Go out and find yourself. Most people see traveling as the ultimate way to self-reflection. In this post I want to share my most valuable insights from 10 years of traveling full-time as a digital nomad. I’ll also include some tips that might help you start traveling longer for less and stay connected with friends and family at home.
*This post may contain affiliate links, see here for full disclosure; it was first published in 2016 and updated in 2021
How to stay connected with your friends and family?
Many people ask me this: Don’t you miss your friends and family? And my answer is a clear yes! But there are wonderful ways to keep in touch and keep an intimate connection with those you love – even at a distance. We all experienced it during the pandemic, being seperated and not able to visit our loved ones can be tough. In my case, I am so used to hop on regular video calls and keep my peeps at home updated about my travels through social media. However, there is one favorite thing I love the most: my best friends and my family – and even my former colleagues, they all have a world map hung up in their living rooms where they can track my travels! It’s a beautiful map and comes with push pins to see exactly where I have traveled to.
Traveling as a form of learning:
When you travel, you are like a sponge, or perhaps more like a student. Suddenly, you start taking notes again and pay attention to the details that your history teacher would have told you in school. This time it interests you though. But what has changed? I believe that seeing the world ‘live’ makes your synapses function differently. Everything you learn about a destination and its people, food, and culture will be printed in your memory. No history class would have ever been able to do so. Traveling full-time leaves an impression on you. I always go away from somewhere with the feeling that I actually added a new puzzle piece to this big picture called ‘earth’.
Do every day what truly makes you happy
If you are an explorer and love the idea of seeing all the places in the world, stop surfing the web and go see them for yourself. All those dreams we have, are often never realized because we are too busy with ‘quickly’ doing other things rather than actually dedicating our time to what we really want to do. Our dreams seem to be lived by other people, those people from the magazines or Instagram. We seem to like to say that before we can ‘play’ we have to take care of our duties and do something that is ‘really important’. Yet, I’ve learned that there is nothing more important than following your passion and doing what makes you truly happy RIGHT NOW. Otherwise, your life will always feel like a long sequence of duties.
Frankie was right!
For some it might sound selfish, but you shouldn’t care because those people most likely won’t care if you die with regrets. ‘I do it my way’ is a deliberating concept for happiness. Design your life with all the creativity you have and add the details to it which make you happy. I believe that this is the key to personal freedom, from which you will enter a new dimension of life. There is no right or wrong when it comes to your personal lifestyle design. What suits you might not suit me, but that’s fine.
So, being a wAnderful soul, it has dawned on me that traveling does not have to be reduced to the short periods of vacation time that your boss approves at the end of each year. For me, the most beneficial consequence after changing my life was to become self-determined and free to choose wherever and whenever I want to go.
After 10 years of living a nomadic lifestyle, first solo, then as a couple and now with my two beautiful sons, I have learned a lot and worked even more to maintain this way of living. And even if it was not always a clear vision that I followed and it also was not always easy, I don’t regret the drastic transformation that started in 2011. In fact, traveling full-time and becoming location independent sometimes is tough. It requires a lot of determination, discipline and creativity. But it is the most rewarding lifestyle you can imagine. Be careful though, it’s very easy to crawl back into the safety net of our society which sells pre-made lifestyles. Remembering your ‘why’ is crucial…
Remember your ‘Why’
Living outside the system can be tough. So, the most important part for me is to remember why I chose to change my life. And perhaps you can relate to it: your 9-5-job bores you; the routine of work-eat-sleep-repeat makes you unhappy; life seems dull; your time feels wasted. If that sounds familiar, it will be easy to remember why you want to make a change.
Your motivation to find a way to make a travel-life happen is almost guaranteed. And with each new place you visit and new person you meet, you will realize that life can be so colourful and diverse. Your grey old you from the past seems to fade away. Like an old friend from the past, you get less and less emotionally attached to the past. Reality is what your life is now, and this is an important process to your personal freedom.
Once your new self is completely shaped, you feel more like a protagonist of a big adventure. You have completed the transition phase from your conventional life: welcome to your new you! As soon as you no longer feel like you are wasting your time with your daily tasks – you are living life to the fullest! Isn’t that what we are all here for?
Travel longer for less:
If you are serious about traveling full-time and want to know how you can get to know the world without going bankrupt, check out my post on ‘How to travel without being rich’. My first advice is to switch from tourist mode to traveller. Here is how you can adjust a few travel habits that might help you save money and experience your destination differently than ‘the average’ tourist:
Become social, social and triple social:
Instead of reading your Lonely Planet, you can get personal advice from real travellers: I joined many digital nomad groups on Facebook and even created my own. That’s where I get location specific info on accommodation, activities or simply if I want to know how to get to a new place in the most efficient way. You save time browsing the web and you’ll get personalised answers to all your questions. Plus you can exchange and connect with like-minded people – priceless!
But I also use those groups to learn about new trends, find out about useful tools/apps, travel deals, and to evaluate new destinations before I go. Here are my favourite ones: Digital Nomads Around the World, Girls Love Travel, The Family Travel Group and We Travel We Blog.
Keep Your Costs Low With Volunteering Programs
Worldpackers, HelpX, Workaway and Wwoofing are ways to get a more local experience while saving on accommodation costs. All four organisations require an average of three to six hours of your help per day, mostly five days per week. This gives you enough time to get involved in a local project, but also still leaves you time to explore the destination you are visiting. Conditions vary from host to host and can sometimes be individually negotiated. Here is a post that includes our experience with an organic farm in Hawaii.
Live Like a Local
If you don’t want to ‘work’ or be actively involved in some sort of local project couchsurfing or housesitting might be a better option for you. They are a little bit less predictable though because you have to apply for a couch/house sitting gig in advance and hope that the house owner will choose you. This tip is not good for last-minute travel plans. But it is our favourite option to stay away from hostels, or if we are tired of volunteer work. And if you manage to get a house sitting gig in one of your chosen destinations, it’s like winning the lottery – a home away from home for free!
Start a Travel Blog
Not everyone should do this. Maintaining a blog is a big commitment and requires a lot of dedication. But even if you don’t like writing and researching you can always think of alternatives such as a photo or video blog. Either way, I would highly recommend that you have at least one online platform on which you document your travels. Whichever option you choose, or if you decide to feed them all, rest assured that this will bring you a lot of benefits for your travels. If you are interested in starting a travel blog, check out my post on ‘How to become a successful travel blogger’.
Traveling Full-Time is Pure Fun?
It’s a big mistake to think that it’s all very easy. When you are traveling full-time, you’ll find yourself outside your comfort zone almost every day. And that can be a bit challenging for some. That’s why I created my coaching program for aspiring digital nomads! In 1-1 sessions via video call, I guide my clients through all the phases, map out a plan with them and answer all their questions. My most recent project, Life By Design, is an online course that helps especially couples and families to create a sustainable life full of travel. You can register here to get on the waitlist.
Traveling full-time or long-term is like a job – especially when you have kids! You spend a lot of time in front of your computer to organize your next flight, bus, hotel etc. Every day has to be newly created. Even if that scares you, I’d say try it out at least once in your life! I am pretty sure that you won’t regret it. For me, not knowing what I will do tomorrow is the beauty of a location-independent life. Not having a routine and living without material burdens lets me live more flexibly. As soon as I was able to appreciate the fact that I don’t have to know every single step in advance, it brought me personal freedom. Today, I live a very exciting life full of new adventures every day even with my family! Here’s to another decade of traveling!
Did you like this post? What are your experiences from traveling full-time? Or are you about to start a nomadic life yourself? Get in touch or comment, I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this topic!