- I bought a one-way ticket to Switzerland to work as a goat-sitter after my grandmother’s death.
- Soon, I learned that sometimes the most spontaneous decisions we make turn out to be the best ones.
- As a result of that one-way ticket, I’ve been travelling the world as a digital nomad for more than 18 months.
In January 2017, I moved to Switzerland for a goat. Actually, two goats. My best friend, my grandma, had died a few months prior, and I needed to get away from big-city life – there were countless reminders of her at every turn.
When I saw a Facebook post about a woman needing a goat-sitter in the middle of the Swiss Alps, nothing but mountains and silence around, I was in. She wanted a “digital nomad,” so that the person could work remotely between goat responsibilities. In exchange, she’d offer free housing. Since I was already a remote writer, it was perfect.
When my grandma’s heart stopped beating in 2016, it felt like mine did, too; I figured the goats would be the perfect antidote to my grief. In January 2017, I bought a one-way ticket to Switzerland, via Iceland – little did I know that it would change my life.
As promised, the goat-sitting house was surrounded by the Swiss Alps and looked like a farmhouse version of a Barbie Dreamhouse. The snow-capped mountains were so beautiful, they looked like someone had drawn them into the flat landscape.
However, looks can be deceiving; it turned out that goat-sitting wasn’t as serene as advertised. The farmhouse was unheated and I lived in the attic – I felt like Cinderella. I spent a lot of time shoveling (the goats didn’t like snow, and there was alotof it). As a result,my carpal tunnel became so bad that I could barely type, let alone chop firewood – another thing I needed to do for work.
It also seemed that the goats needed a full-time nanny more than a sitter, and my main focus had to be my remote writing jobs. Plus, one goat loved ramming his horns into my thighs, leaving me with purple bruises as souvenirs.
I was supposed to keep the job for two or three months, but 12 days later, I retired from goat-sitting. However, I discovered one important thing: I didn’t need to goat-sit to sustain my digital nomad life. Instead, I decided to explore more cities in Switzerland, and then change countries every month or so. Along the way, I learned several lessons, including the following:
It’s OK if plans change
Initially, I thought I’d return to LA after the goats, but I realised it was OK if my plans changed. Since my jobs were remote, I had the freedom to explore new cities, going to castles and churches by day and working in cafés and coworking spaces by night. Soon, I also starteda travel blog,Nomadic Natalia, about being a digital nomad.
I learned that getting out of my comfort zone is critical to growing as a person
The more I travelled and lived as a digital nomad, the more I did things out of my comfort zone, which helped me grow as a person. In Dubrovnik, Croatia, I went sea kayaking at sunset with a dozen other people, all strangers to me. It was windy and the water was choppy, and all kayak tours were cancelled – except for mine.
I looked at the rough waves and told my guide I’d go another day. “No,” he said. “I have faith that you can brave the choppy water. You just have to get from one side to the other.” He was right; the waterwaschoppy, but the challenge of kayaking through it made the sunset at the end all the more worthwhile.
I learned that the best part of a new experience is the people
The best thing about moving a lot is all the different people you meet – they can make (or break) an experience. In Venice, Italy, I stayed in a convent(with a curfew!) right on the canals, befriended my nun housemates, and learned to live in silence.
On the island of Murano, Italy, I was reminded of the passion people put into their work when a jewellery designer taught me how to melt glass, and I ended up leaving his shop with a Murano glass flower necklace we’d both made.
In Bologna, Italy, I attended an impromptu tortellini-making class with a handful of female chefs who spoke no English, and I learned that cooking andcamaraderierequire no verbal communication.
I learned that travelling is about experiences, not material possessions
Of course, being a digital nomad is not all fun and trying to findgood WiFi signals. Last year in Croatia, I woke up with about 100 bed-bug bites. When you getbed bugs, the way to decontaminate everything is via the high cycle on a dryer. Well, Croatia is known for its clotheslines, not dryers, which meant tossing most of my belongings and carrying the rest around in sealed garbage bags until I found a dryer.
But, at the end of the day, it was a great reminder that all I need to live and work remotely is my laptop, not all the material possessions I lost.
It’s now been a year-and-a-half since that one-way flight to Switzerland.I’ve taken many flights since, but to new destinations. All in all,though my relationship with the goats didn’t last, it strengthened the relationship I had with myself. I realised that the goats got me to where I needed to go. Plus, I’m constantly reminded that taking risks is a necessary part of life; otherwise, what is life all about?
In an unexpected way, my grandma dying ended up becoming a lesson in living.
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