I’ve been trying to determine what the best type of living, living mode, lifestyle is ideal for me — and it seems that ‘intermittent living’ is what I aspire towards:
What is ‘intermittent living’?
So we have these notions of ‘location independent’, ‘digital nomad’, ‘world traveler’, etc. But to me, these concepts fail to take into account these things:
- There are certain periods of time where you want to actually be more ‘settled’.
- You don’t need to always be on the road.
- Traveling won’t make you more satisfied with your life (traveling is fun and generally good– but traveling won’t fix your life problems).
I like the notion of ‘intermittent living’ (from intermittent fasting), that:
You intermittently live from one spot to another– sometimes living longer in one place, and sometimes living shorter in one other place.
There are certain periods where you will live in one spot for longer periods of time (1-2 years), and other times where you will live in one spot for shorter periods of time (1-3 months).
But it seems the only certainty is this:
You will never be 100% permanently settled in one spot.
“When are you going to settle down?”
Cindy and I have been living on the road for the last 3 years, living intermittently in:
- Vietnam (Hanoi/Saigon)
- Europe (Marseille, Prague, Lisbon, Berlin)
- Japan (Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo)
- East Coast (New York/New Jersey)
- West Coast (Norcal, Socal)
- Mexico City (our upcoming trip)
And furthermore, while we have been ‘quasi-settled’ in these spaces, we’ve traveled through different places for work and visiting friends (Boston, Washington DC, Montreal, London, Amsterdam, Singapore).
Nomadic living vs ‘Traveling’
So basically our life has been a combination of:
- Nomadic living (sometimes living in a spot for as short as 1 month, up to 1 year)
- Travel (visiting certain places for work, or visiting places for fun — usually only for 1-2 weeks, or sometimes just a few days)
The difference of nomadic living and traveling is this:
- When you’re living ‘nomadically‘, you’re generally settled in one spot for a short period of time. For example we lived for a month in Kyoto by signing a 1-month apartment contract. Before that, we lived in Osaka for 1 month in an apartment (by booking on airbnb). Also, we lived at Cindy’s mom’s house in Southern California for around 3 months. And for the most part, your daily life is pretty “normal” (working everyday, like normal).
- When you’re traveling, you visit a place for a very short period of time for mostly “enjoyment” purposes (less focus on work, and more focus on sight-seeing). Or traveling can be a brief stop at somewhere to see a family member or friend en route to a different place. For example we went to Montreal because we were curious about the Northern-American/French/Canadian culture — and we stayed there for about 1 week. We weren’t settled in Montreal at all (we stayed for a week in a hotel).
Why do I like intermittent living?
For myself, when I stay in one spot for too long of a period of time, I become complacent, stagnant, and a bit too comfortable.
I am most creative and innovative when I am uncomfortable– with fewer comforts, and a little more uncertainty. I personally don’t aspire to buy a house to live in for the rest of my life.
I also generally like novelty of environment: switching up between working at home, working at a coffee shop, and visiting different countries, cities, places, restaurants, and interacting with different people, speaking different languages, and engaging in different cultures– this collision of creative atoms leads to dynamic ideas.
I think generally speaking, I don’t like to live in one city or place for more than 2 years. At this point, I start to get too comfortable, and my creative side starts to die.
Why is intermittent fasting good?
I am genuinely convinced that intermittent fasting is essential for the best human health. We cannot eat 10 meals a day and expect to have the maximum amount of human vigor and energy. We need to go through periods of hunger, in order to stimulate our body and muscles to action. Furthermore, when you fast from eating for certain periods of time, you derive a deeper appreciation of food, you build a healthy appetite (which makes food taste better), and you actually clean out your body of weaker proteins (this process is called ‘autophagy‘– imagine like a vacuum cleaning effect of your body). Some recent research also shows that the process of autophagy suppress tumor growth and cancer.
So perhaps intermittent living can have similar benefits to intermittent fasting: increased appreciation for both travel and being settled in one spot, mental repair functionality (whenever you move to a new place, you get the mentality of having a ‘fresh start’ which is incredibly empowering), and by being in more uncertain and new environments– you accelerate your rate of learning (for example, I derived great joy from learning Vietnamese when living in Vietnam — learning a new language helped me better appreciate a new way of seeing the world, and seeing the world from the eyes of a child– because learning a new language humbles you to being a child once again).
How to participate in ‘intermittent living’
I don’t think you need to be self-employed to participate in ‘intermittent living’. You can be an “expat” and live in different countries and work for your company, you can pick up odd jobs in different countries, you can work for travel-industries (airline attendant, tour guide, work on a cruise, etc).
Or you can earn money at your normal job and save up money, and then live somewhere else nomadically for 1-2 years (Vietnam and Thailand are great places to live very well, for very little money).
I generally think it is ideal to be self-employed (will give you the maximum independence and freedom of travel/nomadic living). Working for yourself will maximize your options, but I don’t think is essential for intermittent living.
Is intermittent living ideal for everyone?
Of course not. It depends on your personality, your personal world philosophy, and your own personal life philosophy.
But I do believe that we humans were born to be adventurers, conquerers, and I think most people tend to thrive in uncertainty. When things are uncertain, dangerous, or unknown– our inner-genius awakens within ourselves. In-fact, I believe the only way we can really become stronger is when we have a NECESSITY to become stronger. And when you’re in a foreign environment, you actually need to adapt to that environment. And the more you adapt, the more you evolve new abilities, and the more epic you become.
I can certainly say that intermittent living is ideal for myself, but I cannot say it is ideal for you.
But if you’re curious– I encourage you to experiment!
I don’t think there is an ultimate ideal lifestyle — but certainly, there are certain lifestyles or modes of living which are superior or better for you.
I also don’t think the point of life is to live the perfect lifestyle. I think the point of life is for you to maximize your own personal creative productivity– in order to empower yourself and to empower others.
And let us recognize that our conditions, health, and situation will never be 100% ideal — nor should it be. Let us take any situation we have in life, and seek to maximize and squeeze the best out of it! Even as I write these words, I am feeling a bit sick– but fuck it, this work is important and meaningful enough for me to hustle hard!
Never stop striving higher!