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Iga.yah - Nomad Artist

•》blog《• 

Becoming a nomad - Reflections and Insights After a Year on the Road

Updated: May 18




30th of May 2023 I left Europe to start a completely new, exciting life as a nomad. I have sold most of the stuff I have ever owned, the leftover items I gave to family and friends to store/use them while I am gone. I have packed the most essential things like clothes and toiletries, my working gear and way too many sketchbooks.


Driven by the spirit of the unknown, I bought a one way ticket to South America (starting in Brazil) and from there I've been changing the countries every 1,5-2 months (following Colombia, Mexico and then unexpected deportation from US to land back in Poland and then almost immediately departing to Barcelona, Spain). And… I haven't yet had a single thought of regretting this decision. Actually, quite the opposite - I've been enjoying my life to the fullest, gathering so many beautiful experiences.





 

Why have I decided to make this step?


Working and traveling at the same time has been my dream for a very very long time. But I couldn’t seem to find the right conditions to do so before - first having an on-location job, being in a relationship with a partner not having the same needs, having an apartment full of stuff, a dog… It always seemed as some kind of alternative universe where I could live the life that I always wanted, but something I would most likely never be able to actually achieve.


But series of events that happened in 2022 including burnout from work and art in general (and therefore leaving my daily job and, with the time, possibly any work responsibilities that I had); getting married (and then breaking up only 3 months afterwards) pushed me to rethink or to make an action towards the direction of how I really wanted my life to be.



Traveling to me was always a huge part of experiencing life to its fullest potential. Getting to know the world - its beautiful nature, landscapes, cultures, people - is on one of the highest positions on my priority list. I felt that having a one place to stay where you have to pay the monthly rent (without an option to sublet) felt very limiting and that when traveling I am spending the ‘double’ amount for a living - which works if you work full time and go on vacation (so you can afford paying the double rent) - but to me this doesn’t seem like an option anymore and I prefer to work less (or on my own conditions & time schedule) and spend less too.


"Traveling to me was always a huge part of experiencing life to its fullest potential."

So moving out of my apartment and getting rid of the biggest expanse - monthly rent - as well as not having to worry about anything left behind, was the biggest and the most important step. Along with that - I drastically decreased the amount of physical things that I owned - and believe me, I owned a lot (even though I already started to incorporate minimalism thinking a while ago). From all the furniture filling up 5 rooms of my huge 160m2 apartment, to different kinds of electronics, painting stuff, tons of books, plants and many more… But I knew that if I wanted to let myself free - I had to let most of it go.






 

Luggage/Clothing


One of the things that is very limited is of course your luggage - you can only keep as much as you can carry - and usually the less you carry - the better.

When I departed for my ‘demo’ 2 months adventure - I could only have one backpack with me. But when I departed for the ‘unlimited’ amount of time I already had to pack more stuff that I would need on the way - being mostly my work gear - a quite heavy laptop with an additional tablet (that also served as an additional screen). 



My whole wardrobe (except of the things I had on myself when flying) in a half of the suitcase

My wardrobe is very compact too. Quite some time ago I learned that there is this thing called ‘capsule wardrobe’ -  meaning that you can match together most of the things with each other creating many possible combinations using the same items, at the same time avoiding pieces that would find usage in very limited situations. I had to make my wardrobe very functional - be prepared for every type of weather or events (having stuff that would be comfortable and sporty for things like camping, gym or horse riding as well as more fancy events like theater, exhibitions etc.). Also, my favorite item of all is a simple big black piece of material (literally, I bought it in a textile store in Brazil, measured by meters).



