that enough was enough. Suddenly having all these great wonders in front of me and not being able to share them with anybody (not all the time, at least – I met the occasional friend along the way) felt like a waste of time. We humans are not meant to live in a vacuum. Sooner or later we feel the urge to share our feelings and experiences with others since it’s what’s natural to us.

    However, I wouldn’t have realized this if I didn’t move out of my comfort zone. So in that sense, I am glad I did.

    Of course, the ideal situation would be to find a soulmate who also loves to travel and go places without much thinking, but in real life those people are hard to find. Nomadism and longlasting human relationships are two things hard to conciliate. Even the most adventurer of us needs to settle down sometime to move on to other necessary chapters in life. Hey, maybe we can cross paths in New York sometime. I have it easy – that’s where my job is, even if I am not (for the moment).

    • I fully agree with everything you’ve said. I was living in Costa Rica and had to cut my time short due to a health concern, and wound up living in NYC for over a year. While this is an amazing place for someone with a traveler’s heart to live, I’ve definitely grown restless and am preparing to travel again in the coming year. Unfortunately my soulmate does not feel the same about travel and we will probably go months without seeing each other, and I’m sure I will feel exactly as you did while watching sunsets alone. Nomadism and long term relationships certainly are so hard to reconcile!

      BTW, Brooklyn is where it’s at. Slightly cheaper apts, way chiller vibe, people are generally less pretentious and more down to earth. Check out Brooklyn Gold apartments…you can get a great apt with doorman, pool, gym, etc for way less than living in Manhattan but you’re so close! Good luck :)

  6. Geez, you sure struck a chord with me on this post! While I still love to travel alone, I had a moment, like your Namibia moment, in Hoi An, Viet Nam last year. I know exactly what you’re describing. I’m off to Costa Rica later this week with a friend, and then to Sydney, Australia next month for Mardi Gras alone. I’m looking forward to the comparison.

  7. I totally understand, I love being a semi-nomad and when I travel in my spare time it is always with my husband and it is great especially since we both have to travel quite a lot for business and hardly see each other besides weekends and our travel together.

  8. Best of luck. If I got any tone out of this writing is that you are very sure what direction you want your life to go in. It might have been a sad moment that finally brought you there but man, it’s gotta feel good knowing that moving forward.

    p.s. Did you get to see a honey badger?

  9. Angela O.

    Stellar post Matt. It makes all the sense in the world. Although you might be going semi-nomadic now, I have a feeling there is a lot in store for you. I follow this site and your FB page and I’m sure many others would agree when I say- you got it goin on! No matter how many mixed feelings, false starts or overwhelming moments there are ahead of you I hope you always can remember that you are inspiring the crap out of people. You are making it possible for people like me to do what you have done. That’s crazy awesome! I can only hope to do and see at least a fraction of what you have. I wish you all the success in the world. 2013 is going to be one for the books (no pun intended)!!

  10. Well, you pretty much nailed it. I remember traveling to India many years ago and experiencing exactly what you described. I had always imagined sharing that adventure with someone I loved but when the time came I was alone. And one night, sitting out in the patio, with the night humidity and the swaying trees, it hit me – I am alone. Not only am I alone, but this is the loneliest I have felt in my life. I was almost literally at the furthest point on the globe from “home” (which didn’t really exist anymore anyway). It was a haunting feeling. I still love smaller solo adventures but right now my girlfriend and I are living in Chile and will return to her native Ecuador in the summer, I mean winter. We sort of straddle the line between home and adventure, generally going to new places and making a “home” and then taking little side excursions.

    Either way, I am very thankful to come across your insightful post. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I can totally relate to the part when you said “Sometimes the beauty of travel is not as beautiful when you don’t have someone to share it with.” I felt that way as I watched the sunset in Koh Phangan as I sat on the bungalow by myself. There are ups and downs to solo traveling. Thanks for sharing 😀

  12. Well-said, Matt, well-said. Good luck exploring the ends of NYC and getting accustomed to routine life! Your journey is just beginning.

    P.S. You’re coming to Texas for SXSW?! You’re going to have a blast – Austin is one of my favorite cities ever. If you feel like taking a side trip over to Houston, I’ll show you the places where all the cool kids go!

  13. The beauty of being able to travel is having someone to share everything with! Congratulations on your decision and may you enjoy traveling with someone familiar!

  14. Great post. You perfectly sum up how I felt for most of my 13 months on the road. People kept giving me tips on how to meet more people, but what I really wanted was to have people around me who I already knew to share so many of the great moments with me. Your Africa moment reminds me of when I was camping on a plateau overlooking an amazing canyon in Turkmenistan, no one else around, just me and my guide. And as much as I wanted to get swept away in the moment of how beautiful it was, all I could think abut was how much I wish I had someone there to share it with.

  15. Wow. Coming from the other side–I’m trying to be LESS stuck at home and MORE on the road–this is sobering. I suppose the grass really is always greener.

    Best of luck to you in finding the balance that works for your life. I’m sure your many years of travel have taught you many things about the world and yourself; you likely have a better chance of finding that elusive balance than do many less-traveled people. And hey–you’re in NYC. You’ve got three different airports to choose from whenever you decide you need to get out of town! Personally, that’s my favorite thing about living in the northeast; it’s easy to leave!

  16. This post really resonated with me. While I’ve never been a full-time traveler, I love to travel. There’s been too many moments on my recent travels (Namibia and Thailand), where I’ve thought it would be nice to have someone to share this with. There’s just no way that you can adequately describe the night sky over the Namib Sand Sea in a way that someone who hasn’t been there doesn’t understand.

