Challenges Of A Permanent Nomad

Challenges Of A Permanent Nomad

By |2016-07-21T23:57:57-04:00May 7th, 2010|Personal Stuff, Perspectives|59 Comments

To many people, the life of a permanent nomad may appear to be nothing short of spectacular and wildly appealing. After all, almost everybody lists ‘travel’, in some shape or form, on their bucket lists, so what could be better than being able to explore the globe on a never-ending basis?

I certainly can see the attraction, which is exactly why I am one of the biggest advocates of a global, nomadic existence and why I am always more than happy to assist anyone who is thinking about embracing such a lifestyle.

But before everyone starts thinking that the life of a nomad consists only of pots of gold, rainbows and fluffy kittens, I must come out and set the record straight. Being a permanent nomad is not all good times. In fact, it is much tougher work than one might imagine, and I’m not just talking about the long bus journeys, uncomfortable hotel beds and hand-washing your clothes until your knuckles bleed.

The challenge lies in the effort required to carve your own path through life. Unlike the more traditional life paths, there are no guidelines or pre-fabricated goals to follow when you decide to wander the globe. You are on your own and have no choice but to make your own decisions. You must literally pull out the machete yourself and start whacking at the jungle in front of you before you can take another step. And while there are infinite rewards to be discovered as you proceed forward, there are also tigers in that jungle and a handful of cannibalistic tribes as well.

So for anyone thinking about living a nomadic lifestyle of global wandering, and while I still encourage such a decision with all of my heart, this post is about the less-talked about difficulties that you must be prepared to face…

  • Lack of a permanent home: Being constantly on the road, I generally lack a ‘home base’ and must adjust to the idea of my home being wherever it is I happen to be living or traveling at the moment. I don’t have a permanent address or even a bedroom that I can call my own. And this can be tough, especially when I suddenly crave my own familiar space, one that I can return to whenever I need a comfortable, good night’s sleep or just a simple break from all of the traveling. For me, such a place just doesn’t exist.
  • Being away from friends and family: This is of course a major challenge as I sometimes don’t see my closest friends and family for over a year or more. And even though most of these bonds have not weakened over the years, thanks to email and Skype, I often wish I could just sit down for a beer with my friends or attend a spontaneous weekend family gathering. But I can’t.
  • Forgetting how to speak English: My English suffers greatly from all of this traveling and every year it seems to get worse and worse. The problem is that I am rarely in an English-speaking country and so I’m either learning, or stumbling through, a new language or communicating in broken English with others who don’t speak English very well. As a result, I often forget words, I take an absurdly long time to get my point across and my sentences sometimes seem to be missing some key ingredients. It’s probably not very noticeable to others and I’m sure I don’t sound like a bumbling idiot, but I definitely notice a difference myself. I also run into the problem of mixing languages and suddenly spitting out a sentence that is part Spanish, part Hindi and part Thai, which nobody, including myself can understand.
  • Living out of a backpack: While I’m perfectly happy with the amount of ‘stuff’ I currently own, all of which fits into my one backpack, I do wonder from time to time what it would be like to have a couple of more t-shirts and perhaps an extra pair of shorts. It might be nice to even use a dresser and closet every now and then instead of sifting through a pile of clothes all jumbled up on the floor. However, due to my strict adherence to this rule, I won’t be going on a shopping spree any time soon.
  • I’m a BUM: Being labeled a bum or as someone who is wasting their life does indeed get old. And I have a strong feeling that most of the people who criticize my decisions probably aren’t so happy with the path they have chosen, and so they choose to condemn my lifestyle in order to make themselves feel a little better. At least most of the people I meet out on the road are more than supportive of such a nomadic lifestyle, although it still seems that not more than two weeks go by without some form of criticism being thrown in my direction.
  • Out of touch: After so much traveling, it often becomes difficult for me to speak with other people. The main reason is that due to the vast differences in life experiences between myself and whomever it is I may be talking to, I am simply unable to find a common ground to build a decent conversation upon. Try talking to me about mortgages, television programs or even the latest news being discussed on every media outlet and chances are that I’ll answer with a blank stare. And similarly, most people reply with silence when I mention the latest hike in visa fees to enter Chile or the fact that mango season is in full swing here in Mexico.
  • Always on the look-out: While I don’t walk around grasping my backpack tightly to my chest and shooing away everyone that approaches me, I do find it wise to maintain a certain awareness at all times, especially when I’m in unfamiliar places. I’m constantly thinking about the safety of my laptop, my passport and my backpack in general. At this point, it has almost become second nature, such as when I suddenly felt the urge to turn around while walking one day in Mumbai only to discover a man with his hand extended about to try and open my backpack. However, trying to ensure that all of your possessions are as safe as possible at all times, on buses, trains, in hotel rooms, etc. can be quite exhausting.
  • Decision making: Great, so I’m finally free. I can travel here or I can travel there, or I can even travel somewhere else if I so choose. But here’s the dilemma – how do you decide where to go next when you can go anywhere? There are countries that I love so much that I wish I could return to them every few months, yet there’s dozens of countries that I can’t wait to explore as well. And so every time I feel the need to pack up my backpack and seek out a new adventure, I must try to choose one place out of the 200+ countries and territories on this planet. And that ain’t easy. On more than one occasion I’ve reverted to the ever-reliable flipping of a coin.
  • Being unattached to people and places: One thing I realized early on was that a permanent nomad will not be a happy permanent nomad if they’re not able to embrace constant change. And this involves being able to maintain a certain level of detachment to both the amazing people that I meet along the way and the destinations themselves, both of which affect my life to different degrees depending on my experiences. I won’t lie and say it’s easy. It’s unbelievably difficult at times to say goodbye and move on to that next destination, leaving behind new friends and locations that I’ve grown so fond of. But if I was unable to actually say farewell each time, I’d never be able to meet the next group of people or learn from the next place I visit as I continue wandering around the globe.
  • What to do with the knowledge learned: Perhaps the biggest challenge of being a permanent nomad is trying to determine exactly what I should do with the knowledge I learn throughout my travels. Not a day passes that I don’t ask myself: How do I share this education with the world? How can it benefit others? And truthfully, trying to figure out the answers has often left me confused, frustrated and struggling to understand what steps I should take in order to share my discoveries with as many interested people as possible. This is actually such a major challenge that it deserves an entire post of its own and I plan to do just that in the near future.

