Am I going nomadic? I have been tossing around the idea of turning my lifestyle nomadic for the past couple of years and now. I am taking some steps towards turning my dream of becoming location independent into a reality. Will I have the confidence to follow through?
This whole idea of going nomadic started to take shape after my trip to Colombia in December 2012. I met several people who were long-term travelers – a year or more roaming the globe. Most were young people in their late teens or early twenties and they were getting by staying in dorm style accommodations and working a little along the way. The idea of always staying in dorms and just getting by while traveling the globe does not appeal to me. It reminded me of my first solo trip to southeast Asia and my desire for more travel immediately upon my return. In recent years I have worked hard to improve my lifestyle and I am not willing to give up my cushy life just yet.
What if I could maintain my comfortable lifestyle AND enjoy a nomadic lifestyle? Best of both worlds while traveling around the world? I think I should give it a shot.
Going nomadic – what does it take to live a nomadic lifestyle?
Returning to Austin after my trip to Colombia I kept in touch with several people via Facebook. The idea of the nomadic lifestyle kept rolling around in my subconscious. I found myself exploring the idea while I was researching how to start this travel blog. The blogs that I found most interesting were not entirely about travel. I most enjoyed reading the stories about how people created their travel lifestyle. How do you balance work, personal life, and go traveling around the world?
Short list of what it takes to live a nomadic lifestyle
- Less stuff
Money makes the nomad life go round
My current client base is around 50% on-site work and 50% remote. I will need to shift all my clients to remote. I was starting to do this already due to the traffic in Austin. I am no longer willing to spend anymore than 5 minutes commuting to a client office. The lost productivity is not worth it to me anymore. When I started my business I would take any and all clients that inquired about my bookkeeping services. Now I have the luxury of choosing what is most beneficial to me and my lifestyle.
Speaking of lifestyle, there are cheap places to live and one can be frugal while maintaining a comfortable lifestyle. I do not want to be limited to the cheap places to live. There is a reason so many travel bloggers are living in SE Asia. Initially I think I would like to live and travel around the USA and Canada while I become accustomed to the nomadic lifestyle. I estimate my cost of living will be somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000 per month depending on how many extras I splurge on such as concert tickets or expensive meals.
Confidence is a must for living a nomadic life
Some people thrive when they have new situations and challenges tossed into their world. Starting my bookkeeping business and my earlier travel experiences have been the biggest contributors to increasing my level of confidence.
Less stuff for nomad life
I have been renting a 2-bedroom townhouse in Austin TX for over 6 years now. I used to make fused glass and enamel jewelry as my creative outlet and I sold the work to galleries around the USA. When the world economy crashed in 2008 – the same year I started my bookkeeping business – my budding jewelry business collapsed along with it. I still have some of the tools and supplies that I accumulated for the business so I need to get rid of those.
Besides the jewelry supplies I do not have a lot of excess things and stuff to purge. I created a spreadsheet listing what I would sell or give away and the items I plan to keep – clothing, technology, photos, maybe some art work or travel mementos. Read more on getting rid of stuff here…
Technology for a nomadic lifestyle
Access to the internet is the biggest factor when it comes to working while traveling or living a nomadic lifestyle. I have several clients that I work with remotely already and so long as I have internet access I am in business. I upgraded my mobile phone from a Blackberry Tour to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. I dumped Sprint for T-Mobile so I now have a better service plan and a lower monthly bill.
I utilize various file sharing programs via the internet such as Dropbox and Google Drive. Since QuickBooks Online (QBO) updated their service in 2014 I have a growing list of bookkeeping clients that are now switching to QBO. My current travel laptops are an 11″ MacBook Air and an 11″ Acer. I have clients that use QuickBooks Mac as well as PC so I do need both. Working from home the big plus to having two laptops is that I have an extra screen to view files via internet while working on QuickBooks with the other laptop.
Going nomadic – what are the pros and cons?
