10 Lessons I’ve Learned From Living A Nomadic Lifestyle

If you’ve ever wondered what the nomadic lifestyle is really like, I’ve been traveling full-time for over five years, and I’m always excited to share my experiences. It all started back in 2013 when my husband and I left our day jobs and became location independent. We started traveling more extensively, and we loved being…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 24, 2023

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If you’ve ever wondered what the nomadic lifestyle is really like, I’ve been traveling full-time for over five years, and I’m always excited to share my experiences.

It all started back in 2013 when my husband and I left our day jobs and became location independent. We started traveling more extensively, and we loved being able to spend more time outdoors doing what we love.nomadic lifestyle

Then in 2015, what feels like a lifetime ago, we started traveling full-time. First, we sold our house in Missouri that we had owned for a little over five years and moved to Colorado. 

We rented a house in Colorado and bought an RV right after we moved in, but the house didn’t last for long. We were ready to move into the RV and start traveling full-time.

Traveling is always something I was interested in, even from a young age, but I never thought that I would live a nomadic lifestyle.

It was exciting and scary at first, and I’m so excited I gave it a shot as it has greatly changed my life for the better.

I’ve found many nomadic lifestyle advantages over the years — I have learned so many skills, I have met amazing people, been to countless beautiful places, and more.

Now, living a nomadic lifestyle isn’t for everyone. It can be difficult at times, even lonely for some people. After a couple of years of traveling full-time, I realized why many people eventually move on from traveling full-time.

Still, some people say living a nomadic lifestyle is the best thing ever and that there’s no other way to live. But there are some travelers who prefer to do it for only short periods of time, some want a home base, and there are other people who aren’t interested in traveling full-time at all. It all depends on what you enjoy and want out of your life.

We’ve made several changes to our nomadic lifestyle over the years. We’ve lived in a full-size RV, a camper van, and a sailboat.

I have learned many things, both good and bad, about traveling full-time and the different ways you can do it.

I know that when I first started traveling full-time I would say that I couldn’t see myself living in a house again, but that has definitely changed over the years.

It’s amazing how you change over time, and I know the experiences I’ve had over the past few years of traveling full-time have shaped me into the person I am now.

Today, I want to talk about the various lessons that I have learned from living a nomadic lifestyle. I will be talking about the good as well as the bad (but, it’s mostly good!).

Related content:

Here’s what I’ve learned from living a nomadic lifestyle.

 

1. You get to visit places that you probably wouldn’t know about otherwise

Whenever someone asks what is an advantage of the nomadic lifestyle, this is the first thing I think of because it’s my favorite thing.

I love just stopping for a break, realizing that we found something amazing, and staying for as long as we want. 

There have been so many places that we have just randomly stopped at and enjoyed. We found amazing places because they happened to be on the way to where we were going, or there was one thing that we wanted to check out along the way, and then stayed there for quite some time exploring.

The great thing about traveling full-time by boat or RV is that it brings you to places that aren’t as well known. And because you have so much more time to travel, you end up stopping a lot of places along the way.

 

2. You will meet the best people

No matter where I am visiting, I have met so many amazing and friendly people.

We have been invited into people’s homes, had dinner with complete strangers, hopped on people’s boats for a ride, went exploring with people we had just met, and more.

We have been shocked by the kindness that others have shown us, and it is one of the best things about traveling.

 

How do you live a nomadic lifestyle?

3. You can work and travel full-time

There are so many different ways to work and travel full-time.

I have had numerous people tell me over the years that being able to travel full-time isn’t something they can afford to do. This is mainly because of work issues, but you would be surprised by how many different nomadic lifestyle jobs are available.

There are so many different travel jobs that I’ve personally seen, from campground hosts to working online, so I know there are options for everyone.

Most of the people I have met while traveling full-time still work. It is actually rare to meet someone who is truly retired in this lifestyle.

You can learn more at:

 

4. Don’t make rock solid plans

You never really know the future when you’re traveling full-time. 

I still remember the day when RV friends of ours (Bob and Janice) said to us, “Where do you think you’re going to be in 5 to 10 years from now?” 

It was when we were still relatively new to RVing, and I remember thinking that was a weird question — of course I’d still be traveling and living in the same RV,  haha.

But, I quickly learned that making any plans, especially thinking about something 10 years from now, is pretty impossible.

Things can change so quickly. The weather can change (which dictates a lot of things when traveling via sailboat), the world can change (2020 proved that), and so on.

Planning something, even just a month in advance, can sometimes feel a little ridiculous.

 

full-time travel with dogs

5. Traveling with pets is definitely possible in an RV or boat

While it’s not the easiest to travel with pets, it is possible and very well worth it.

There’s just a little more work involved in living a nomadic lifestyle with pets.

We have been traveling full-time with our two dogs this entire time (our bigger dog recently passed away, though). She was around 85 pounds, and our other dog is about 15 pounds. Traveling with a bigger animal can be a little more difficult, but it’s still amazing to bring your pets with you.