Of course, even with all of those challenges that I face on a near daily basis, I wouldn’t still be wandering around if I didn’t feel that the positive aspects of such a lifestyle far outweigh the negatives. All it takes is one realization of how fortunate I am to be experiencing so much of the world to make me forget about any of the above. But I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression as in the end, my travels have without a doubt been the most difficult adventure of my life.

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Have I missed any challenges that you may have experienced? And can anyone confirm that I’m not insane and that being a nomad is still worth it in the end??!!

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  1. Nikki T October 15, 2017 at 11:55 am - Reply

    It’s 2017 and 7 years since this post was written and it is still the BEST post on this topic. I found it because I thought I was crazy for questioning my nomadic life. Spot on!

  2. Dabney Ward March 4, 2015 at 9:18 am - Reply

    I am a student in high school, and we are doing a project on your dream job. I have been thinking about what I want to do with my life, and I am not sure I fit in anywhere. I have always wanted to travel, but I am not sure how I can accomplish what you have accomplished. I am not quite sure that I am confident enough to travel around by myself either. Soooooo the project is all about looking into what I am thinking I might do, and

    • Dabney Ward March 4, 2015 at 9:21 am - Reply

      I was wondering if you would do an interview for me. I have tons of questions, and if you could do an interview I would really appreciate it thanks. 🙂

  3. Susan August 11, 2014 at 5:47 am - Reply

    Dear Earl:

    I am a 51 y/o American woman who is single with no children. When I was younger (17-30) I traveled without care. I started with a scholarship to University of London and just kept going throughout Europe, married and lived in England, divorced and worked in Riyadh, SA. Eventually I got sucked into the rut of the American “dream” of home ownership and a job.

    When the bottom fell out of Wall Street in 2008 I lost all. I currently live in a friend’s “extra” house and work a menial sales job.

    Recently I had a medical scare that made me evaluate what is important in my life. Traveling was always at the top of my list, above career, home, anything. I love my family dearly but I go 1-2 years without seeing them now. Distance would not make any difference. Telephone and Skype will suffice.

    I am seriously (for over 2 years now) contemplating selling the whole lot of material things and traveling like you do. I will not be able to set out until late in 2014 or early 2015 as I feel the need to tie things up here.

    I may be facing chemotherapy in the next 2 months and will make a decision about that when the time comes. However, I do not want to miss seeing so many things I wanted to see.

    My question to you…can I get medical treatment, if needed, while overseas? Can I get prescriptions filled easily?

    The 2 places I dreamed of seeing are Morocco and India. Is it safe for a single woman in Morocco? As you stated, those of us that have wanderlust will live vicariously through the images of our computers, but I do not want to continue to do that. I want to see the colours and smell the scents. I want to taste the food and meet the people.