    I don’t think it means I’ll give up solo adventuring, as that might mean an end to adventures, but I’ll definitely be working harder to find the right travel companion.

  17. I can totally relate to you Matt.
    I traveled in Africa solo for 9 months so admired plenty of beautiful African sunsets solo but 6 years later, I’m feeling the same way. I want to travel with friends to share the experience and the memories.

    And I’m also finding myself ready to be more settled, especially as I go on my 2nd year as an expat. I never expected this or understood the “whole settling down” idea but now as I enjoy my last year in my twenties, something has definitely changed in me. I’m feeling ready.

    And there is nothing wrong or bad about it.

    We’ll still be travelers, adventurers, curiosity seekers but were simply changing our methods.

    Enjoy yourself in New York and all the discoveries!

  18. Hey Matt,

    I definitely had this feeling myself after long-term solo traveling. I remember being in Japan – where not only was there some culture-shock, but some things were SO over-the-top or unusual, that I wished I had someone to turn to, give an “I can’t believe what we are looking at right now”, but there was no one to turn and say that to. I think another benefit to traveling with someone else is that years later you can share the stories and memories together.

    Of course, traveling with others has it’s downfalls, but as long as you are happy to compromise or ok taking “me” time (you stay at this museum, I’m going to a temple), etc, I think a lot of the pitfalls are avoidable.

    Best of luck on your next chapter! I lived in NYC for 3 years and it is amazing, though in some ways more challenging than living on the road. Can’t wait for your book tour to bring you to LA!

  19. I wrote something similar to this piece, about the tension between wanting to travel and wanting to settle down. I think I’m at the point in my life where I need some sense of permanency, but I still have this overwhelming desire to see and experience the world “while I can.”
    I enjoy solo travel, but one of the things I find most unsettling about it is how difficult traveling alone can make it to process and contextualize experiences. You have to live in your own head a lot and it’s harder to find people to bounce thoughts and ideas off of, because there is no one around to understand why whatever you’re experiencing is meaningful to you and to help you put it in the context of the timeline of your life.

  20. Excellent post, Matt. I love the way you have defined travel, as it’s very similar to my own thoughts on it – travel is what keeps us moving forward, figuratively if not literally. We are all on our own personal journeys, and if something is telling you its time to change things up again and try something new, then kudos to you for listening and giving it a try. Even if you were visiting 20+ countries a year, if you were growing as a person, I’d still consider that stagnating. Can’t wait to read about how this all works out!

  21. Totally hear you! I bounce between wanting to share my travels and wanting to travel alone! There is something to be said for sharing the special moments with someone you care about deeply! While I relished walking the Camino de Santiago solo – I really would have loved to have shared the arrival in Santiago…especially with someone who would be sticking around for a while! I have heard a wistfulness in your posts for a while now…I hope you find your balance and you and your friend have a brilliant time in Europe!

  22. I understand. An avid wanderer, I have only traveled alone, mostly throughout Europe and Asia. And while I’ve always enjoyed the freedom, there is something missing when looking at a beautiful sunset, or suddenly finding yourself in an impossibly romantic moment … and there’s no one to share it with. I hope you find the perfect travel companion(s) this year. I know I’m ready, too.

  23. Vee

    Matt… I feel you, man. I’m glad you are setting down a little… it’s very exciting to be a “local” in a strange town… sometimes though, it’s much nice to be a local in your own town.

  24. I feel the same way. As much as I’m itching to go somewhere, I can’t hide that I am really enjoying just being stationery for a bit. And getting an apartment is more exciting to me at the moment than planning my next adventure… sometimes it’s good to be home =)

    See you in NYC sometime soon!

  25. Belinda Schneider

    Maybe this is why it took you so long to get to Africa…because you weren’t ready to learn what Africa was going to teach you. What is wonderful is the sense of peace you get when you finally know what the answer is to the dilemna you have been struggling with all year. I think it will end up all working out exactly the way it should…and I suspect it will be a very positive outcome because you will be happier. That in itself will give you a whole other kind of energy and outlook. Good luck…enjoy the freedom of not carrying the weight of all that personal struggle anymore! It weighed more than any backpack!

  26. there are always trade-offs in life. ’tis better to travel alone or not travel at all? sometimes we are faced with that decision. In which case the road alone is clearly better than a being “stuck” together or if that means not operating on your chosen timeline. life is full of gives and take, compromise, and dedication. it all depends on what you are willing to commit to.

  27. I can relate, man. I’d rather go absolutely nowhere with Mary than go everywhere without her. Having a person that you love along for the ride makes every adventure that much more rewarding. Best wishes for whatever this future direction may bring!

  28. Seems there’s two aspects to this post.

    There’s the being a vagabond without any long-term home and there’s also the “alone” bit.

    I’m not too worried about the first one at the moment and there’s nothing I can do about the second but live life to the fullest and hopefully meet people who I find kinship with.

    Good luck on your new, more stationary adventure.

    • Exactly my thoughts! Being single is one thing. Being a nomad another. I could easily be a nomad but with my partner, I just need to persuade him!

      The reality too is that you are hitting the age where everyone else is partnered – don’t worry by the time they hit 40 they will all be on the other side of their first marriages – but meanwhile the pressure is on to be one of a couple!

  29. louise

    Pour ce qui est de l’avenir, il ne s’agit pas de le prévoir, mais de le rendre possible. Bet you know who said that :) Best wishes for the next stage of your life!!

  30. Matt, all the best with your decision to settle down in one place for a while. It sounds like you will still be doing regular travel, but it will be more finite each time before going home again.

