Skip to content

No fixed abode – stories from a travel nomad about life without a permanent base

June 8, 2021

Epheseus

If hoarding was an Olympic sport my parents would have been in joint gold medal position. I’ve inherited some of these squirrelling away genes and have my fair share of ‘collections’ and things I can’t bear to part with. At the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul I met several people who made my mind whirl with possibilities and a little incredulity. They are full time nomadic travellers who spend their lives on the road with no fixed abode.

What do you do with your stuff? This was thing I couldn’t get my head round in the life of a global nomad. I’d heard of travellers who roam the world without a permanent home but this was the first time I’d met any. Travel tales were casually dropped into conversation; names of cities and countries sprinkled like pebbles on a path.

Did they plan this way of life or drift into it? How do they cope with having all their possessions in one or two suitcases? How about finding clothes for all climates and activities – and what about the washing? Do they miss cooking (this would be a sticking point for me)? And do they ever envisage a future where they own bricks and mortar?

I got to chat with Jane Mountain from My Five Acres as we explored Izmir in Turkey who enlightened me.

Update: I drafted this post several years ago. Since COVID restrictions and lockdown have taken over our world, this conversation and way of life seems so far away. How did it affect Jane and Stephen? Answer at the end.

Jane on a boat

Jane of My Five Acres

Did you plan this way of life or drift into it?

Our transformation into full-time travellers was partly planned and partly accidental. We had been living in Los Angeles for several years and our work visa was about to expire.

Since we had to sell our house and leave the country anyway, it seemed like the perfect time to do an extended trip. We set out on bicycles from Rome in 2013, not really knowing how long we’d be gone or where home would be when we finished travelling. During the bike trip, Stephen taught yoga all along our route and we blogged every single day (for 19 months!). After we were tired of cycling, it just seemed natural to keep travelling, teaching yoga, and travel blogging.

Stephen in shower made of a coconut

Stephen in a shower made of a coconut. My Five Acres

How do you cope with having all your possessions in one or two suitcases? Are there any tips – especially about packing and clothing?  How about finding clothes for all climates and activities – and what about the washing?

 

I am a minimalist at heart, so I found that getting rid of all the unnecessary clutter we carry through our lives was very therapeutic and freeing. It filled me with joy! For my husband Stephen, who is a bit of a pack-rat, it was initially a nightmare. But after going through the process, he admitted to feeling lighter, too. We did hang on to some of our most prized possessions (Stephen’s record collection!) which are in a storage unit back in Canada.

My biggest packing tip, if you’re setting out on a long multi-country trip, is to avoid packing for the entire trip. Instead, just pack for the first few months, then pick up and discard clothing you need as you go. For example, I just spent three months in the steamy climate of Vietnam and then flew directly to winter in Europe. On my last stop in Vietnam, I gave away my light trousers and got a couple of pairs of winter trousers tailored there. For expensive items like hiking boots and winter jackets, we do carry them with us, even to the tropics.

Laundry, which is a chore to most people at home, becomes a luxury on the road. The most wonderful sentence you can utter to a full-time nomad is “Feel free to use the washing machine.” The sight and smell of our clean clothes can fill us with joy! We usually do a small hand wash in the hotel room sink every couple of days and then use a laundry service or a laundromat once every couple of weeks.

people cooking

Food experience. My Five Acres

Do you miss cooking?

Absolutely! We are both food-obsessed and we love to cook and eat. We often imagine opening a vegan cafe when we getting tired of the travel life.

We find that eating in restaurants every day quickly turns from exciting to dull and we find ourselves longing for a home-cooked meal.

To work around this, we stay with friends as often as possible – full-time travel leads to a network of friends worldwide who are very generous with their invitations! We also choose hostels that come equipped with kitchens and we spend some time house sitting for people who we find on TrustedHouseSitters.com.

A trip to the grocery store in a new country is one of our favourite adventures.

(Two pics above from How to spend 2 days in Taipei  – My Custard Pie)

Do you envisage a future where you own bricks and mortar?

We do plan to settle down eventually. In every new place we visit, we are constantly asking each other: Would you live here? Could this be the place? How long could we live here before we got bored? Right now, Lisbon, Portugal, Luang Prabang, Laos, Gabriola Island, Canada and Sri Lanka are all on the short list.