    While traveling in my younger years I was fearless. I usually preferred to travel alone as I could meet people easier. People do not usually approach a group or couple to speak but as a loner I was always invited to join parties or groups. I know this still holds true. I agree, you never have to be alone unless you want to be.

    I thought about starting my trip in Europe, Canada (since it is summer now), or Belize (where I have tons of family) but that seems like a waste. I do not want to just get my toes wet…I want to do a swan dive into the new life I have chosen.

    Please suggest how I should start this new life. The mind set is there, the passion and intelligence is there, the open mind is there. Believe me, I embraced life in Saudi Arabia as I would life on Mars and loved every colourful second of it. Most women would tell you horror stories but not me! I was there for 2+ years and yearn for more.

    The “wanderDust” is in my sandals and always has been.

    Thank you for your time in reading this e-mail, I hope you have time to reply as it seems you are extremely popular. If not, I will understand. My best to you. I hope one day our paths will cross and I can buy you a cocktail and hear about your life.


    • Wandering Earl August 19, 2014 at 11:17 pm - Reply

      Hey Susan – Thanks for sharing your story and you can definitely make it happen, that’s for sure! As for medical treatment, it simply depends on where you are, not only for the quality of the treatment but for the cost as well. Just type in ‘medical tourism’ in Google and you’ll be able to see which countries offer the best value for treatments. With prescriptions, that’s quite easy to get in most places…sometimes you can use a prescription emailed/faxed from your doctor at home, other times you don’t even need a prescription, depending on where you are.

      As for safety, I’ll always say that if you use the same common sense that you use at home to stay safe then the chances of anything happening while you are away are quite small. Common sense is definitely the main aspect of saying safe anywhere in the world!

  4. Joy May 24, 2014 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Earl,
    Do you have any thoughts on being nomadic with children? My thoughts are along the lines of backpacking from the lower 48, through Canada to Alaska, where we will eventually settle down. Our children are 2 and 5. I was thinking something like taking a year to do it. Does that sound irresponsible to take children along?

    • Wandering Earl June 2, 2014 at 10:44 am - Reply

      Hey Joy – There are plenty of people out there doing just that:

      Family on Bikes
      Almost Fearless
      1Dad 1Kid

      and many more! I don’t think it sounds irresponsible myself, especially based on the experiences that these others, and their children, have had.

  5. Damien September 1, 2013 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Hi Earl, this post is really informative, I am planning to travel around Europe sometime soon and this has helped a lot.
    I am still a little worried about being able to make money while abroad but I’m sure in the end, all will come good.
    I do have one question thought.
    have you found anywhere in Europe / Asia that the “locals” couldn’t understand English ?
    if you did how did you overcome this?
    I have tried to learn as many helpful words in Polish, Slovakian and Russian, but I don’t believe that will be enough if I need to fluently speak it with the locals.
    Thanks once again.

    • Wandering Earl September 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm - Reply

      Hey Damien – In all of my travels, there has never been a situation where I absolutely couldn’t communicate with locals. These days, usually there is someone that speaks at least a little English nearby and if not, you’ll be surprised at how far body language and hand gestures can get you. Languages is not anything you need to worry about.

  6. Colleen February 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    “And I have a strong feeling that most of the people who criticize my decisions probably aren’t so happy with the path they have chosen, and so they choose to condemn my lifestyle in order to make themselves feel a little better.”

    This is the truth. Some people feel personally threatened by someone else’s choosing to live life differently than they do. Particularly if they’ve chosen a more conventional path, the rewards of the unconventional path are unclear to them, so they just write it off as not worthwhile.

    I find comforting something my father used to say to me: “You aren’t in this world to live up to anyone else’s expectations.”

    • Earl February 8, 2012 at 10:40 pm - Reply

      Hey Colleen – Those are indeed wise words. It’s just so easy to fall victim to the pressure of the naysayers even though taking the unconventional path feels so right to so many people. Remember your father’s words would hopefully ensure that a person doesn’t lose focus and maintains a strong confidence in their ability to create the life they truly want to lead.

  7. […] (Remember, I’ve never said that being a permanent nomad is easy!) […]

  8. Laura May 24, 2010 at 5:38 am - Reply

    You make some great points. However, many of the challenges of travel are also rewarding on the flip-side. I often feel out of touch with people (I hate missing birthdays and events) but at the same time my relationships have grown stronger from being apart. Currently I’m struggling with the decision making challenge. The last few days have been really tough for me, but I’ve come out of my funk and feel like I’m making some progress!

