In a society of materialism and more is more, it is challenging to imagine that some people choose to live a nomadic lifestyle - embracing minimalism, travelling to wherever they desire, not planting roots or staying stable and situated, working from home and not being confined to one workplace or career, and only taking with them what is essential.
This is the journey that my two teenage children and I are preparing to embark on.
We are leaving behind most of our possessions, multitudes of clothing, and all the excessive "junk" we've accumulated over the past 15 years. One might wonder "why?". Why would we sell the majority of our items and store most of the remainder to take off and live life with no bounds? To answer that question, I feel it is first important to understand what a nomad is.
What is Nomadic Life and What Is Nomadic Meaning?
Firstly, what is a Nomad?
A nomad is someone who has no settled home, constantly changing locations, and switching from one place to the next. They live nomadic, meaning they have no roots.
They couchsurf, stay in hostels, hotels, short-term rentals, or Airbnbs.
They usually home some sort of 'home base' or 'comfort zone', such as with family or friends, since it can be challenging to constantly move around and not have roots. However, their stay doesn't last for long and 'change is their home'.
Most nomads, especially the most successful ones, may find Buddhism a good fit as 'non-attachment' or letting go of all you have (including expectations and outcomes) is a tenant of this religion. This includes anything or anyone you have (or rather, think that you have) which you cannot give up. Attachments can be material possessions, people, jobs, expectations, dreams, outcomes, or anything that keep you where you are and within your current circumstances.
They travel lightly and prioritize experiences over possessions, and would rather accumulate memories than things.
Nomads are usually intelligent, creative, resourceful, ambitious, easy going, interesting, open minded, accepting, curious, and are usually high in extroversion.
They can also be impulsive, neurodivergent, less conscientious, and lower on neuroticism.
Nomads don't take life too seriously, and most believe that everything happens for a reason. They're inquisitive and enjoy learning through experience.
Even though they enjoy change, they usually travel slow and stay in a location for 1-3 months. This is important in order to create emotional stability, formation of meaningful friendships and support systems, and establish routines.
Nomads like themselves and have sufficient self-esteem. It can be lonely, so a nomad must enjoy his/her/their time with himself/herself/themselves. If you don't enjoy quiet time or spending time alone with yourself, then the nomadic lifestyle may not be right for you.
Advantages of Nomadic Life:
experience new cultures
meet new and interesting people
lower cost of living
ability to travel full-time
Stressful and unfamiliar
Lack of stability
Work/Life Balance can be difficult to maintain
Misunderstood (people may not understand why you would choose to go against the status quo and live a nomadic life)
However, those last two may be considered a pro or a con, depending on your outlook, priorities, and values.
What are the Different Types of Nomadic Lifestyles?
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people have the flexibility to work from home. More and more companies are offering remote job positions. This has created a new form of nomadic lifestyle, called Digital Nomads. There are several other ways, subsets, modes, and options when it comes to living as a nomad.
The development of Digital Nomads has become so predominant recently that there are even visas available for most countries. Digital Nomads are reliant on technology in order to do their work and make a living while travelling. They can be entrepreneurs, freelancers, accountants, customer service agents, designers, editors, authors, bloggers, social media influencers, or work in IT, marketing, recruiting/HR, and as teachers/tutors.
Digital Nomads usually work out of cafes, shared workspaces or co-working spaces, or public libraries, and rely on laptops, devices, and a good internet connection.
Working as a Digital Nomad can allow one to be more productive, more creative which can lead to more breakthroughs through synaptic play, and more diverse and adaptable. It also allows you to have more flexibility and time to do the things you love. There is also the potential to make more lasting friendships through adventure and meaningful experiences.
The advantages of being a Digital Nomad are:
ability to travel full-time
work from wherever you want
no long commutes to work
The disadvantages of being a Digital Nomad are:
Work/Life Balance can be difficult to maintain
dependency on Internet and technology
This type of nomad is usually on a path to self-discovery, enlightenment, personal growth, or can be working through some trauma or a recent life experience. I always think Eat, Pray, Love or Under the Tuscan Sun.
