The Nomad Year
18 states, 3 countries, 2 new tattoos and journey with an unexpectedly tidy ending.
Leaving New York was a tough decision, not because I’m so enamored with the city itself, but because the five years I spent here were filled with incredible blessings. I met the women who are leading the movement for police accountability and racial justice, and I was part of historic mobilizations thanks to their genius and my commitment to the cause. I gained a whole “Justice Family”, who surrounded me with love and strength when I almost lost my life. I found joy dancing in parades with a troupe of fierce women and allies — including PRIDE, my personal highlight. I lived with my best friend in a beautiful apartment. How does one walk away from all this?
The question bedeviled me for years. New York City is too much concrete for this country kid, too cold for a Southern girl, and I never felt at home despite all of the family I gained. But I didn’t feel like I could leave, because it seemed ridiculous to walk away from all the blessings I received. In a city famed for being difficult to survive, I had thrived, and I’d lasted almost twice as long here than any other city I’d lived in before. It seemed I had no choice but to stay and love all the people who’d made it so wonderful for me.
The 2020 pandemic broke the spell. Forced us all out of community, at least physically. I left NYC for the majority of the year and when I returned in March 2021, this time it was to pack my bags for good. But to go… where? I didn’t have an answer, so I decided to embrace the unknown and make it a nomad year.
On the Road with Yoga on the Land
My first 5 weeks of nomad life were planned out: roadtripping with Adrianne Burke, founder of Yoga on the Land. Our route through the South was market research for both of us — I wanted to get the feel for different cities and she was exploring the relationship between people and water. Yoga on the Land is a nonprofit that brings people into nature with deep intention, to cultivate understanding how our environment plays into our ability to heal.
We began in D.C. and our first stops were to Charleston, SC followed by Atlanta, GA. I’ve written about our stop in DeSoto National Forest in Mississippi and New Orleans, LA.
We visited a farm in Brazoria, TX where a friend took us “mudding” for the first time. As it turns out, this is just basically sailing / hydroplaning an ATV through swamp. 10/10 would do again.
Austin, TX is always weird and wonderful, and this time another friend took me on an upright paddleboard adventure in the San Marcos River. Naturally, I find mermaids wherever I go…
Hot Springs, AR was surprisingly lovely. The water comes out of the ground at 130 degrees Fahrenheit! Even the mud puddles are steaming. There are famous bath houses that were built around 1900–1930, but they were booked up for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. A good reason to go back and enjoy this little magic bubble of a town!
I hit Nashville just in time for PRIDE month, and the universe brought me square upon the most hysterical intersection in town…
I also got to see Nashville’s new Suffragist monument, which I was pleased to see included Black women Suffragists and did not shy away from the true history of white supremacist tendencies within the feminist movement.
We returned to the east coast just in time for Yoga on the Land’s retreat in Brevard, NC. Here in the land of waterfalls, Adrianne’s deep meditation on the connect between people and water produced a transformational experience for attendees.
We also ate amazing vegan food prepared by Kiquanda Baker, founder of NurturEatz. In fact, we ate pretty good vegan food all across the South (*except in Mississippi, which I have dubbed the “Mayonnaise corridor”…) so there’s a growing diversity of healthy food choices in a region known for the flavor and comfort of its cuisine.
It was mid-June by now, and I had another pre-made itinerary to round out the second half of the year. 4 weddings in 4 months: Jamaica, North Carolina, Maine, and upstate New York. I threw in a stop by New Hampshire’s White Mountains in there, because who knows when I’ll make it this far north again.
Te Amo, México
By November, my season of weddings was over and my next stop was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I had spent January of 2021 there, but what called me back this time was my bestie from college, who was gathering a group of friends there. Her partner is from Guadalajara, and had a friend who’d settled in Puerto Vallarta. Together, we were able to see some truly incredible natural beauty, well off the beaten path.
I figured I’d stay in Puerto Vallarta for the rest of the winter. But on the Full Moon eclipse, I got an unexpected call.
I’m going back to New Orleans.
It’s been 20 years since I lived there, and it took a lot of soul searching to get back to this place. I had a lot of unexamined fear and uncertainty about moving back. But this nomad year put me squarely in the space of feeling deeply what it means to be at home. There are so many wonderful places to visit, but one place always feels like home to me. And after all of it, I found the courage to admit that where my heart feels at home matters.
I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t embraced the unknown 8 months ago, and remained rooted in my ability to meet my own needs regardless of where I was in the world. Now that I’m on the other side, I can’t believe how seamlessly everything flowed towards this end point. But it took a lot of courage to believe that the best was possible, even if I didn’t know what the best was yet.
Holler at me if you wanna come visit :)