    • Earl May 24, 2010 at 8:17 am - Reply

      Hey Laura – That’s an excellent point as there is plenty of positive to be found within all of these challenges. As for being away from people for extended periods of time, as much as I hate it as well, I’ve realized that I would never have even met half of those people I miss had I not traveled so much!

      And I’m glad to hear you’re snapping out of your funk…where does it look like you’ll be headed next?

  9. […] Earl looks at a few of the challenges of being a perpetual nomad – I felt a lot of travel fatigue recently and he pretty much sums up why that […]

  10. mavtraveler May 10, 2010 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    Good post.

    I did it a post recently on some ideas for living in a place for a long time:
    .-= mavtraveler´s last blog ..A Plan For Extended Living Overseas =-.

  11. Dina May 10, 2010 at 8:27 am - Reply

    Hi Earl,
    I can really relate to this article. I think my biggest challenge right now is related to your section “I’m a bum”. It seems like I’m the kind of person that thinks about what people tell me too much. I wish I could share our nomadic life with friends and family. I’m not talking about the plain facts like “I went to this great building and then went to this famous beach”, but about sharing the experience of living a daily life as a nomad. Some times it seems that they’re just not able to listen at all what I am talking about. It feels to me that they can’t relate to what I’m saying and never know how to respond. If my story is positive(I’m happy), their comment will be how lucky I am to be able to “just waste” money on traveling, with a hint of jealousy (of course they would ignore the part I’m telling them about hardworking for money). If my story is negative (the challenges), then they will lecture me on how to live like them, settling down, having a house and kids. So I can’t just share my story like a normal person, I have to be judged as a nomad or traveler, not as a person. I mean, when they say their baby cries a lot, I never suggest them to give up the baby for adoption…

    Fortunately I have a few people that I can talk to like a normal person. It’s just, it’s rather tiring for me to talk with those that just want to judge.
    .-= Dina´s last blog ..Friday Photo: Kyoto Imperial Palace’s Beauty Secret =-.

    • Raam Dev May 10, 2010 at 8:54 am - Reply

      Hi Dina, I can really relate to this and I feel your frustration and pain. The nomadic lifestyle is so new in the modern world, and it goes against so many social norms, that I think it’s inevitable that there will be resistance.

      However, as occurs with any shift in history, the people who lead that change are always criticized in the beginning and eventually looked back on as fearless pioneers and true makers of history.

      I think all we can do is treat those who cannot understand or relate to our lifestyle with compassion and find comfort in connecting with like-minded friends who are also pioneers of change.

      Feel free to connect with me if you need another friend to talk to about your adventures! 🙂
      .-= Raam Dev´s last blog ..A Vision for Life on Earth =-.

      • Dina May 12, 2010 at 12:16 am - Reply

        Thanks for the encouraging words, Raamdev. It’s very true that I find this great comfort talking with this traveling community through various blogs, feel like there are a lot of people that can understand what we are doing.
        And oh, I like your blog a lot! Thanks to introduce that to me. Let’s keep in touch with each other’s journey 🙂
        .-= Dina´s last blog ..Friday Photo: Kyoto Imperial Palace’s Beauty Secret =-.

    • Earl May 10, 2010 at 10:30 am - Reply

      Hey Dina! I hear exactly what you’re saying. When anyone hears that you’re ‘just traveling around’ all the time, they refuse to hear or understand how much hard work is involved. We need to earn money, make difficult decisions and overcome countless obstacles just like everyone else. But just having that label of ‘nomad’ attached to our lifestyle seems to isolate us and give other people a reason to judge.

      But hey, there’s a wonderful community of other like-minded people out there in the world! And the more you continue to live the life you want and to achieve your goals, eventually those family and friends will realize that you knew what you were doing all along. A few of them just might decide to join you in the end!

      • Dina May 12, 2010 at 12:25 am - Reply

        Your first paragraph is exactly how I feel, Earl. The traveling community I find in internet through blogs and twitters does give me comfort. Always nice to have a community that understand what we are doing. I’ve been enjoying making a new friends here. I hope more family/friends will understand what we are doing along the way, and I hope eventually I can talk with them about the daily aspects of my nomad life.
        .-= Dina´s last blog ..Friday Photo: Kyoto Imperial Palace’s Beauty Secret =-.

        • Earl May 12, 2010 at 8:08 pm - Reply

          Hey Dina – It will happen, just give it some time. After all, the lifestyle you’ve chosen at the moment is so different than the normal path that it’s simply incomprehensible to many people, and so you can only be patient while making sure that you stay true to yourself. And at least this online community is not going anywhere!

