Nomad life is seemingly glamorous in plenty of ways. You’re in a different place every month, you chase music festivals, and you can up and go at the drop of a hat, how do you do it?
“Frugality, a good sense of humor, and a lot of crazy.”
Once I lived in a shack with no electricity or running water in Hawaii. I used to live in a van with two other humans to make it affordable. My super power is the ability to sleep anywhere. When I would work the grill while working for a taco truck at music festivals, I’d do so in my bikini to avoid getting my clothes greasy so that I wouldn’t have to do laundry. (I maybe got a couple random marriage proposals for that last one.)
It really isn’t all coconuts and dance parties. Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t change my lifestyle for the world. However, there are plenty of struggles to nomad life. So, here’s a little food for thought before you just sell everything and go.
[one] Lack of creature comforts. Sometimes, I have dreams about couches. Big comfy couches with lots of pillows and those really soft blankets that you want to rub your face on. Three months living on the beaches in Nicaragua with your surfer boyfriend sounds amazing and romantic and stuff, right? But cuddling is non existent because I’d rather not sleep in even his puddle of sweat, finding a comfy looking couch is sketchy because of what might be living in the cushions, there’s no warm showers after that amazing ocean swim, and sometimes even having an iced beverage is a no unless there’s ice made with purified water!
Suck it up, buttercup, looks like your drinking hot rum today.
[two] Say goodbye to personal space. When you’re traveling and trying to make ends meet, sometimes it means sharing small spaces. I’ve been able to live and experience life in some glamorous places, but it wasn’t without sacrifice. (See above regarding the description of my home in Hawaii or living in a van with two humans.)
[three] Embrace the scent. Sometimes a hot shower or even a shower at all isn’t readily available. Sometimes, you can’t afford the nice shampoo and conditioner. If you’re into packing light and/or saving money, all of a sudden deodorant isn’t really a necessity.
If you’re working 50 hours a week and adventuring the rest of the time, it’s going to be a rare occasion to get dolled up and have a night out on the town. Sometimes you get off work at 11 on a Friday night and roll into the bars still smelling like the food served at your temporary job. Anyone who cares probably sucks anyway though.
[four] The universe is divine but not everything is delivered on a silver platter. I’ve been able to survive in different places doing service related jobs. Slinging drinks or tacos, even a little tour guiding here and there. Those jobs all sort of rely on tips from guests. I’ve been frustrated by shit tips for years. It’s hard to not think that the couple who could afford to come spend $200 on dinner but not to tip well are assholes. But they don’t owe me anything.
Okay, I still kind of think they’re assholes, but to rely on the gratitude of others whether while working in a restaurant or as a street performer can be risky. If anything, it’s good to keep that in mind for our own budgeting purposes. When living without much savings, you much more likely to hit some shaky waters.
[five] Instability. Sometimes, I make really good money. Other times, season is over and I don’t make anything. (Or I decide to put hours and hours and hours into a blog that probably won’t make any money for a good while.) I’m living in one place for a bit and then it’s time to move. Maybe I’m literally living on the road. My friend groups change depending on where I’m at in the world. It’s hard to keep a consistently healthy diet while on the road or when I can’t even build up a proper kitchen!
Stability is lacking in most aspects of my nomad life. That’s something that I have to remain very aware of. It’s a balancing act. When I’m getting too shaky, it’s going to all come crashing down. Every year though, I feel more and more aware of what I need. When I need a comfortable space or when I need to just sleep in a comfy bed or splurge on a really healthy meal. If nothing else though, this life has taught me wonderful lessons on going with the flow.
[six] Dealing with running out of money. This has happened to me twice. Once I was traveling with Ciarra who was fortunately able to spot me until we made it to Alaska to get to work again.
Another time was while I was studying abroad and happened right before Christmas after hiking in Patagonia. My buddy and I made our last dollars stretch real far and when I got back to our university town, I was greeted by the most fortunate email from my dad. He’d decided to put a little bit of money into my account for my first Christmas away from home so that I could treat myself to something nice.
So, in both those cases, I got lucky. #blessed But I figure, three strikes I’m out, so let’s not do that again.
[seven] What’s protocol? I’ve found myself in a few funny work trade situations. A lot of them are based on community input to keep an establishment, a farm, or whatever it is, up and running smoothly. For a lot of people, including myself at times, not having direct instructions on how a job should be done can be a little stressful.
You don’t want to disappoint authority. You don’t want to mess up. You don’t want to be held reliable. Being put in this situations where protocol doesn’t exists helps us to ask the right questions and to trust ourselves but it can still be really difficult at first.
[eight] Get ready to hustle. When I’m working, I’m usually doing more than 40 hours a week. Especially now including the amount of time that I put into my blog. I work late nights, I’ll take extra shifts, long days, no days off, whatever, it’s real hard for me to turn down money. Because I know that if I work my ass off that I can afford to take off for long amounts of time to travel and not worry about money.
I’ve been able to travel long term a few times and that baffles a lot of people. How I can manage to do that without a big salary coming in the rest of the time. I hustle. I budget. I make it work. And I get better at it every year.
[nine] FOMO. I do a lot of really cool stuff. I don’t have a bucket list, because I don’t need one. My life is on some people’s bucket lists. But I still miss out on a lot. After spending a couple summers hitting the festival scene real hard, it pains me every time I see a show or festival with my favorite band, The String Cheese Incident, come and go.
I just missed the wedding of a girl that I’ve been friends with since I was like 3. One of my really good friends that I still keep in touch with every time I go back to Oklahoma. I’m going to miss more weddings, more babies being born, more concerts, even funerals here and there because I maybe can’t afford a last minute flight from wherever I’m at. It definitely sucks sometimes.
[ten] The need for a never ending supply of self-motivation. My dream is to have a location independent career (aka Nomadic Nymph) that can at least account for half of my income. Supplementing the rest with bartending or whatever is available to me. Like I mentioned, I’ve put countless number of hours into my blog already and so far have no return. Which is pretty normal, and I knew that going into it.
It takes a lot of self-motivation to keep studying social media, search engine optimization, and photography forums when it could all be useless. No one’s ever going to give me a degree in Twitter and be like “Alright, you’re a blogger now,” it’s still just up to me to make location independence my reality.