Getting dogs approved to go to other countries takes additional steps, but it is possible too.

You can learn more at How I Travel Full-Time By RV And Boat With My 2 Dogs.

 

6. Something will always break

There’s a saying I think about often. It goes, “Living on a boat is just fixing your home in exotic places.”

You are ALWAYS dealing with broken things when you travel full-time, whether that’s by boat, van, RV, or something else.

When something is broken in a “normal” home, you can typically still use your home, sleep in it, and have no other worries.

Yes, you may still have the stress of money and trying to fix it, but dealing with a broken moving home, such as an RV or boat, can lead to a lot more things, such as:

  • Getting into an accident because something is broken (such as a flat tire, blown engine, hitting something, etc.).
  • Not being able to sleep in your home because it’s in the shop being fixed. Or maybe you just need to be out of the way while you’re fixing something on your own. This can lead to even more expenses, rushing to find somewhere new to sleep, and so on.
  • Putting your life at risk in order to repair the issue (this is more-so true on a boat than an RV because you can’t pull over in a boat to fix something).
  • A repair taking weeks or even months before you’re able to use your home again — this is usually due to lack of parts wherever you may be.

Then there’s the whole boats and RVs just aren’t made the way that homes are, so they are literally just broken all the time. This is true whether your RV/boat is brand new or if it’s 50 years old. There’s just always a long list of things to maintain and items to replace and/or add.

 

nomadic lifestyle advantages

7. There will always be solutions to your issues

So many people tell me that they cannot travel more due to three main reasons:

  1. Lack of good internet
  2. Not being able to receive mail
  3. Doing laundry

These questions always make me laugh because I had the same concerns, but now I realize they are small issues when it comes to traveling full-time.

Since I know I will be asked:

  1. For the internet, we’ve had AT&T, Verizon, MyIslandWifi, Google FI, and more. It all depends on where we are and what length of time we are there for. Google FI is what we mainly use right now.
  2. We belong to a mail forwarding company called St. Brendan’s Isle. All of our mail gets sent there, and then they forward our mail to wherever we are. For example, if I know where I’ll be, I’ll request my mail from them. St. Brendan’s Isle puts all of my mail in one tidy package and ships it to where I’m staying.
  3. For laundry, there are laundromats everywhere, or you can get your own washer and dryer combo in your RV or boat.

Whatever is stopping you from wanting to live a nomadic lifestyle, know that there is probably a solution that will allow you to make it reality.

Simply do a little research, and I’m sure someone else has tackled it before.

 

8. There is plenty of space

Many people wonder how my husband and I (and our dogs) have lived in such a small space for so many years.

There haven’t been any times when we felt like the RV or boat were too small. It’s not hurting our relationship, our dogs have been happy, and we are happy.

Luckily, this lifestyle means we are always surrounded by the amazing outdoors, so we are able to explore outside a lot.

 

living on a boat 

9. I don’t need a lot of the things that I once thought I needed

When downsizing and living a more nomadic lifestyle, it can be a little scary to think about getting rid of all of your stuff.

When we sold our house and decided to give RV life a try, we donated and got rid of a lot of our belongings. At first it was difficult to get rid of so much, but it got easier and easier.

Now, all we have is what is with us. We have a small amount of everything, and we like it best this way.

We are much more mindful of what we buy, there’s a lot less waste, and this is allowing us to save money as well.

When we do live in a house again, I see myself always living in a similar way and being mindful of the things that I purchase.

When I think about how much stuff we gave away, I honestly can’t even remember half of the things. Now, I know that I never really needed the majority of those things in the first place.

Having more stuff doesn’t make you happier.

Things don’t make you a better person, they don’t make you more successful than others, or anything else.

I know this because I have less stuff than I have ever had, and I’m actually happier now than ever before.

Read more at Downsizing Your Home? Here’s How I Went From A 2,000 Square Foot House To An RV.

 

10. Decision fatigue is real

When you’re constantly on the move, that means you are constantly deciding where to go next, plus the logistics of getting there.

Needing to always make decisions like that can be exhausting. Then there are decisions you have to make on the fly because life suddenly throws something at you.

For example, so much of your life is controlled by the weather when you live on a boat. Once you arrive at a new anchorage or marina, you’re pretty much already thinking about your next spot, which may have to happen quickly if there’s a big storm coming.

There are so many decisions that you have to make as a full-time traveler, such as where you’ll be living the following week, where you’ll be able to walk the dogs (or, if you’re even allowed to bring them), how you’ll school your children, how you’ll buy food and groceries, dealing with checking in and out of countries, route planning, figuring out when/where to get fuel, water, where to dump, and more.

Living a nomadic life means that you have to plan everything all the time and be ready with contingencies.

 

Why is a nomadic life difficult?

The saying is that living and traveling full-time on a sailboat is 90% normal life and 10% sheer terror, and I completely understand that. 

When you’re traveling full-time, you’ll experience some of the highest highs and lowest lows. I’ve heard so many full-time travelers say that, and I definitely understand it.

