My 3 Rules For Finding Balance while Traveling, From a Full-Time Nomad

Like most Americans, I grew up going on a few vacations a year. I took a week or two off of school or work to go to some long-awaited and long-idealized destination. I wanted — nay, needed — to have the best week ever. You know, the best memories and the best stories and the best pictures!!

Now, I travel full-time, 100% of the year. I don’t have a place that’s mine to go back to, a place to reset, a bed to call my own. I am literally going, going, going — from one destination to the next to the next.

This kind of life can sound exhausting, but now that I’ve been at it a year and a half, I’m used to it. The reason I don’t burn out is because I’ve developed some simple rules.

1) I don’t treat the nomad life as a vacation, and I have no expectations.
2) I have no set itinerary or schedule.
3) I balance activities with rest, aka “laziness”, and I don’t feel guilty for doing what I feel like in the moment.

The common thread among all my rules? They all regard time much differently.

My old way of thinking was with a scarcity mindset:

1) Vacations are temporary and as each day goes by, the vacation is one day nearer to its end. Uh oh, I better maximize my time and have all the fun because the clock is ticking!
2) A schedule has time slots filled with activities. Uh oh, my free time is finite so I better choose all the best activities and nothing better go wrong!
3) Time spent being lazy is time not spent being busy. Uh oh, sleeping in or just taking it easy means I’m wasting my precious time!

See how the scarcity mindset sets you up to fail? I have since learned to think of time in abundance.

In the past, I did tons of research. I booked all the most recommended and most-referred spots. I mapped and scheduled — but, after a few days of nonstop activities, I felt burnt out. If I ditched my well-researched and well-thought out plans, I would feel guilty. Other times, I would do them anyway without savoring them. Sometimes, I would be disappointed in the activity that I chose, and wish I had done something else. And if something went wrong to interrupt or disrupt my plans, it broke my heart: a week in Cabo at the beach was marred by clouds and rain. I got food poisoning in Maui after eating bad poke and had no appetite for days. I was devastated to arrive in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, and learn the park was closed.

And THEN, I would get home and need a “vacation from my vacation” — I was physically and mentally exhausted from going too hard and never taking a rest. Fellow travelers: any of this SOUND FAMILIAR?

In the past four years, and especially since becoming the nomad/vagabond that I am, I’ve adopted a much more freestylin’, flexible travel style when it comes to long-term stays. I rarely book tours far in advance (as in, more than 2 days ahead) and I see what I see. I tend not to book accommodations more than a few weeks out so I can go with the flow. What’s most important is my emotional well-being, and the scarcity mindset was not serving me emotionally.

And if I do leave a place earlier than expected, or fail to do an activity I enjoy… I can always come back to said place and do the activity I enjoy somewhere else. (How many beaches have snorkeling? How many rivers have whitewater rafting? How many ranches have horseback riding? How many cities have beautiful churches and museums and gardens? You get the idea. Of course, there are exceptions in case of the super unique, like the time I went to Barcelona and wasn’t able to get a reservation for La Sagrada Familia. That was a bummer.)

For a full-time traveler, there’s no “last day” of vacation; there’s no rush or impending deadline. I have no ironclad schedule and I pretty much do what I feel in the moment. If I don’t have any expectations or plans, unforeseen complications are not complications at all, they’re just current circumstances. Adopting an abundance mindset when it comes to my time is a freeing thing. I encourage all my fellow travelers to do the same! 😘

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