Nomad. Wanderer. Location independent. There are plenty of ways to describe the practice of roaming the earth without a permanent home. And depending on your character, it could sound utterly idyllic or like a total nightmare. However, I've been living a nomad lifestyle for the past year and (mainly) loving it. Although it produced challenges and life lessons that I'd never have faced if I'd stayed living and working in the U.K., I learned so much about myself, what I do and don't want out of life, and, of course, the beauty and challenges of a world wider than my own.
And according to a 2016 report from Airbnb, I'm not alone. Most millennials surveyed would prioritize travel over existing debts and buying a house. And because being traveling nomad-style can take many different forms, it's easy to see why more of us are choosing to live this way.
Living a nomadic life, for me, didn't necessarily mean selling all my worldly possessions and moving from shack to shack. My style of travel combined backpacking, renting, writing in various locations, and organized group travel with millennial tour companies such as Topdeck Travel. I enjoyed switching things up and totally lived for the freedom to plan my own schedule how I wanted.
In case you're thinking of becoming location transient, here are some of the main pros and cons that I experienced in my year of being a nomad.
Pro: Total, Unlimited Freedom
Travel for a long period of time allows you to completely rewrite your definition of "normal," and in doing so, truly sets you free. We often forget that the society we've grown up in has an awful lot of influence over our lives. Common worries centered around settling down, buying a house, finding a good job etc., are all born of the regular societal pressures around us. But, if you so wish to embrace a different standard of living and reject societal norms for a while, previous concerns have a way of sort of dissipating into the atmosphere! Being nomadic will reduce your reliance on materialism and equip you with an entirely different perspective and world outlook. But that's not to say you don't need to buy stuff and make money while abroad (unless you're loaded, of course).
For me, the biggest downfall to living a nomad lifestyle was the intense feeling of loneliness and confusion which often cropped up at random points in my trip — even when I was surrounded by people. If I stayed in a busy backpacker hostel, for example, but just didn't click with anyone in my dorm, it could feel like the quietest place in the world. Similarly, renting an apartment on a beautiful beach in the Caribbean sounded great in theory, but sometimes I ended up feeling completely isolated when I didn't have friends around me. However, there are ways to ensure you have a constant flow of travel-buddies; I turned to free apps to connect with other travelers around the world and it was actually great for helping me create travel experiences and make friends as I moved around.
Pro: Low Expenses
One of the most common misconceptions about traveling for an extended period of time is that it will break the bank, whereas the reality is that living and working in somewhere like Nicaragua for two months, like I did (it's one of the cheapest and safest countries in Central America, FYI) will cost far less than living in London or NYC. Renting an apartment in Nicaragua's tropical paradise, the Corn Islands, for example, set me back just $200 a month (!!!) and a plate of lobster and rice in a nice restaurant, just nine dollars. So, even if I'd experienced a less than lucrative month of freelancing, I never really felt the pinch. This lifestyle allowed me to spend bigger on organized tours with millennial travel group, Topdeck — the best one being a 10-day Morrocan extravaganza in which I rode a camel in the Sahara with all my acquired travel buddies. So yeah, living and working like a nomad could actually allow you to save money sometimes.
Con: Maintaining Local And Long-Distance Friendships
The hardest part about moving around a lot is the toll it takes on your relationships — in every corner of the globe. As well as missing out on your friend's and families' birthdays and big milestones, you also constantly have to switch up the people you hang around with because you're always on the go. And of course, this can get draining and isolating. I even found that being in constant flux sometimes gave me less motivation to make genuine interactions people. It was sometimes a case of "Oh, I'll be gone in three days so is there really any point?" I got lazy!
Pro: Boredom Isn't A Thing
Being a nomad is synonymous with constant change, which keeps things exciting. I had the freedom to board a plane wherever I wanted during my year — and I got a real thrill from changing my lifestyle regularly. If you shy away from routine and monotony, nomadism may be for you. I chose my destinations based on things I'd read online, or the people I met along the way, and no two days were the same. Sometimes I started my morning with a walk on the beach to spot monkeys swinging from vines, other times it began with breakfast in a hostel, or a walking tour of my new city. With all the endless opportunity to shape my lifestyle as I wanted, boredom just didn't exist.
Con: You Can Find It Hard To Return
If you want to live nomadic, just remember that this lifestyle can sometimes rewire your personality and permanently change your outlook on things. Most of the time this effect is positive; becoming more open-minded and tolerant and less materialistic are all great things, of course. But if you're working and living in a super-cheap country where $500 covers all your expenses and then, you return home to find that the same amount barely gets you a month of lunches... it can be tough. That said, if living the nomadic lifestyle is something you're interested in trying out, it has the potential to be one of the best experiences you'll have in your lifetime — and the things you've done, seen and learned never leave you.