2022 in review: nomad life, and some plot twists

Laís Lara Vacco
9 min readJan 1, 2023

Sometimes I think that we are all rational beings, as if we could suppress or regulate our emotions to the point of making completely rational decisions. However, this year reminded me again that plans only work for the first steps, and that emotions are still present, influencing the way we interpret information, our judgments, and our decision-making process.

Here is a summarized, no-bullet points version of my year.

Back to a nomad life

After growing up moving houses more times than I could count my age, my partner Cali and I decided to buy a trailer and live a nomadic lifestyle. This time, the house would move with us. That was the plan. In January, we left our rented apartment in Vila Velha, Espírito Santo, in the southeastern region of Brazil, and started driving down to the south of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul. We wanted to travel slowly, living a month or so in each city we stopped. The trailer was only going to be ready by April — that was the plan.

Places we've been this year

From Product Designer (PD) to Product Manager (PM)

I was working full-time as a Product Designer for a globally remote company when I had the opportunity to experiment with working as a Product Manager. I excitedly accepted. I hadn’t planned to make this transition at this point in my Product Designer journey, but I’m glad I did. I learned a lot and I wrote about some of those lessons here.

Starting a Youtube Channel and Instagram account

We wanted to feel more connected with people and document our nomadic journey for friends and family, so we started a YouTube channel and created a single Instagram account. It was all an experiment. In my free time, I helped record and edit videos and post them on Instagram and YouTube. We also took a great course together from Casey Neistat on Filmmaking & Storytelling.

Although we didn’t formally announce the channels, some family and friends started following our journey. It was fun to give them a more detailed update on some of the moments we were living and to have them recorded. I also enjoyed being able to build a story of our lives from the perspective we captured together.

But after one month of the experiment, we decided to pause and revise this way of living and ultimately decided to stop the channel. Overall, it was exhausting. Working full-time and having a YouTube channel made it hard to have pauses and live in the present moment. We were always thinking ahead or thinking about what and how to record, and then we had a full backlog of videos to edit. This was unsustainable for us. When we stopped, Cali wrote a detailed Portuguese article about it.

Continuing and starting new habits

This year I saw how context and systems impact our habits, even the ones that are more automatic. At some places, for example, Florianópolis or Buenos Aires, we ended up sleeping later than usual, thus, waking up later as well. This happened for different reasons, such as the heat of the house, or some loud noises. Or, in cities like São Paulo or Buenos Aires, we found many great vegan places and decided to open exceptions on our Whole Food Plant Based Diet. It was all still vegan, but some foods had more processed ingredients. Even if it happened sparingly and for less than a month, those small exceptions can easily compound and I was afraid to start losing our habits.

On the other hand, we were able to intentionally create new habits. We have been consistently doing them for over 4 months, and I plan to continue next year if still makes sense:

  • Intermittent fasting for around 17h to 19h a day.
  • Not adding any salt or any type of industrialized sweeteners to my food.

I’m grateful to have a partner who is also committed to building healthy habits, as the process feels a bit easier. For next year, I want to establish a writing routine and not rely on motivation to do it.

Plot twist — Part 1

It was April, and we found out that the company that was supposed to build the trailer had not even started it at the time it was supposed to be delivered. The deadline was uncertain, and we didn’t know if it was ever going to happen. We started dealing with the uncertainty of not knowing what to do or where to go while trying to negotiate to get our money back. We sold our car and gave away 90% of our stuff, keeping only what could fit in our backpacks.

Despite the frustration of not having the trailer or our money back, it felt great to start living more frugally again. No car, no stuff besides our clothes.

We were living in Airbnb and some other rented places we found with good pricing. Each house had its own characteristics. Some were challenging, such as a beautiful cabin in the woods but filled with mosquitos, bees, and spiders. Others were great, such as the apartment we found well-located in Curitiba, near the Botanical Garden. Or a beautiful, cozy house in Florianópolis. We learned to adapt our routine and food to the appliances available and markets nearby. Every daily thing we usually took for granted now required some adaptation.

New hobbies

Life was a bit chaotic since the beginning of the year, with all the logistics of moving, a new role at work, and the uncertainties of our trailer project, but I wanted to try new hobbies. I wrote at the beginning of the year that I should try something new for at least 3 weeks.

Here are the things I have started:

  • Short comics of everyday life: I did it for around 2 months almost every day in Q1. Then I stopped as I was feeling overwhelmed. Then I got back to it in Q3 but switched to creating visual analogies of quotes I liked. It lasted for two months almost every day. I felt energized and in the flow while doing it, but then I started not feeling satisfied with the drawings and the tools I was using. So I paused.