    I am a person on the opposite end of the spectrum – I am usually at home and making the most of local opportunities and then only periodically get to go on a bigger trip. I can honestly say that the beauty of travel is in getting out of your normal routine and doing something different, whether it is for days, weeks, months or years. I always have more reflective moments about my life when I am on a trip somewhere.

    Your moment of realization came in Africa, but it probably could have happened anywhere – it was just that in that time and place you were ready to honestly hear the voice in your own head which has progressively been trying to send you a message.

  31. I was on the road in a leisurely fashion for three years straight.I dallied along the way during that time, living here and there for 90 day stretches, but eventually I was drawn back home for a spell. A first grandchild was born and three years later, I still cannot leave her for too many months at a time. You can’t have it all, contrary to popular opinion. Sometimes we have to choose. Fortunately, life isn’t a contest. I have learned to take each year and fashion it to fit my needs at the time. This year looks to be a more active stint on the road again, but I have nothing that I feel I have to do except experience the journey with an open heart and an open mind. With or without a companion, at home or abroad, life is what I choose to make of it and wherever I find myself is an adventure. Good luck, Matt!

  32. Kate

    I had the same experience in Europe this year. I travelled around for a few months and ticked a bunch of countries off the list and saw things I’d been longing to see for years.

    The sights were very cool and I did have a good time, but in the end I pulled the plug and came home early. I was feeling so lonely.

    I’ve travelled alone a lot before and have lived in alone, but it was getting to the point where I felt I was only having the half the experience and I wanted to share it. You see the sights much quicker when there’s no one to talk to. You get a stranger to take your picture and then you’re done. Sometimes you meet cool people in the hostels, but I must say that mostly people just wanted to hang out in their groups. Especially as an introvert, I think that spending most of the day not talking to anyone can close you down a bit. I wasn’t making the most of the places I was in. I deliberately skipped Rome in the end because I just couldn’t face doing it without someone special. I wan’t to discover that with someone, because I’m sure it’ll be far more exciting.

    I think everyone should travel alone at some point. I remember those first years of solitude where I would sit on a hill, stare into the distance and think deep thoughts about my life. I was figuring out who I was. But as I move through my twenties I realise that I kind of know who I am now. I dont need a fancy view to get me thinking.
    I want a relationship, and a little certainty.

    Really, travel is just another form of consumerism. A much better form of course! You can learn and grow from it, but you’re still just accumulating experiences and ticking places off a list. Like the richest people in the world – don’t we all eventually realise the same thing?….that relationships are what matter most.

  33. Great writing in this post Matt. I felt a similar way a few times in my travels in different countries. The one I remember most was in Australia, I had my own camper van and stopped in an amazing solitary space and got to watch the sunset. I felt nothing but humour because I felt it was silly I was the only person in the world enjoying this sunset at this moment, and it should have been shared, and not with a photo.

    Now married I really want to go travelling again with my wife, I imagine it’s totally different even if we was visiting places I’m familiar with, as long as she doesn’t bring a 23kg suitcase though.

    • It’s awesome Rob – do it. I took my partner to places in Australia I’d been solo, and he’d never been too – it’s cool being able to introduce a partner to places you love!

  34. Dude, you’re making me feel old, but having been on the planet some more years than you have, I want to assure you that life is a journey (pun intended). You change and the world changes. You start to be able to say, “been there, done that” about more and more experiences. If you can find the right someone to share the Namibian sunset with, that’s a beautiful thing. If you’re lucky, it might be the same someone you share doing the laundry with, taking out the garbage with, who you let sleep while you take care of the 3:00 A.M. feeding, who holds your hand really tight at a parent’s funeral and who you are still happy to see in your bed 30+ years later.

    Actually, only part of it is luck – the other part is being ready.

  35. I think we have phases, it’s like the old pendulum… I was on the road solo for nearly four years and I loved it – but there was one thing I hated: not having a home base. If I’d had a home to come back to each year or every few months, I might still be on the road today.

    I never felt that yearning to ‘share’ for some reason, but that’s me and we’re all different. Perhaps I just do it through my writing. These days, we can also keep in touch through Skype and the like, which we didn’t have when I was traveling (we barely had email).

    I do have a home now and I love it. I don’t get away as much as I’d like and I definitely have itchy feet. I’m traveling a bit every month and that’s hardly anything, considering. Still, having a home makes things different. So does having a partner, pets…

    So for me there’s no right or wrong. There are times. A time for solo travel, for long-term travel, for settling down, and maybe, just maybe, for hitting the road again. So, enjoy what you’re experiencing! As they say, you’re right where you’re supposed to be. :-)

  36. I feel the same after 14 months traveling in Asia. Instead of going straight to my new travel destination – the US -, I decided to go home (I am from Europe) first. See my friends, share my stories and than move along. Looking forward to my new US adventure, but after a little break… Thanks for all and I wish you all the best in NY.

  37. I know how you feel. I used to always travel by myself and I loved it, but then I had a few trips with people close to me and that changed everything. I guess happiness is only real when shared.

    I’m also really glad I don’t have trips lined up for now. In 2012 I travelled for work and pleasure and this year I’m ready to travel less, I feel a bit burned out by travel.

  38. Caitlin

    Matt, its a brave step you make and one that took me a while to get the hang of. Short trips away will help you settle in and there is always that next adventure to hold on to and the comfort that your home will be there waiting to hear all about your adventure when you return.

    Traveling solo definitely has its perks and you learn so much about yourself but traveling with someone and having to compromise is a whole other story. Sometimes the pairing doesn’t work and sometimes its the best fun you’ll ever have.

