If you’re new here (or just catching up!), I’m Julie, and I’ve been a full-time nomad for about 2 years. In this blog, I’m answering 15 of YOUR most frequently asked questions: about money, my sleeping arrangements, making friends, and the challenges I’ve faced as a full-time nomad… read on!
Q1: What prompted you to become a nomad?
I get this question a lot, and I think people really want to hear that I had an epiphany, a horrible breakup, or a brush with death — they want to hear about the momentous thing that occurred that caused me to uproot and shake up my entire life in my mid-30s.
But the truth is, nothing momentous happened. I came to my decision not by deciding, but by knowing. I woke up one day and just knew it in my bones: If I could work remotely, why wouldn’t I work from anywhere? If I loved to travel, why wasn’t I doing more of what I loved? If doing what I was “supposed” to be doing wasn’t bringing me joy and fulfillment, why continue? If my belongings and house felt like a cage, why wouldn’t I take immediate action to be free?
I didn’t decide to choose wings over roots; I KNEW I was a bird, and not a tree… and I could do nothing else but finally be true to myself.
Q2: What does being a minimalist mean to you?
- owning less, buying less, and being appreciative of the things you do have instead of searching for more, but also;
- having no great attachment to things;
- and the absence of collecting and using objects to fill a void.
Minimalism is also subjective; I have minimized my life to a great degree, but the bins, totes and suitcase I have in my SUV may be more than someone’s else’s spartan knapsack. Well, like everything in life, I say: to each their own, and it’s not a contest.
Q3: Do you sleep in your SUV?
When I say “I’m living out of my SUV,” I mean it the same way that people who say “I’m living out of my suitcase” mean it. They aren’t sleeping in their suitcase, just like I’m not sleeping in my SUV — my belongings are inside of it; it’s like my personal transportation and my mobile storage unit, all-in-one.
I sleep in hotels, Airbnbs, hostel dorms, in friends’ second bedrooms or on couches — in countries other than my own (where the cost of living is lower). I’ve budgeted a maximum of $900 a month for accommodations, and so far, in 2022, across Mexico, a little bit of the U.S., and Central/Eastern Europe, I’ve been able to stay within that budget. (Also in Europe, I’m traveling by train and bus.)
Q4: Where’s your dog Penny while you’re in Europe?
I am very blessed to have a family that will watch my beloved dog Penny while I’m overseas! I thought about taking her, and I did a lot of research (she’s an experienced and well-acclimated traveler, after all, and Europe is very dog-friendly) — but while it’s far from impossible, it does require additional $$ and logistical planning. (Not to mention some European countries are on the U.S. rabies watch list, and I did not want to risk running into any trouble getting back into the states.) While she’s always happiest just to be with me, I felt she would still be very happy with her grandma on my family’s farm in Kansas, and I can worry a little bit less about her. Read the Truth about Nomad Life with a Dog to see how we did it in North America.
Q5: How do you make money?
Prior to 2022, I had a remote “work-from-anywhere” job in corporate social media. Ever since I quit in December 2021, I’ve been living off of my hard-earned savings, and I earn a little from my mentoring business. I hereby call this period “Financial Independence Recreational Employment!”
Q6: How long do you expect not to “work”?
Right now, I can’t really imagine working a traditional job again… my time is too, too valuable, and there are other things I want to accomplish — I spend a lot of time writing (this blog and the memoir I’m working on). I love learning, walking, museums, and art, being outside in nature, singing and dancing, and the rare movie.
I have started 1:1 mentoring others who are interested in pursuing a lifestyle like mine, which earns me a little income, and I’ve recently started partnering with some travel-related companies and brands, which I also hope to expand on in the future.
Q7: How much did you save before you quit your job?
Through a variety of means which I outline here, I saved $30K in cash that I intended to fund my year-plus of travel. I have additional investments from selling my home in 2020 that earn me dividends (but I would like to limit drawing on the principal in case I ever need another down payment for a house); I also have a rollover 401K from my corporate career that will compound for ~30 years and provide for me in old age.
So, I have my immediate needs and future self taken care of… there will just be some space in the middle where, unless I live in an extremely cheap place, I’ll need to supplement my income. But I’m optimistic that there will be tons of opportunities through the blog or memoir, and the right ones will present themselves. No risk, no reward!
Q8: What’s been the biggest challenge?
