writing > Nomad Chronicles > Eyes
Last Updated: Sept 2014
1 minute read


In December 2013, I left San Francisco to begin my life as a digital nomad. For the next 2 years, I lived out of airbnb listings, mostly in Asia, while I continued to work remotely for my startup, BitGym.

That time has changed the way I see and interact with cities forever. When I don’t go out much or find the town’s vibe discouraging, I lose my sense of drive and purpose. On the other hand, being in a city filled with life, vigor and passion boosts my motivation, energy and happiness.

What makes a city right?

Today I stepped out into the sizable Indian city of Chennai I’m currently staying in. Walking with no earphones in, much of my attention was on the people I passed. I found myself drawn to observing their eyes. Brows furrowed, not as if deep in thought, but in worry, frustration or annoyance. Eyes downcast. Eyes glazed over. Eyes looking hollow. Eyes staring into the distance, not as if at a goal or dream, but as if having given up hope. Smiles and laughter barely reached them. They avoided my own eyes when I tried to smile at their owners.

When I lived in Berkeley and San Francisco, the eyes were lit. With ambition, with mischief, with excitement. The eyes sought adventure on the horizon. They looked ahead, or up at the sky. The smiles touched the eyes. And the eyes looked happily into yours when you greet them.

Every time I reflect on my feelings towards a new city, I’m reminded of PG’s essay on cities and ambition. To me, the eyes of the people just going about a city are a big part of the vibe. These eyes are infectious. Whether you consciously observe them or not, you begin to adopt the eyes of those around you.

From now on, I’ll be asking myself as I walk through a new city – are these the kinds of eyes that make me happy? And when I leave it, I want to look in the mirror and ask – are my eyes more or less the kind that I want to live around?

cross-posted: on Medium