    Keep enjoying sunsets, and I’m sure like Melbourne, New York will offer you many the adventure.

  39. Once you’re at the point, a few years down the track, having a family and travelling with them is so rewarding. It’s like starting to travel all over again, seeing it through a little persons eyes. It’s a wonderful way not to have to travel alone ever again. :)

  40. I don’t really broadcast this, but my husband is in the military. When he was deployed to Afghanistan, I traveled solo around Europe. After he came back and we were able to continue traveling together, I lost the desire to travel solo. I still do travel solo because he can’t always get time off to come along, but it just isn’t as fun. I miss having our shared jokes on the road and creating moments together.

    We’ve got a home base and it is nice to be able to come home between adventures.

    I hope NYC works out for you and you are able to find someone special to travel with.

  41. Traveling solo has the huge advantage of total freedom of choice. You wake up in the morning and do of your day whatever you like.
    I’ve traveled solo for years and have wonderful memories.
    At the moment, however, I could not imagine enjoying a new place without my wife. I still travel solo sometimes (for work), and when I’m there I can’t fully enjoy what I’m visiting. You just feel it.

  42. Theresa

    Enjoyed reading your post Matt. It reminded me of the line in an old Grateful Dead song about traveling, then tiring of travel and wanting to settle down.

    New York is a great choice since there’s so much to explore in the city. Good luck.

  43. Thanks for being so open and letting us watch your evolution. I’m traveling solo and loving that my beautiful sunset moments are mine all mine, but I also totally know how you feel. I’ve been lucky that friends from back home have joined me for a week here and there. It’s made all the difference.

  44. Patrick Smith

    Wow! What a raw blog entry! The way you expose your soul in your writings is the reason I love reading you. You express yourself in such a way that I feel like I am sharing your journey through life. This is rare talent, and I thank you. As you can read in many of the comments, you have expressed something so many of us feel. I have been with my partner for 33 years- I pray you meet someone as dynamic as him. Through our years together, we travel together, but also separately and share when we rejoin. Thank you!

  45. Hi Matt.

    Great post… really GREAT post! I have never been on the road for as long as you but I really do understand about not having someone to share special moments with. For me, it was when I visited Iguazu National Park. I had wanted to go for years. Finally, I got there but… I was alone. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time but it wasn’t the same. I would have loved to share that day with someone.

    Enjoy your downtime in NYC and good luck with the book tour – exciting times ahead! :)

  46. Really superb and honest post. I can totally relate. I love being on the move but miss having a base, somewhere I can call home. I mostly travel with my hub but I enjoy travelling alone too. I find it strange not being able to share the moments with him though.

  47. Beautiful post Matt. I used to travel by myself and loved it for years – meeting tons of people and finding my own independence. In fact, I think all that time alone helped me to become a little more self-aware and able to tune into what’s best for me. It sounds like you’re able to do the same. All the best for 2013. Hopefully our paths will cross again.

  48. Susanna

    Just wanted to add another ‘amen’.
    I felt exactly the same when I traveled alone to Bali (from Portland, OR) last year. I saw all sorts of incredible sights, had wonderful adventures.. but was unexpectedly lonelier than I think I have ever been in my life. I turned 40 last year and along with the loneliness was a sense that perhaps this was it for me..

    Just before Christmas, I met someone wonderful and plan to spend the rest of my life sharing the world with him.

    I wish the same for you – and for every traveler who wishes for a companion to whom they can turn and say “Did you SEE that?”

  49. Ryan

    Matt, that is a huge realization and drastically different than your entire outlook on travel since I’ve been reading this blog, but it seems like you know deep down what you need.

    Trust me, I love my “me” time, wandering cities aimlessly, and looking into every nook and cranny knowing others might not appreciate it. But there were many times I wish I could share a moment with someone; like my roadtrip across the US alone, or bungy jumping in New Zealand and not having anyone there to watch or tell about it.

    6.5 years is a very long time for solo travel and there is nothing wrong with finding out you need to travel less and travel with people who matter and can share the adventure. I think you are just growing into the next level of your travel life, and I’m still excited for the upcoming adventures and stories.

    Will you be making it to TBEX this year? If you are ever in DC I’ll take you out for a drink mate. Onward to 2013 and good luck with the book tour!

  50. That is really beautiful. I contemplate solo- and non-solo-travel a lot. I loved my five months alone, and I miss it if I’m not out on my own for too long – the secret is really to listen to your own needs in whatever your moment you find yourself in. I wish you the very best of luck with the adventures NYC will provide you with.

  51. Ah – the satisfaction that comes with discovering something about your life and putting a new plan into action. Isn’t life grand? Happy home hunting in NYC.

  52. Mad props to 6.5 years of being on the road – managing the logistics of travel and keeping one’s self out of harm’s way while making all the connections and arrangements necessary is a lot of work, contrary to what people may think. Having a good time while doing it is the icing on the cake – well done!

    Move to Brooklyn dude…specifically Boreum Hill! It suits the traveler in me since I live in walking distance of an amazing and cheap Jamacian joint, a fun French bistro, the best poutine outside Montreal, and a street that’s pretty much all middle eastern goodies. – just to name a few of the delights.

    Best of luck in this new phase – you’ll be back on the road before you know it but having a home base will make coming and going even better=)

  53. Best of luck to you on this new adventure. I’ve spent the past 4 years preparing to travel again (long term) and I’m fortunate enough to share that experience with my wife Aiko.

