9 Signs You've Become a Nomad

by Matt Hershberger Nov 27, 2014
You know the exact date your passport is set to expire.

It’s not sitting forgotten in some drawer near your desk, next to expired Bed, Bath & Beyond certificates and Subway punch cards. You know the exact procedure for getting it renewed, and you’re aware that some countries won’t accept a passport that is due to expire in a few months. You also know the Department of State is supposed to send the expired passport back to you, and you’re planning to hold onto it as a keepsake until your death.

Apartment hunting is a bitch in cities where year-long leases are the norm.

“Yeah, so do you guys offer any sort of month-to-month leases?”
“No ma’am, just the year long lease.”
“What about if you gave me a six-month lease?”
“I mean, I suppose I can triple your deposit.”
“Awesome. Also, hey, what’s your policy on sublets?”

95% of your friends on social media are from places other than your hometown.

They are scattered across states, countries, and continents. Their distribution on a map would look totally random — as if a drunk dart player had spent three hours tossing at it blindly. While your friends back in your hometown are more “in the loop” than you are, you know that there’s barely a city on the planet where you won’t find a couch to crash on or a friend to grab a beer with.

Packing is a science.

You know how to condense your clothing so it takes up the smallest possible space. Your backpack is organized so that the weight is evenly distributed, and so the things you’ll need first are arranged towards the top of the bag, with less important stuff at the bottom. You know which pockets to hide copies of your passport in, and you never, ever bring an item of clothing that you aren’t going to use in your travels.

All world news feels intensely personal.

When your friends see shit going down in Egypt on the nightly news, their first thought is, “Oh that’s terrible,” and their second thought is nonexistent. Your first thought is, “Jesus, I hope Mohammed’s okay.”

You’ve found ways to make traveling a career.

Peace Corps, followed by some development work, maybe a year or two of teaching English in Thailand, maybe some time as a JET in Japan. Possibly you get a job on a study abroad program or become a journalist or a travel writer. Possibly you just spend three years making an insane amount of money as an investment banker and then retire and spend the next 60 years of your life moving around: whatever you’ve done, you’ve prioritized, and it’s pretty clear what came out on top.

The thought of “settling down” gives you intense anxiety.

Maybe you’ve met an amazing person and you want to spend all your time with them — but they need to stay in one place because of their career. Or maybe you’re about to have kids and the support network you need is all in a single city or town. The thought of being stationary freaks you out, and you’re starting to realize that wanderlust often feels less like a romantic’s desire and more like an addict’s itch.

You have quit jobs to travel.

“Sorry,” your boss said when you handed in the two weeks notice, “Why exactly are you doing this?”

“Oh,” you said, “I just wanted to see the world a bit.”

They can’t understand this — why someone would quit to travel when they’re given a full two weeks of vacation days a year? Their confusion isn’t surprising, considering how many Americans leave their vacation days on the table, but work has always been a means to an end for you.

You no longer pack too much into your travel schedule.

One of the signs of the noob traveler is that he packs in dozens of sights and sites into each of his visits, in the worry that he won’t be able to get back to the place, so he should see everything he wants to see right now. He hasn’t learned, of course, that seeing a million things is just as good as seeing nothing at all, and that if he truly loves a place, he should have confidence that he’ll make it back there someday.

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