How to Become a Nomad: It Takes a Lot of Planning to Be Carefree


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"Contrary to popular belief, I don’t just flit around the world on a whim, landing wherever the wind blows me, whenever I get there. My nomadic lifestyle, exciting as it is (at least to me), doesn’t just happen by chance.

It takes a lot of planning to be carefree.

Maybe carefree isn’t the right word. Maybe just “free” is. Or maybe “happy”, or “not worried” or “at peace with whatever the future holds”. Because for me, carefree encompasses all of these things. Some days the mix isn’t quite right, and I’m less happy or less sure or more worried, but in general, this is how it goes for me.

But how is it possible to go through life running around the world, going from job to job and not worry too much about things? Or how is it even possible to do it at all, worried or not?

You’ve got to:

1. Embrace uncertainty. (Don’t worry, be happy!)

Read here if you’re not sure what I’m talking about. In short, start being OK with not knowing what’s going to happen to you or how a certain situation will turn out.

2. Learn all you can about the things that matter. (Knowledge is power.)

You want to live in Lisbon for a month and not worry while you’re there? Figure out what it takes to live in Lisbon for a month. Get on your Google machine and find housing costs, transportation costs, restaurant costs, etc. In this day and age, it’s all out there. This way, you’ll reduce the number of unhappy surprises you encounter.

You want to hop from contract job to contract job? Learn the system. Learn when certain jobs start and finish, in general what they pay, and when you have to apply and be hired for them. I teach ESL in Toronto. I know which schools generally hire when, what they pay, and when the start dates are for their terms. I know which credentials I have to have to be hired. I know when I should expect to hear about my summer employment leading student groups around Europe. I know how much I’ll make, and which of my costs will be covered.

I understand how the system works for the things I like to do, so I can plan for various situations.

knowledgepower3. Don’t grab onto the first shiny thing you see. (Be realistic!)

Just because you do your research and find that there ARE apartments in Lisbon for 200 euros a month, doesn’t mean you’ll want to live in one, and it doesn’t mean one will be available to you. This shouldn’t be what you bank on. Don’t stop your search about the cost of living in Lisbon because you’ve found an answer that suits your budget and feeds your over-optimism. Think about the probability of being able to find a decent apartment for 200 euros a month. Are there many listed? How do they look? If 200E is the middle of the road, chances are good you’ll be able to find something. If you see one hole-in-the-wall apartment listed for 200E, chances are that shouldn’t be what you budget for.

This also applies to the employment system. Just because you apply for a job, doesn’t mean you’ll get it. Just because you know when start dates are, doesn’t mean that’ll help you get hired. However, think about things like this: Have you done this job before? Do you have experience? Do you have relationships with anyone hiring or currently doing that job?  Are they hiring many people, or just one? Have you applied many places (good), or are you putting all your eggs in one basket (bad)?

4. Know your options. (Know your options.)

You’ve embraced uncertainty. You’ve learned all you can about things that matter in your life plan. You’ve put on your realistic glasses and assessed the situation. Now, flesh out as many possible scenarios as you can. Not in a manic, worried way. In a calm, cool, collected and objective way.

This was my thought process in late August. I had just come back from Europe travelling and working for 3 and a half months. I knew I had to attend my best friend’s wedding in New Zealand in December.

I want to go back to teaching at the college where I taught before. I want to save as much money as I can, and I want to leave for my trip across the world in November/December, hitting a few countries. I don’t want to use up my savings. 

Scenario 1: I get the teaching job, save all sorts of money, and everything goes according to plan. Leave for trip in November/December.

Scenario 2: I get a job, but not with the amount of hours I want, which means less money. I save all the money I can and still leave in November/December. I re-evaulate the length of the trip but still go.

Scenario 3: No teaching job for me. I find something else short-term, otherwise I freelance as much as I can and live off of canned beans. I pare down the travel dream, but I still go at least to New Zealand.

Luckily, I landed with scenario 1. However, I had a plan for the three different realities I may have come up against. And if I had ended up with scenario 3, that would have been OK too, because of step number #5.

decision-tree5. Prepare for your worst-case scenario. (Cushion the fall.)

I’m not saying to always expect your worst-case scenario. You wouldn’t be too happy and carefree then, would you? What I’m saying is to be prepared so that your worst-case scenario  isn’t actually a terrible scenario, just a less-than-ideal one.

For example, if I had ended up jobless and eating canned beans right now, I’ll admit that it wouldn’t have been the highlight of my life. But I still would have been able to see friends and family, be constructive by writing, and stand by my best friend at her wedding across the world.

keep calmWhy? Because I had money saved up from before, and I have parents who love to have me at home. (Right, Mom?) I wasn’t starting from zero. I know there’s always the possibility that I won’t come back to an open teaching position, or that a surprise expense will launch a sneak attack. I didn’t want to delve into my savings to live off of from September to December and to pay for the NZ trip, but I would have if I had had to, and it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.

