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9 Uncomfortable Truths About Living a Nomadic Lifestyle

Student Work
by James Frazier Garland Apr 16, 2015

1. You live life 24 hours at a time, maximum.

A schedule, what’s that? Uncertainty becomes your best friend and flexibility is your mode of operation. Not always a bad thing, but you might lose your ability to make long term plans. Even when you attempt to plan, you know in the back of your mind that irrationality will overpower reason when presented with an awesome alternative like an invitation to crew on a trans-Atlantic yacht. Your future is always in flux, so forget a five year plan, its a stretch to think about where you will be in the next five days.

2. Your resume is spotty.

It’s tough to maintain a steady job when you’re constantly checking Skyscanner. Nothing can contain your itchy feet once you have just enough money in your bank account to vagabond for another year. A series of under-the-table gigs like working in hostels, picking fruit, bartending. and digging ditches do not make for a pretty CV. By choosing to be a nomad, you limit your career opportunities by a great deal. However, you should have a lot to show for your impressive streak of mini-careers and mini-retirements.

3. Society considers you a ‘lost soul’.

Explaining where you live is difficult. You’re not homeless, but you don’t have a permanent address. A few people get it and congratulate you for managing to maintain a transient life. However, the majority think you are at least slightly deranged and in need of help. As a nomad, you have chosen to reject their notion (facade?) of a fulfilling life. You choose to march to the beat of your own drum and have the courage to strike out on an uncharted path. You are lost, but not astray, and you would not have it any other way. After all, can you really expect to make any profound discoveries if you’re not lost?

4. You’re perceived as a slacker/bum.

On your pursuit to grow rich with experience, your idea of success deviates from the norm. You embrace a work-life balance that leaves you with a tight budget. Continuing to live the dream might require resourceful practices (and experiential delights) such as hitchhiking, train hopping, dumpster diving, and bartering.

The line between a nomad and a bum can become pretty thin at times, but the important distinction is that you choose this lifestyle. You cherish resourcefulness, because exploring the world another day is the ultimate goal, but it can come at the cost of being perceived as a bum.

5. It’s a life full of farewells.

Life on the road means always saying hello and always saying goodbye. It gets old and it’s exhausting to build relationships from scratch week after week. The inevitability of moving on causes relationships to take on a strange dynamic. You know it’s only a matter of time before you will be saying goodbye, so in many cases you limit your emotional investment. Tearing yourself away from familiar stomping grounds and old friends is particularly difficult.

6. You’re not rooted in a community.

Without a steady social sphere it’s difficult (but not impossible) to climb the pyramid of Maslow’s basic needs towards self actualization. There are ways around this with technology, but not being part of a familiar and tangible can take its toll. You know it’s bad when you start personifying your possessions. I would like to introduce my skateboard Woody, my headlamp Luzy, and my van Dorothy.

7. Romantic companionship can be almost impossible.

This is the ultimate sacrifice. Unless you have found that perfect partner to roam with, it’s possible that you’re setting yourself up for a lonely existence in the long run. Or at least, it can feel that way at times. However, the fact is that love can strike overnight and when it trumps your intense lust for the road then it’s probably meant to be. If your wildest fantasies come true, you will meet a nomading partner and you can enjoy the best of both worlds together. Until then, embrace the discomfort.

8. Clean undergarments are a novelty.

Uncomfortable indeed. Most times it’s not a matter of supply, but practicality. There just isn’t a place to change on that overnight bus, or you can’t stand to spend a second longer than absolutely necessary in that fetid water closet, or it’s just not pleasant to take your pants off while van dwelling in the dead of winter. At times you must redefine the meaning of clean when you are drifting about.

9. It is an addiction.

After roving for an extended amount of time, good luck returning to ‘the real world’ anytime soon. A routine just cannot compete with the daily excitement and freedom you have become accustomed to while on the road. You are hooked and it will take some serious therapy to get you off the ever-wandering horse. Best of luck coping with the withdrawal syndromes.

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