man standing on top of mountain with pine trees view

11 Brutal Truths About Living Like A Nomad

There’s no doubt that living the life of a nomad can be thrilling beyond imagination. Seeing all those National Geographic magazines shake alive, along with the rush of being anonymous in a city you’ve never been before, is enough to tempt just about anyone to quit their job, pack their bags, and buy a one-way ticket. Your experiences will not only be wild, but they’ll be life-changing. You’ll see and do things most of your friends will only ever read about. You’ll parachute out of your comfort zone and experiment with all the things you’ve never done before. It’s a life like no other, but like everything, it certainly has its downsides.

1. Your friends will be stretched far and wide

One of the hardest things about living the nomad life is that your closest friends will sometimes be multiple flights away. You’ll have friends scattered all over the green of the globe, but you won’t be able to see them nearly as often as you’d like. This can be a heartbreaking truth but absolutely worth it when it comes time to visit all those friends in their home countries. You’ll likely have free accommodation on every continent if you do it right.

2. You become virtually undateable

For the same reason you can’t see your friends when you want to, you can’t maintain a committed relationship. Although you’ll be meeting gorgeous expats with a diversity of accents, you’ll likely not be able to preserve them for very long. Relationships need stability to flourish, and stability is the last thing on your mind.

3. You think you’re getting closer to finding yourself when really you’re just getting more lost

Back when you were a student and your path was laid out for you by your parents and teachers, you had fewer options and therefore less anxiety about making the right decision. You might have had to worry about getting a job in the right city or an apartment with the right friends, but all those decisions become far more complicated when you abandon your roots.

You might have odd jobs, run a small business, or work seasonally to keep yourself afloat while still maintaining your lifestyle. This means your passport will have more stamps in it, but your career prospects will be more limited. Chances are, you value experience over possessions, which is admirable in itself. However, it can feel extremely daunting to have to make that transition back to a conventional lifestyle (assuming you eventually do). Not to mention, you may be perpetually torn about what your next move will be.

4. Your friends are all getting married and having babies

Your best friend just got promoted and put a downpayment on a house; another just found out she’s pregnant with her second child. Meanwhile, you’re still hooking up in the bottom bunk of a hostel dorm, praying the person at the top remains asleep through all the rattling. Living out of a suitcase means, unfortunately, that you might get left behind sometimes. This is just the price of living an extraordinary life. It helps to remember that we’re not in a race with one another. We’re allowed to move at our own pace. Some people find joy in settling down young while others find joy in doing it a little later. Neither way is right or wrong, it’s simply a matter of preference.

5. Everything you own will be crammed into a single backpack

Constantly being on the go means you have to limit what you take with you. It means having to let go of your most cherished possessions to make space for the essentials. Although you may not own very much, you have everything to gain and nothing weighing you down.

6. People back home won’t fully understand you

On the rare occasion you do make it home, you find the gap widening between you and your oldest friends and sometimes even family. The experiences you’ve had are unique in a way that not everyone will want to converse about them, and this can feel very isolating. Take it as a compliment, because that lack of understanding is merely a sign of all your growth.

7. You’re either completely alone or can’t get a second of privacy

Sometimes it’s late at night in your hotel room and all you’re craving is some decent company, other times you’re sandwiched between 50 boisterous travelers on a bus without air conditioning in summer. You’re used to shared dorms, shared bathrooms, shared everything. The ability to be both alone and social is a skill lacked by many, one that you’ve most likely refined over the years.

8. You miss every event happening back home

You will miss birthdays, holidays, weddings, baby showers, graduations, and maybe even funerals. Living overseas makes it difficult to be there for every event, and although you’ll be missing a lot you’ll be making up for it with your own once-in-a-lifetime memories. Just make sure to document them so you can look back on all the adventures that are worth remembering.

9. Your bank account is depressing to look at

Although saving may not be your forte, you sure know how to spend well. You spend on all the things that will last forever: memories. You prefer buying plane tickets over clothes or guided tours over electronics because you know that travel is one of the best investments a person can make. It can feel defeating when you compare yourself to others, but rather than compare a pineapple to a banana, compare yourself with other pineapples. It wouldn’t be a fair comparison anyway when you consider all the places you’ve been.

10. You lack a true “home”

Lacking a true home means that sometimes you’ll be staying with friends and family in between your travels. Even if you’re staying with the most welcoming people in the world, it can still feel like you’re a burden. Not having a steady home environment can make even the best of us feel anxious about where we’re staying next, and fairly consistently too.

11. You know in your heart you’ll never be able to stop

Even once you reach the point of wanting to settle down, that longing of being someplace far away will never escape you. It will find you even in the best of times because once you feel that itch, you’ll always want to scratch. That doesn’t mean you can never find happiness while remaining in one location, it just means your curious spirit will never cease.

Fluent storyteller, memoirist and lover of prose poetry

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