What to do first if you’re planning to be an older nomad
If you’re familiar with the term ‘digital nomad’, you’ll know that it (stereotypically) refers to someone in their 20s or 30s who makes money online while travelling full time. It’s a wonderful experience.
But what if we’re older? Can we still live that dream as an older nomad? And do we have to follow the ‘make money online’ pattern?
The prospect of having the freedom and flexibility to explore more of the world while still working is hugely appealing, and the internet is an absolute gift in that respect. I’ve been living and working in this way since 2014. I’m currently in my 50s.
From my perspective, being an older nomad has unique additional benefits:
Being older nomads means we bring our whole work and life experience to every new encounter and to every conversation – and to every new adventure. It means that we can engage with people on an additional level – because many of the people we meet along the way will have had similar experiences – just in a different cultural environment. We can learn so much from each other.
Being older can also work in our favour when we’re talking to new people – because (for men in particular) we’re seen as less of a ‘threat’.
But how do you get started as an older nomad? Are there specific things to consider? And how will you handle all the current day-to-day commitments you have to manage?
There’s a lot to think about.
Here are 8 things you need to think about first – before you do anything else:
1. Why do you want to be able to travel more and/or be more nomadic?
That’s not as daft a question as it might sound.
Unless you’re clear on why you want to do this, you could get discouraged at the first hurdle – or miss out on the things you really want to do.
What makes you come alive? What are the places you’ve always wanted to visit? Which parts of the world do you find intriguing? Which languages do you speak – or want to learn? What specific interests or hobbies might influence where you choose to go and why? What do you really love? Where could you not not go? What are you trying to get away from? Where do you feel you’ve had to compromise in your life? Will this new experience enable you to redress the balance? What would it really mean for you to be able to go wherever you choose at any time?
You need to think through these kinds of questions and get really clear on your ‘why’. It will enable you to get the absolute most out of every day as an older nomad.
2. Where do you want to go?
Again, this might sound obvious, but remember there are over 200 countries in the world (depending on how you count them), and you may not have thought about some of them. Here’s a list of countries from the Wikipedia website. Take a look and see what you may have overlooked. Even though being ‘nomadic’ implies you can just go anywhere anytime, knowing where you really want to go will help with your planning. In addition, being able to plan a logical route – at least to start with – will help save travel costs.
3. Do you want to travel all the time or just some of the time?
Although many older nomads travel all the time, you don’t necessarily have to. I travelled full time to start with – for five years – and now I travel some of the time.
If you’re going to do this just some of the time, then you’ll need a base of some kind – but it doesn’t necessarily have to be where you currently live. And if you’re going to be a full time nomad, what will you do with your house or apartment?
4. How will you make your home generate income while you’re away?
When I started out as an older nomad I rented out my house, used a property agent to manage everything for me, and it all worked really well. The monthly rent also gave me an additional income stream alongside my day-to-day work.
As an alternative, you could find someone to manage your home as an airbnb or holiday let (depending on where you live). So think about the different possibilities to make your home work hard financially for you.
If you yourself currently rent where you’re living, your landlord might be open to you sub-letting it. It’s worth asking. If that’s not possible, think about whether you really need to keep it – or whether you can find an alternative base for the times you want to be ‘at home’.
5. What will you do with all your stuff?
I’m sure I’m not alone in finding that stuff just seems to accumulate! It can even creep into your backpack or luggage when you’re on the move, until you realise you’re carrying around a bunch of stuff you don’t need.
But what do you do with a whole houseful of stuff – especially if you’re going to rent out your place unfurnished? I devised my own super-powerful system for clearing clutter and stuff. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Once I’d done it, the feeling was absolutely liberating. In fact, even for people who aren’t going travelling, this can be a really useful process to go through.
6. What about all your personal commitments?
We’ll look at how to manage your work in separate articles. Keep in mind for now, though, that you don’t have to leave your job or become a computer whizz to be able to maintain your work on the move.
But what about all the personal obligations we have that need our attention each day? These will differ for everyone, but they often include managing finances (paying bills, mortgage, rent, etc.), managing relationships (family, kids, friends, partner/spouse, parents, pets, etc.), managing online accounts (that’s an easy one), paying tax, keeping fit, maintaining our house/garden, etc.
Make a list of all the things you need to do on a day by day basis to manage your life. And if you still have kids at home, don’t think you can’t be nomadic; there are people who take their children with them. That’s a whole other subject – but I mention it here so you don’t rule yourself out of being a nomad.
7. How will you travel and where will you stay?
‘Slow travel’ without flying is one of my favourite ways to travel. Not only can it be better for the environment, but you meet such interesting people along the way. It’s perfect for fascinating conversations! It can also give you more time to really explore places.
In terms of accommodation, you have various options, and I’m mentioning just two here:
There are some fabulous hostels across the world (check out the Hostelworld app), and they’re not just for younger people. Hostels also have the benefit of (usually) good wifi and lots of resources/information for travellers – not to mention being able to chat to people in the communal kitchens.
My own favourite way to travel is house sitting. I’ve been doing this since 2014 and in my first five years I did 77 house sits across the world and looked after 163 cats, two fish – and one dog. What’s more, I’ve had the pleasure to meet lots of lovely homeowners, many of whom are now friends. Read more about house sitting here.
8. What’s your plan?
Most big changes work best with a plan – and yet one of the joys of being a nomad is that you can be spontaneous about where you go and for how long.
You still need some kind of plan, though, so you can pull together all the different ‘pieces’ of your life, all your interests, goals, dreams, practical considerations, etc – and be sure that you can make your nomad goals happen. In my article, 3 ways to get out of a rut, you’ll find some ideas to help you – including a 25 year plan (my favourite kind of plan!).
Got questions, feedback or insights? Leave a comment below.