For me, 2022 was a pivotal year for the apparent reason—embarking on a digital nomad lifestyle. It indeed fulfilled my urges for adventures. However, getting accustomed to new cities became the year’s constant challenge. Each place had its characteristics that affected my stay. Equalising disorientation was my key takeaway from this endeavour. In summary, these were where I was in the year:
- All of 2021-February 2022: Phra Khanong, Bangkok, Thailand.
- March-May: Taksim in the first two weeks and to Kozyatağı, Istanbul, Turkey.
- May-June: Barcelona, Spain.
- July-August: Kadıköy. Back in the Asian side of Istanbul for the second time.
- August-March 2023: Saburtalo in the first month and to Isani, Tbilisi, Georgia.
Embarking on the Journey
Retrospectively, the months of preparation were fundamental: clearing things up, researching options, and wondering how I would do it differently this time. My thinking was to systemically document the travel and let the conscience decide the destinations.
Once I got there, the priority was to map out places and routines to eat, drink, exercise, and work through exploring the neighbourhoods. Sightseeing could wait after getting used to the city. Then I planned for the next one. Another learning curve started over again in a new place.
I walked a fair distance to get familiar with the neighbourhoods where I stayed: checking out local shops, cafés, restaurants, and pubs. Then I marked the spots where I’d like to go regularly. But not everywhere was within walking distance. Fortunately, travelling on public transportation wasn’t an issue.
Some level of culture shock was inevitable. From the Buddhist hometown to an Islamic-influenced melting pot, to the uncanny Catholic city, and ending up in an Eastern Orthodox and ex-USSR state. Even though religions weren’t my topic, they were the root of the towns: daily prayers in Istanbul, the iconic Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and the vibe of Orthodox Christmas in Tbilisi. Scales of conservatism in each country were also diverse as well as geopolitical backgrounds. I had to switch the reception and reactions according to the norms while standing on my core values, especially, in the conflicts in the region.
We could learn something about cultures through the cuisines. It was like a whole new food adventure for me. Menemen was my usual breakfast in Istanbul. Blood sausages were abundant in Barcelona. And I enjoyed choosing a variety of foods in cafeteria diners in Tbilisi. Most of the time, I looked the dish up to learn more about it. It went wrong sometime, especially, when I had a craving for some Asian bites. also shopped from local grocers—I mean, local chained convenience stores—examine and to taste their industrial food supply chains.
A range of alcohol was prominent. My issue with drinking in Istanbul was about indoor smoking in winter. Sipping lemon beer on the street bars merged with Barcelona’s springtime. Watching the world passing by in my regular pub in Kadıköy reminded me of Phra Khanong. Certainly, saperavi became my favourite wine. Winemaking in Georgia blew away my mind and my palate.
Speaking of an intoxicant, my weed adventure seesawed through the year. One of the reasons I left Bangkok was to break away from vaping buds. (Imagine I was in Thailand when they green-lighted recreation cannabis in June.) That didn’t last long. There were constant joint offers in Istanbul and I couldn’t say no. Then, it exploded in Barcelona’s cannabis social clubs. I was like a kid in a candy store. Its by-product helped me get through the home isolation in July. It was hopeless to score some in Tbilisi—legal but not for sale. Again, dealing with it in varied legalisations was a part of the experience.
Physical maintenance was also adapted to each city. I looked for a gym with my fitness goal in mind—balancing weight training, cardio, and yoga (a bonus point if they had a sauna.) No perfect score for any gym I joined in each city, knowing it’d be temporary anyway. However, I nudged myself and kept monitoring the progress so that weight and other measurements, if available, were in control.
One big hurdle was the mental state. You had to deal with isolation when you travelled by yourself. The host in the first Istanbul stay and I built a friendship but I longed for more mental space. The reality hit where I stayed alone in Barcelona. Human contact waned. It took weeks to pick myself up and move on. That made it easier to cope with the home isolation when back in Istanbul and signalled me to slow down. My brain continued to process it after the transition to Tbilisi. Maybe I needed these mind workouts to test my resilience. We’d had tougher ones a couple of years prior.
Experimenting Future of Work
All of those switches and changes involved work both the billable hours and the commitment to this blog. Many of us had been operating remotely since the pandemic and I levelled it up in 2022 with mobility. Workspaces were all over the place in those cities: apartments, pubs, restaurants, cafés, gyms, and intercity transport. I got them done.
One missed opportunity was learning the local languages either Turkish, Spanish, or Georgian. I just couldn’t spare any brain space to get into it. Nonetheless, I enjoyed decoding scripts on shops and signs. For example, I could tell some loaned words in Georgian characters from shopfronts. That was as far as I attempted. Probably, I knew I’d be leaving in a few months.
Ultimately, this equalising disorientation became an orientation to a new possibility. I learned a lot, not just about the places I’ve been to but also about myself. I need to thank the people we crossed paths with, physically and virtually: family, old friends, new friends, colleagues, fellow travellers, and most of all, the locals. I hope I contributed something to you—either a favour or a lesson. I surely did get heaps.
Damn! We’ve come so far in the last couple of years. And I’m still finding the way to the next one. Uncertainty is still at play. In fact, that is the beauty of it because we can draw or redraw our future. It will interesting to see how 2023 will be drawn.