A life of full-time travel can look very different for many seeking the nomadic lifestyle. Most won’t walk out the door tomorrow and never stop. It takes preparation to live a life of full-time travel. Some will choose to live out of Airbnbs, others massive RVs, some small camper vans, others on a bike or just walking with a backpack and a thumb in the air. All of these are romantic notions but reality can be far different. This is a list of the seven things to consider before setting out on the open road and over the horizon.
1) Change Your Perspective
For most people, life on the road isn’t going to be a full-time vacation. It takes work and the first thing you need to do is get your mind right about what it is and what it isn’t. People, good meaning people, many of which are your family will not understand your desire to “live in a van down by the river.” You need to be okay with that. You also need to be understanding of their honest concern for your well being.
Along with that, you need to understand that routine on the road is hard to come by. If you aren’t okay with change this life probably isn’t right for you. Expected and unexpected change comes nearly daily when living a life of full-time travel. Embrace the unexpected and learn to roll with the punches because the unexpected can often be terrible. Wrong turns can lead to great places, breakdowns and flat tires can lead to meeting new and interesting people. It isn’t that life on the open road is always a joy ride but the journey is an adventure that comes in many forms. Remember you aren’t the first to attempt this lifestyle. It could look different than you think but rest assured that others have gone before you and it is possible!
2) Get Rid of Your Debt
This is something I would recommend to every person, regardless of living the nomadic lifestyle or a more traditional lifestyle for that matter. People pay an exorbitant amount of money to finance things that only lose value. If you can’t afford to purchase something with cash, you probably shouldn’t buy it. The only exception is perhaps a house as they tend to go up in value but even that can be turned upside down in the wrong economy. A life of full-time travel has a lot of unexpected stress, especially during the first year as you try to adapt to a lifestyle where change is a prerequisite. Adding in the unnecessary stress of figuring out how to pay debt is one that you should eliminate before setting off on the road.
The good news is that a life of full-time travel doesn’t have to be expensive and step #7 (becoming a minimalist) will help you sell things and pay down debt faster. I also recommend checking out Dave Ramsey’s website for help in becoming debt-free.
3) Make a Budget for a Life of Full-Time Travel
Once you are debt-free follow Dave Ramsey’s other suggestions and have a safety net as well as planning and living on a budget. It can be hard to know what things out on the open road will cost. Campground fees vs. boondocking vs. Airbnb stays can greatly vary the cost of living. Some states, like New Mexico, are cheap to settle into for long periods of time on dirt cheap prices. But, if you are planning on living in a California campground you had better start selling your blood or see what your kidney is worth. 🙂
Try to educate yourself and know how you want to live. Create that budget and stick to it for the first year. Things might be harder than you think and you may have to cut in some areas because you didn’t fully understand the cost of traveling full-time but knowing where your money goes is better than it just disappearing and never having enough. Check out our yearly budgets and expenses for ideas on what you might expect if your expectations of travel, food, entertainment, and accommodations align with ours.
4) Get a Work from Anywhere Job
This one is often the most daunting for people wanting to live a nomadic life. In truth, almost all skills are as valuable to employers by a remote worker as a stationary one. The prevalence of cellular networks and high-speed data allows people to connect and work in a way unheard of even a decade ago. Increasingly employers are turning to remote workers to reduce the need for office space costs and to bring in talent from all over the world.
We first assumed that life on the road, having the benefit/freedom to travel, meant we would be paid less than a traditional office job. However, that’s not necessarily true. As work-from-anywhere jobs become more and more common the salary discrepancy disappears. Employees are more easily able to pay good salaries when they don’t have the overhead costs of a building to run, maintain, and furnish. Companies headquartered on the west coast, where cost of living and therefore wages are higher, are often the ones looking to hire digitally adept individuals. Therefore the salaries and benefits are very competitive especially when compared to rural area wages.
Websites for Remote Work Opportunities
Here is a small list of websites that focus on remote employment. We found FlexJobs to be the best for us but each seems to target different areas of the workforce. Let us know in the comments below if you know of a different site that should be added.
I am also a member of two Facebook groups that provide great resources for acquiring a nomadic job.
5) Pick a Rig That You Can Afford and That You Can Live In
Skip this step if you plan to travel via airplane, Airbnb or your thumb.
This one goes back to step 2. Don’t put yourself into debt to buy your nomadic rig. Unlike a house, an RV depreciates in value and quickly! Instead of a new rig, buy an affordable used one and renovate it to make it exactly what you need for a life of full-time travel.
Keep in mind that the larger the rig the harder it is to find a place to park it. Do you want to be able to travel anywhere four wheels can take you? Then you will want a smaller rig like ours or a renovated van. However, if elbow room is a priority then you might need to compromise your ability to travel anywhere for a larger rig. Either way, there is no reason to go out and buy the latest and greatest RV on the market as most manufacturers produce junk. The high-end features that make newer rigs more appealing can usually be easily and cheaply added to an older rig. The manufacturers who don’t produce junk are ones most people can’t afford out of pocket.
By renovating either a used RV, a van, or a school bus you will know the ins and outs of your rig making the inevitable repairs that come from a life of full-time travel easier. Click here to get some renovation ideas. Also keep in mind that your rig will influence your budget heavily as campsites, insurances, tire replacement, oil, gas/diesel, etc are all influenced by the size and type of rig you choose to travel in.
6) Move Your Domicile (Permanent Residence)
In the U.S, we have to have a permanent residence legally known as a domicile. This is so that the government can keep up with us and we can cast our vote and be taxed accordingly. The tax part is why you should most likely move but other things to consider are the cost of vehicle registration, and auto/health insurances (and if they cover you nationwide).
Colorado for instance has an insanely high income tax and auto insurance rates that will cost you a fortune even though you won’t actually “live” full-time there as a nomad. It’s better to move your domicile to a low or no income tax state so you can save money. Don’t worry, you will still be a good citizen paying various amounts of taxes through gas and sales tax, etc as you travel. There’s just no reason to pay unnecessary taxes in a high-income tax state.
Florida, Texas, and South Dakota are all very popular states for nomads as they have no income tax and getting your domicile setup is fairly easy. All three have different requirements and advantages depending on your rig so do your research. Moving your domicile can take time so start planning this well in advance as you may have to live in the state you choose for some time in order to acquire everything you need.
Escapees mail forwarding is a great way to set up residence in Florida, Texas, or South Dakota and get your mail forwarded to you while you are traveling.
7) Become a Minimalist
For most people, a life of full-time travel will mean selling your home so unless you want to be stuck with a monthly storage bill you are going to need to get rid of a lot of stuff. No matter how big your RV is, all the stuff you currently own isn’t going to fit in there.
Don’t worry it will be easier than you think. Start with a few small things by selling them on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or eBay. If you sell 5 things this month, 10 the next and 20 after that, before you know it you will be inviting people into your home during a yard sale and telling them to make an offer on anything they see. (True story. That’s how it happened for us.) It is freeing to get rid of things and to only own the necessary items that make a life of full-time travel possible. This really comes down to the mythos of owning your stuff, and not letting your stuff own you.
7-Steps to a Life of Full-Time Travel Conclusion
A life of full-time travel isn’t for everyone. These steps are to help you realize that dream if it is your dream. Don’t worry if you get out on the road and you feel like it isn’t what you expected or what you want. The great thing is by the time you reach that point you will realize that life can be whatever you make of it and then you can change it.