  12. Raam Dev May 10, 2010 at 2:41 am - Reply

    Earl, as someone who is practically following in your footsteps and has a goal of becoming a permanent nomadic explorer, I found this post incredibly insightful — and basically on-par with what I anticipated would be the difficulties of living as a permanent nomad.

    I’ve been a nomad for about two months now (exploring India) and I can relate to almost every single one of those things you mentioned, especially the decision making and remaining unattached to places!

    After discovering the beach town of Gokarna, I feel like I don’t want to leave. Everything feels perfect. I’ve formed a daily routine of spending the morning at the beach, the afternoon working on my laptop, watching the sunset and spending more time on the beach in the early evening, and then another few hours working on my laptop before bed.

    It feels like I could live like this indefinitely, but I know I need to move on. There are so many other places I want to see! But making the decision of exactly when to move on, when to get the train ticket, and when to leave, is so difficult when I’m thoroughly enjoying the time here. The growing familiarity with the place I’m currently exploring also encourages me not to move on.

    As you and others mentioned in the comments above, finding a balance that works is key. I’m discovering that a few weeks in one place seems to give me enough time to create a routine, really explore and get a feel for the place, and gives me enough time to also get substantial work finished.

    How often do you usually spend in one area? Do you spend several nights/weeks in the same hotel and explore around, or do you constantly move from one hotel to the next?
    .-= Raam Dev´s last blog ..A Vision for Life on Earth =-.

    • Earl May 10, 2010 at 10:24 am - Reply

      Hey Raam! My thought is that you will feel that it’s time to move on at some point. Even though you are completely enjoying your current routine, one day your desire to explore some place new will eventually outweigh your desire to stay in Gokarna. But it’s always tough to make a decision to leave, and believe me, I know how hard it is to leave Gokarna! And if that desire to leave never arrives, well, there’s nothing wrong with that either. It’s your adventure and as long as you’re happy with what you’re doing and where you are, then that’s all that matters.

      I used to be constantly moving around from place to place, a few days here and a few days there. But now, I tend to stay for longer periods of time in the places that I connect with. If I am ok with leaving a particular place after a few days, then I move on, but if I want to stay then I stick around. For me, usually after a month or so, I begin craving some new experiences and decide to pack up and hit the road again. When I do spend an extended period of time in one place though, I do try to stay at one hotel/guesthouse. Over the years, I’ve had some memorable cultural experiences after becoming friends with hotel staff who otherwise don’t interact with foreigners too much. Even just the greeting of the same staff every time I leave or return can turn an ordinary guesthouse into more of a ‘home’!

  13. Mike May 9, 2010 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    I have lived most of my life overseas. I was totally nomadic for a couple of years, which was great, but I eventually wanted to find a place I could call “home”. I am in Bali now and it is a pretty good place to stop for a while 🙂
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..building =-.

    • Earl May 10, 2010 at 10:00 am - Reply

      Hey Mike – Terima kasih for the comment! I would imagine that Bali is more than just a ‘pretty good place’ to stop for a while!!

      There is definitely something to be said for sleeping in the same bed every night and not having to carry your backpack around all the time. And as you’ve proven, that ‘home’ doesn’t have to be back in our home countries. Bali, Thailand, Mexico, Costa Rica…there’s plenty of comfortable places out there to stay for an extended period of time.

  14. Andi May 9, 2010 at 8:07 am - Reply

    I admire you and other nomads greatly, because this is a lifestyle that I fantasize about and flirt with occasionally when I travel for weeks at a time, but at the end of the day could never commit to. I think it’s definitely easy to get caught up in the sexiness of it and not realize that there ARE lots of issues that need to be thought of before embarking on this path. I think you did an awesome job of listing the main issues. It really irks me though that people see this path as one of a bum. So ignorant!!!
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..imgp2629 =-.

    • Earl May 9, 2010 at 11:08 am - Reply

      Hey Andi – You’re a great example, as you examined the pros and cons and then decided exactly how much you wanted travel to be a part of your life. And that’s what everyone should do before following one particular path just because it sounds so appealing on the surface. Although, I’d much prefer to think of being a nomad as sexy as opposed to being the lifestyle of a bum!

  15. Lisis May 9, 2010 at 5:54 am - Reply

    Wonderful post, Earl! I’ve been meaning to ask you about some of the challenges you face in the course of your “charmed” life. If there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that E V E R Y choice has its pros and cons. I just try to make decisions in which the pros outweigh the cons… for me. It’s such an individual thing.

    I’ve been semi-nomadic most of my life, moving to a new town, state, or country every year or two. Now we’ve been in Vermont just over six months and I find myself wanting to set down roots for the first time. I don’t know if it will actually happen (’cause I’m not the only one that gets a vote on this matter,) but it’s interesting to notice myself feeling less prone to my semi-nomadic lifestyle.

