8 Un-Glamorous Things about Nomad Life, and How I Cope

I am a full-time solo traveler. I work remotely and am location-independent. I am completely independent and self-sufficient, and I love my life. Sure, it looks and sounds super glamorous and exotic, right? But, like anything in life, there are downsides, and as always, I want to be real with you. Read on…

  1. Icky Airbnbs.

I’ve been living almost primarily in Airbnbs over the past 6 1/2 months, and man, they are not all created equal. Some have been very comfortable — the one with a Nespresso! The one with a nice big yard! The one with the comfiest mattress of my life! — but others have felt like little more than a poorly furnished dorm room with the cheapest hand-me-downs. I’ve also noticed that little things — like replacing the dish sponge every guest — are often overlooked. GROSS.

I’ve got to read a lot of reviews, and ask a lot of questions. And… just kinda deal with it. Sometimes, I prefer to stay in hotels, and… bring my own sponges.

  1. Driving.

The freedom of the open road may sound sexy… but spending all day in your car isn’t. I used to hate long drives (and I still kind of do) but after all these months on the road, I’ve gotten much better at coping. And don’t forget about those other un-glamorous aspects of long-haul driving: speeding tickets, tolls, gas prices, and more frequent maintenance!

To deal, I try not to drive more than 9-10 hours in a day. I try to squeeze in exercise the morning of a long drive. I try to drive only during daylight hours, and I take full use of the cruise control. For entertainment, I skip the tunes… new mystery novel I’ve been dying to read? I download the audio book from the library, and it keeps my mind alert.

  1. Packing and organizing… All. The. Time. 

Guys, my entire life is in the back of my SUV. So, you know what’s fun? Packing, unpacking, and packing again; carrying, unloading, and re-loading (and if you’re staying in a place with lots of stairs, well, yay). You know, a common organization tactic is to put ‘like’ things together… but now, I know better.

So I don’t have to unload my ENTIRE SUV if the thing I need is at the bottom of one of the bins stacked up like dominos in the trunk, I now combine things that I need at my next juncture. And if something is NOT easily accessible, oftentimes, I give up rather than go digging. Few things are needed so urgently — including that cute pair of pants. Hello… loungewear I’ve already worn twice this week.

  1. Adulting. 

My life is not just an endless vacation… full-time travelers still have sh*t to do! I take myself to the gym a few times a week. Hair needs to be cut, colored, and waxed. My furry four-legged companion needs shots and her teeth cleaned yearly. Oh yeah, and that aforementioned car maintenance. And laundry. (I’ve had to visit several laundromats as the place I had been staying wasn’t equipped. Hot, right?) 

So I love having memberships through national chains with multiple locations where I can expect a consistent experience. I can go to any Orange Theory gym in the U.S. I have a pass at European Wax Center and a massage membership at Hand & Stone. Penny has pet insurance through Banfield Veterinary and I shop at Costco. (But for hair color? Well, I’m SOL. Cheers to variety, I guess.)

  1. Bad dates. 

There are bad dates… and there are BAD dates. Let’s just say, poor dating etiquette is one thing. Failure to respect stated boundaries, outright deceit, and misogyny is another. Here, here, and here are some other posts on some of my experiences around this.

To “cope”, I… speak up. Leave. Ignore. And block, if necessary. And I try not to let it bring down my mood.

  1. Crappy weather.

I last lived in Arizona where it was eternally sunny, so nothing ruins a day for me more than gloomy weather: it impacts not just activities, but my mood. I mean, who wants to go to the beach when it’s rainy, windy, and cold?

Sure, I can find something else to do, or hang tight at home — but I find it really unfortunate when I don’t get to experience the “best” of a locale. (Guess I’ll have to come back!)

  1. Budgeting. 

People with a permanent address tend to have pretty consistent expenditures each month, give or take: rent doesn’t change. Bills may fluctuate, but not drastically. Overall, their habits tend to be pretty consistent. Not so for a full-time traveler.

Some of the places I travel to have a higher cost of living than others, and some months there are unexpected expenses. Case in point: December, the month I had to spend $800 on new tires. January, the month my “housing” on the catamaran was relatively low, but my food and dining costs skyrocketed (Miami is not cheap, ya’ll). Let’s just say, ensuring dollars out does not surpass dollars coming in has to be kept top of mind always.

  1. Mail.

While the majority of my mail is forwarded to my mom’s address (where she sifts through anything that I should know about), sometimes, I have one-off items mailed to me while staying at these temporary addresses.

In Idaho, one of my packages had to be sent twice because FedEx didn’t deliver it the first time. In Montana, despite numerous communications with the Arizona elections office about where to send my absentee ballot for the last presidential election, U.S.P.S. never delivered it in time for me to vote. In Alabama, I got some Christmas cards and didn’t get others. While I’m fortunate that business is so digital nowadays, there are still these rare annoyances!

Other full-time nomads: What else would you add to this list?

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