Not bad for a worst-case scenario, right?

In this How to Become a Nomad series, many of the things I recommend doing build on one another. Changing your attitude, planning, and having the right outlook are all interrelated, and the success of one of these pursuits affects the success of the others.

Keep your eyes peeled for my next post: How to Become a Nomad: Master the Routine of Change.

How to Become a Nomad: Embrace Uncertainty


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"This is post #3 in the “How to Become a Nomad” series. If you missed the previous posts, click here and here to catch up.

I had just returned to Canada after three and a half months of working and travelling in Europe. I was out for a morning walk with my childhood friend and her dog, and we were discussing what I’d be doing next.

“So, it’s the end of August, and you still don’t know if you have a teaching job in September?” my friend asked incredulously.

“Nope.” I responded.

“So you have no idea what you’ll be doing in a week’s time? Where you’ll get money? How you’ll be filling your days?”

“Nope. Nope. Nope,” I replied again.

“And you’re OK with this?”

My mouth started to form another “nope”, but then I reconsidered. “I have to be,” I said with a shrug. “What can I do?”

“Huh.” My friend snuck a sidelong glance at me as her dog ran up ahead of us. “Well, you don’t seem that worried.”

“I’m not.” It was true. My application was in at a school I’d worked at before. I just had to wait until they sorted out their staffing situation. If I didn’t get the job, I’d find something else. I knew I had a trip to plan for mid-December, but hadn’t really started, so that was all up in the air as well, somewhat depending on my work situation and how much moolah I made between September and December. “Like I said, what can I do?”

I was even a bit surprised by my nonchalance. A bit. What surprised me more was that it wasn’t an act. I really felt fine with all possible outcomes. Cool as a cucumber.

uncertaintyIt was the moment I realized I’d learned to embrace uncertainty.

It’s a freeing feeling, really, being OK with many of the possible options of what could happen in your life, feeling like you can handle most any turn of events, as long as they don’t involve some harm to someone you love. It’s wonderful.

Get the job, not get the job. Travel now, travel later.

And it’s sort of the way you’ve got to be if you want to be a nomad, moving around all the time, new places, new faces, new challenges, new problems.

Make the train, miss the train. Make the flight, miss the flight.

You don’t know what’s coming next and you’ve probably got very limited control over it. You’ve got to work to not let that keep you up at night.

Sometimes, that’s easier said than done.

I’ll admit that I still think about the future and wonder what lies ahead. Like I said, I work contract jobs and never know until the last minute if I’m hired or not. I’m waiting on Italian working papers so I can’t plan much if I don’t know which country I’ll be in… But do I fret?

No.

Does it keep me up at night?

Only the excitement of it all.

excited!That said, embracing the uncertainty of the future is a lot easier to do when you’re standing on a solid foundation. Read more about that in my next post, “How to Become a Nomad: It Takes a Lot of Planning to Be Carefree.”

How to Become a Nomad: Attitude Adjustment


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"If you’re looking to become a full-fledged nomad, or simply integrate more (and more frequent) travel into your life, you’ve come to the right place. This is post 2 in the “How to Become a Nomad” series. Click here if you missed the first one.

Chances are, you are not currently living a nomadic lifestyle. Some people do, but chances are you don’t. To take the first step in living a life that’s full of travel and movement, you have to understand one thing. One big thing.

People won’t understand you.

They won’t understand your life. They won’t understand your needs and wants. They won’t understand what motivates you to do what you’re doing. They won’t get how you cope with the uncertainty. They won’t understand how you organize your life.

And you have to be ok with that.

Sure, people might envy you. They might say things like, “I wish I could do what you’re doing” or “I wish I could travel for months on end” or “I wish I could go somewhere new every six weeks like you do!” but they probably won’t understand how or why you do it.

Or they might be critical. They might ask, “when are you going to settle down?” or “have you got the travel bug out of your system yet?” or “when are you going to grow up?”

These are things I hear all the time.

But what’s most important is how you feel about the life you’re living. Whether you want to be a world-travelling nomad or a university professor or an astronaut or a concert cellist, you have to be OK with people not understanding your life choices. As long as they’re making you happy and they’re not killing anyone else, they’re good.

You’re good.

The moral of the story: Living a lifestyle, any lifestyle, that’s different from the norm is bound to bring about some criticism and unwanted, even if positive, attention. Learn to laugh and smile and be OK with it.

It’s your life. Live it the way you want.