By Monique Giroux
Embracing the anticipation of a thrilling nine-month solo journey, I felt a mix of excitement and anxiety about the unknown adventure ahead.
Eager to acclimate myself to this new chapter, I joined a co-living/work week in Lisbon, Portugal, organized by visionary Siobhan Farr, founder of the “Digital Nomad Beyond 50” Facebook community (a cohort also known as Grey Nomads).
This exhilarating experience unfurled the intricate tapestry of the digital nomad lifestyle, woven with the threads of camaraderie and empowerment as I delved into the heart of an inspiring sisterhood.
Throughout the week, we engaged in sightseeing and daily workshops covering essential topics for new nomads. By the end of our time there, we had not only explored Lisbon but also drafted plans for our nomadic lives. Our co-living space was in the vibrant “Largo do Intendente” neighbourhood of Lisbon, in a 150-year-old building called 1865 Intendente.
It beautifully blended the past with modern comforts. Our communal workspace featured reliable Wi-Fi, crucial for digital nomads, and served as our hub for work and bonding. When not working, we explored Lisbon’s walking tours, cooking classes, food tours, and an AirBnB experience featuring an exquisite dinner with Fado music—a traditional Portuguese musical performance that tugs at the heartstrings.
Mid-week, we embarked on a wellbeing day trip, where I led a forest therapy walk in the Parque de Natural Sintra-Cascais Forest, followed by an unforgettable dinner by the seaside.
This inaugural co-living experience left me feeling more confident about travelling solo. Following our week in Lisbon, I joined two new friends on a road trip to Porto, extending our time together. The pace at which we formed new friendships while travelling was nothing short of astonishing.
Rural Connection and Co-Living in Galicia
During a two-week gap in my itinerary, I discovered a co-live/co-work house in Laxe, Spain, an area known as the end of the world. Managed by Ines and Julio, who had breathed new life into their grandfather’s old stone farmhouse.
iSlow fostered a communal co-living atmosphere with a modern shared kitchen and frequent social events. On my first night, we gathered for a picnic overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, enjoying homemade food, local music, and spirited dancing. As I watched locals pass by on horseback, I felt like I had stepped into a dream.
Although I was notably the oldest in the house, age was no barrier to connection. Engaging conversations about life and work flowed easily, with many of the young nomads enjoying van life and surfing. There were many options for workspace, downstairs for focused work, and the attic for conference calls.
I enjoyed the view of the forest and beach from my bedroom window, so moved the desk to work there with the morning sun and bird’s eye view of the comings and goings of the house.
Leaving iSlow was bittersweet. I dreaded saying goodbye to the group that felt like family. Each transition day carried its own set of anxieties, an edge that was gradually fading with time.
Mindfulness Immersion in Nouvelle-Aquitaine
My next destination was a two-week retreat in Plum Village, a remote village in Thenac, France, with a specific purpose in mind—to immerse myself in meditation and mindfulness. I had no idea what to expect at the monastery founded by Zen Master Thich Naht Hahn.
Upon arrival, a gentle thunderstorm set the scene, and I sensed a palpable aura of tranquillity and silence, which continued with “Noble Silence,” a practice that helped settle the mind and foster a profound sense of presence. There would be no talking starting at dinner until after breakfast the following morning. The mindfulness bell, chiming throughout the day, was also a reminder to pause, breathe, and be in the moment, a habit I grew to cherish.
As I delved deeper into the Plum Village experience, I discovered “mindful walking.” This practice, walking as a unified group, involved having a profound awareness of each footstep. As 300 people walked silently together, I felt like a drop of water in a river as the group slowly flowed through the forest.
[Gallery Courtesy Plum Village]
On one poignant walk, we walked from a dense forest into an open field toward 19 black stone Buddha statues in the distance. As the nuns and monks approached, they slowly sat amongst the sitting Buddhas one by one. As I got closer, I could not distinguish the person from the Buddhas.
I left Plum Village with some new mindfulness practices that I vowed to incorporate into my daily routine and a newfound perspective on life, being part of a sangha, a community, not thinking only as an individual but as a collective.
This journey, filled with co-living adventures, new friendships, and mindfulness revelations, transformed me in ways I never imagined when I embarked on my solo travel two months earlier.
As I looked ahead, the lessons and memories from Lisbon, iSlow, and Plum Village would continue to guide my path as a digital nomad, with a deeper appreciation for the beauty of interbeing and our interconnectedness.
Monique retired early from a professional career to embrace a minimalist, nomadic lifestyle. Inspired by a life-changing experience, she became a certified Forest Therapy Guide, Reiki Master, and coach.
Today, Monique empowers clients to slow down, find joy, and connect with their intuition through nature connection and energy healing.