The two years before March 2020 were all about travelling for me. The idea to settle down was far from my mind. I spent far more time abroad than at home, exploring different countries and continents. I was living the freelance travel writer nomad life I had always dreamed of.
Now, my life has basically turned upside down entirely.
I’m stuck at home, like everyone else. More, over the past months, I have taken some definite steps towards settling down. A lot of it was more out of necessity than anything else. After all, I couldn’t crush at my sister’s place forever. But despite a lot of this happening involuntarily, settling down was a surprisingly positive experience.
It’s like there’s two parts of my personality: the adventure-loving explorer who always longs to see new places, and the introverted homebody who just wants to cuddle up on the couch with a good book and not be disturbed. Maybe after pleasing the first one for so long, it was inevitable the latter demanded to have her rights met, too, now that I was forced to be home anyway.
Getting my own place to live
Last November, I moved into my own apartment for the first time in almost three years. I’ve spent the majority of those years travelling and didn’t need my own place to stay. If I was at home, I crushed at my parents’ or my sister’s place. But half a year after Corona put a stop to my working holiday in New Zealand, I was putting down roots again.
I moved into this apartment with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I always missed having my own place while I was on the road. As an introvert, having somewhere to be by myself is of immense value to me.
Pros and cons when you settle down
On the other hand, signing the lease on this place felt like putting a lid on any travel plans that may come up in the future. Of course, it’s not like you can’t travel when you have an apartment. Or a job. But long-term travel, at least, becomes a lot more complicated.
I don’t know at what time it would be possible to do that again anyway, what with the pandemic still going on. So it’s not like I’m going to be travelling again soon. More, I don’t even know if I’ll want to. I always planned to settle down after my New Zealand trip. Only I expected that to last a year and not just a couple of months. Now, I can’t help feel as though it’s a door closing, a part of my life ending that was shaped by the freedom of not being tied down by anything and free to go wherever I wanted.
Of course, it’s not really the apartment that ended my travel lifestyle but the pandemic. And not just for me, but for many people. But this apartment, for me, symbolizes this loss like nothing else this year. I always expected it to feel good when I finally move into a new place again. I didn’t think it would represent the end of my life as I knew it. That it would be by force, not by choice. Dealing with that is probably the toughest lesson I had to learn this past year.
Returning to an old job
The second step to settling down came this past month. Before becoming a freelance writer, I used to work in an insurance company. Pretty standard nine-to-five office job. It had its perks, but it was never what I wanted to do with my life. That’s why I left. I intended never to return.
The pandemic changed this, too.
In March 2020 I made literally zero money. All my income broke streams broke off. After that first month, some of them came back. Some didn’t. And I struggled to find new ones. In short, it’s been a financial struggle ever since, and I was tired of it. Tired of having to think twice about every purchase, no matter how small. Tired of feeling stuck, like I could never make any progress. I needed some financial stability to get my head clear and free of money worries. So I could finally use my energy to rebuild my business, not having panic attacks about the state of my bank account.
Making a compromise
Then I heard that the insurance company now running the department I used to work in (it’s a new company, which bought parts of the old… don’t ask) was looking for new people. The chance to get back into a regular, well-paid job started to sound more and more tempting.
However, I didn’t want to give up on freelancing entirely, so I compromised. I’m now working at the office (or the home office, we’re still in lockdown after all) three days a week. The rest of the time I can use for everything else. For now, my contract runs for 2 years, which seems a good time for me to see whether or not I can get this freelancing thing up and running again.
Okay, I settle down – but nothing is forever
Not gonna lie, there are times when returning to my old office job feels like defeat. Like I failed. And it can be hard to bear. On the other hand, I don’t regret the decision. I see it not as a step back but as the right choice in the current situation.
Would I have done this if COVID hadn’t eliminated much of my work? Probably not.
But now, I have the chance to rethink and rebuild everything from the ground up, without having to worry about making money right away. In many ways, I was already unhappy with how my freelancing career was going before the pandemic. The work I did wasn’t necessarily the work I wanted to do. Yet it was hard to change because looking to get into new work always means investing time that you can’t spend earning money. Now, I can afford to do that.
I can return to full-time freelancing in 2 years. Or I can stay in my office job and just write on the side. Whichever feels right at the time.
I can leave my apartment again and go travelling once more, or I can stay and do shorter trips, with a home base to return to.
I don’t know yet what I’ll want to do. So many factors will determine this that it’s impossible to say that. But I trust I will find the right path for me. And I sincerely hope that all of you are able to do the same!
How did the pandemic change your life and usurped your plans? Did it make you settle down involuntarily, too? How did you cope? Any unexpected pros? Share in the comments.