    Anyway, I really appreciate you sharing some of the practical realities of the lifestyle you have chosen. I think it’s best for people to know what they are getting into if they choose to follow in your footsteps.

    • Earl May 9, 2010 at 11:01 am - Reply

      Lisis!! Just seeing your name pop up in my comments lifts my mood!

      You are right, every choice does have two sides to it and I think as soon as people hear the word ‘travel’ associated with any lifestyle, they automatically think it is an absolute dream every second of every day. Which of course it is not…and this list was just a small sample of all the challenges involved. Something I didn’t mention in the post is that opening myself to a never-ending string of new experiences eliminates any sense of stability. I rarely know what I’ll be doing in a few months, where I’ll be, what twists and turns my life will have taken. And that feeling of constant ‘suspense’, while at times exciting, can also be quite terrifying!

      I think its wonderful that you can recognize the slow transformation from wanting to be a nomad to perhaps having a more settled lifestyle. Being a nomad is no different than any other life path and if you don’t realize when it is time to change directions, you’ll be stuck doing something that is no longer in tune with your goals.

      And it’s good to see that your family is taking the democratic approach with its decisions. But perhaps you should start negotiating for some veto power just in case!

  16. Maria Staal May 9, 2010 at 5:33 am - Reply

    So recognisable! The longest period I ‘bummed around’ was one-and-a-half-year and then I was glad to return and have my own space again. I forgot how to speak my native laguage (Dutch) as well and found it really weird to return home and overhear people in the street speak Dutch.
    But even though I can recognise all the points you have made, I would not have wanted to miss out on all the experiences I had.
    .-= Maria Staal´s last blog ..When You’re a Saint they Write about You =-.

    • Earl May 9, 2010 at 10:46 am - Reply

      Hey Maria – It must be quite bizarre to return home and have your own language seem so foreign! But I guess 1.5 years away will do that, especially if you don’t come across many other Dutch speakers during your adventures.

      On the other hand, I’ve definitely been encouraged by hearing that you, and so many others, would not have given up their ‘bumming around’ despite all of these difficulties and challenges!

  17. Brandon Pearce May 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    I can relate to many of the challenges you listed. We’ve been renting a house here in Costa Rica for the past four months (we have a year lease), so we do feel like we have a place to call home, and aren’t living out of backpacks; although we have avoided collecting too much stuff. But trying to decide where to go next, and having to say goodbye to friends when you move on (especially if you’ve been in a place for a while) is definitely a challenge.
    .-= Brandon Pearce´s last blog ..Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 30 Years of Living =-.

    • Earl May 8, 2010 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      Hey Brandon! The saying goodbye part is always a struggle and I’m sure after a year in Costa Rica you’ll have met some wonderful people and made plenty of new friends. I guess it’s just one aspect of traveling that we have no choice but to deal with. Although I do constantly remind myself that every time I move on to a different place, I meet an entirely new group of people, and there is definitely some solace in that thought.

      Keep on enjoying Costa Rica! A year is a great chunk of time to spend in one place.

  18. Liz May 8, 2010 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Very very true!

    For me it’s a bit hard to be in the other side of the world walking in furniture shops, loving what I see, and then I just think “i dont have a place to put any of this” =( as I am constantly homeless… no space for souvenirs, no space for anything! Or even to choose where to go next! Lol, but hey, at the end it is all good! =)

    • Earl May 8, 2010 at 5:42 pm - Reply

      Hey Liz – It can be hard fighting that urge to buy something that you absolutely want but have nowhere to put. It all goes back to not having a permanent home. There’s nowhere to even send such items to keep for a later stage in life. Living out of a backpack or suitcase just doesn’t allow for furniture or very many other purchases for that matter! Oh well, like you said, it is all good and worth it anyway.

  19. Osborne May 8, 2010 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    I love the “flipping the coin” solution. I have used it many times when I am bored. I even have an inner monologue sometimes – “I am really freaking bored” “Walk to a different city then turn around” “I have class” “Not till Monday” “I will make you a deal – I will flip a coin if it’s heads I will do it, if it’s tails I throw a party Saturday.” It has come up heads many times. I always found that the hardest part of walking to different cities and places is turning around and going back.

    • Earl May 8, 2010 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      Hey Osborne – Excellent, so I’m not the only one using the coin flipping method! I love the idea of walking to different cities when you’re bored, how long do you typically walk for? I can also envision the difficult of having to turn back eventually. Perhaps one of these days you might just keep on going…

      I’ve also had the idea of walking around the world in the back of my head!