It was fun while it lasted. And I was thrilled when Dave Gray, an author I admire, complimented one of the visuals I created using his framework as a reference.

  • Food fermentation: In Q1 I started experimenting with Ginger bug, but it failed 2 or 3 times. Then it was too difficult to find organic ginger, so I started fermenting oats around Q2. It was surprisingly good and I continued fermenting every day since then. I wrote this article about it.
  • Drawing plants: I started drawing on paper some plants that caught my attention while walking on the street. I found this a great way to keep myself present, observing things around me, and appreciating the details of the plants, while learning about their peculiarities. I did this for a month or so. While writing this review, I realized it is something I would like to start back.
  • #100daysofnocode: I started the #100daysofnocode challenge and did it for 42 days. I experimented with many tools. Again I was feeling overwhelmed, so I stopped. When I got back some months later, I saw that the next challenges were focusing on wireframes and design tools I already knew so I dropped the challenge and started experimenting with some tools by myself. Dropping the challenge in the middle was something I had to work on my mind. While it felt like a failure, I had to go back and remind myself of the reason I started doing it in the first place. This helped me to detach and follow my own path.
  • Walking long distances: my partner and I love to walk together and we do it daily. But this year we’ve started walking longer distances, without a defined frequency or planning. I really enjoy those long walks. This year some walks were 14km or 17km in a day. My Google Timeline said that we walked 82 km in November which counts the time I remembered to walk with my phone.
Screenshot of my Google timeline activity: 82 km — 18hr walking and 143 km — 5hr in bus or cars.

Plot twist — Part 2

In the middle of the year, we found a great and affordable place in Florianópolis. It was winter and the low season. The place was beautiful and cozy. But even with a relaxed routine of walking on the beach and appreciating all the nature around us, I started feeling burned out. It was difficult for me to stay present and more connected in daily conversations. Eventually, I decided to quit my job as a Product Manager.

We continued living in this place for about three months and after some rest, my partner and I started a company together. Even though there were uncertainties about how we could make a living with it, it was the time of the year I felt the most at peace. Finding that neighborhood was complete serendipity and the good feelings stayed on our minds. Then we left because the summer season was coming and the prices in Florianópolis skyrocketed. In that place, for example, the price we paid a month would become the price they charged for just two days. It was crazily expensive!

We went to São Paulo for a month. I’m from there and my husband lived there for many years. So it was great to be back and see our friends and family. But this time we also tried something new. We decided to book an apartment in the downtown area. We had never lived there before, but the prices were good and it had all the conveniences we needed, such as the metro. We were lucky enough to find a good place in the old and famous building Copan. It was the opposite of Florianópolis in the low season. It was crowded, with not much nature, high buildings, lots of cars, noise, and people buying and selling things on the street.

At the same time, it was alive, the buildings were old and beautiful, and there was an incredible diversity of people and places around. Roosevelt Square and Augusta Park were our favorite places to walk nearby.

This was the time when the emotional side of things flourished for us and we started considering the idea of buying a house in that neighborhood we enjoyed living in for three months in Florianópolis. Prices were high for our criteria, and we were in São Paulo, too far from there to visit the apartments. We also had a flight already booked to Argentina (we bought it a few months earlier when we had other plans).

Even so, we found a beautiful place that matched most of our criteria at an affordable price. We didn’t visit the place, but we knew the neighborhood and decided to buy it. I couldn’t have imagined making such a decision before. As none of this was planned, considering this last-minute event of buying a place, we had no flight tickets back to Brazil from Argentina. When we arrived there, we found tickets back within a month so we booked them and started focusing on the next steps.

Living as an experiment

First-time homebuyers, we found ourselves in a neighborhood we’d never heard of before this year — and we likely wouldn’t have known about it if that plan of having a trailer had worked out. Who could have ever imagined this? Not me.

With all the unexpected changes, I’ve continued to embrace the idea that life is an ongoing experiment. Some things we can choose, while others I can accept. For each big decision, if I could look a bit ahead and see that it wouldn’t negatively impact those around me and that I could handle the consequences, I can give it a try. And when I feel overwhelmed by the consequences of a decision, such as dealing with infiltration in the apartment we bought, I focus on taking one step at a time.

Having moved around 11 houses in 8 different cities and 2 countries this year, I can say that in the moments I could explore new hobbies, start a project, read a book, or have a psychedelic experience, I felt just as delighted as when we discovered a new place. But, feeling as energetic as a Labrador most of the time, I still need to move my body and experience the world outdoors.

For next year, I want to keep myself open to life’s opportunities, nurture my relationships with loved ones, and learn what excites me and what can help me achieve financial stability while maintaining the habits I value. I want to put more effort into prioritizing consistency and depth over quantity.

Let’s see how it goes!

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