So that also made me an absolute minimalist - buying new things only when I really needed them or replacing the ones I already owned. I often want to buy a new, exactly the same item only because it already got worn out, but as I cannot find a ‘perfect’ replacement I keep wearing my old comfortable, often already repaired items (for example my backpack or leggings). But that also has taken away the need of constantly looking for new clothes to buy - as in fact no one really cares if I gotta wear the same stuff all over - and on the other hand even if they do - why would I care? :)


I also think I optimized my look so much already that I don’t have to worry about any additional effort of standing out (that I have always felt). With my tattoos and hair - whatever simple clothing I wear, I already feel good representing my own style. I don’t even have to wear jewelry anymore as tattoos do all the decorative job (I only wear necklaces now - that are also souvenirs from my various travels and carry a lot of sentimental, but not at all a monetary value - so I also don’t have to worry about anyone robbing me off those). 


 I don’t have to own things to be able to use them

I also found out that I don’t have to own things to be able to use them - in many situations I was able to borrow, rent, or find things that I needed without worrying that I would have to sell/give/throw them away when I’m gone - for example I love to play keyboard which is of course too problematic to travel with, but in multiple places I could practice by borrowing it or using one from my friends or even renting it (f.e. There is this thing called La Biblioteca de les Coses in Barcelona where I could rent it for 5eur/week - maybe not sustainable for a longer period of time, but it was perfect for the 2 months that I needed it). I could also rent a bike as well as use the roller-skates from my friend that were collecting dust in her wardrobe but for me it was such a gamechanger for my Barcelona experience! Or I have decorated my room in Barcelona with the stuff found on the streets (every Thursday people are taking the stuff they don't need out on the streets and you can really find a lot of things for free).


From the left: my room in Barcelona with rented keyboard; things gathered from the street; using a bike available at the location (here at the farm next to Valencia)

 

Painting set up


Over the past 10 years of painting my watercolor & gouache landscape sketches, I have already developed a setup that is both very mobile and comfortable for me to use 'on the go' - light to carry, quick to set and easy to clean up. Watercolor and gouache work really great for that as the only things that you need to have with you are:


- sketchbook

- watercolor palette (with all the colors you need)

- couple of brushes

- white gouache tube + for me also important burnt umber watercolor tube (optionally some other light gouache like yellow)

- water container

- optional (yet not essential masking tape)


This is the topic I want to dedicate entirely separate post so here giving only a glimpse of it!



 

Isn't a solo travel lonely?


One of the main things listed as a concern or a downside of a nomad life is solitude and feeling of loneliness. I have to say that it hasn't been a thing for me at all. I have been surrounded by people the majority of the time I have traveled, in all the places. To the point that sometimes I craved for alone time, to balance out and recharge my social battery.


All of the above photos are from my solo trips (also shot by myself)


I consider myself a very social person - easy to interact with - and therefore meeting old and new friends on the way is incredibly easy for me. In many places I already knew someone, at least this one person that I could connect with, and with their help I could get new connections. But there are also so many people I have met absolutely randomly - I have been meeting people in a bus/plane/train/, in a hostel, standing in a queue, in the restaurants/cafes, on the walks, on some events or simply stopped on the street.


The thing about traveling solo is that when people see you're alone, they're more likely to approach you or talk to you - when the chance is way way smaller if you're traveling with someone. I additionally get easily approached by others because of my characteristic look - people are interested to get to know more about me because of my style/tattoos/hair (or sometimes seeing me painting) -  this is what attracts them in the first place, but another big factor is when they find out that I'm not a local (which in some places of course will be more obvious and in some less). They would often start to ask questions to get to know where I'm from, what brings me there, what do I do etc... and the conversations can roll for a long time to the point that we exchange the socials and become friends! 

Many different people I met on the way (of course I haven't included many of you that I also very much care about!)


This way I’ve been keeping connections with various people around the world - and while it’s really hard to nourish and maintain all of them (sadly impossible) - I do believe that with many of them we will get to meet one day again - be it because I will come back to visit them in the same place or we can meet in any other part of the world, by a chance.


Here I want to take the chance and thank all of the beautiful souls that I have met along my journey - for all the memories we got together, interesting talks, for letting me stay with you, showing me your life and culture, for posing for me, for everything!

And you know if I am talking about you <3 



 

Health/ Insurance 


I’ve got travel insurance that lasts for a year - I have no idea whether it’s a good and reliable one as luckily I have never had a chance to find out.

