Are you wondering if you could handle being a nomad? Going nomad is definitely not for everyone. We’ve been living the travel life for 5 years and we answer all your long term travel questions below!
We meet a lot of people around the world who are fascinated by our lifestyle — but most of them don’t think they could handle being a nomad. Most people crave the stability and predictability that comes from sleeping in the same bed every night. The digital nomad lifestyle just wouldn’t provide the security and stability that they crave.
Then there are those few crazy souls, like us, who thrive on constant travel.
We sold our home in 2013, but we’ve been travelling together and living as expats for 20 years now!
You could say we are modern nomads.
So, if you think you might want to try being a nomad, dive in to find out…
Could You Handle Being a Nomad?
Q1: Where’s your home base?
We don’t have one! That’s one of the many nomadic lifestyle advantages :)
People who ask this question are confused and intimidated by the concept of not having a place to call home. They can’t quite stomach the idea of leaving their familiar surroundings and not going back home after one or two weeks.
We understand that feeling of familiarity and we love it too! It’s an amazing feeling to be encompassed by the security and coziness of your own home.
While travelling, we try to recreate that familiarity by going slowly, staying in some places for several weeks to several months. This helps restore our equilibrium. Housesitting through TrustedHousesitters.com has been an amazing way to have a “home” every once in a while.
Could you handle not having a home?
Some people are just serious homebodies and could never deal with the upheaval that comes from going nomad.
But if your sense of curiosity and adventure outweighs your need for familiarity, or if you feel like normal life is like living the same day over and over again, the nomadic life might be perfect for you.
(Related: If you don’t travel full time, this article about post-travel depression from Wanderlust Storytellers) →
Q2: Don’t you miss your friends and family?
When people ask this question, what they really want to know is, if they decided to travel the world, would they be desperately homesick?
The answer is complicated. Yes, we miss our friends and our family ALL the time. As soon as they invent teleportation, we will zip back to visit every month! But until then, we keep up on FaceTime, Facebook, Instagram and even by email!
The great thing about being a nomad is that you meet new friends wherever you go. Now, when we travel, we get the chance to catch up with our friends all over the world — who we would never see if we just lived in one place.
Could you handle the homesickness that goes with long-term world travel?
It depends on your personality and how much effort you’re willing to put in. If you’re worried about homesickness, discover our favourite tricks for handling homesickness while you’re on the road.
Q3: Don’t you get sick of each other? How do you handle always being together?
This question is usually asked by people who wonder if their relationship could withstand the stresses of long-term travel.
Trust us, we completely understand your worries. We’re not one of those couples that is completely blissed out in each others’ company 24/7!
Our first trip together, backpacking Europe in the late 90s, did not end well! We left Vancouver with big hopes and big backpacks and although we had some great times, we also had many, many massive arguments. After 4 months of travel, we broke up and went our separate ways.
Of course the story has a happy ending. We got back together a few months later and got married in 2000!
That experience, plus all the world travel we’ve done since, has made our relationship rock-solid. We know we can rely on each other for anything, we know how to take care of each other and when it’s time to take time apart.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have arguments. We do, but we figure out a way to get through them and back to enjoying each other’s company.
Could you get along with your partner if you became working nomads?
It takes a lot of effort and a lot of time with your partner before travelling as a couple becomes easy. The shift from seeing each other just a few hours every day to seeing each other ALL THE TIME is massive, so you need to give yourselves a break in the first few months of travel. After that, things will start to get easier.
(Don’t miss: If you’re hitting the road with your sweetheart for the first time, try to visit some of the most romantic cities in the world (according to us!)) →
Q4: Where do you keep your stuff?
It’s amazing just how much security people derive from their possessions. When people ask this question, it comes from the fear of losing that security during travel.
First of all, we do still have some stuff! Yes, we did sell our cars, our house, all our furniture and most of our clothes, books, records, appliances etc when we decided to start our travel life.
But we kept the stuff that means the most to us!
We still have about a thousand vinyl records stored away, plus our incredibly comfy bed, lots of clothes that we still love, a few pieces of our favourite art, and even some dishes that we’ve had for a decade!
