The Secret to Traveling the World (It’s Not What You Think)

When I first considered living nomadically, my vision was to stay in each place for six months or a year. But it just never worked out like that for Josh and me. Visas always seem to come in the way of staying a long time, especially in the Schengen zone. Sometimes we end up not liking a place enough to stay. That happened in Hanoi. Restlessness and overall lack of commitment makes it easier for us to keep moving, and we’re pretty lusty people when it comes to geography.

The reason we’re staying a year in Vancouver is because we were very tired of living out of a suitcase and stopped enjoying the incessant travels. It was getting stale. I wanted to start working on deeper goals and visions, and one of the elements of the deeper vision is having a home base/pied-à-terre. How that’s going to play out is beyond me. Hard to imagine how we could juggle a home base with the type of traveling we do. It’s so much cheaper to chose one or the other. In 2014, we are choosing a hub and spoke model of travel. In 2015, who knows?

I think by now everyone who knows us understands that there’s no question to how we can “afford” to travel. We hardly own anything. Our incomes are actually quite low in the scheme of things. But we are blessed with mobile jobs and freedom.

If you still wonder how we do it, remember we have no overhead either: no car, no house, no kids, no insurance. Really nothing. Imagine how much money you would have if you had no overhead. And then you have to be as crazy as we are and actually want to do it. It’s not for everyone. I’m tired of it right now, myself, but still don’t want any of those other trappings. Looking for a middle ground.

It’s cheap to travel when the only items you own are on your back and maybe also a storage unit for those priceless heirlooms or whatever it is you can’t bear to be buried without. The only rent we pay is our room for the night. Even when that room is $100 or more, it’s not like we’re also paying a mortgage or rent or anything else on top of it all.

Food, beer, and other expenses are a wash everywhere. Some places are a little cheaper or more expensive than others, but all in all, we don’t spend more abroad than we do in North America. In some places we spend a lot less.

We earn enough throughout the year to save a little money to get us through dry spells. Work dries up six months out of each year, so saving and being thrifty is a must. I’m frugal and have no debt. When I met Josh he was thousands of dollars in debt from outstanding student loans and credit cards. I told him that getting out of debt was a prerequisite for being with me. I don’t believe in paying interest to a bank; that’s your hard-earned money and it should always go to fulfilling your needs.

So what’s the secret? 3 S’s: Sacrifice. Simplicity. Saving.

  • Sacrifice things like stability, stuff, and a home.
  • Simplify by learning what really matters and making do with less.
  • Save money.

I wish I could say there was magic involved, but there isn’t. If there were magic involved, we could probably make a lot of money selling the formula.

Although we thought we were alone in our nomadic lifestyle, and most of our friends think so too, it turns out lots of people live like this. They call themselves “digital nomads.” Fair enough phrase–we need to be wired wherever we go in order to work. We sometimes use that phrase too but don’t like labels.

Each digital nomad has motivations and methods. Some methods are not digital at all. Many nomad types find work abroad or volunteer in exchange for room and board. Teaching English, working as an au pair, professional gambling, telecommuting, even blogging is a way to earn money (although I haven’t really figured out how monetizing a blog works yet). As an aside, traveling for “free” with couchsurfing and whatnot is something some people do.

In sum, there are many ways to travel incessantly if you are interested in doing so. You can do it if you have passive income, such as from an investment portfolio or real estate. Or, you could just save money and take time off work like a normal person.

If you don’t want to be a nomad, and just want to travel more, there is no secret to it, really. It’s just old-fashioned common sense and piggy banking. And a bit of travel planning and research.

Living this way comes down to simple things, like:
  • Having a mobile job, passive income, odd jobs, or even being ok with subsistence living
  • Debt-free, obligation free, low overhead
  • Frugality and savings, knowing your limits and living within them
  • Downsizing and prioritizing

 If you’re genuinely interested in living nomadically but wouldn’t know where to start, there are lots of people who have quit their jobs and gone traveling and who write about it. Some of them even have kids, and are part of the “unschooling” movement. Google around and you’ll find some of them. I’m not here to give advice. I really have nothing to give. I’ve never been in a position to question my values, or decide whether I want to quit my job or unschool my kids. Those are tough, soul-searching decisions.

Typically we do not like talking about these things at all because it’s personal. But I think many people are curious about how and why we live the way we do so I thought we’d share.

If you are wondering, neither of us will ever settle down in the way that most people seem to imply. We do envision a home base but we will still travel as much as possible. Where the home base may be remains to be seen. This year we are in Vancouver. Next year, who knows?

Have you ever considered living the way we do?

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