  54. While there’s not a whole lot I can add to this that others haven’t already said, it’s obvious from the sheer numbers of comments to this post that you’ve struck a major chord. I’ve never done the nomadic lifestyle and never felt the need for it, but always enjoy reading your stories and living it sort of vicariously through you. Your writing is supremely soul baring and honest in this posting, kudos for that and for your decision and for sharing it with all your readers. Enjoy the new chapter in your life and best of luck.

  55. Nico

    Even though I haven’t travelled anywhere near as widely as you, I long ago decided that travelling with a familiar face makes a journey that much more fun. While you can always find nice and interesting people on the road, there can be large gaps where you are alone, which is just not as much fun. Good luck wi mixing settling down with periodic travels.

  56. Matt, this is so refreshing to read. I think I come from the opposite perspective. I am married and don’t have the luxury of a nomadic lifestyle (that was a personal choice), though at one time it definitely would have appealed to me. In fact, I very much regret not having the cajones years ago to leave the American Standard behind and wander the globe. I’m only just now starting my travel blog, at 33(!) (no spring chicken!), and am about to buy a house and really settle in and start a family. In a way, this frightens me. I’ve always wanted a family, and I couldn’t be happier. There is something to be said about feeling the calm of structure and routine, about calling a place home. I tell you what, I get so tired of living out of a suitcase!

    My goal in life is to live the happy balance of Travelust and Home-nesting-family life. I actually really hope to have kids and to take them on all sorts of adventures around the world, ad my parents did with me and my siblings. But, just like I get frustrated with stubborn American Dreamers who don’t understand anything out of the two week vacation to Cabo, I also get am a little jaded by the constant wanderers. I just don’t think it’s a realistic lifestyle. It might be for a year- or 5 or even 10! And some people just want to be alone and never want to settle, and that is totally OK. I think that’s what great about people in general. If we were all the same, the world would be so boring, right?

    Starting my travel blog, I realized that a lot of my travel blog peers were long time travelers- going 6 months to years on the road. It’s hard to think “what can I possibly bring to the table?” I mean, I travel a lot and have done a lot of traveling, but I’m not traveling constantly. I am not going to have nearly as much fresh information. Then I realized, my goal is to bridge this weird gap between the drifting nomads and the stagnant but wistful people. I can see both sides, totally and completely! And there is no reason on earth why a person shouldn’t be able to incorporate both aspects in their lives! Granted, it gets a bit more complicated when you have a family, because your choices are no longer for you alone… At any rate, this is my mission and my inspiration! To have a thriving, stable home and family and to continue to travel the world and never stop!

    So it’s VERY refreshing for me to read that one of the infamous nomads (I just started my blog, but have followed yours for a good while) craves a little settling down! (I also get very excited when I hear my in-laws who never travel decide they want to go visit family friends in Sri Lanka!). It brings you closer to my middle 😉

    • And I left this bit out. I meant to say that my situation seemed a bit opposite of yours, because I basically escaped and traveled around 10 different countries in the last 6 months (not consecutive) on my own. I left my husband (of three years) behind and journeyed to all the amazing places I could. It was a time for me to be alone, to meet new people, and to enjoy those Namibian sunsets that you speak of- on my own. And I can truly say that the traveling (especially the first 6 week stint in Africa) saved my life. My mom passed away a year ago, and my world just didn’t make sense anymore. I didn’t really understand the point of it all- why live? It seems so futile and fleeting? But I fell in love with life again in Africa. And I grew closer to myself. I feel invigorated now, and am much better equipped to move forward. It seems like you are at a point in your life where you’ve been flying solo for so many years and have realized that you’re now craving some roots. That’s good. :) It’s so good to have this balance in life. At any rate, I enjoy your blog. I feel I can relate to you, and that is a good feeling!

      Here’s my post about my year in travel, touching on what I mentioned here:

  57. Good Luck with this new old concept…but be careful what you wish for…I have been in this same frame of mind after cruising with my son for 10 years. He went off to college and I felt very alone. I traveled on my dive boat for another year and thought it would be great to settle down and buy a house, meet someone and sort through my photographs, write…But life is an adventure and once an exploorer, always an explorer. Maybe NYC is enough, but I’ll bet it will be temporary. I hope so as I would love to join you on one of your epic adventures…

  58. Really nice to read a heartfelt post from you Matt, honestly. I’m kind of going through the opposite right now. After 6 years together (and 2 years of travel together) my boyfriend and I broke up in August. Obviously this was horrible, after 6 years I had no idea how to be on my own but since then I’ve done a little bit of solo travel (and travel with friends I’ve made here in Auckland where I’m living at the moment) and I’m kind of enjoying doing my own thing and not having to worry about anyone else. That said, I can completely relate to what you’re saying. Those two years I had with Mark while we were travelling were amazing and having someone to share the good (and bad) moments of travel with was very special and I’ll never forget those. Good luck in New York, it sounds like you’re getting back on track and realising what you want and that can only be a good thing :)

  59. We’ve been on the road constantly for just over a year now, it seems like only yesterday since we started the trip. Before setting off together, my partner and I who have been together in a relationship for over 20 years, worried about the impact it would have us spending so much time together. I can only say, in our case, it has strengthened our love and respect for each other. When the time comes for us to make a change and settle somewhere again, we’ll do it knowing so much more about ourselves. It sounds like your going to have a great 2013 and I’ll be following your exciting news as always. Occasionally I wish I was travelling alone, but for me I’m thrilled to be sharing it with my partner, although believe me its not all plain sailing. Exciting times ahead!!

  60. Ashley M

    Hey Matt… I sort of feel like this deserves a Congrats…. like I would Congratulate anyone else on a new job or new home :) Sadly I haven’t been to NYC in years… I can hardly believe that. But hopefully with baby getting a little older I can make it out soon and have a long overdue dinner.