They are all in a storage unit on Vancouver Island. It’s weird, but when we go visit that storage space and dig through our boxes, it’s a little like coming home.
Could you handle getting rid of your stuff for long-term world travel?
It can be hard to let go of your things but take it from a confirmed pack-rat (Stephen), clearing up and saying goodbye to the stuff you don’t use anymore is incredibly freeing.
Possessions can weigh you down; giving them away can make you feel lighter than air.
If you are sad about letting go of some precious things, do what we did and hold a giving-it-all-away party where you invite your friends to take your things home. It’s great to see your prized possessions earn a place in your friends’ homes.
(Don’t miss: If you’re wondering where you would even start when it comes to packing up, read our Complete Pre-Travel Downsizing Guide) →
If you’re living out of a suitcase, it helps to have the perfect one. These are our favs:
(Don’t miss: Our easy-to-use guide to the best long-term travel gear) →
Q5: Where do you do your laundry?
People ask this question surprisingly often. I think for a lot of people, clean laundry represents something bigger — the comforts of home, of course!
When you are nomadic, doing laundry ceases to be a chore and becomes the ultimate luxury! We love the smell of clean clothes.
If we’re housesitting or staying with friends, which we do a LOT, then we just do our laundry at “home”. In most parts of Asia, you can get your laundry done by your hotel or hostel for just a few dollars.
In Europe and North America, laundry is a little trickier! It’s more expensive and harder to find facilities. But there are laundromats when you need one and hostels usually offer a laundry service. (Hotels do too, but it is usually way too expensive.)
Because we are minimalist travellers, we also do a lot of shower and sink laundry, washing out our undies, socks and t-shirts at night and hoping they dry by the next morning!
Could you handle dirty clothes during long travel days?
You’d be surprised at how comfortable you can get with being dirty!! During our two years of cycle touring, we became one with nature, exposed to all the elements and camping wild. We still loved to shower or jump in a lake at the end of the day, but our standards of cleanliness definitely declined.
For non-bike travellers, it’s much easier to stay clean, so don’t worry, you don’t have to like being dirty to enjoy world travel.
Q6: Are you rich? / How do you pay for world travel?
First off, no, we are not rich by Western standards. There’s no trust fund or wealthy uncle funding our travels. However, we are rich by world standards – our relatively small income still falls squarely in the world’s top 10%. Use this calculator to find out how rich you are, too.
Because we don’t have endless savings, we are working nomads, incorporating work into travel. It’s harder to travel and make money than it is just to travel for fun, but for us, it’s totally worth it.
Here’s a breakdown of the many ways we have paid for our travels over the years:
Learning to spend less is vital if you want to travel the world on a budget. Not only will it help you save a ton of money for travel but it will give you practice spending less so you’ll be able to stick to your budget on the road.
Before our trip, we practiced frugality by:
- Living in a smaller house than we could afford, saving the extra money for our travels
- Buying “things” only when we really needed them – not filling our lives with gadgets, excessive clothing, and other disposable junk
- Cancelling our cable bill and conserving electricity and water to keep our bills low
- Cooking from scratch – it saves a huge amount of money and is healthier too
Selling Our Possessions
When you stop to think about it, it’s stunning how much money you might have tied up in possessions. Old clothes, books, records, dishes, knick-knacks, art works… they’re all worth something. Not to mention your house, cars, bikes, skis or whatever else fills your home.
(Don’t miss: Here’s how to sell your stuff to fund long-term travel) →
Freelance Writing, Editing, & Design Work
Jane has been a writer, editor, and designer for 20 years, so it would be crazy not to harness those skills into making money on the road. If you have a portable skill and can find a few repeat clients, it’s a great way to fund part (or all) of your travels.
Stephen teaches Adventure Yoga in studios all around the world. His income from teaching has been growing steadily over the last few years. It is now our main source of income.
If you want to learn yoga from Stephen, check out Stephen’s events page to see when he’s next teaching online or find out if he’s teaching Adventure Yoga in a city near you.
My Five Acres Travel Blog
Our travel blog income is still just a drop in the bucket compared to our other income sources – but we are growing steadily and fast! We are finally starting to see our income from our blog grow. By this time next year, we want it to be a steady, reliable source of income for us.
