Nomad House Reflections

February 1, 2016 - 4 minute read -

It’s been a little over a week since coming back from Nomad House.

In a nutshell, I went to Lisbon, Portugal and stayed with 6 other digital nomads in a beautiful villa for 9 days. A digital nomad is someone who can work from anywhere because they just need a laptop and WiFi to get shit done. The group of us explored the city together, exchanged ideas, provided feedback on our startups, and enjoyed getting to know each other over good food and wine. It was an amazing experience - fun, relaxing, but also strangely fulfilling. I’ve been trying to figure out that last bit.

It’s one thing to vacation to relax. I’ve done it before. Grab a group of friends, bask in the sun, drink and party together. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but I found Nomad House so much more fulfilling. I feel like it’s the difference between doing drugs to feel happiness for a short period of time versus actually becoming a happier person. I feel more cultured now. I’ve made more friends, and they’re awesome growth-oriented people. I learned actionable things I can do for my startup. These things are going to change the way I live my day to day life. That’s something you don’t normally get from a typical “travelling” experience or vacation.

Here’s what I’ve deduced is the reason for all that.

People

I love meeting new people and getting to know their backgrounds, passions, and what makes them tick. Nomad House brought together 6 other people that were wildly different. They were raised from different parts of the world (Brazil, France, Romania, etc.) and their ages were from early 20s to early 30s. Yet, we all had some things in common: our line of work, and we were all in a new environment together. These things were crucial. It served as a foundation for our friendships.

I could’ve done all the exploring and seeing the sights alone. But I can’t imagine the trip being like that. The fact that all my experiences were shared with other people is what made the trip what it was. That made all the difference. When I think back at the awesome things I did and saw, I think of the people that were there when it happened. You know the memories you revisit where you end up smiling, and you look like an idiot because you’re on the bus or washing dishes or something and are just randomly smiling. Those kinds of memories, at least for me, have always had other people in them. That’s the quality of experience you get when you do a Nomad House retreat.

I’m sure I could’ve gone to a hostel to meet other people. However, you’d be lucky to get the same quality of people. It was important to meet people in my industry because it allowed for that feedback cycle, and that unique similarity that allowed for a stronger friendship to form. Throughout my life I’ve had a difficult time bouncing ideas back and forth between people that are actually qualified to have a helpful opinion. Exchanging ideas and watching them grow or contract based on the input from others who understand the thing you’re talking about is the core of having enlightening conversations.

Environment

The best way to get to know other people is to live with them. I’m convinced proximity is the root of friendship. Sometimes living with other people can be annoying - you have to deal with their mess, noise, or quirks. Nomad House had it right - we each had our own comfortable rooms, and there were lots of washrooms (I got my own). Food was provided to us and messes were either handled by us as a team or the cleaning ladies that would come occasionally. I never felt like I would butt heads with my housemates over any of the normal “house problems” that come up when sharing a home with strangers.

I loved that even when we were all working independently, we were doing so next to each other. The living room was an incubator for ideas. It’s the kind of environment that I love to work in. However, if that’s not your thing there were plenty of other quiet spaces where you can get more intense work done.

Things

This is pretty easy. Lisbon was beautiful and totally outside of what I’m use to here in Canada. In fact, this was my first time to Europe, so it added extra novelty. There were lots of “things” to do, whether that’s going out to eat, experiencing the nightlife, going on hikes, or visiting the castles and other sights. These “things” serve one purpose: to allow you to bond with your new friends. You could do all these things alone, but it wouldn’t be as fulfilling. I was glad that we didn’t stay couped up in the house all the time and that there was always something to do. We went out every day.

Closing Thoughts

Being a graduate from Waterloo’s co-op program, I’m use to the idea of being translocated to a new life every 4-8 months. Personally I’m the kind of person the has learned to thrive in these situations. I love meeting new people, I think it’s a pillar of happiness for me. I’m always slightly afraid before travelling that I won’t meet cool people, or I’ll have an issue with someone, or I won’t like where I’m living. Nomad House took care of those fears. It was only something to look forward to. From start to finish the journey was filled with learning, excitement, and fulfillment. For now, I can’t imagine travelling any other way.