      • Osborne May 8, 2010 at 5:45 pm - Reply

        I too have been thinking about walking around the world for a while now. I just haven’t gotten all of the logistics worked out yet. I use to be able to do 30-40 miles in a day, more if I didn’t worry about sleeping. I haven’t done it in awhile, I should really do it again soonish to keep those muscles strong. I’m also a big fan of hitch hiking and talking/meeting the random strange folks who are brave enough to pick up a hitch hiker these days.

        • Earl May 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm - Reply

          Hey Osborne – I don’t know if you’ve ever read the story about Dave Kunst who walked around the world starting in 1970, but it’s pretty damn inspiring. Here’s a good link…actually, the website is not so good but if you scroll down and read the story, it’s quite amazing.

          • Osborne May 8, 2010 at 11:48 pm

            I always had the thought of walking through every country – I would count it if I just hit even the tip of one to cut through it to another one. I would start my trip by flying to the lowest point in South America then work my way up to Alaska to cross the ice pass into Russia. I haven’t figured the rest out yet. I do realize I would have to catch a ride with a trucker for that part and I would have to get on a boat or plane to get to Antarctica and Australia.

  20. John Bardos - JetSetCitizen May 8, 2010 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    A few issues for me are;

    Lack of routine
    I need regular sleep. It can take a week or so to get rid of jet lag at times. Also, I want to exercise regularly so access to a gym helps a lot.

    Healthy Food
    It is hard to find inexpensive and healthy food to eat if you are always moving. It is nice to have a nearby market with consistent food you can recognize.

    Visas and Finances
    Companies and governments have no idea how to deal with people without a permanent address. I don’t have a phone number at all. My address for my bank accounts and credit credit cards is an empty house.
    .-= John Bardos – JetSetCitizen´s last blog ..Why I am so Successful (Hint: It is not because of my over-sized ego) =-.

    • Earl May 8, 2010 at 5:01 pm - Reply

      Hey John – I’m glad that you commented, as I had a feeling you would have some unique insights to add. The lack of routine can indeed be challenging, although I think I’ve lacked a routine for so long that I wouldn’t know what to do with one these days! But finding healthy food is often an issue. Sometimes I find the perfect market or restaurant and then suddenly I’m in a new place and I have to start the search all over again, and of course, you never know what to expect.

      And the lack of a permanent address is something that causes a lot of problems as well. Even every time I return to the US I end up spending several minutes trying to explain to the immigration official why I have been traveling around again and why I don’t live in one place. And they never understand and just send me over for a closer ‘inspection’ from the customs agents.

      I don’t know how I would manage if I didn’t have a phone number either, although I’m sure you must get used to the issues it causes by now. Or else that would be one major, never-ending headache…

  21. Sanford May 8, 2010 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Thank you for the post. I love reading your material.

    I traveled some as a younger man (not near what you do). But I can understand the wanting to share the knowledge and experiences. Hopefully you are keeping a journal and logging it all.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on how to share it all.

    May your paths be downhill and the wind be at your back.
    .-= Sanford´s last blog ..Sanford49: Challenges Of A Permanent Nomad =-.

    • Earl May 8, 2010 at 4:52 pm - Reply

      Hey Sanford – Thanks so much for your kind words, I really do appreciate hearing from readers that are enjoying what I write.

      I actually do write quite a lot while I’m traveling, always trying to keep track of as much of the knowledge that I gain along the way as possible. And I am now more dedicated than ever to sharing my experiences, so I’m working on some creative ways of doing just that. All I can say is that I’m looking forward to the near future!

      Thanks again for being a part of this community Sanford!

  22. Financial Samurai May 8, 2010 at 10:56 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing the other side of your story as well Earl. I do think it’s important everything isn’t always peaches and cream, in everything we do.
    Happy traveling!
    .-= Financial Samurai´s last blog ..The White Cloud of Happiness =-.

    • Earl May 8, 2010 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      Hey Sam – I’ve always felt that nothing is ever as it seems and I know that is the case with long-term travel. As a result, I agree on the importance of talking about all sides, the good, the bad and everything in between. Without those perspectives, sound decisions just can’t be made. Enjoy your weekend!

  23. rose May 8, 2010 at 9:57 am - Reply

    I have a hard time when I am on the road for too long because I miss being able to have a workspace in which I can play, sewing and felting and making jewelry. Of course, having limited means is sometimes what leads to the most creative solutions! And I really appreciate getting inspiration from everyday objects from around the world – I think that has really influenced my creations a lot.

