How a Nomadic Life Might Help You Manage Depression (and How to Travel Around the World With a Small Dog)

Depression is really difficult but doing something and being active might really help you manage it.

For travel writer Gigi Griffis, together with her cute dog, Luna, and her very supportive partner, Chad, the freedom that location independence brings has helped her manage depression and anxiety — learn to live with, work around, and address along the way.

So if you feel sad about your life and think that living and working from anywhere in the world is something that you’ve been wanting to do, read on and be inspired by Gigi’s adventurous and nomadic life. Find out about her best recommendations on how to travel with a small dog, and all her best tips for aspiring nomads out there!

Nomad Gigi Griffis
Me being silly in Dubrovnik

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

​Hey there! I’m Gigi – a full-time-traveling writer originally from the States but now mostly hanging out in Europe. I’ve been on the road full-time for five years with my pint-sized pooch (and now my partner, Chad)​.

For work, I am a copywriter, content strategist, and travel writer. When I’m not working, you’ll probably find me in the mountains hiking my heart out, cozied up somewhere reading, cooking with new-to-me local ingredients, and just generally exploring everywhere and everything I can.

How and why did you become a nomad?

​Honestly, I took to the road because I desperately needed to.

Back in Denver, I was fighting off depression and feeling horribly lonely and stuck when I decided I needed a massive change in my life. Travel has always ​been healing for me – it gets me outside my own head, helps me re-set, inspires my creativity, and reminds me of the things that bring me joy.

I was already self-employed – working as a copywriter and content strategist for clients all over the US – and rarely ever had to be in a client meeting in person, so I decided to take my business on the road, to incorporate travel into my daily life in a big way.

Nomad Gigi Griffis
Working in a coffee shop

Why is having a nomadic life important for you?

​I think the most fulfilled people on the planet live a life that aligns with their values. Now, those values are different for different people. Some love change. Others value stability. Some need freedom. Others like structure. There is no right answer or one-size-fits-all.

But for me one of the biggest things I value is freedom.​ The freedom is what keeps me at it year after year. ​

Freedom to set my own schedule. Freedom to take a break in the middle of the day to treat an anxiety attack with a hot bath or a cool walk in the forest. Freedom to go spend four months living near my best friend and then go spend two months in the wilderness.

That’s what location independence is about for me: the freedom to design the life I want. The life that works for me. The life that supports my health – both physical and mental. The life that inspires creativity.

I don’t have to tick every country off my list. I don’t travel fast. It’s more about newness, change, and leaving life open for the opportunity to try something new, get outside a comfort zone, go be with the people who matter – even if they are scattered all over the world.

Nomad Gigi Griffis
Me and Luna in Croatia

Where do you live as a nomad?

​I usually rent Airbnb apartments for a month or more in each place. Monthly rental prices are wayyyy cheaper and a month is a good amount of time to scope out a place when you’re balancing both work and exploring. I prefer apartments for so many reasons: because they’re so much more homey than hotel rooms, because I need a kitchen, because I’m an introvert and need somewhere to retreat to for some quiet time in between explorations, and because I love being in local neighborhoods and trying to really live in the place I’m staying, frequent the local markets, find my favorite local coffee shop.

I’m also a big fan of cooking, so having a place with a kitchen is essential (both because I love cooking and because my dog has weird dietary restrictions, so I have to make her food from scratch every day). My partner and I eat most of our meals in, though we do adore restaurants and do a lot of research to find the best ones in each city and try them out during our stay.​

Nomad Gigi Griffis
Me and Luna, Sicily

Why did you bring your dog?

​Leaving her behind was never an option. Luna came into my life when I was at the height of my depression and made that life worth living. She’s not expendable. She’s not a prop. She’s my best friend. Leaving her behind would be like someone re-homing their kids to travel – never gonna happen.

When you travel with a dog, there’s definitely more paperwork and planning to deal with. Whenever I cross from the US to Europe or Mexico or whatever, I have to deal with vet visits and travel paperwork. When booking apartments, I always have to ask if they can take the dog (who is non-shedding and therapy trained, so usually they say yes). So there’s certainly a little more work that goes into it.

But having her also makes my life better overall. It gets me into a routine in a new place quicker (since she needs walks and meals and all that, so I can’t just sleep off jet lag for a week). It makes me seem like a local (everyone assumes you’re living there if you have a dog). And for many years I was traveling solo, so Luna also made me feel safer and less alone during those years, for which I am grateful. ​

Just like I mentioned above, ​Luna has special dietary needs, so I actually cook for her every day (which I would do whether we were traveling or not). Right now she’s on a special vet-recommended diet of white fish and potatoes, but previously we’ve done rice, veggies, and sometimes beef as well. Cooking for her actually makes travel easier because instead of hunting down similar dog foods, I can just buy fresh ingredients and keep her diet consistent no matter where we go.​

​In Europe, people tend to love dogs. I can’t tell you how many times someone has struck up a conversation with me just because of the dog. I’ve had little old ladies on the Paris metro walk over and kiss her on the head, people start talking to me at Belgian bus stops just to find out where I brought her from, and in France I even had a teary-eyed woman who had just lost her own pet rescue us and put us up for the night​ in her apartment just because of Luna.

