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The Nomad Life

The Interesting Complications of Nomadic Wandering

About Me / Background

Since 2009 I have left behind having a permanent address and become quasi-homeless.

I say "quasi-homeless" because I have had various "homes" such as living in a bus, in a trailer, having home bases at various locations throughout the world and so forth. Generally I have spent about half the time in Europe and half my time in the states, often based in San Francisco.

My life in this time has been blessed.

But becoming a nomad has some costs and considerations.

First of all, the untethered life is not for everyone. My work as a dance teacher and as a tech geek generally gives me work that can either allow me to travel and/or pay for me to travel. It has been my experience, however, that most people still do not fit well into this lifestyle, as many of my friends who are also travelling dance teachers seem to have a tolerance of travel for a few years, after which they tend to find property to rent or buy which they return to each week. Homesickness seems to be the norm for most people after regular travelling, and I have been fortunate not just in having the lifestyle that allows travel, but I seem to be immune to homesickness now. When I did have an apartment I found that I would generally get homesick after about 2-3 months of travel, but when I left my apartment to live in my bus I found that my homesickness when travelling abroad completely disappeared - I think that a great deal of homesickness is created by having a fixed physical location to go back to.

The Costs Of The Nomad Life

To be clear, this is not a complaint. I choose the Nomad Life and love it. But it has some amusing difficulties.
"No really, where do you live?"
This question is very common, and there is a general presumption that it has a simple, clear answer. It's fascinating how much difficulty people have with the possibility that this isn't clear cut. An answer of "I am homeless" or "I don't have anywhere that I live" is often followed with "Yes, but where is your home?" or "Yes, but where do you spend most of your time?" (neither of which has an answer in my case though I used to answer "my cat")
No shipping address
Purchasing things online can be very difficult as you have to find a place you can receive shipments and you have to make sure you receive them in time. As I write this I am on a trip that I extended in Europe and I need new shoes that I can only get in the states. I currently have a pair sitting in Madrid that Spanish customs is refusing to release to me for unknown reasons.
No address in general
Most of (civilized?) society has an address, so there is an assumption of this address built into many of our systems. For example, it's very difficult to get many government services without an address. Most states in the US require an address to receive a driver's license and they require that this address is not a P.O. Box. (Fortunately it's currently difficult for them to actually determine whether an address is a box or not). Even getting low-income services such as health care, for example, surprisingly often requires a mailing address. Furthermore, try explaining to a police officer that you don't have a "home address" and watch how your treatment instantly changes (I've experienced this many times, thanks to living in a bus).
"Just Come Into The Office"
There is an assumption of availability with most businesses and services. Whether it's your insurance or mobile phone company that won't update your account unless you come into the office, or places that need you to mail things or call 800 numbers that can't easily be reached internationally or credit card companies that will block your "surprise" international charges no matter how often you inform them of your travels, you can often find yourself in intractable situations with some companies. Also consider "leave your number and we'll call you back". I've often had to switch companies simply because of this problem.
"Where Are The Things?"
Unless you get rid of all your possessions except those that you bring on your travels, you will have 'things' in storage in various locations, and managing your access to these things can create interesting pragmatic puzzles.
No 'local knowledge'
This is one of the things that is also exciting about travel, but it has a cost. Not knowing where to simply buy food or even where to find the staples you need for regular life, or even what the general hours are for business (are businesses closed on Sundays? Is there a daytime siesta? etc..) has a cost associated with it. That cost is also the excitement of learning something new.
Know Your Rights!
Or more likely you don't. With foreign travel you are living under a set of laws that are likely foreign. With good luck you won't find yourself needing to worry about this, but the longer you travel the chances are that eventually you will. Whether it's something as simple as trying to deal with local police to report a theft or actually finding yourself surprised to be in violation of local laws, it's a learning experience that most people don't go through until it's too late.
Relationships and Connection
Also a positive and negative, and probably the most significant issue. Maintaining and enjoying your close relationships is difficult when you are regularly gone, though the positive side is having such a diverse set of relationships strewn throughout the world.
Expanding Your Mind
Actually, that's not a problem. That's awesome.

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