  61. I see from the comments that this struck a chord with many travellers and not just myself – so you weren’t alone in that, at least.

    I have recently learnt that there are many adventures on your own doorstep and here in Mallorca, I am discovering them every day. I have a travel blog, yet the posts people enjoy most are ones I write about the place where I live!

    Sometimes change is the biggest adventure…

  62. NomadicMatt

    I am deeply honored and humbled by all the comments here. I’ve read them all and I just wanted to say that I thank you for your support. I didn’t realize this article would have struck such a cord but I guess this is something felt more than I thought. I kind of thought I was an outlier and it was simply my own introverted nature coming into play.

    Guess not!

  63. Felt like this, too, Matt, and I’m not even on the road as much as you are. I find that staying in one place for sometimes eventually awakens my solo wanderlust again. Anyway, good luck with your future travels, whether solo or with someone else, doesn’t really matter, right, as long as you’re happy with what you’re doing :)

  64. Matt, enjoy this new chapter of your life and congratulations on traveling solo for so long and all the success it has brought you!

    My wife and I met backpacking alone in Europe after college almost a decade ago (I’m American, she is Australian). We’ve now been married almost 8 years. We traveled solo for a few months on our separate trips. I enjoyed traveling alone but it takes a special person to do it for as long as you did.

    Now my wife and I have been living and traveling in various countries together but I’d love to get the chance to bounce again for a few straight months. It’s pretty much the most liberating freedom a human on this planet can experience.

  65. Jack

    What is it about your writing that comes off as condensending? It’s amazing that you are able to attract any business at all let alone repeat business or referals from clients when you talk about people who pay you to share your so called travel experiences with sentences like “I had no one to share that moment.

    Sure, there was my tour group, but it’s not the same. Sharing a moment with people you have a bond with is much different than sharing it with strangers.”

    “There was nothing wrong with anyone on my tour – they were all nice, polite, and talkative, and we got along fine. But tours are hit-and-miss and sometimes you closely bond with people (eight years later, I’m still close with my roommate from my Costa Rica tour) and sometimes you don’t.

    Here, I didn’t.”

    When are people going to get off this “freedom porn” illusion and stop supporting schmucks like you. The whole 4 hour work week, digital/location independence (hunched over a laptop in some shithole cafe in Laos making $1000 a month, while writing about their so called exotic lifestyles putting others down who aren’t).

    Lap it up and enjoy it while it lasts, because it won’t…….

    • NomadicMatt

      Sorry you feel this way. I didn’t really connect with people in my group. Nice folks but we won’t be having coffee years from now. You can’t like everybody in the world. I want someone I had a connection with not someone I just met. I wanted an old friend not a new one.

  66. I can definitely understand getting tired of traveling solo after 6.5 years. Sometimes, after just 4 months, I get a little sad that I only get to be with the awesome people I meet for such limited amounts of time. I’ve made great friends, but they’re scattered all over the place. I can relate.

  67. Very nice article. It is hard to see a beautiful moments alone, sometimes you just want to see the smile or the happiness of you friend as you see awesome things while traveling. The reality sometimes can have mixed feeling, but experience will lead us to adjust and change for better.

  68. R.

    Great post. It sums up what I have been feeling lately. I’m currently living abroad (my first time leaving the U. S.) and I recently decided to visit a city by myself and was so freaking lonely. I haven’t traveled much (neither domestically or internationally) and already I’m experiencing this feeling of loneliness. Like I can’t enjoy the beautiful sites because I have no one to experience it with. Luckily, it took you 6.5 years to get this point but I’ve just started my own travel journey. *Sighs.* I’m hoping that was just a bad time for me and I can bounce back on my next international city adventure.

  69. You’re not alone – at least you’re not the only one who wants to travel but doesn’t want to travel alone any more. I’m trying the same thing with San Francisco as a base. New York was my second choice. :-) Good luck and let us know how it works out! I’m sure it will.

  70. Thanks for the honest post Matt.

    I know lots of people struggle with finding a happy means between being nomadic and having some sense of familiarity. We were backpacking for 2 years and then decided to “settle down” for a bit and are now living in China – which still feels like travelling but we have a bit of a routine and friends, which is nice! We’ll be on the road again in a few months. Sometimes you just need a bit of a break.

    We look forward to reading about the new chapter in your life as it develops.

    Cheers & Safe Travels.

  71. Wow! Congrats! This is a big life change. I’m looking forward to seeing what you discover.

    I’ve traveled by myself in fits and starts, study abroad in Turkey, internship in Scotland, and now an internship in Japan, along with various work trips/conferences with vacations to follow afterwards (Thailand, Greek Islands, etc). Even from these brief stints, I realized that things are better when shared. I needed to prove to myself that I could be alone. I could eat alone, I could make new friends, I can figure things out without a physical safety net…but it does get a little bit empty. Like there’s a hole in the experience.

    ‘Here’s to experiencing both kinds of ‘solo’ travel!

  72. An awesome realization – congratulations on the new chapter in your life! My definition of travel is changing too, and I think it’s completely okay to change a lifestyle. Hopefully now that you’re in NYC permanently, we’ll see you more often on the West Coast as well. Enjoy being “home” in NYC!

  73. Dana

    I truly enjoy your site. I personally have never traveled alone. My boyfriend has, before we were together. In the last two years, he has had me travel so much more. I love it, but I get it. Having him to see things with is awesome. I love being able to marvel at things together, like the Arches or Shoshone Falls. We are doing Northeast and Canada next year. So we will be in NYC. Hope to reaad about your adventures there and maybe we will bump into you! lol

    Good luck!