But for any cases where I had to go to the doctor I simply used private health care - the same way as I would do when I was ‘at home’. For example, when I stayed in Brazil - I was going to the dentist privately there (which costed more or less the same as in Poland) and I even got my wisdom teeth removed there - it really didn’t matter much for me where I would get that done - but rather if I had time & conditions to go to the doctor and rest afterwards.


I have never yet had any emergency situation that would require me to call the ambulance etc. Of course, I got sick more than once through this time - but with enough rest and medication from the pharmacy I didn’t feel a need to go to the actual doctor.



 

Work/Thriving financially


I’ve been asked a lot how I am able to travel full time without a daily job. In fact, I have been working remotely for the past couple of years so the place is not a matter - I only need my laptop and a tablet (and Internet connection) to do any work.


It is more a matter of balancing the time and taking the commissions or work with the companies. And I have tried that too - I was still finishing a project I worked on (The Wagadu Chronicles TTRPG book) while I already traveled + I’ve taken commissions of book/comic book covers - but mostly to find out/prove to myself that I can actually do it (and I would work mostly during the evening or rainy weather not to ‘waste’ the daylight/sun that is so precious to me). But since I've been fighting with a very long burnout - this past year I haven't been working constantly and definitely not enough to fully sustain myself - I have been living mostly off my savings that I managed to accumulate through the previous years of my full time studio job.



I heard a lot of (especially from my family) "yeah but just so you don't burn all your savings on doing nothing" - but to me, it's been an investment - in my mental health, in my life's experiences, in my future career (of an independent artist), so I have never considered it 'burning the money'. And I know that if I had to earn more money on the way - I am in a fortunate position to be able to do it.


 

End note


Looking at the whole past year - still, until this day, I have never had a single thought of regretting the decision of becoming a nomad. I feel way more freedom, independence, and lightness. 


But even though I do not see myself settling down anywhere for now, I am thinking whether it is a life I am allowing myself to live only temporarily or is it in fact only a °beginning° of a completely new and different one. At the back of my head there is always some kind of fear that "it's not gonna last forever", "use it until you can", "you're delusional if you think that you can live like that for how long you want". But maybe not? Maybe all of those doubts are only coming from the early stages of an adaptation that is possible if you find a good system that works for you - with a good balance of sustainability in terms of work/finances.





If you’ve read up until now - thank you! Please feel free to ask any questions that came up along the way - I would be happy to answer and/or create new posts of whatever may be interesting for you also please feel free to suggest any other topics!). This is also in fact the first longer blog entry that I am publishing so I am super happy that I have finally started and I hope to keep posting more! Let me know if you like this form :) For shorter entries feel free to follow me on Instagram: @iga.yah for personal/traveling content and @igayah.art and @igayah.pleinair.art for my paintings.


Cheers!!




2 Comments


Wspaniale się czytało! Byłam niezmiernie ciekawa Twoich spostrzeżeń, gdyż w tym roku sama zaczynam bardzo podobną przygodę... No właśnie - przygodę? Kolejny etap rozwoju? Nawet przed faktem w pełni utożsamiam się z Twoimi rozważaniami wokół zaklasyfikowania tego przedsięwzięcia i doświadczenia.


Co zaś do istoty i treści całego Twojego roku, a raczej tych jego reprezentacji, które umieszczasz w social mediach i tutaj, jestem pod wielkim wrażeniem! Brawa za odwagę, za otwartość, elastyczność i wyczulenie wszystkich receptorów na chłonięcie życia w jego mało oczywistych, a mocno autentycznych przejawach.


Dziękuję za inspirację! Potrzebowałam jej teraz bardziej niż kiedykolwiek 😊 Przejmuję pałeczkę! 😃


Pozdrawiam serdecznie!

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Respect Iga! It takes courage to make big sweeping changes like these, even if they're ones that make you happy. Glad to see they're paying off.


Good luck on your journeys!

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