A Spiritual Nomad may be a young adult taking a leap year to travel and discover who they are. Or a woman going through a divorce after being a wife for so many years and not truly knowing who she is or what she wants from life. They usually have a deeper purpose to this lifestyle than just travel and changing locations. This is the process of learning about oneself while interacting with and exploring a new world.
A Spiritual Nomad may also be inspirational, motivational, or a teacher, sharing their insights with those they meet. Like Buddha, or Zen monks, or Jay Shetty.
Spiritual Nomads can often be poor as they value spiritual and personal growth over possessions and money. They may hitchhike, walk, take vans or scooters, or find other free/inexpensive travel. However, if they continually focus on the spiritual, the material world can become overwhelming. This can also be a dangerous lifestyle as one is hitchhiking and couchsurfing and finding accommodations from strangers as a way of getting by.
Gig Nomads find work, usually under-the-table, for 1-3 months before moving onto the next location and next vocation/gig. They may be freelancers, servers or hospitality workers, landscapers, or anything short-term and pay-per-gig. Gig Nomads may also work through sites like fiverr.
Because they usually work under-the-table, this can be risky and one is susceptible to not receiving payment or fines and penalties if governing bodies find out.
"Time Out" Nomad
This type of nomad may take a one to two week vacation every few months so get away and travel. Or may explore for one to two months once or twice a year.
This type of arrangement can be productive, and can lead to intense and focus time periods. This person also retains stability and 'job security' (I don't believe that job security is a real thing, but rather that one does not have to quit their job or have a remote position in order to live this lifestyle). However, the high cost of travel and transportation can be challenging and you wouldn't have much time to enjoy and experience your location, leading to feeling rushed and exhausted.
Also considered a "snow bird", this lifestyle creates cycles between travel and work. Part-Time nomads may spend six months of the year at home and another six months travelling. They typically work seasonal jobs or are semi-retired.
My grandparents were Part-Time Nomads. My grandmother was a Canadian citizen and her boyfriend (my "grandfather") was a US citizen. They spent six months of the year in British Columbia, and the other six months in Nevada. They did this for years - as far back as I can remember!
This lifestyle is easily sustainable and can be very interesting. Some people may work as ski instructors, construction workers, camp counsellors, retail workers, tax prep, landscapers, etc.
The most traditional and basic lifestyle, an example might be an artisan who sells their work on the street or at a market, or an English teacher/tutor. This nomad travels from place to place, working just enough to sustain their lifestyle. The wages are typically low, or dependent on selling wares/artwork. There are more and more restrictions being put into place to limit classic nomads and can be risky, leading to deportation or not receiving compensation from employers who exploit their lack of or inability to obtain a visa. However, this lifestyle has the most immersion in one's location and its culture.
There are several groups, websites, apps, and organizations which help to facilitate house-sitting and pet-sitting opportunities for nomads looking to do this type of arrangement. It is a relatively new concept and opportunities can be found through platforms such as TrustedHouseSitters and MindMyHouse. You can offer to house- or pet-sit for someone while they are out of town. This help to lower expenses and provides you with accommodation. There is no exchange of money. You receive accommodation and food in return for watching someone's home or pet. However, this can be risky as you are staying in a stranger's house and caring for a loved member of their family. It also decreases flexibility and freedom since you have the responsibility of caring for a home or a pet. And there is no cashflow. Also, if you have allergies or are travelling with a pet this would not be a possible option for you.
There are also Volunteering options. However, these can be quite expensive and are more suited for a part-time or "Time Out" nomad than a full-time nomad. A 12-week volunteer experience can run you about $8,000/person! This includes accommodations, food, transportation, and some other amenities. However, that is typically twice the budget for most nomads who can live and travel for less than $1000 per month.
If this is something within your means though, I recommend it. I haven't tried it yet personally, but it seems like an incredible experience! There are a few opportunities available through platforms such as GoEco.