  74. I hope that this change in direction works out well for you. It is somewhat scary and comforting no know how much a person can change. What is important in life is to realise what you want and to go for it. For myself, I can’t work out exactly what I want right now, but I’m going for it (in a roundabout way; it’s hard to always keep in the right direction if you don’t know which way that direction is).

    Enjoy your new lifestyle and travel when you feel like it. Keep the name Nomadic Matt because Static Matt doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

  75. Jennifer

    I traveled alone forever, always hoping to share my experiences with someone. Once you are (I’m married recently), you may realize that sharing is great, though that you are the only person who will enjoy things just as you, alone, do.

    Make sure to keep enjoying YOUR reaction to things as much as you ever have. Great luck finding a you-*enhancing* partner!

  76. It’s reassuring to know that someone with so many expectations heaped on him hasn’t lost the ability to still do what’s best from him. It’s awesome to see how much your readers support this leg of your journey.

    I’m also an introvert who needs time away from others to recharge. I’ve realized that I need personal connections to keep me grounded. Even when we’re apart, knowing and feeling a connection is reassuring.

    I’m eager to hear new types of travel experiences as you travel with those you know and create shared memories. Best of luck!

  77. The feeling you touched on at the start, I came to this same realisation when I witnessed the otherworldy sight that is Pamukkale, Turkey by night. My thought popped in like so:
    I wonder if Astronauts ever think “Wow! Being on the the moon is f*ckin cool, I wish I was here with a cute girl though”

    But as I’ve heard Comedian Pete Holmes say, “What’s worse than being alone, is feeling alone when you’re with someone (i.e the wrong person)”.

  78. sherry

    First time I am writing comments on someone’s blog, (not even for my best friend)
    My business trip was canceled last minute. I have all the time today, chat with a friend about my Africa trip, realize there was a writer in my group and he has a blog. I want to see what he say about the trip. There I am, from 24 Stunning Photos to this one, and this one really gets me in many ways. Matt, you are very good at writing, wish I knew before I met you on the trip. Read through 109 comments, have been through a lot of travelers went through, I just want to say: Let’s meet for coffee and talk about this trip if we have a chance. I will let you know if I am in north east. Hope you didn’t through my contact info away;)
    you have one more traveler read your blog from now on…

  79. I understand completely. For me, living as an expat provides the best of both worlds. I have a relationship, wonderful friends and my own place to cook and do laundry, but it’s still and adventure. Good luck!

  80. Erik

    I hope to travel the world, but I have a solid purpose, which is to find a place to live. I’m tired of the US. Sadly it has become one of the most backward countries in the world. Our govt is BROKEN and nothing can get done anymore. And I just want to live in some other country for a while or forever.
    Ideally I will make a “survey” trip of the world to whittle down my choices to a few places. Then I will go and live in those places for a a year or so before I decide my permanent home.

  81. Matthew Maggy

    I know how you feel. I haven’t necessarily been a nomad like you, but I’m always moving and it definitely makes it tough to keep an enduring relationship. I’m taking my first RTW trip this year and met a cool girl right after I had made this plan. She won’t be coming with me and I don’t know if she’ll be here when I get back. I guess that’s opportunity cost of leading an awesome spur of the moment lifestyle.

  82. As people, it’s always natural that we change what we want and what we do with our lives. I agree that solo travelling is amazing, and something that everyone should experience once in their lives, even if only for a few weeks. Given a choice though, I prefer travelling with at least one other person I know, or at least have some common ground with. To see or experience something amazing, and not have anyone to share the moment with you can be a real bummer at times. Alternatively, it really allows you to be one with the moment and not distracted at all.

    Pros and cons ‘eh. In any case, I could barely think of a better place to “settle” than in NYC. I’m sure that whenever you’re not travelling, your life will still be full of adventure.

  83. I hear you, buddy. Absolutely in the same situation, after 2 years of non-stop solo travels, finally settled in Boston, but… It lasted half-a-year, not my contract will be over and will have to figure out whether I stay put or take off and travel again. Sorry could not make it to your book presentation in Cambridge.

  84. I have always assumed that any sort of travel — either alone or with a companion — is no more than a means to achieve some other purpose and is justified only so long as it is an efficient means to that end and it is the beginning of wisdom to recognize when it no longer does.

  85. Lisa

    Great post. I must say that although I have never traveled alone, I do agree with you that it is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. It seems that you have traveled the world learning and having wonderful experiences, over the years and have now come to a different space in your life. A place where sharing those moments with someone that you can one day simply say “remember when we did, or saw that” and to have someone understand, and convey the same thought is wonderful.

    The journey is as important as the destination.

  86. Matt,

    I’m curious, do you ever regret solo traveling. Where do you think you would be right now if you never decided to quit your job? How much money do you think you would be making? By the sounds of it, your solo traveling was a great adventure.

  87. I felt the exact same way in 2005 when studying abroad in Australia. My friend and wingman at the time were on our mid semester break. On a sailboat looking up at the stars in the Whitsundays and we were both like, this sucks that we don’t have a special person to share this with. I remember how empty it felt and felt guilty for feeling that way at the time. Now, I look forward to traveling with my husband around the world. We’re starting with small 1 month trips a year to start, then hopefully leaving the US for good within 5 years. Just found your blog and will be using it to help plan our adventures!

  88. Hey Matt, i feel you. When i was younger, I always thought its ok to be alone.
    But sometimes when i watch the sunset or sunrise n it happens to be a truly amazing view, i wished i could have someone there to share that moments with me. To feel the same great feeling I’d feel.

