The Settled Life in New York City

outside the Eiffel tower in paris
It’s been almost a month since I signed my lease and picked up the keys. I’ve bought a bed. I’ve unpacked my bag, hung up my clothes, and filled my fridge with food. I’m settled. I have roots. I have a neighborhood.

I’m no longer fully nomadic.

Am I at least semi-nomadic? I don’t even know.

People keep asking me when my next trip is.

“I don’t know,” I tell them.

I’m currently on my book tour until April and then will be in Europe in May.

But since these are work-related, I don’t view them as real “for pleasure” travel.

It’s a weird feeling not having anything planned. For the first time in years, I have no idea where or when I’m going next.

All these trip ideas keep popping in and out of my head.

Then I look at my schedule and think—when will I have time to go to these places? When did I become such a grownup with an actual schedule?

Maybe it’s good, though. I can slowly adjust to not being constantly on the road.

It hasn’t been as hard as I thought. I haven’t had the desire to sprint to JFK and board the next flight. I haven’t become antsy.

The hardest part has been developing a routine, in part because I’m here, then there, and then here again. I’m eating better (though the pizza place next door makes that difficult), but I haven’t joined a gym. I still haven’t managed to develop a good work schedule. I find myself working long days because I’m not doing anything else. I’m used to having to race around to fit in sightseeing and work at the same time. Now I sit on Facebook, watch my roommate’s TV, and then wonder, “Where did the day go?” because I have nothing to force me to be productive.

That’s something I need to work on. New York City has so much to do that I need to better manage my time, so I don’t let the days fly by.

If slowing down has taught me one thing, it’s that I don’t like slowing down.

I need to be busy.

I need action.

I need to better manage my time.

Because I should never waste a day in the city that never sleeps.

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  1. Good luck Matt!

    Sounds like how I’ve felt while lounging around at my parents house for a month or two too long, actually… though I always knew this would only be a pit stop. I’ll definitely be referencing your site in the adventures to come.

  2. I can related to the need to be busy – being bored is the kiss of death for me, in many contexts. I am in the opposite place that you are in that I feel I have been far too settled so far in my life. I feel that pull to travel, to explore and not be bound to one place. However, having kids who need stability doesn’t make that very easy. I should have done more in my younger days, that’s for sure! Best of luck with getting into more of a groove in NYC… maybe pick one or two things per week that you’d like to see and do. It is a start, at least.

  3. Matt-
    New York and the region has a lot to offer. You won’t be here forever, so take a look while you’re around. My most recent obsession is rush tickets to Broadway shows (which I wrote about in my blog). I get cheap last minute tickets every few weeks. I’m at point where I’ve seen every single show I want to see. Once the weather gets better, I like day trips and weekend trips to the Hudson Valley. You can get to a nice hike or small town American in an hour. Farther afield there’s Newport, RI, Long Island beaches, and Fallingwater… For a long time I believed that it wasn’t travel unless it was Africa or Asia. Now that I’ve started poking around my own back yard, I’m pleasantly surprised how much there is in the region.
    Good luck!

  4. NYC sounds like the best place for you to settle if you are constantly active. If you chose somewhere dull and quiet, you’d probably have flown out already. A busy city with loads going on sort of makes you are still living an adventure. At least that’s the way London makes me feel. Good luck staying grounded!

  5. Yeah — we finished up a 12-month road-trip in October and since then life has been … almost boring. Looking forward to the fall when we’re planning to head to Europe for a bit. We just got our copy of “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day” and now I spend too much time daydreaming about Budapest and backpacks.

  6. I just settled here too after a year of travel! For me it was the only place in the states I could land that felt like an ‘adventure’.

    maybe we’ll cross paths at some point!

  7. I love NYC! I lived there for two years and loved it. Hopefully will move back one day :) Immerse yourself in the arts, culture, food, drinks….there is something for everyone. It’s nice to have a place you can call home and feel settled. Sometimes that is the best feeling in the world.

  8. Get up and get out man! Sounds like the only way to scratch that itch is to pick up a new project. Wish you the best… tho the part about you not knowing what’s next makes me feel like you’re STILL a nomad!

  9. AnitaMac

    You are doing well to not be too antsy…my feet are ready to move before I am finished a trip! I am anticipating some great insider looks into NYC on the horizon.

  10. Panda Bear

    Has everyone who ordered the book from Barnes & Noble on the day the Travel book come out received it in the mail? I’m still waiting and I’m only in Vancouver :(

  11. Vee

    Being “nomadic” is a state of mind, and not so much a geography thing. Although you are now settled, your mind is always on the move. I am now settled in my city, but I hop on kayak at least 3 times a day, planning for that summer trip. Good luck on your book tour… have you you made note cards for your talk instead of reading it off your hand?

  12. Lol. I get the being busy part. I think it’s such an ingrained American way of doing things- the idea to be in constant motion and is something I hadn’t thought of until I moved to Spain. Sometimes I think it’s good but not always.
    Why do we feel we always have to busy?

    Enjoy your new life, creating a routine, creating community. These are all great things that also take time!

  13. I’ve lived in New York for almost 5 years and I’m still trying to manage my time. I’m either running around like crazy or spending the whole day in bed watching Survivor…… That being said everyday is an adventure in the city.