If you want to support us, start using our personal link to book your hotels on Booking.com. Thanks!
Be warned, it usually takes a few years to start to see money from a blog (if you ever do) so you’ll need some other income at least at first.
(Related: If you want to travel longer for less, this post by Jey Jetter will help) →
Q7: Are you always broke?
We don’t get asked this question that often since people tend to be too shy/polite to ask it. But we know you’re all wondering.
Again, the answer is relative. Before we started to travel, we managed to put a decent chunk of money into retirement savings and I highly recommend you do the same with any of your disposable income.
Since our income is pretty small right now, we do live on a shoestring budget. But again, that’s all relative.
We can always afford clean, comfortable accommodation, transportation, food, and beer, so compared to most of the world’s population, we live in luxury. We even have enough to give a little to charity each month.
But to be completely honest, we would like to earn more than we do now. It would be great to start staying in slightly nicer accommodation, be able to afford a few more activities, and start saving for retirement again.
Could you handle the finances of long-term travel?
Even the worst spendthrift can learn to be frugal! It just takes practice, like any other skill. You might even discover that you enjoy spending less and experiencing more. Start teaching yourself the skills and practicing them today. Mr. Money Mustache was hugely influential in my own education in frugality. Start with him and you’ll get there in no time.
Q8: What’s the worst thing that’s happened during your travels?
I think people ask this question because they’re scared by horror stories they’ve read in tacky newspapers and magazines around the globe.
I was going to write that Stephen and I have been incredibly lucky… nothing bad has really happened to us in all our years of travel! But, the truth is, it’s incredibly unlucky if something bad happens on the road. That’s why those stories make the news – because they are rare.
We find that if you greet the world with trust and openness, it’s amazing how much you are rewarded by the same in return.
We can’t count the number of times our lost belongings have been returned to us when we thought they were gone forever. Like the time I dropped my iPhone in a field in Central Vietnam. With the help of countless locals, I had it back within a matter of hours!
There are endless examples on our trips of people going out of their way to help us, with no more reason than that they wanted to talk to the foreigners. Like the time in Syria when we asked a man on the street directions and he spent the next hour showing us all around his city.
We have stayed in dozens of strangers houses and shared drinks and food with dozens more. We have received thousand of waves and smiles and hellos everywhere we go.
The worst things that have happened have involved minor discomforts, like being stuck in the back of a crowded bus or stranded on a slow boat with no toilet!
Yes, people do have travel horror stories. But they’re not normal, they’re the exception.
Could you handle the discomforts and dangers of travel?
Long-term travel allows you to get familiar with discomfort. Sometimes your beer is warm or your bed is hard. Sometimes you’re stuck outside in boiling hot or freezing cold weather. You might get food poisoning or injure yourself. Seen from afar, these discomforts can be scary — but they also teach you just how strong and resilient you can be!
Q9: What’s your favourite country?
Picking a favourite country is a bit liking picking a favourite child… and our favourite child is…
We admit to some heavy bias, having been born and raised in Canada, but every time we go home we are once again reminded what a beautiful and friendly country it is. We do love it and even though we haven’t lived there for more than 20 years, Canada still feels like home.
The runner-up is Finland, which stole our hearts during our bike trip. It is an amazing place to experience the great outdoors and to take advantage of the famous “right to roam” laws, meaning you can camp almost anywhere, legally.
In Asia, our fondest memories are of Laos and Cambodia. The people of Laos are so friendly, so far the tourism industry (at least in the north) has not gone overboard, and the food is amazing!
In Cambodia, we just adored the south coast, where we lazed by the river in Kampot, stayed on a deserted island for a week, and wandered the jungle alongside elephants and monkeys!
Q10: What’s your least favourite country?
To avoid slandering a country possibly undeservedly, we are going to stay silent on this one. We do have a least favourite though! Ask us about it the next time we meet. ;-)
If you have other questions about being a nomad, don’t hesitate to ask. After four years on the road, we have tackled so much and are happy to share what we know!
♥ Happy mindful adventures, Stephen & Jane