    Yrs later I had a bf of 6 yrs but somehow he’s not as enthusiastic abt this type of things. Whenever I’d feel like watching a sunset(usually 3 mths interval) n asked him along, his reply was, ‘what’s the point of watching sunset? Its all the same.’ it hurts n i ended up watching it alone while he plays with his hp.

    There, u feel alone because u r alone. N i feel alone when i do have someone in life. Just wish u get the right partner.
    Nice photos!

  89. m

    I’ve been travelling as a solo female backpacker throughout Western Europe for about 6 weeks. I’m a pretty quiet person and it’s been a love and hate situation with solo travel. I had a pretty rough time my first week abroad and yearned the everyday things/people of home. Eventually, after a big cry, I learned how to deal with loneliness and I became a little bit more outgoing. Although I’ve met a few very great people, there are too many times where I wish I had someone to share the moment with. I’ve always hated good byes and whenever I met someone I truely connected with, it was very hard for me the next day, when I was alone again.

    I’ve realized travelling alone isn’t for everyone. Before I left for my trip all my friends were saying I was insane for going by myself. I thought nothing of it, as I usually don’t mind loneliness but after being abroad for just over a month, I’ve realized that I’m the type of person who enjoys company, even when doing nothing. If I were to go on another trip, I would definitely go with another person. Although I didn’t have the best time during my first solo trip, I did learn a lot of things about myself and I appreciate the little things soo much more. I’ll be ending my trip soon and it will be a very bittersweet moment.

  90. I can completely relate to both the bliss of solo travel and the shift to no longer wanting to travel solo because the joy of travel had become about sharing it and while exploring new cultures and territories is always amazing, you reach a point where it is as much about the conversations, sharing what you love and seeing the excitement of your friends, family members or partners face is what it is all about!

  91. Marilynn Smith

    i returned yesterday from 2 months traveling solo in Europe. I am a recent widow, age 65, I became a vagabond and truly did enjoy the freedom of choosing only for me. I agree though there are times whe I wished I had my husband at my side to share special moments with. Solo travel, renewed my spirit, it made me stronger and it gave me my mission. As an artist I will continue to travel, solo most likely. I will sketch and paint every day I can. it is my mission to paint everywhere I can and show them to the world so they can see what they are NOT seeing. More times than I could count i saw people smap a ohoto of something they did not really stop to look at, so I will paint and sketch and look for them.

  92. Carlotta

    I took my first solo trip this summer, driving across the south west. It was also the first time I drove alone in a foreign country, as I’m from Italy, and I used to be a panicky driver. I’m not a veteran traveler, but being alone on the road was the best thing ever for me. I didn’t know I could be that self-sufficient and independent. It was a journey of self discovery. And now that I’ve come back to this so-called stable life, I just want to leave and be back on the road alone. Maybe if I did this for 6-7 years I’d be desperate to go home, but now all I crave is to get out there.

  93. After 10 months of mostly solo travel I can certainly understand how you would get to the point of having enough. The best memories I have are the times I was sharing with someone else.

  94. Adrienne Morton

    Thank you for alerting us who have somehow weirdly missed reading this post to reading it tonight. Its fantastic. I completely understand and have been through and what you are talking about, although maybe not to the extreme that you have. I have written a great many poems that are about how alone you can feel at home and how alone you can still feel amongst your own kind traveling nonstop. There is no answer to loneliness that is simple. It is only of the utmost importance that you listen to your instincts, trust them, and keep believing based on the most precious moments of your traveling- whether it be when you fell in love, or for instance like me, when you met people literally at the side of the road on your birthday while hitchhiking that insisted on throwing you a true party out of the love of their hearts-that you come to conclusions about what you believe in about the road ahead. No matter where, no matter what- I wish you always the best of luck and am sure you will find kindred spirits that fulfill you, time after time. And loneliness. This is life. Strength grows from it all. And will make you appreciate the sweetest moments of company all the more.


  95. e

    Well, I am slowly coming into this frame of mind, although I dont travel as much as you do. But sometimes, I feel that I am traveling inorder to runaway from what is at the moment. Although right after the vacation, I am back to face the truth :) and the mundane routine of work :) Let’s see…. I’ll keep travelling as much as is possible though….since that happens very rarely :)

    I believe you’ve inspired ppl who never took action reg their wanderlust to act :)

  96. I hope to feel this way some day. I did something weird. I traveled a bunch when I was younger, stopped for a “career”, and now I’m ready to go back to traveling. I’m 35 and I feel like I’m running out of time to see so much more of this world, but I’m also running out of time to start a family. I hope the settlelust will hit me soon, but I plan to quench my wanderlust temporarily with a big trip in the Fall.

  97. nicole

    this was such a great post, a true sentiment from an often-solo adventurer. I have had many of these moments in various places all around the world.. but I am not done yet!

  98. Hi Matt,

    I know it’s been a few years since you wrote this and I’m sorry but I have not yet read all your post so I was wondering if your situation has changed or you have remained happy to be semi-settled?

    Is funny I have come across your post just now. I’m in the middle of my trip, well, more at the end but to summarize it a lot, I have now gotten to a point where I’m not enjoying it anymore that much and my reason as just too similar to the ones you wrote here. Mine is a complicated thing to explain but I can very very much relate to your sentence that it gets to a point when you have travelled alone for a long time when you badly want to share those special moments with someone, so badly it hurts and there I no one and at the same time, I feel almost ashamed that I want to go back home to a life that I always end up running away from. I wonder what is it that I’m missing so much.

    I really hope you can read these lines, I would love to know what happened after you got settle in NY.

    Great blog, by the way, really great :)


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