17th May 2021
The Global Media Site for Entertainment.

Nomadic Work / Life Balance Problem Solving

nomadic work
By Sarah Grubb

As an avid travelling event production person, I have learned some valuable skills over the years.  I have learned how to pack. I can’t do it without packing cells from Muji, and I must start packing a few days ahead of time to get myself to cull down enough of my items. I have also learned that some things are just worth it to buy when I get there.

I have also learned how to not get too attached to any particular place.

This is hard especially when you are in a place for a while.  Working with locals can make this tricky, however, I found over the years that by surrounding myself with the other nomadic production folk, the place itself only ever felt like a temporary spot to lay my (hard) hat down.

I also learned how to keep in contact with family regardless of time zone.  It was usually via Skype, but never did I miss a birthday, a father/mother’s day or any other holiday when I was away.

When I tell people about how many countries I have been in, the shows I worked on, what my responsibilities were each time, they can’t believe it.  To the outsider, I was some kind of travelling superstar with a magical life of working, drinking, meeting famous people and so on.  I lived a life of fancy hotels, spa days, long brunches and even longer high-end post-gig holidays at remote resorts with houses on poles in the ocean.

In all honesty, for a while, I relished in all of this.  It really was magical.  I couldn’t wait to hop on the next plane to the next destination.  I loved having no ties, sending things back to my storage unit as required and having limited contact with pretty much all my friends except the people I was with at the time.

But eventually, all of this caught up to me. I was always having to line up another job because I literally had nowhere to go when the gig ended.  I didn’t own any property.  I only paid rent on the storage unit.

I had a few friends who I occasionally crashed with, but that got old. I spent a fair bit of money on some Airbnb options and even did some international house sitting for a while.  It was in those downtimes that I started to feel like something needed to change.  The only regular support network were the people I had just left behind in some random country.  Plus I had no idea when I would see any of them again. I felt out of place with my family.  I felt out of place with my non-travelling friends.

So, I started a quest to do things differently.

I had tried this a few years prior without success so I knew I needed to achieve a few things to make it stick.  After losing my grandmother and my brother having his first baby, I wanted to move closer to the family.  I decided after living in Australia and overseas for over 15 years, it was time to move back to the US.  It didn’t matter where, but I knew I wanted to be able to do the following things:

1.     Buy a house
2.     Afford to live on the salary I was getting and not default on my mortgage
3.     Be close enough to family without living down the street from them
4.     Have a relatively interesting job utilizing the skills I learned whilst on the big travelling life
5.     Have a great boss to ensure I want to go to the likely not as interesting job
6.     Still travel for work somehow
7.     Ensure that I didn’t get stuck with a crap amount of vacation/holiday pay
8.     Set myself up enough to qualify for the mortgage and to meet enough professional contacts in the US to potentially allow me to work freelance again

I had lots of interviews and looked in all corners of the country.  I ended up with several job offers and had to weigh up all the options.  Each job had pretty much all of these going for them, but I settled on one in particular.  It was in a colder place, which I was hoping to avoid and on the east coast, which I also was hoping to avoid.  But it made the most sense.

The west coast is way too expensive, however, much closer to Australia.  My new boss is amazing.  I live in a big city that happens to be an airline hub so I can fly just about anywhere direct (this is a big deal in the US which I hadn’t really considered when I first started searching).  I travel quite a lot in the colder months to mostly warmer places which are a nice trade-off.  I am also getting to see places in the US which I have never been.  I even managed to buy a house within one year of moving here.

I have now started to get all of my things out of Australian storage and sent over.  I have tons of photos on the wall from all of my travel.  I have already had lots of visitors.  I actually have met and become friends with neighbours and others outside of work.  I have even hosted all of my immediately family minus one of my brothers at the new place as well.  (This other brother will come next summer.)
I have a few things to still work on in terms of really making this all feel like a true home, but after being away on a job, it is so lovely to come to my real home.

I have no idea what the future holds, but I am very content knowing there is a place for me to be.  I will probably be a bit of a drop-in center for the travelers from my previous life as well.

But for now, there is nothing better than making myself a Nespresso with my US version of the machine, sitting on my very discounted West Elm sectional and streaming the shit out of some good Netflix or Hulu series on a rainy (or let’s face it snowy) Sunday afternoon…maybe followed up with regular time-zone chats with my family.

I am sure I will return to the freelance world eventually, but having accomplished this quite large life change and loving it, I would recommend it to any others who are feeling a bit gloomy and lost at times.

Also on TheatreArtLife:

Poetry On The Road: Home

Join TheatreArtLife to access unlimited articles, our global career center, discussion forums, and professional development resource guide. Your investment will help us continue to ignite connections across the globe in live entertainment and build this community for industry professionals. Learn more about our subscription plans.

Love to write or have something to say? Become a contributor with TheatreArtLife. Join our community of industry leaders working in artistic, creative, and technical roles across the globe. Visit our CONTRIBUTE page to learn more or submit an article.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email