The pros and cons of going nomadic will vary depending on who you ask. Some people would struggle with the idea of eliminating the vast majority of their possessions. For many people their home is part of what defines them. I am more of a home is where your heart is kind of person. Possessions do not carry a lot of weight in my world. I am not particularly sentimental when it comes to things and stuff. Although I do treasure the memories that material things can trigger in my mind. Still, I do not need to keep those material things, just the memories and the ability to revisit them. The memories and life experiences are what count the most to me.
Pros of nomadic lifestyle
- Less stuff – the idea of owning only what I can carry with me is appealing
- More freedom – LOVE the idea of more freedom to roam the globe
- Variety is the spice of life – spending a few months in each place appeals to me
- Spending time with my aging parents – this is a BIG plus
Cons of nomadic lifestyle
- No set home base – not have one place to go “home” to will be a challenge
- More uncertainty – all those “what if’s” rolling around in my brain
- Leaving Austin – home for the past 16 years – it will be tough to leave
Looks like the Pros beat the Cons – so far. These are the most important factors to me. I know there are other pros and cons to living a nomadic lifestyle. My only experience dabbling with a nomadic lifestyle was more than twenty years ago and I will have to actually live as a nomad to truly know what the pros and cons are for me. Besides I was not working while traveling around SE Asia for 7 months, I was just a vagabond beach bum.
READ now: Best Countries in Southeast Asia for Solo Travelers
For now I will have to rely on the information from others who live a nomadic lifestyle to help guide me. Going location independent is not for everyone and perhaps it won’t be my cup of tea but I will never know unless I give it a try.
Any advice or tips or questions about living a nomadic lifestyle or planning and preparing for a location independent lifestyle are most welcome!
Jeff Bronson *Kraven*
Saturday 28th of February 2015
There are a lot of pros and cons to weigh. Personally at 40, I sold my stuff, quit a good job and am now in Goa, India (from the U.S.) and moving on to Varanasi next week.
Trying to get stuff done can be challenging in a place without a good infrastructure, impeding both time for fun and actual work. I think if one can balance their time in a place with good services, like Bangkok it can be great for a while.
I wouldn't want to do it forever, it's a way to break from the 9-5 and do something else. I think a homebase and community of friends/activities is important.
Having the FREEDOM to pickup and leave to a new place for a few months is priceless. Meaning have savings, no debt, portable income source, etc.
Saturday 28th of February 2015
Thanks for you comment Kraven, I just spent some time reading you blog posts about Goa - great reading! I plan to visit Goa but I will likely make it a vacation and not a working location, due to the challenges with electricity, etc. I am compiling a list of places that are known to have great internet access so that I can plan my travels around that - internet is a top priority for me to do my work so I will plan shorter vacation trips for the places with not so reliable internet.
I am wondering how I will handle the lack of a home base but I really think my introvert tendencies will help me through okay! I also have no problem meeting people when I travel so I think all will be well...but time will tell. I do have some crazy daydreams about being nomadic for the rest of my lifetime :)
Monday 23rd of February 2015
It sounds like those are some pretty strong pros and that things are aligning nicely for you to make the big jump. I've usually been tethered to a desk and have not had the opportunity to go nomadic, but living abroad brings surprises and challenges on a daily basis that rival those encountered on the road.
Tuesday 24th of February 2015
Thanks for your comment Dave, living abroad definitely brings challenge and surprise into one's life - I lived for a while in Nigeria and worked in Siberia - quite unusual places compared to my growing up years in Calgary Canada. I think maybe my life is a little too predictable right now - time to shake things up and see what it is like to live and work while being location independent. Technology was improved astronomically since my early travels, which makes all this possible.
Saturday 21st of February 2015
Hi Susan, Just want to share our experience. We've been slow traveling round the world/been nomadic (whatever you want to call it) for almost 3 years. Well, first year was a strange one: we sold everything and left our permanent home on the East Cost of the US with intention to travel around the US. After crossing the country, we ended up in Seattle. We liked the North West so much (and there was so much to explore during short(er) trips) that we spent a year there. This was an unintentional delay in our RTW travel plans, but about 15 months ago we left the US and been on the road ever since. Our mode of travel is a slow one: we stay in one place from 3 to 6 months (mostly depending on a visa situation in particular country). We both work on the road, but luckily it is completely location independent. However, moving from place to place more often is not feasible and impacts our work schedules. We work 5 days a week and explore our new location on weekends with couple longer trips every once in a while. It worked very well for us in SE Asia and Europe in the past. This year we are spending in South and Central America.
