Become a Nomad in Five (Not So) Easy Steps - This American Girl

This American Girl


I often receive emails from readers who are desperate to travel freely, but really have no idea how to make it happen.


The truth is, there is no easy or clear process in following the highly unconventional path of a nomad. There will be plenty of moments where you question yourself and things rarely transpire as you expect them to.


However, it can be the most rewarding decision you have ever made.


If you find yourself longing to leave the life you know and travel the world indefinitely, here is how I made that dream a reality.


Colombia buses


Step 1: Travel


Go backpacking. Travel simply and adventurously. Eat street food. Sleep in hostels. Take the chicken bus. Find out if this lifestyle is actually something that you want.


Many people, particularly Americans, have never traveled in this fashion. Two years ago my travel experiences consisted primarily of weeklong vacations. I had no idea if I even enjoyed traveling. When I showed up in the jungle of Costa Rica with no resorts nor umbrella-donned drinks, rather howler monkeys and mosquito nets, I was in shock.


There is a huge difference between travel and vacation. Traveling isn’t always paradise. Sometimes it’s hard work. It may not be worth it to you. For me it’s the most gratifying experience I have ever had.


Set a budget, save up, and plan a trip that spans at least one month, ideally three, and go see the world. At the end if you decide it’s not for you, you did not waste your time. You had an adventure.


If when you come home you are itching to leave again, get ready to change your life and proceed to step two.


Caribbean House Costa Rica


Step 2: End Your Contracts


Whether it’s a housing lease, car insurance, or a full time job, terminate all agreements that keep you physically connected to a place. Doing so offers tremendous financial and personal freedom.


One of the reasons why people assume travel is so expensive is because they are calculating it as a cost in addition to their present lifestyle. When I lived in Seattle I had an apartment lease that cost me $1200 per month, I paid $250 per month for car insurance, $120 per month for my iPhone, $100 per month for my internet connection, and had countless other bills. Affording travel in addition to these expenses certainly requires a high paycheck. However it is possible to travel on a fraction of the budget that many people enjoy in their home countries.


Deciding to end these contracts can be scary. It may feel like there is no going back, and in some ways there isn’t. You’re making the commitment to let go of your security and to follow adventure instead.


If you decide you want that security again, there will always be another apartment and there will always be another job.


granada shopping


Step Three: Sell Everything


…Except what you can carry on your back.


Selling my car, my furniture, my books, and my artwork, and giving bags of clothing to the goodwill was hard. “Will I want this one day?” I wondered. “Am I crazy?” I thought.


The money I saved from selling my things, particularly my car, financed my travels for a long time. The experiences I collected during those months of travel are invaluable. Not having things to store or to think about has given me incredible freedom. A car can always be replaced.


I keep a few “special” books and mementos in a box in my mom’s basement. I also have a couple of suitcases with first world appropriate clothing for my trips back to the states. Though I’ve noticed that each time I come back I want to get rid of more and more. The more I travel the more possessions become a liability in my life.


If you need tips on how to sell your stuff effectively, read this post.


panama city vendor


Step Four: Create a Job You Can Do Anywhere


If you’ve read my post on funding long-term travel, you’re already familiar with many of the ways to financially support a nomadic lifestyle. However, in my opinion, for true travel independence you need a job that you can do while you’re on the road.


Earning first world wages while living and traveling abroad is key. It is completely possible to travel through work trade or by working in the countries you visit, but it doesn’t typically afford you a lifestyle beyond scraping by. Sometimes this is fine, and it’s something that I have done in the past, because at the end of the day it’s still travel. For me, that can be enough.


But what if I want to hop on a plane with a moments notice? Or take a yoga retreat? Or eat in a hippy dippy expat café instead of on the street? That requires greater financial freedom.


Currently I work online as a freelance writer. I don’t have a journalism background or degree. What I do have is my own blog that showcases my writing. Nearly every freelance gig I’ve applied for requires links to published work. In the beginning I directed people exclusively to my blog, now I have plenty of published work online to show. I have even been contacted by online magazines because of my blog, which has led to paid freelance work.


Consider your unique talents and what you enjoy doing. Graphic design? Social media? Email marketing? Travel photography? Find gigs you can do abroad while you create a job that doesn’t feel like work at all. I work towards this goal every single day.


This takes time, but the more freedom you allow yourself and the more you accept the possibility that life can be whatever you make of it, the more doors will begin to open.


san blas boat


Step Five: Travel


Begin living your life as a nomad. Recognize that you have manifested your dreams into reality through the course of your actions. Feel inspired to do this again and again with the knowledge that something you once thought not possible totally is.




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