    The other thing I get tired of, in the long run, is that not only do I miss having a small space of my own, but I really miss being able to invite people into my home. After being welcomed by so many generous people while on the road, there comes a time when I miss being able to offer a friendly space, good food and conversation to others – that is something I enjoy a lot.

    Oh, and as a girl travelling alone, the “always on the lookout” factor is multiplied by 2 to 10, depending which country you’re in and what time of day it is… you get used to it, but you need a break every now and then! (especially after a bunch of drunk indian factory workers have just tried to throw your boyfriend off the train so they can grope you some more – fortunately drunkards lack proper coordination!).

    But definitely, every time I come back “home” and see the differences between my life and that of those who have stayed put, I have no doubts about the fact that I’ll be packing my backpack again soon!


    ps. can you send me some of those mangoes?!!

    • Earl May 8, 2010 at 4:46 pm - Reply

      Hey Rose – I think you’d better come to Mexico for those mangoes, they’re not very fond of flying! I was just speaking with someone the other day about not really having a home to invite people to and it is also something that I miss. But every time a friend joins me for some traveling, I think of that as my form of inviting them over for a dinner party! Unfortunately, it just doesn’t happen as often as I’d like.

      And I don’t doubt the fact that a single female must up the ‘always on the lookout’ efforts, making that challenging aspect of travel much more significant. Public groping by strangers just doesn’t happen to me too much. But hey, that hasn’t stopped you from returning to India quite often!

      • rose May 8, 2010 at 7:50 pm - Reply

        Definitely not – I plan to get back to India someday soon! But I might just have to stop in on a handful of other places on the way… : )

        I like the the idea of inviting people to travel – you’re right that it is a similar feeling, and I loved having both of my parents come with me to India. It was wonderful to be able to share at least a glimpse of that with them!

        I was just thinking that one of the worst parts of travelling too much is that you end up always missing the food you had in another country, and then you’re stuck having to go back there to get your fix. Like right now – all I can think of is a yummy mango lassi!!!

  24. Brian Wadman May 8, 2010 at 9:51 am - Reply

    The ever reliable flip of a coin – thanks for the chuckle as always. Thanks for helping Steve as well – he is leaving for Australia at the end of the month!

    • Earl May 8, 2010 at 4:21 pm - Reply

      Hey Brian – No problem at all. That’s wonderful news that Steve will be on his way soon. If you see him, tell him I wish him all the best and to email me if he ever has any other questions. He must be quite excited at this point!

  25. Guy McLaren May 8, 2010 at 10:58 am - Reply

    Strange 200 years ago you would have been an intrepid explorer, Today you are a shiftless bum. I can’t wait to become a full time shiftless bum
    .-= Guy McLaren´s last blog ..My “Holiday” for charity =-.

    • Earl May 8, 2010 at 4:35 pm - Reply

      Hey Guy – Haha, that’s perfect! Your words could not be more true. And I’m glad that you’re not letting that fact stop you. We need more bums out here!

  26. Todd May 8, 2010 at 8:27 am - Reply

    Nice post Earl. My friends and family often forget about the negative sides to my travels. For me the positive aspects outweigh the negative…but it doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated quite often. Cheers
    .-= Todd´s last blog ..World Travel through the eyes of the Lonely Planet Bloggers =-.

    • Earl May 8, 2010 at 4:24 pm - Reply

      Hey Todd – I know what you mean. How many times do we hear something like – well, it must be nice just traveling around all the time! If only they knew the inner challenges and difficult decisions that must be made to sustain such a lifestyle. But like you said, even with the frustrations, it’s well worth it being a nomad, at least to some of us.

  27. Jonny | May 8, 2010 at 8:15 am - Reply

    Great insights Earl.

    Though I have not travelled as extensively as you have I can relate to many of the points that you highlight. The constant change, though novel at first, can get repetitive and taxing especially when it is in place of building lasting friendships with family and friends back home.

    Personally, I love travelling but having just recently returned from an awesome 3 months in India I am think that for me, limiting myself to a 3 month Hiatus every year is the balance that will bring me the most happiness. Anything else becomes too unbalanced.
    .-= Jonny |´s last blog ..Thelifething Is On A Hiatus =-.

    • Earl May 8, 2010 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      Hey Jonny – Balance is definitely the key. And often times I think people head off for an ‘indefinite’ adventure only to realize that there are a lot more challenges than they had imagined. And in the end, they need to evaluate their own life and what’s important to them, as you’ve done, and then decide how much travel works for them. I’m just glad to hear that you’re not giving up travel altogether! Although I’m happier to hear that you had an ‘awesome’ time in India!

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