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belyeaem Web designer and AirBnB traveler

How to Travel Without Leaving Your City


I’ve spent a good portion of the last decade trying to build a design business that would allow me to live and work from anywhere. As life would have it, right when my business was finally at a point where I could travel with it, I met an amazing human who had a career that needed him to stay in one place. Of course. So what do we do when life doesn’t work out exactly the way we want it to? We come up with a new plan! That new plan for us was moving our lives from Austin to San Francisco for Kyle’s work.

In nervous anticipation of entering the dreadful Bay Area rental market, we decided to book a few Airbnbs to stay in while we looked for a place. When we realized that we were actually more excited about staying in the Airbnbs than we were about finding an apartment, we thought, “Let’s just live out of Airbnbs!” And just like that, we became nomads with jobs. Travelers within one city.

While living out of Airbnb for a year has been our way of finding an amazing balance between freedom and stability, it’s certainly not the only way. Even though we have no lease, no utilities, and no landlord, those kind of things aren’t what defines us as travelers. It’s our mobility and desire for adventure – two things that, when adopted, can make any office-working, home-owning freedom fighter feel like a nomad.

So how can you feel like you’re traveling without leaving your city?

1. Work From a New Cafe At Least Once a Week

Even remote workers fall into a daily work routine. When we find places that have reliable internet, good coffee, and plenty of outlets, we become regulars, and in doing so, end up trying new places less and less. With websites like this very one that you’re on (wink!) you can explore new places to work all around your city, and sort out the internet speed, coffee, and availability of electrical outlets all in advance.

2. Get a ClassPass Membership

A monthly membership to ClassPass gives you access to thousands of fitness studios all around your city. So instead of just doing the same workout at the same gym every day, you can try yoga, pilates, cycling, and so much more all within one week! The best part about it is that ClassPass encourages adventure by only allowing their users to attend each studio a maximum of three times per month. If you’re a routine-person, than that probably sounds annoying, but if you’re open to bringing a little adventure into your life, then it’s the perfect place to start.

Emily Belyea Instagram

3. Use Instagram for Research

I’m a visual person. When I’m trying to find new places to eat, events to attend, or things to do, I want to see pictures of what I’m getting myself into before I make the commitment. For that reason, Instagram is my go-to for preliminary travel research. Depending on what I’m looking for, I’ll do a couple of hashtag searches and see what’s popular. For example, “#travelsf” is going to show you a lot of people riding trolley cars and making out in from of the Golden Gate Bridge. Something more neighborhood-specific like “#hayesvalley” is going to show you a more local perspective of what to do and where to eat in the Hayes Valley neighborhood in San Francisco.

I’d also recommend finding a couple of local bloggers to follow, so you can see where they eat and what they do for fun. Bloggers love photographing food and bicycles and I love eating food and riding bicycles, so for me, it’s a foolproof recipe for success.

4. Create Fun Challenges and Quests

A great way to explore unchartered territory is to make it into a mission or challenge. For example, I would like to explore the Mission here in San Francisco by attempting to find the best burrito in the neighborhood. How do I do that exactly? By eating all of the burritos and then deciding from there. Obviously this isn’t something that can be accomplished in one weekend (I’m good, but I’m not that good), but it’s an ongoing activity, an excuse to visit the Mission, and a reason for me to always be trying a new burrito joint!

Social Cycling

photo by Robert Shank


5. Find a Social Bike Ride (or Create Your Own!)

Bikes are the absolute best way to see a city and social cycling is so much fun. I’m not talking about dudes riding bikes in kits and $7,000 road bikes. I’m talking about people from all walks of life on all different kinds of bikes, drinking beer, tea, or whatever, all going on full-on cycling adventures through their cities.

If you live in a city with organized social cycling events, join their Facebook groups and newsletters so you can hear all about the rides. If your city doesn’t have an organized social cycling scene, create your own! Get some friends together and do a local brewery tour by bike, or ride to a local park to do some yoga and then finish up the ride at a local coffee shop. Get creative and remember to follow general social cycling rules – ride with traffic, not against it.

These are just a few ways you can feel like a nomad without leaving your city, but there are so many more. Try a new restaurant every Sunday, get an Airbnb for a weekend in a neighborhood that you have yet to explore, attend a new festival… The key to bringing a nomadic feel to any routine lifestyle isn’t to not have a lease or an office job. It’s to look at every aspect of your day and think, “is there an opportunity for adventure here?” If the answer is yes, than carpe diem.

Emily Belyea and Kyle

About the Author

Emily Belyea is a web designer and Airbnb traveler. She runs a design business online at emilybelyeacreative.com and is currently spending a year living solely out of Airbnbs throughout the Bay Area with her bearded hipster boyfriend. You can follow along with their Airbnb travels on their blog, letsbnb.co. Connect:


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