This would be the dream most people aspire to. However, few are actually able to obtain. This nomad is rich and has enough money to travel and live wherever they want, whenever they want. They may have won the lottery, received an inheritance, or had a very successful career. Although they don't have to worry about money and have a lot of flexibility and freedom, this lifestyle can become "boring" to some people and can be considered too easy since they no longer have work, which can become depressing.
I think that I could enjoy this lifestyle without becoming bored and depressed, at least for a little while, since I'd explore and enjoy the architecture, history, and culture in the location I'd be in. I'd be so busy studying and learning that it would take a while... at least until I saw all the museums, monuments, historic sites, and such and there was nothing left. But if you take a lot of your identity from your career and what you do for a living, this would be a challenging lifestyle.
You may imagine this nomad as the cliche, driving around in an RV from coast to coast. They worked all their lives and now that they've retired and their kids are grown, they've set out to see the world. They may have had the intention but never had, or thought they didn't have, the opportunity until after they stopped working. Alternatively, travelling and living the nomadic lifestyle may be a new concept to them.
They may travel alone, with a partner, or in a convoy or with a community of other retired nomads and RV nomads.
With the rising costs of rent/mortgages, food, and other monthly expenses, more and more people are turning to Vanlife or Camperlife. As of 2019, it was estimated that over 140,000 people live in a van or other vehicle. It has become a popular trend with over 12.4 million #vanlife tags on social media (credit: https://thrivemyway.com/vanlife-stats/)
And according to Yahoo Finance, the number of van lifers in the United States has increased by 63 percent in the last couple of years.
These nomads typically live in their van approximately 51% of the time, and can vary depending on location and weather. Most utilized memberships to bathe and use the toilet, and some have built-in van showers and toilets.
The highest monthly expense for vanlife nomads is gas, which ranges from $100-300 per month. Most report that they spend $0 per month on campsites (thanks to parking lots, like Walmart, National Forests/Parks, and other more creative options) and a small percentage (less than 10%) said that they spend about $300 a month on campsites.
The cost to purchase a van/camper or convert one (which the majority do, 79%) is the largest expense. But once a van/camper is purchased or converted, this nomad's monthly expenses are extremely low.
The disadvantage to this lifestyle is the lack of internet availability. Since most campers/vanlifers spend time in National Parks and on the road, they must rely on public wifi networks, libraries, cafes, etc.
Why Did We Decide to Become Nomads?
I have been a single mom for over a decade now, supporting two children completely on my own for the last eight years, and on one income. We have been extremely blessed and have always had what we need. Sometimes we had to rely on charity, Food Banks, and other forms of support, but we always got through! We survived!
But we don't want to just survive. We want to thrive! We have only ever taken one vacation, in 2018. It was our first and only opportunity to travel. We value experiences and time together as a family. We want to travel the world, experience new cultures, get out of our "North American bubble", learn, experience, explore, grow.
A few months ago, we were at a point where we had nothing really tying us down and we had a family meeting to discuss what we wanted to do. The world is open to us. We have a new chapter and so many options in front of us. So what do we want to did with this opportunity?
I am currently in school, pursuing my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, but have been forced to take a break for a year (long story - the University where I live is horrible and made some errors which led to a financing suspension, but everything happens for a reason!). I am working as a server and enjoying this season of my life. But neither of these things have roots right now. So I started to explore the option of studying abroad.
I applied to a couple of Universities in Spain. However, their programs filled up quite quickly and even after three months of emails, and phone and Zoom conversations, I missed my opportunity for the 2023/24 year. So now what?
We had another family meeting. Do we want to stay in Canada or do we still want to travel? It was a resounding yes to travel. I introduced my kids to the concept of nomadic life and they were onboard.
This is just the start of our story! We are only at the beginning of this journey and have so much more to prepare for before we even embark.
Stay tuned for all the twists and turns, ups and downs, and everything else along the way. Subscribe to receive notifications about our latest posts and follow us on social media! (@3AmigoNomads)
Thank you for joining us on our journey! We hope that you will share your story with us as well.