At the age of 24, I made the decision to embrace a nomadic lifestyle, leaving behind year-round jobs and fixed leases. With just $3,000 to my name, I embarked on this new adventure. Although my previous work in outdoor education had earned me less than $8,000 the previous year, I was able to live comfortably within my means. I never relied on significant financial support from my family, although I did benefit from health insurance and received a used car and laptop as a graduation gift. The most significant advantage I had was being debt-free, thanks to my father covering the cost of my college education. This demonstrates that a nomadic lifestyle is not exclusive to the extremely privileged. While many nomads come from middle class backgrounds, anyone can join the nomad club, regardless of their starting point.
The Importance of Income
Often overlooked, income is a crucial aspect of sustaining a nomadic lifestyle. Many blog posts depict a glamorous vision of travel without addressing the practicality of funding it. In this chapter, I will outline five funding models for a nomadic life, followed by guiding principles that apply to every nomad.
Five Funding Models for Living Nowhere
The Alaskan Fisherman Model
The Alaskan Fisherman Model involves working short-term, intensive jobs and saving a majority of the earnings. This model allows for extended periods of time off between gigs. Examples of jobs in this model include being a commercial fishing boat hand, a TEFL teacher abroad, a wildland firefighter, or an outdoor/experiential educator. These jobs are not only exciting and fulfilling but can also provide free room and board. This is especially beneficial for those starting out, as it allows for significant savings. However, keep in mind that these jobs can be physically and mentally demanding and may not offer a work-life balance.
The Digital Nomad Model
The Digital Nomad Model involves working for a company or as a freelancer in a computer-based job that is 100% location independent. Examples of digital nomad jobs include website designer, writer, graphic designer, programmer, and social media consultant. While this model offers the flexibility to work from anywhere with an internet connection, it is important to note that not all of these jobs may be fulfilling or meaningful. Many require specific skills in computers, programming, or design. However, there are self-paced courses and coding boot camps available for those willing to learn.
The Masseuse Model
The Masseuse Model involves developing a skill that can be easily monetized in each new place you visit. Examples include English language tutoring, bartending, restaurant serving, and yoga instruction. While these jobs may not provide a full-time income, they can help cover expenses and connect you with local communities.
The Passive Income Model
The Passive Income Model involves creating a business or making investments that generate monthly income with minimal maintenance. Examples include owning rental properties, running an online or location-independent business, publishing books, owning dividend-bearing stocks, or creating software/apps. It’s important to note that achieving passive income requires significant upfront investment in terms of time, money, and commitment. However, once established, it can provide a location-independent income stream.
The Earn Nothing / Spend Nothing Model
The Earn Nothing / Spend Nothing Model involves radically reducing your cost of living through volunteering, work-trading, or embracing voluntary poverty. Examples include volunteering on farms, becoming a climbing bum, embracing a wandering hippie lifestyle, or engaging in long-distance hiking or biking. While this model allows for a low-cost lifestyle, it is primarily suited for the young, adventurous, and financially insecure.
Principles for Every Nomad
No matter which funding model you choose, there are principles that every nomad should follow:
- Reduce unnecessary costs: Prioritize needs over wants, avoid unnecessary expenses, and separate yourself from consumerist norms.
- Create a budget and have fallback savings: Establish a budget to forecast your finances and ensure you have emergency savings to navigate lean times or unexpected expenses.
- Be comfortable with uncertainty: Embrace the reality of long periods of unemployment and negative cash-flow. Overcoming the social stigma associated with not having a traditional full-time job can be challenging but manageable with personal budgeting, savings, and a supportive network.
- Avoid the “save-and-quit” mentality: Instead of focusing solely on saving a large amount of money, concentrate on establishing a viable location-independent livelihood. Experiment with different funding models to find what works best for you.
Funding a nomadic lifestyle is not as unattainable as it may seem. By exploring different funding models and following the guiding principles, anyone can create a sustainable nomadic life. It’s essential to find a balance between financial stability and the freedom to explore the world on your terms. Remember, the key to success is not just saving money but also building a model that allows you to generate income while living a life untethered from a fixed location.