Couple things to note: 1. Everybody is aware that some places are cheaper and others are more expensive. There are many online resources about this topic. However, these sources should be taken with a grain of salt, because a lot depends on your own lifestyle, budget and a personal level of comfort. Chang Mai in Thailand is universally known for been a very cheap place, but what is "cheap" varies greatly from person to person. 2. For your technology section: good VPN (virtual private network). There are many reasons why it is necessary during travel. Some countries (like China or Thailand) block a lot of websites. Some services are not available everywhere in the world (for example, you can not watch movies from Netflix in Spain). These are just a few examples. VPN would help with these issues.
The bottom line: full time travel is not for everyone, but if you are a nomadic spirit it is totally worth it!
Good luck :)
Saturday 21st of February 2015
Elena, thank you so much for sharing some of your experiences on going nomadic. This is helpful to me. When I try to visualize life on the road my imagination starts wandering around and logical me forgets to remind imaginative me that in order to work I need some stability in my life. I like the idea of slow travel and spending a few months in each place. I will definitely start giving more thought to locations that I would like to have as home base for a few months and travel around the area. Medellin Colombia was my initial plan when I started to consider a nomadic life. I also want to spend time with my parents in Calgary so I need to do some serious planning with the timetable especially if I plan to drive around the USA and Canada.
Thanks for the info about the VPN – I will add it to my list. I am keeping a spreadsheet with my budget, list of things to research, packing list, etc. I think I will add another section for locations as well. The master plan is coming together and I do enjoy the planning process.
Thanks again Elena!
Thursday 19th of February 2015
We are currently living the nomadic lifestyle, we left home 12 months ago and have been travelling since. We are not sure yet if this is a permanent thing but that is open to negotiation. We use a mixture of apartments, housesitting, hostel, hotels etc for accommodation. We do not stick with 'cheap' places but go to a mixture of all costs. We find it cheaper than actually having a home but we also do not have an income yet so that part we are still trying to work out as trying to balance work and travel can be challenging. Good luck with your decision it is not easy but remember it does not have to be permanent either give it a go for a while and see what you think.
Thursday 19th of February 2015
Hi Michele, I think I will have the same approach as you do with accommodation - a mixture of all costs and types of accommodation. Good to know that you have found it cheaper than having a home. I am working on my budget now and I have listed various scenarios, from low-cost locations, more expensive places, and spending time with my parents. You are so right about "it does not have to be permanent" and I need to remember that. I think a good approach would be to think of this as a one-year lifestyle experiment. That would be a good amount of time to adjust and see how I like it.
Thursday 19th of February 2015
I have been semi location independent for the past 15 years. I do have a base in Korea where I teach 2- 15 week terms, and the rest of the time I am free to do what I want. I sold my property in Canada a long time ago. I'll probably be leaving Korea later this year, and I am looking to become even more location independent as far as work goes. I'm looking at what I can do online (besides teach) that will give me the money to maintain my lifestyle. I will not become nomadic as such. I will always want a base somewhere. At the moment it looks like Chiang Mai is my choice, but that could change. I plan to continue traveling no matter where in the world I'm based. I just have to get my head around the making a living online part...haha.
Thursday 19th of February 2015
Hi Nancie, thanks for your comment. The technology just keeps improving for those that want to work online. Being able to live and work anywhere with a decent internet connection is exciting. Chang Mai will be a good place to start your transition to online work as it is affordable and there is good internet. There are certainly plenty of options for you to choose from with regard to making a living online. Think about your strengths and what you are passionate about. Best wishes for a highly successful transition to online income!