What if you chose to be a nomad in your own city? And what would it feel like to put yourself through this, film it, and then share the less-than-glamorous, unrehearsed footage?
This has been an experiment in challenging my status quo and pushing into discomfort. During my travels in Bali and Thailand I experienced a sense of freedom and adventure that I wasn’t in tune with in Los Angeles. In June I returned to my home feeling trapped in routine. My brain felt dull, my creativity stunted. Going back to Asia wasn’t an option so I chose to try a similar adventure in my own city.
Thrown into this newness, what would I wake up to?
For six weeks I went to a different friend’s home weekly, sometimes daily, crashing in spare bedrooms, on air mattresses, sharing beds, spaces and nighttime tea.
As you read this and watch the selected pieces, you may notice how it makes you feel. Comfortable? Uncomfortable? That's stream of consciousness for you.
I planned to do the experiment for one month. Not realizing I had my place listed on Home Away for more than the one-month span, my place booked up for six weeks. And so it was: I’d pack my bags, throw the essentials in my car, drive to work, returning “home” to one of the following places I’d been invited to: Benny’s air mattress in Santa Monica, Jessica’s 2nd bedroom in El Segundo, Bethany’s house-sitting beach home in Manhattan Beach, Tessie’s room in Marina del Rey, Kristin’s bed in Santa Monica, Alicia’s bed in Encino, Catsitting at Abigail’s one bedroom in San Pedro, Chris’s pull-out couch in San Francisco, Rabbi Lori’s guest house on the Venice canal, Kim’s bed in Hollywood, Safa’s bedroom in West LA and Hilary’s neighbor’s house in the Pacific Palisades.
Over the six weeks I returned home three times, never for more than two nights. Returning home often felt grounding, but also lonely and empty and I often questioned why I was doing this (and sometimes would go deeper: why do I do everything it is that I do in my life?)
I had a lot of fun playing with my friends: morning beach walks, Saturday hoola hooping, making vanilla-protein infused lattes for three. I was also able to be the friend who hung out with plumbers and electricians (the day the lights went out and the day the garbage disposal couldn’t be fixed even with a half hour of instructions from YouTube), I even got to be a third party in serving divorce papers.
Toward the end of my experiment, I challenged myself stay at a different place every night for five consecutive nights. This was the most daunting for me because the thought of it alone was exhausting. The evening I went off to the Valley from Torrance, I really questioned myself (for those non-LA natives, driving from Torrance to the Valley is absolutely unheard of, but when I looked at this as factual vs the “LA-mentality,” it’s only 90 minutes in the car, which, with podcasts, isn’t so bad, as long as there’s a good spot to stop and pee along the way).
Quickly, this stretch-week became my most rewarding week of all: being with a new energy every day, seeing new spaces, challenging my own status quo rigorously while remaining peaceful within my own mind. The test was real and stepping up to the plate, I thrived. My mission was to enjoy and to be joy for those I got to spend time with and I remember that last week as the peak in fun, connection and love-overflow.
I had a great moment after meditating at my friend Safa’s place in West LA one morning. A dog ran from its owner and came over to me, excited to greet me. I laughed and pet the dog, who didn’t want to leave my side and continue on her walk. The owner called to the dog, “Betsy! Come on!” and then she said to me, “Every day is a holiday with this one.” Wouldn’t it be great if we could all live that way all the time? What would it take to live every day like it was a holiday.
If nothing else, I kept that as my mantra for the day (and I still bring it up in my mind today). It served me well – that was the day that my makeup bag exploded and I had seven minutes to get dressed and prepped for a client meeting. Covered in black eyeshadow, I did my best to quickly babywipe my hands and repeat, “every day is a holiday!” before jumping in the car, no time to even moisturize my the dry skin at the tip of my nose.
In this 180 experience, I felt how much my friends cared for me, loved to be around me without question or judgement. I learned that I don’t need as much stuff either - that access to a few essential ingredients in my life made all the difference. Those things that got me through were: ample access to outdoor space, daily meditation and sleeping on the same pillow every night. Yes, I carried my pillow with me everywhere. Although I was always somewhere new, when I put my head down at night, that pillow reminded me that there is still consistency within me, even if in dreamland.
And no matter where I was, if I could get outdoors and away from the hub-bub, I was going to be great. Even better, if I had walkable access to fitness: a gym, a yoga studio or a nice walking or running path, I could get there before work to ground myself in my own well-being. Finally, I began my day with a ten minute intention-setting meditation: that through the shake up I would practice being easier on myself and to stay present to the gifts around me.
By the end of the journey, I didn’t want it to end. I was experiencing the newness in each location and I felt connection to the city, the outdoors, my friends and myself. I was feeling a fresh start regularly and it invigorated me.
Upon returning to my home, I see it differently than I did before. Evidenced by the words flowing right now, I no longer have a creative block.
I have been enjoying sharing my home: hosting friends for meetings, yoga, breakfast or my new concoction of superfood ice-cream sundaes several times a week.
I sit in my home and stare across the hallway, my mind doesn’t dift. I explore the smoothness of the wood flooring under my bare toes, the cross-breeze against my skin, the tile kitchen counter I used to detest is now just a utility. Maybe I’ll change it, maybe I won’t. It doesn’t matter to me in the bigger game I’m playing. What I have found is deep appreciation for the space, while knowing that I’m not tied down by the space.
If something isn’t working, I can make a change. Making big changes helps me to see that. I think our brains are trained to be and think a certain way through the conditioning of our lives up until the point of this moment. The 180 change forces a new way of thinking. We troubleshoot, problem solve, explore possibility and in turn, discover the depths of our own potential. With a shifted mindset I can see that change really is constant, down to the cellular level. I may look the same as I did yesterday, but nothing is exactly the same. My skin isn’t the same skin, my eyes are not the same eyes, my saliva probably not the exact same pH and my thoughts are never exactly alike. Embracing the change by recognizing it and inviting it is the adventure I choose. Living in this way, I am free to be fully me, awake to marvel at the glorious wonder of this voyage.