This life is not easy (take a look at Nomad Life is NOT for the Faint of Heart), but I’ll give you two of the biggest: planning, and leaving a place (and people) too soon.
First, planning is exhausting, so I actively try to plan as little as possible. But figuring out where I’m going, how I’m getting there, and where I’m sleeping — like it or not — takes finagling. I put these decisions off until a few days before I’m due to go somewhere — being indecisive is a time-waster, and I have things to do!
Second, as a nomad, I often feel the urge to go-go-go, which inevitably means leaving new or old friends behind. (Surprise surprise, I rarely feel lonely in this lifestyle — I’m meeting people left and right!) But I do like to stay a little longer in a place to get a sense of what it offers, to feel a part of the community, to solidify friendships. And sometimes it’s bittersweet to say goodbye — but I know that people who want to stay in my life will, and that technology has made contact and communication easier than ever before.
Q9: What about your family and friends?
Ever since we all graduated from college, my siblings and I have flown the coop, and my parents long moved away from the state I grew up in… so my family and closest friends are scattered all over the states (and the world)!
My mom and I continue to travel together while I’m nomadic. I’ve had girlfriends come out to visit or we meet up somewhere. I took an SUV or a plane to get to where I am, not a spaceship! I may see the people I care about less frequently, but the time we spend together after being apart, I think, is cherished more. Physical proximity does not guarantee closeness.
Q10: How do you meet people while traveling?
Solo travel ≠ alone (unless I want it to). I meet people using a combination of IRL (in real life) introductions and technology-induced. I’ve met some amazing people on my travels! Read “I’m a Nomad: How I Build a Network of Friends in the Places I Visit” and watch on YouTube.
Q11: Do you get lonely?
Q12: How do you manage photography while traveling solo?
I’d estimate that 30% of my social media photos are taken by others, and 70% of my photos I take myself (give or take) — I have a small tripod that fits in my messenger bag, and I use either the countdown timer. or my Apple watch, to trigger the camera app. Then smile and pose! The photo you see at the top of this blog was taken by me this way.
Q13: What safety precautions do you take as a solo female traveler?
Believe it or not, but I don’t take a lot of extra precautions as a solo woman. I practice the same common sense while traveling that I practice in my home country, and I have a finely-tuned intuition. This includes removing myself from situations that are ringing up warning bells, being aware of my surroundings, knowing when to stop drinking, and projecting confidence.
Traveling solo is not inherently dangerous, nor is traveling solo as a woman inherently dangerous. (Plus, have you SEEN the violence against women stats in the United States?!) Crime can happen anywhere, even in your own hometown; it won’t prevent me from experiencing the world. If you’re not quite comfortable with this (yet), consider joining a tour group for strength in numbers, limiting walking at night, carrying pepper spray, and other personal safety tactics.
Q14: It must be nice to be so privileged…
Inevitably, there are comments like this, which will only continue as my blog gets more popular. And I’m not denying certain privileges I’ve had — my citizenship, my skin color, able-bodiedness, my conventional looks, a middle class upbringing — but there’s also luck and choice, and the differences are distinct.
I made a lot of choices that set me up for success. I didn’t go to an expensive college or pursue a costly major, I didn’t get married (which studies say benefits men more than women), and I didn’t have children. Instead, I lived beneath my means, I side-hustled and rented out my home, and I skimped and cut back. I had some bad luck — two surprise layoffs, some poor investments, and some good luck — buying my house in a down market and selling during an upswing.
Bottom line, there’s no magic, secret formula besides: 1) Spend less than you make or make more than you spend and 2) Do it for as long as it takes to achieve your goals. Or, 3) Do it for a while, take a break to travel, and make another paycheck later!
Q15: What are you doing after Europe?
My plan is to obtain Mexican residency, spend a good part of the year exploring Mexico and Central/South America, and spend the rest of the year on other continents (with probably a month in the U.S. per year). But, that’s extremely loose… you know I don’t make plans. 😉
And of course, because I know you’re chomping at the bit… I’m still working on my memoir and aim to make a lot of progress on it in the next year. Literary agents… feel free to reach out to me!
Q16: How do I start?
There are a number of helpful tips, personal stories, and motivational information on my blog for free — check it out! But I understand everyone is in a different place with their journeys and that some would appreciate additional support and mentorship. If you’d like to speak with me personally, I am accepting new clients; learn more here.
What else do you want to know? Leave a comment! (Also, check out 2021’s “Ask Me Anything.”)