Nomad. Gypsy. Wanderer. Vagabond. Location-independent travel ninja. All these terms describe a person with a nomadic lifestyle. They loves variable scenery. They move from neighborhood to neighborhood, town to town, or country to country, doing what human evolution tells them to do: keep moving.
What is a nomadic lifestyle?
Characteristics: Low expenses. A willingness to move anywhere. Affinity for air mattresses. The ability to fit your possessions into a suitcase, a backpack, the back of a truck, the back of a garage. A high-mileage vehicle. An aversion to mortgages and debt.
A nomadic lifestyle is whatever you want it to be, whatever works for you, but here’s a key trait:
Knowing you won’t be in one place forever.
In that sense, aren’t we all nomads?
My style of nomadism
Since ’03, I haven’t kept an apartment for more than a year… but I’m not (yet) one of the cool digital nomads, bouncing around from country to country, earning their living from elance or information products. All my apartments were in Huntington, West Virginia, then Korea, now Thailand. Next, who knows? Maybe I’m a lazy nomad, but I like staying put…for a little while, until I don’t. Let’s call my style a hybrid local-global nomadism.
While this lifestyle might seem strange to a lot of people, others may find it appealing. You know who you are.
If you’re thinking about selling most of your possessions on craigslist and setting out for destinations unknown, you need to consider the pros and cons of such a lifestyle. I’ve tried to make the following list applicable both to those living inside and outside their home countries.
Pros of a nomadic lifestyle
- You can live anywhere you want, provided you can support yourself.
- New places are exciting, full of new people, ideas, sights, tastes, experiences.
- You’re more careful about the physical stuff you bring into your life. Knowing everything you buy will have to be boxed, packed, moved/stored, you’re less likely to buy frivolous things.
- Without a lot of stuff, you can devote more time and attention to the things that really matter (relationships, work, creative projects, reading this blog
- Living in a different culture increases creativity, according to a recent study. Why? New environments offer new challenges, forcing you to re-examine basic assumptions and seek out novel solutions to problems. I wonder if this is applicable to new places in your own country…
- Keeping in touch is easy and cheap. With skype, email, facebook, it’s hard not to keep up with the people at home. People who want to relocate but also stay in the loop have options unimaginable in decades past.
- A nomadic lifestyle is cheap. When you’re not caught up paying mortgages and car loans or buying the latest piece of digital wizardry, you find yourself with a lot of extra cash.
- Being organized is easy when your possessions are few.
- Out of necessity, you learn to open up to people and be more outgoing.
- You learn a lot about yourself and the world around you…whether you want to or not.
Cons of a nomadic lifestyle
- You may miss important social rituals; weddings, birthdays, funerals, grand jury indictments.
- People grow apart. While it’s easy to communicate, it’s challenging to stay close when you’re separated by a thousand miles.
- You have less social support. If something goes awry, you’re on your own.
- Some stuff is nice; if you want to keep it, you’ll need a storage space. I’ll admit I miss my music gear and books, and would like to take a moment to thank my folks letting me throw some stuff in their attic.
- It’s hard to host parties when your friends live in different time zones.
- Dealing with bureaucracy can be confounding when you don’t have a fixed address. Ever tried to get a driver’s license without utility bills?
- (Potential) employers, despite what they say about wanting innovative and creative employees, are suspicious about people with strange employment and residential histories. Their loss.
- If you’re reckless or less-than vigilant, saving for the future can become a challenge.
My wife points out that your kitchen will probably suck. I concur. We have a very traditional relationship. She speaks. I agree
- Moving a lot can be physically exhausting. (I reckon) there’s something relaxing about having a long-term place all your own.
- In a foreign country, even the simplest tasks can become confounding ordeals when you have the life skills of a ten-year-old.
- For some expats, being a foreigner long-term does strange things to the psyche.
I’d love to hear from all of you, whether you’re a past-or-present nomad or a householder.
- What are other pros and cons of a nomadic lifestyle?
- Any parents out there? You can’t exactly throw kids in a cardboard box. What’s your take on this?
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Photo credit: mshades