Welcome to Unsettle Down, where change is the only constant and we won't settle for anything less than a life lived fully. 

So You Want to Be a Nomad?

So You Want to Be a Nomad?

Part I: Finding your way to the road

This is part I of our series "Designing Your New Life Abroad." Read part II here.

Bali. Oahu. Paris. Aukland. Santorini. Budapest. Cape Town. Oslo. Singapore.

After ten minutes scrolling through Instagram pictures of nomads criss-crossing the globe, the reality of your own situation may seem relatively mundane. There they are, living on the road, visiting country after country, continent after continent, making memories to last several lifetimes over. The gap between their big adventures and your tiny screen seems to grow with each passing post. A twinge of envy accompanies each like and comment. You’d love to lead the kind of life those travelers do but, for some reason, you know it’s just an expensive pipe dream.

But, what if it’s not?

Visualize your goals

What if you could live a seemingly unburdened life like the new nomads without breaking the bank? If you haven’t really considered a life of slow travel, or whatever your travel goal may be, give it a try. Close your eyes, suspend your doubt for a bit, and really meditate on your potential future. Let’s say, for example, your dream is to see the Eiffel Tower in springtime. Let’s go there for a bit to see what that’s like.

paris france digital nomad

Visualize yourself crossing the bridge over the Seine river. The warm sun beats down as you walk under the shadow of the tower. Paris bustles around you. Parisians rush past you as if you’re not even there. Tourists pose for selfie after selfie. The boats on the river honk as they pass. The smell of the pastries in the shop down the street catches your attention. Maybe it’s time for a little picnic lunch by the tower.

Beautiful, right?

Do you feel butterflies in your gut right now?

If so, you're being taken hostage by the kind of excitement that won’t ever let go. The travel bug bit you and now there’s a burning fire in your heart. Your mind starts racing through scenarios where you could actually depart for Paris and beyond: “I could sell my stuff, use my savings, get a new job or work for myself, and get on a plane… I could just go”.

Before you buy any plane tickets, let’s go deeper.

Revel in the challenges

In reality, if you make the jump, that stroll through the Champ de Mars will be only a small portion of your full-time travel experience. To understand how this could go, think about the hours and days surrounding that spectacular springtime moment in Paris. Let’s focus on the details for a bit longer.

How long would you travel through France? Will you need a visa? Would you just fly into Paris, or start in Germany and take the train? Where would you stay? Hotel? Hostel? Could you afford downtown or would you have to stay outside the center? Can you ride the metro or bus into the city? Would you need a car? How much are rental cars compared to a bus pass? Wait, how much will food cost? Can you afford to go to a cafe each morning? How far will your money go when you transition to the Euro? Will this even work?

Yes, it will, but there are tons of questions to answer and a million things to plan.

And unless you’re hiring a travel agent or personal assistant, you’re doing the heavy lifting yourself. If you don’t sweat the details or aren’t keen on research, nomadic life may be a hard adjustment for you. You don’t have to love the planning aspect, but you do need to be mentally prepared for late nights and hours spent setting and resetting your itinerary. We can't tell you how many times we’ve scrapped our plans and started from scratch -- we’d need a whole blog post just for that.

Kailen after a miles long hike up to Città Alta in Bergamo, Italy.

Kailen after a miles long hike up to Città Alta in Bergamo, Italy.

Capture the fire

At this point, that fire in your heart may be just about snuffed out by an avalanche of doubt. Right on cue, that short-sighted voice inside may be whispering... this plan just can’t work. It’s too risky. It’s too expensive. What about my bills? My family? My job? My kids? You’ve entrenched yourself in your comfortable life, and you can’t quite grasp making a change this drastic.

But you can. You absolutely can. It’s your life, after all.

Chelsea gawking at the ancient fortified walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Chelsea gawking at the ancient fortified walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Use that fire inside you. Burn away doubt when it creeps in. Light up the unknown darkness as you look ahead to your new future. Be fearless. Tackle the hardest things first. You’ve done tougher things in your life than this already, we guarantee it. My family and I are living proof that just about anyone can make a jump to nomadic life. We didn’t have a nest egg. We aren't trust fund kids. We don't have a fall back to a posh life by the beach. We were once just normal people, staring at Instagram, green with envy, curious if we could make it work.  

If you’re still excited after this, you’re ready, and you just need to start planning. 

Set your expectations

Instagram or the Travel Channel may be your nomadic inspiration, but they shouldn’t dictate your itinerary. The most popular destinations could make you completely miserable, while the gems off the beaten path could become your new heaven on earth. Start by asking yourself: What is your goal? Why take this risk? What drives you? Do you envision yourself clubbing in London, sipping wine at an art show in Florence, or hiking the real Sierra Nevadas in southern Spain? Or do you just want to get away from it all, get to know yourself or your family, and challenge yourself to grow?

In order to fully enjoy your experience, you need to tailor your itinerary to your goals, set a realistic budget, and determine a comfortable pace for yourself and your crew. Life on the road is all about priorities and compromise, and though that is true for anyone, it affects nomadic life drastically.

On the road, you can stay anywhere from a one room hostel to a five-star hotel. Would added luxury take away from the authentic experience you crave?

You can eat out every day, or make noodles for each meal. Will your budget really be sustainable for months on end? Will you see what you want to see, or will you just be exhausted? 

Bucketlist item checked at Michaelangelo's David.

Bucketlist item checked at Michaelangelo's David.

It is important to know in advance that the glamor of Instagram pictures rarely translates to everyday nomadic life. Our family personally craves slow and sustainable travel, living where and how the locals live. We hardly ever rent cars, and eating out is considered a treat. We take the bus, go grocery shopping, and try to avoid tourists as much as possible. Being grounded in our surroundings makes the journey that much more fulfilling. We’re living out our dreams now, and scouting out our future trips while we’re at it. Exhaustive research, extensive planning, and brutal honesty got us exactly the trip we wanted, and we saved money while doing it.

Chelsea getting her 15th passport stamp in San Marino in July 2017.

Chelsea getting her 15th passport stamp in San Marino in July 2017.

Now you just need to know how to do it, too.

If you’re still reading, and want to make the jump to a new nomadic life, then you’re ready for the nitty-gritty details. Stay tuned for Part II, where we tell you EXACTLY how we afford traveling full time.


Follow your dreams of full time travel digital nomad
6 Steps for Budgeting Life as a Digital Nomad

6 Steps for Budgeting Life as a Digital Nomad

Video: Full-Time Travel in Europe as a Family

Video: Full-Time Travel in Europe as a Family