  14. Lived in NY approx 5 months last yr, in between adventures in Morocco and California. Took the Metro almost daily w/ Camera and photographed & video tape most everything. Back on West Coast planning another get away. Maybe China, Vietnam (3rd trip) or ?? I can get any country Free round trip. So 60 to 90 days in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam feels right on my pocket book. Photography is my Passion. I would like a travel buddy, part time, as going solo has it’s advantages, but just thought I would throw this out. Life is Short, I’m full-filling my Bucket List.

  15. Welcome to an amazing city! Too bad you started living here during the cold winter rather than the fabulous summers we have.

    I always like to say that, living in New York, the best part about traveling is coming back to New York :)

  16. Envy your opportunity to “take root” in NYC–what a great place to be non-nomadic. Thanks for “How to Travel . . .” Pre-ordered for my son and his wife and had to preview it when it arrived before passing it on to them. As a senior traveler, I found lots of good advice. Any tips for Germany/Switzerland in late Nov.-early Dec.?

  17. To me, it sounds like you’re adjusting well. It’s such a huge transition if at the most you feel… less pressure to do stuff, I’d say you’re doing well.

    It’s like motorcycle racing.

    Put yourself in the seat and understand how fast your brain has to work to negotiate the turns and your way around other riders. After the race, the brain doesn’t slow down right away. It needs to adapt.

  18. So nomadic is on rest and still has time till May. I know how you feeling in this time who likes being busy and take action in life.

    Well, Good luck for Europe tour :)

  19. Hey Matt,

    Please keep us posted on the NYC life.
    I am looking to move there once I finish college and I would love some insider perspective and tips!

    Thanks and good luck on the book tour!

  20. The unknown is the BEST part, Matt! Duh! I have my days free too – we will make good use of the time in the near future! You can always find someplace to day drink in New York and it’s completely socially acceptable. 😉

  21. Wow! New York is one of the top places I want to see. I’m definitely a country girl when it comes down to it, but I sometimes miss the sounds of the city. And I think New York would be ENORMOUS fun! So I hope you have great time there. And I’m sure a couple months will go by and you’ll be like…”Okay, I’m have to go to Peru.” (or something like that). ;D

    Good luck Matt!

  22. You moved to Manhattan?? You must be the last young person who doesnt know Brooklyn is where its at:) That mass exodus to BK from NYC (and not the other way around) is happening for a reason. Get over to Greenpoint, Fort Greene, Cobble Hill, Williamsburg, Clinton Hill, Carroll Gardens, and you’ll see why once you move to Brooklyn, ya never move back. Then again, stay in Manhattan, our rents in BK rose 12% last year, eek!

  23. Takima Not Tamika

    They say, “Seek and ye shall find.” I guess that is true as I’ve stumbled across Nomadic Matt’s blog at a time when I am feeling like something has got to be wrong with me. After being in Philly for a year after leaving for two years AFTER a six year stint in Philly, I am ready to go again! But what about my forced plans to stay here until I graduate and learning how to be content?I need to GO!! I am antsy, bored, this city is blah and I am seeking my next location.

    I feel at home knowing that I am not the only soul out here who lives outside of the box.

  24. I settled in Melbourne for a while after backpacking and I thought I’d be so productive, yet I’m way less productive now than I was on the road! What’s that about??

  25. I doubt if “settled” is the correct term mate if your last week is anything to go by.

    I bet it’s nice to have a springboard though. You can still travel like crazy and know that when you get “home” you have your own bed to crash in and a great pizza place next door.

  26. Bryan B.

    Just a thought but, you could alter scope of your nomadic travels some. You could change it such that you pick a city as a “home base” for a period of time (year, two years, whatever) and then use that time to try to attempt to fully explore it and the surrounding areas. There has to be hundreds or thousands of things, people, history, and foods to experience within NYC. Investigate how several cultures and experiences meld into one collective or how the distinctive boroughs/neighborhoods come to be.

    The process could be repeated for other locations too (Chicago, LA, SF, Tokyo, Seoul, Mexico City, London, Johannesburg, etc, etc). The focus of your posts could change from traveling cheaply abroad to traveling cheaply locally and effectively moving within or to a new home base.

  27. Heya Matt,
    Just read a Q&A with you in the NY Times. Reposted on my blog. Thanks :) I wish you luck with the settled life–I know how hard it can be to leave the world for a sheet of paper (or computer screen)–and I hope that you can find in writing’s twists and turns the excitement that comes with physical twists and turns on a cobbled street in a foreign country.

  28. Ahhh, what a place to settle! Jealous! NYC is one of my top three cities to live when I decide not to roam the world for a while! I already know how good that will feel to hang up clothes, have a decent bed and shower… but for now the intrepid bug hasn’t left me yet. Good luck!

  29. Angela A

    Hey Matt,
    I think I know how you feel about slowing down. I moved home to Canada a year ago after two years of travel/living in Europe. I’ve slowly but surely settled into a life of not doing anything particularly exciting. Lately, I am trying to stick to a new goal of ‘no matter where you are, try something new every day’. It’s actually a great motivator. Tricks your mind to going into ‘travel mode’ where you’re experiencing new things often, if that makes any sense.
    I’m going travelling again soon, but, that strategy seems to work with me when I’m not physically going anywhere. :)


  30. Yikes, I’m in the same predicament, but in Bangkok. Similarly trying to figure out how to avoid letting the days fly by in a city where there is so much to freaking see. I’ll also gladly welcome advice on how to make the most of settled-life days when you work till 6, hit the gym, then want to go to bed after a sufficient amount of time Facebooking.

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