Nomad Gigi Griffis
Chad and I in Rome

Where do you usually work?

​I usually work at the apartment. Very occasionally (if Chad has a bunch of calls or our apartment is particularly noisy because of neighbors or construction or whatever) I might go to a coffee shop, but I generally prefer working at home. Depending on the apartment setup, this might mean sitting at a kitchen table, a desk, on an outdoor patio, or on a couch.

I don’t really have a typical schedule. I work about half time (20ish hours per week) and mostly in the mornings. I’m an extremely early riser, waking with the sun every morning (with no alarm clock – that’s just how my body likes to do things), so you’ll usually find me working as early as 6 a.m. and I try to wrap up my biggest projects by lunchtime on the days that I work.

Lately, when I’m not working on client projects, I’ve been writing a novel. So that’s sort-of work, but I’m categorizing it as play since it’s been a blast and since I’m not sure what it’ll turn into income-wise. ​

What has been the most difficult parts as a nomad?

It’s a hard question to answer because honestly this is the right lifestyle for me. All the challenges are small ones. Learning some new words, navigating a new city, making new friends – they’re all fun and interesting to me. The biggest challenge is just making sure I have reliable Wi-Fi everywhere I go so that I can run my business.

Nomad Gigi Griffis
Gigi, a full-time-traveling writer.

How do you build a social life as a nomad?

​Currently I travel with my partner and we’re both introverts, so we do like a lot of alone time and just-us time. That said, this year we have a bunch of friends flying out for long weekends to see us in cool places like Ljubljana, Slovenia. And when we really need social time, sometimes we plan our travels around that. In early 2016, I spent four years living in my best friend’s hometown just to hang out with her. In past years, I’ve also planned trips to Germany, Amsterdam, and Paris to see friends or travel with them.

As for meeting new people, I find it pretty easy. There are lots of meetup groups and sites like Couchsurfing.org where you can find people with similar interests and ask if they want to grab a meal or go for a hike. ​

How do you finance your nomadic life?

​I’m a freelance copywriter and content strategist, mostly, so that’s how I pay the bills. I’ve also written 11 travel guides and sometimes do a bit of travel writing. I’ve been in the industry for about 15 years and I’ve been freelance for over six years now, so I feel pretty stable in my career. This year my goal is to save 50% of my income, which is possible in part because full-time travel is sooo much cheaper than living in the States.

My budgets vary a bit, but the current average spending this year is somewhere around $1,500 per month (for just me, not my partner) and I try to keep my maximum below $2,000 per month. I actually track all my budgets, which you can find here. My biggest expense every month is accommodations, since we like to stay in nicer-than-average places and often splurge for places with amazing views; even so, our accommodation costs are less than what we’d pay in the States for something comparable.

Nomad Gigi Griffis
Me and Luna in Bosnia

What kind of gear do you bring with you?

​I carry a 65-liter hiking backpack, a Sleepypod Air dog carrier (obviously for the dog), that thing is beautiful, indestructible, and she loves it, and a big canvas bag that holds my folding bicycle.

Last year, I decided I wanted to have a bike everywhere I went, but it’s a huge pain to fly or take trains or buses with a full-sized bike, so I started looking into folding bikes. Both my partner and I ended up buying Brompton Bikes that fold down small enough to fit into regular-sized luggage.​

What are your best advice for new nomads?

I think we tend to put a lot of pressure on things. We think if we start traveling, we have to keep traveling. We think if we leap off the edge into an unconventional life, there’s no going back. But that’s not true. Life is all forward and backward and sidesteps. You’re allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to go back.

I think taking the pressure off – just seeing your nomadic journey as an experiment that you’re allowed to do whatever you want with – can help a person get out of his or her own way. When I first started, I only planned a month in advance because I was nervous that I wouldn’t like it or I’d have time zone problems or lose clients. None of that happened, but it was the knowledge that I was allowed to turn around at any time that gave me the courage to take that first step.

Nomad Gigi Griffis
With my Italy guide

What will the future bring?

​We’re currently in the Bosnian countryside getting ready to head to Slovenia and France for late summer and early fall. I think our next step is to find a European home base that we can circle back to sometimes and start traveling out from there rather than being totally untethered.

Work-wise, I’m in the process of finishing up edits on a novel, so hoping that soon I’ll be publishing that. That’s really the project I’m most excited about. ​


MightyGoods share interviews that will help you upgrade your life!

  • Join our newsletter and get tips and tricks from top athletes and great adventurers every week.
  • You can also follow us on Facebook.
  • Help us do more interviews by visiting Amazon through this link. It costs you nothing - and really helps us run the site!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Tweet
Share
Share
Email
Pin