Living a nomadic life can be really amazing at times. You get to go to new places, see everything much differently than most tourists, meet amazing people from around the world, and more.

It can also be terrifying, a lot of work, an enormous amount of planning, stressful, and more.

It’s easy to let the difficult parts get to you, but I try to stop and think about all of the good things that this lifestyle brings me. 

 

I love being a digital nomad.

Being able to work from anywhere is one of the things that I am most grateful for in life. Having a job that I can easily work while traveling has made up for many of the hard parts of a nomadic lifestyle.

Working while traveling full-time isn’t perfect — it can be hard to separate work from life and actually take a day off. However, it’s great being able to run my business from wherever I am. I can be in the RV driving down the road, at a national park, on a sailboat, or wherever, and I am still able to successfully work.

I actually believe that traveling full-time has helped me with my business. It is a huge motivator, and it’s really refreshing, which is very different from the stagnant work environment I came from.

Note: Read more about how I earn a living on the road and How I Run A Business While Traveling 365 Days a Year.

 

How to live a nomadic lifestyle?

If you want to travel full-time, there are ways to make it possible.

Many people think that it’s not possible due to budget reasons, but there are many ways to travel on a low budget. There are also many jobs, especially in today’s world, that allow you to travel and work at the same time.

Living a nomadic lifestyle is a little different for everyone, but here’s what you need to do to make it a reality:

  1. Figure out how much money you need.
  2. Put money into savings before you spend it.
  3. Pay off debt.
  4. Create a vision board.
  5. Figure out how you will work while you travel, such as online or find jobs in the places you are visiting.
  6. Sell your car.
  7. Get rid of your home (or rent it out to make some money).

And more!

I recommend reading Want To Be A Full-Time Traveler? 13 Ways To Make It Happen to learn more.

 

What do I love most about the nomadic lifestyle?

Pretty much every single day, I am in amazement at the life that I get to live.

There are so few things that I do not like about this lifestyle.

When on our boat, I love being able to travel, sail, see ocean life, and explore. Our boat is fairly self sufficient, and that is an amazing thing. We have solar panels, we can make our own water, and we have sails to move the boat.

When on the road in an RV or van, we love being able to hike and bike some of the best trails in the world. We love parking our home right on a mountain, on the beach, in the desert, etc. It’s also quite easy, as weather doesn’t really change your life in a crazy way like it does on a boat, and breakdowns, while they can ruin your day, aren’t as bad as when your boat breaks down, haha.

I don’t see myself ever not traveling extensively, though. Even with a home base in the future one day, I still see myself traveling long-term and exploring many new places.

Are you interested in living the nomadic lifestyle? Why or why not?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. This is beautiful but I doubt if this can be possible in Africa.

    1. Can you share more about what you mean?

      1. I mean having a traveling lifestyle with a constant supply of income. How do you all do it?

  2. My husband and I sold our house and plan to rv full time beginning in August. I’m excited and scared at the same time! Finding remote work and figuring out the internet thing has been the toughest thing for me but I’m sure I’ll get it figured out. I want to have my own business but everyone knows thats not as simple and quick as it sounds. 😊 I’m praying once I quit my full time job, it’ll be much easier (or quicker) since I’ll have more time to devote to my own business. (I turned my resignation in a few says ago! Eeek!)
    You are inspiring!

    1. Amazing. Have fun!

      Where will you RV first? What kind of RV do you have?

  3. Pamela

    Such an inspirational article Michelle! It’s been amazing to follow your journey over the years! You spread a big motivation around 🙂 I’ve been slow traveling and working the last months and I am enjoying so much to explore, the freedom, being in nature, and the flexibility! Enjoy your travels! 🙂

    1. Sounds amazing! Where have you been lately?

  4. David @ Filled With Money

    It’s great that technological advances made it possible to be a digital nomad and enjoy the nomadic lifestyle.

    Who knows how our work situation will look like in another 50 years!

    1. Yeah, that will be interesting to see!

  5. Nick Muri

    When I was reading your post, most of what I was realizing is how much freedom you have, not being tied to a job. Thanks for enlightening us on the possibilities out there, especially about the internet options when travelling.

  6. Love this article Michelle! Those 7 tips to prepare for nomading are pretty much exactly what I would recommend as well. It’s such a privilege to nomad, and it’s promising to see more people doing it. Just this year I’ve lived in 5 different cities in 4 states and loved it!

  7. Julie

    Its so good to hear about all the good/challenges to living a nomadic life. I know living 3/4 time in Mexico and 1/3 time in California sounds so wonderful but it has it’s challenges too. In the town we live in San Carlos, Mex we meet so many people who sailed into the Marina and either living on their boats or buying a home. They all say it was the best decision they ever made! It has really opened our eyes to the possibilities of this lifestyle however, my husband can’t seem to believe this is something he would do because he states he knows nothing about sailing/living on a boat. Even tho we have owned a small boat our entire marriage he is still unsure. We own our own business and can live anywhere in order to run it as long as we have Internet! Congrats on the new baby! Super happy for the two of you!