Wherever we settle, it will be in a small space just big enough for a few possessions and the two of us. We dream of a tiny house or a small cosy apartment that we can leave for months on end as we travel!
What the best thing about this way of life?
The best thing about travelling constantly is the utter freedom of it. Right now, our plans only extend for the next two days. I know we’ll be in Bucharest for two more nights and I have a vague idea about the other places we’ll visit in Romania while we are here, but that’s it. The lack of planning leaves us wide open to snatch up new opportunities and new adventures as they come along.

…and the worst thing?

The worst thing about being away from home is the lack of community. We really miss having our circle of friends close by and we miss being able to visit with our parents and watch our nieces and nephews grow up. Stephen also misses having a dedicated group of yoga students that he can work with on a day-to-day basis, watching them transform as yogis and people. And sometimes, when I am in a less-than-stellar hotel with a squeaky spring-filled mattress, I really miss my own comfy bed.

hostel bed

Nguyen Shack in Phong Nha, dorms consist of two bunk beds with only three walls. The third is open to the elements. My Five Acres

What advice would you give to someone who wants to travel long-term?

Travelling for long periods is very different from going on a short one or two-week vacation. Instead of filling each day with plans and activities, we let our destinations reveal themselves as we live and work in the area. We move very slowly, often spending ten days in a city that most tourists would give 24 hours. It’s also important to plan rest periods where you stay put for a month or two, to give yourself time to recover and to process all the new experiences and adventures you’ve had.

Jane in Latvia. My Five Acres

What impact has the COVID pandemic and lockdown had on your way of life and future plans?

The pandemic has turned our lives completely upside down. When it hit, we had just settled into a temporary home in Bali. Stephen had a full-time gig teaching yoga but when the tourists went home, that job disappeared. At the same time, the traffic to My Five Acres took a nose dive, shrinking by 90% almost overnight.

We spent the summer staying at home in our Bali villa and planning for the future. It was clear that our income from yoga and blogging was not going to bounce back any time soon. So we made the gigantic decision to move home to Vancouver. We are now settled in a tiny apartment, just like we always pictured, with a spacious kitchen to cook in and Stephen’s record collection to entertain us. We have friends all over the city and family nearby.

Vancouver is a cultural meeting place and its restaurants reflect that, so we can still travel with our tastebuds. Crispy dosas, fragrant noodle soups, crunchy banh mi, perfect pizzas, soft steamed buns… they are all on our doorstep.

I don’t think our nomadic life is over forever but, for now, we are making the most of waking up in the same bed every day and having full access to our own washing machine.

Find out more

Jane is a travel blogger who believes every trip should widen your perspective, challenge your beliefs, and shake you awake into your own life. She knows that know that travel can help you transform into the person you truly are. If you want make your next trip transformational, visit My Five Acres. Follow Jane and Stephen on Instagram too.

Stephen and Jane of My Five Acres on a beach

Stephen and Jane of My Five Acres

No surprise I think this post is essential reading:

Foodie Travel Tips – How to Find the Best Food While Travelling

Read more about our experiences in Turkey:

Saturday night at the Kemeralti Bazaar in Izmir – My Custard Pie

How to visit Pergamon, Ephesus and the rest of the best Izmir attractions  – My Five Acres

So would this way of life suit you? I’d like the adventure but I’m not sure I could give up my permanent base forever.

Travel nomad

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Tricia Evans permalink
    June 9, 2021 2:54 am

    Great post Sally – very relevant these days too, & the COVID-forced ending brought it bang up-to-date.

  2. June 9, 2021 9:34 am

    this is amazing post, love to explore after covid.

  3. July 1, 2021 5:02 am

    I am slowly getting back into writing/blogging again and catching up on all your recent posts (especially loved the way you wove the stories re: ghee, it was so heart-warming to read). I loved how you dug up the notes here from this old trip and brought it to life to share with us. I hope one day to be a digital nomad, and will probably get there accidentally like Jane, and be able to create and publish quality content on the road.

  4. July 9, 2021 3:13 pm

    What beautiful photos!

Trackbacks

  1. No fixed abode – stories from a travel nomad about life without a permanent base | The Moment News

Please don't leave without commenting. Would love to hear what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: