Confessions of a Modern Day Nomad
“What exactly is your job?”
“Don’t you have a career plan with your degree?"
”What do you want to do with your life?”
“Don’t you want to settle down and buy a house like a normal person?”
”What do your parents say about this?”
I’m going to be honest and say I often get patronising looks, ludicrous questions and condescending remarks when it comes to telling someone about my lifestyle. Recently, I went to a work function (as a guest) and I had a lot of ‘professional’ people ask me - “what do you do?” So I told them about my summer in Norway as a Kayak guide, my previous job in Germany at a cafe, my exchange semesters in Vienna and Stockholm… and I can still vividly remember that one man who mockingly said to me, “Oh, no wonder your parents are still working hah” … ahem. I bit back my tongue and cooled off my burning rage by downing a glass of cold water. His remark enraged me and provided the much needed motivation for me to write this post that would be sure to wipe that smirk off his face. Do I not seem capable of funding my own travels and exchanges? Because I’m a female and young females who travel a lot must come from privileged families and live off their parents? This insinuation, was not just a one-off. In fact, I constantly feel this false accusation from many of the adults I speak to. That there’s no way this young female who calls herself a freelancer could afford to travel so much and for so long, all on her own without money from her parents. C’mon guys. We live in the 21st Century not the 20th! In this day and age of the digital world and advancements in technology, there are so many opportunities out there - it would be a pity if we didn’t make the most of that.
In contrast to the negatives, I also get many positive questions and supportive remarks - mostly from young females who also want to travel more but feel somewhat restricted by societal expectations. I’m really glad that there are people out there who do understand me, who live like me or find my lifestyle interesting and exciting. Still, there exists a huge stigma that travelling solo as a female is dangerous. That you need to be with a man because a man will protect you. Umm… I don’t need a man to protect me. I just need self belief in my own intuition and so far, it has never led me astray. I will travel with a male because I enjoy their company, not because I need a man to feel safe. Yes, I have had a few dodgy scenarios, met people I didn’t feel comfortable with, but I listened to my intuition and hey, I’m still alive! (Will elaborate more on this in a future post for ‘Travelling as a Solo Female’).
Today, I wanted to shine some light on this very volatile nomadic lifestyle of mine because I feel like people only ever get fragments of my life - usually the beautiful destinations - and those who don’t know my full story will harbour some misconceptions about my life and probably assume I’m always travelling and never working (partially true). I don’t often show the not-so-glam side of my travels on social media, nor do I talk about the sacrifices I’ve made in order to make ends meet and to make this lifestyle work. It’s also very lonely sometimes because it’s rare for me to meet people who truly ‘get me’ (let alone be in the same country to meet up) but I know there are many young nomads out there these days and also many people who are considering trying out this lifestyle. So if you happen to be interested in what life is like as a 21st Century Nomad - by all means, read on. Let this be an introduction to a series of “Life on the Road”.
First and foremost, I’d like to dispel one of the biggest misconception people have about this nomadic lifestyle: That it’s unsustainable and expensive AF! Three years ago, I thought the same. I never thought I’d still be on the road in 2019 with yet another year of adventure in the making and I’m so bloody proud that I’ve made it this far without having to succumb to that 9-5 office job again! The thing is, I actually save so much money by not having a fixed base. By constantly having a limited amount of space in my luggage, it deters me from shopping and accumulating unnecessary stuff - so I very rarely buy clothes or things unless it has some practical use for my travels. I also don’t have a house or plan to have a mortgage, I don’t have all those extra overheads that come with being in a fixed place. I’m also not exposed to that culture of needing to have the newest flashiest gadget, dress, watch, or car. I choose not to be exposed to that materialistic culture because I had that when I worked an office job downtown in the city and realised that with a pay rise, comes increased expenses and credit card allowances, you can now afford that Gucci handbag or Mercedes car you always wanted, or perhaps now you can move into a bigger apartment or buy a new holiday house. Money is earned to be spent right? But if you are spending more because you’re earning more, then how much did you really ‘save’?? To an extent, this is also true for me. But the more I save, the more that gets funnelled back into my travel experiences, thus the longer I am able to travel. Granted when I’m travelling, I’m also working/freelancing/doing my own projects, so I actually never stop working these days, even when I’m ‘on holiday’ - which might surprise a lot of you. My entire life packs down to 3 checked in bags + 1 day pack and my most treasured possessions are my travels journals. I don’t have much to show but I do have endless stories to tell :)
The second misconception I often hear is that it’s easy for me because I’m confident and have a lot of life experience but they could never do it because they don’t have the right skill set or confidence or whatever excuse people give themselves. Truth is, all you need is a burning passion. If you want to learn a new skill set, there are free YouTube tutorials and a bunch of free information online, you just need to input determination, perseverance and a lot of hard work. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes to keep this lifestyle up and I sacrifice a stupid amount of comfort to make ends meet. I wasn’t always confident and I don’t know why this surprises so many people, but I was a really really shy person right up till about three years ago when I started travelling in fact. I never believed in myself, would never be the one to speak out or have a good idea, and certainly wouldn’t be sitting here pouring my heart and soul into a newly founded blog. As someone who grew up in NZ but didn’t know how to set up a tent until the age of 19, I would classify myself as one of the high risk, least qualified humans to go out and backpack the world. My self confidence could still do with a lot more self-love, but I’ve come a long way and I honestly have travelling to thank for my newfound confidence. So this personality or confidence wasn’t given to me, I wasn’t born with the skills that currently allow me to live this lifestyle. I learned to be resourceful and to be smart with my money. I had and still have a burning desire to see the world and with that desire comes my determination and willingness to learn and acquire new skills.
Since the human attention span only lasts so long, I thought I’d briefly answer the top 10 most frequently asked questions I get about my lifestyle and may elaborate more in depth on some of the topics in a future article.
Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions:
Do you miss having a home, a routine and stability?
- I definitely miss having a place that feels like home, but because I literally don’t have a home and my family is scattered around the world, I can’t do much about that. It’s also one of the reasons I keep travelling I think, as if hopeful in search of a place that calls home.
- I like short term routine, it’s good for my productivity but I can’t stand the thought of long term routine, that would bore me and I’d end up leaving pretty quickly. I need constant change and new routines that engage me.
- I miss financial stability yes, but at the same time, it’s kinda fun pushing that boundary and seeing how far my modest amount of savings will get me. It’s like a fun but stressful challenge for me. In terms of life stability, I love my volatile lifestyle. I love having no idea which country I’ll be in two-three months from now or what kind of job I’ll be doing then. It’s what excites me and motivates me to wake up everyday with new ideas and keep finding ways to improve/expand my skills.
Do you worry about the future and what you’ll do for job security?
Yes and No. I worry about the direction I want to take in the coming years, I’d like to have something I can build on and improve over the years but I’m just not sure in what yet. In terms of job security… I don’t think job security exists?? In the coming decades, so many jobs will be automated, robots will take over a huge portion of the job sector and I think people with very narrow skillsets run more risk of being out of jobs in the future than I do. Also travelling has taught me a lot of necessary life skills and I’ve gotten pretty good at making ends meet so I know that when push comes to shove, I’ll do what needs to be done - job wise.
How long do you plan to keep doing this for? And how do you pick where to go next?
I hope to do this for as long as possible or until I feel like settling down, which doesn’t seem likely in the next decade. Funnily enough, I pick my locations before I have any job security and I’m pretty optimistic I’ll find something. If not, there are plenty of remote jobs online these days. Therefore, the more important aspects for me are the people/culture and as a photographer, the landscape has to be photogenic :D
Don’t you get exhausted travelling so much and for so long?
Yes I do and it’s so important to have a place where I feel at home, where I can rest and recover. I feel so fortunate to have had a German family who welcomed this crazy homeless nomad into their home. Words will never do justice to the amount of love and gratitude I feel for them. To me, out of all the places in the world, that is the one place that feels most like home. And because I had that feeling of home, I was able to continue travelling so long without being burnt out.
Don’t you want to use your degree in life?
Of course I do, I’m not about to let my $40,000 NZD loan go to waste without seeing a return on that! I just have no idea how I’m going to use my business degree, but I’m sure it’ll come in handy someday. All I know is that I won’t be using my degree for a 9-5 office job.
Do you ever get scared travelling by yourself?
95% of the time - no. I’m very confident in myself and I trust my intuition above all else. I don’t fear the unknown, but rather embrace it and that’s a huge part of being ok with solo travel. The other 5% yes, sometimes when I’m all alone, camping in the middle of nowhere and it’s freezing or stormy, I do get scared but I know it’s all in my head and that the human body is capable of surviving some pretty extreme situations.
How do you financially support yourself and your travels?
I will probably discuss this more in another post, but basically at the moment I have no passive income. So I have to work various different jobs to keep myself afloat. In Spain, I was an Au Pair for 3 months. In Germany, I worked as a cafe barista first for 3 months and that helped me for my exchange in Stockholm, I then went back and worked for another 4 months before leaving for Norway. In Norway, I was a kayak guide and also did some freelancing for photography. Currently, I am freelancing as a translator from German to English and I love being able to work remotely! Basically my pattern is: work really really hard for a short period and save as much as possible by living cheap, then go and enjoy life for a few months :) It’s all about optimisation and prioritising what I value most, which is freedom.
What’s the worst part about this lifestyle?
- Definitely not having a routine and you seeing my self discipline go out the window - it’s really frustrating when my to-do list and projects start piling up.
- Absence of familiarity and sense of belonging
- Constantly missing my family and close friends who are scattered around the world
- That I can’t simply just ‘go home’ when I need a break or whenever I want to because I don’t have a home.
What do your parents say? Were they supportive?
Coming from a traditional family, it took a while (more like years) for my family to come around to accepting the idea that I wanted to keep travelling and postpone my professional career. I think when they finally realised I was never going back, they finally came around, especially when I was able to prove that I could be independent. And while my parents don’t support me financially, it means the world to me that they support me emotionally.
What is it about travelling that’s so addictive to you?
Everything!! The culture shock, the foreign language that is like music to my ears, the food… it is the endless contrast that fuels my love for travel. I love how much I learn and grow as a person when travelling, opening my mind up to new cultures and new perspectives. I love that no one knows who I am and therefore I am free to be any version of myself I choose to be. Sometimes, no one knows where I am either - and occasionally I don’t even know exactly where I am. But the main point is, I don’t feel confined by my peers or by society to fit a certain category. When I travel, I have the freedom to explore and discover so many sides to myself I never even knew existed, never thought possible or never thought myself capable. I literally went from being an OCD perfectionist to a spontaneous nomadic freelancer. Life is full of surprises!
Three years ago, I truly never imagined myself living this nomadic lifestyle, let alone to be sitting here writing about it. Feels kind of surreal. But a huge part of me wanted to share my story and I’m glad it overrode the tiny shy voice in my head that didn’t want to do this. I want to start sharing more of my experiences and what I’ve learnt along the way, my intention is to hopefully inspire more of you to go out there and see the world for yourselves - regardless of whether you have a travel partner or not.
Let me know in the comments below or through my social media handles, what you thought of this piece and what kind of articles you’d like to read more of. I’ll be posting two new articles a week this month so you can be sure to have new content to read every week! Hope you enjoyed today’s insight and you’ll hear from me in the next one!