My nomadic lifestyle started back in 2007 with a random trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. A year before that I took a month off from work in order to explore Central America. As of now, I’ve been fortunate enough to step foot into over 75 countries and live in around 15 (depending how you count).
In this article, I want to take you inside the mind of long term nomad and explain what’s it like to travel the world for so long by sharing some of my thoughts and experiences. Hopefully this will help perspective maverick travelers decide if that’s something they’d like to do or not.
Freedom and Minimalism
Constant traveling forces you to develop a minimalistic lifestyle. There’s really no other way: you can’t take with you your car, your home stereo system, your 20 pairs of shoes, your 5 pairs of jeans, your tennis racquet and your rare knife set.
When I had a comfortable job in Silicon Valley, I probably went out every weekend to the mall and bought random stuff. Sometimes I bought new t-shirts, shirts and other clothes. My big closets were always full of random stuff; I’ve probably had enough clothes to not wash them for a few weeks or even months and still not smell like a homeless guy. If I wasn’t at the mall, I was most likely on Amazon ordering some new and shiny gadget.
Now, all my possessions fit into a medium-sized suitcase. I can land in a new place, take an airport bus and arrive to my furnished apartment knowing that everything I need is right there beside my bed.
This is true freedom right here. There’s simply no other word to describe this. Unlike most of my peers back home, I’m not in financial slavery to some banks or credit card companies. I don’t have car payments. I don’t have a 30-year house mortgage. Actually, guys like me who don’t mortgage their future in exchange for some status symbol are bankers’ worst nightmare.
There’s also the freedom of mobility. If I don’t like something about the city or country, I can get up, pack back my suitcase and in less than 10 minutes be on my way to some other destination. This is why I live for this stuff.
Gives you a very unique perspective
The writer Mark Twain once said that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” That’s been absolutely true in my experience.
Travel gives you a strong perspective, something that most people unfortunately lack. For instance, I write a lot about masculinity and what it means to be a man in today’s world, but what defines being a man is actually very different depending on where you are in the world: in Eastern Europe, being a man means something entirely different than what it means to be a man in America, Brazil or Kenya. This doesn’t just apply to male/female relations, but to pretty much everything.
The flip-side of that is you have a hard time finding allegiance to a particular group of people and their causes because they don’t strike as particularly special or unique. This made me more nonchalant, and I rarely get into arguments with others about whose country is better or whether ideology A is better than ideology B. I find these kinds of discussions absolutely pointless.
Makes you more resourceful
As a result of having a richer perspective, you automatically become more resourceful. When you live your whole life in one place, you become extremely comfortable. After all, you don’t need to struggle or hustle: you know the language, you have lots of friends, you even have a favorite store to buy a particular item. All of that changes when you transport yourself to a completely different country like Brazil or Russia.
Not only will the language be different, but the mentality of the people will be different. The way people do things will be different. You’ll have to step deep outside your comfort level just to do the same things that you could automatically do before without much thinking.
The end result of this shock to your system is called growth. Period.
Makes you more outgoing
While I’d never consider myself to be an introvert, (a friend who used to work on cruise ships told me that I can be a great host/entertainer), I was never comfortable approaching and starting conversations with new people. Traveling alone for many years changed all that.
When you’re traveling alone, you simply have no choice but to approach new people and make friends. Over time, I’ve learned to make friends pretty much anywhere. I’ve also gotten really good at initiating small talk.
I now have absolutely no problems starting random conversations with a waitress, a bartender, a guy on the metro. I also always join a local Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school and immediately make new friends. And I didn’t need “motivation” to do that; I simply have no other choice and talking to myself or Skyping my mom every day isn’t something I want to do.
Makes you more of a recluse
The flip-side of always being alone is that you learn to become comfortable in solitude. I actually think this is extremely important for growth and development to any man.
Whereas before I was scared of being alone, I now love being a lone wolf. I love living alone. I love going out alone. I love coming back to an empty apartment. I’m a night person, and there’s no better feeling than to open my laptop, sit at my desktop and begin writing late at night with no one bothering me.
When I lived with a girlfriend, I always looked forward to those rare moments when she went out of town for the weekend. It gave me time to pause and reflect—and accomplish some of my most productive work.
Allows you to reinvent yourself
If you’ve lived all your life (or many years) in one place, you’ve undoubtedly formed a certain level of identity. You have a certain job. You have certain hobbies. You’ve also gotten rejected or shamed by various people. People know your strengths and weaknesses. Whether you realize this or not (probably not), most people have formed a certain image of yourself in their minds that you must conform to.
But when you get on a plane and land in a country, none of that matters any longer: you can start over. When I went to Brazil some years ago, I started over. When I went to Colombia after that, I started over. When I went to Russia and Ukraine, last and this year, respectively, I started over. All the pain and rejections that happened during my time in New York no longer mattered. The moment I stepped off the plane in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, Rio’s Galeao Airport, or Kiev’s Boryspil airport, I began life as a brand new person—a person without a past and future.
That’s called living in the moment. And, if you haven’t experienced this, you simply haven’t lived.
Makes you more complacent
Most people don’t know this, but most of the world has a relatively low cost of living. In fact, there’s only a handful of very expensive cities (and countries) that will really destroy your budget: some of the cities where I’ve extensively lived include New York (cheap credit to banks), San Francisco (permanent tech bubble), Moscow (capital of a very rich resource country in the world) and Copenhagen (hard working people with fair redistribution of wealth, but the city becomes cheap if you earn money there).
The rest of the world is relatively cheap. When I lived in Medellin, Colombia, a pretty cool and developed city, my budget was around $500/mo including everything. My budget in Kiev, Ukraine, a city where I’ve just spent 3 months living, was around $600 per month.
Here’s the kicker: since I work for myself, I control how much I work and, consequently, how much I earn. In places where I only needed $500/mo to live a comfortable life, and I easily made that, I lost the drive and became complacent with my work. I had no reason to hustle more in order to earn more.
Right now I’m back in New York, and not only am I experiencing a reverse culture shock, I’m also priced out. Everything is just too fucking expensive. I have many friends here who’re hustling with all kinds of online businesses and they’re easily making up to 10x (and much more) than me. It’s forcing me to re-evaluate my business plans and hustle more.
The good news is that New York’s energy has rubbed off on me and created a new hunger to work more. The bad news is that I’m worried that this drive will disappear, and I’ll return to my complacent ways once I leave the super expensive New York and head back to cheap Eastern Europe. Although, I do think I’m becoming hungrier and more motivated to work harder and make more money. Let’s see if this holds.
Discourages strong/long-term relationships
I’ve had great girlfriends in almost every country where I’ve lived. Fantastic, amazing women who eventually didn’t mind settling down and getting married. But for some reason or another, I’ve always found a reason to break up the relationship, before or after moving to a new country. A similar thing happened with many of the guys I’ve met (though, it’s always been easier to stay in touch with men than women).
There’s something called the “abundance mentality” and there’s also something called “super abundance mentality.” Abundance mentality is fantastic and many people try very hard to adopt and internalize it, but my problem is actually the reverse: I have such high super abundance mentality that I wish it can be a bit lower.
It’s a vicious cycle: the more people you meet, the less you value each particular relationship. Each relationship becomes shallow as a sheer consequence of your abundant lifestyle: since you can’t establish a strong relationship with each person, so you develop a 100 shallow ones.
For instance, I’ve met so many amazing women in my life that I know there’s even more waiting for me around the corner; I know that once I get sick and tired of one relationship, I can always pack up and find an even more amazing woman in the next city and country.
For better or worse, I’ve become a man of the world with absolutely zero attachments to any place or person.
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