Hello, nomads! In this new installment of ‘Meet Your Fellow Nomads,’ we bring you real-life inspiration from the road, by other travelers – just like you! – that are successfully creating a life of travel for themselves.
Read on – and find out how to submit your own story, to appear in a future edition!
Meet Liesbet (Belgian) + Mark (American)—and their sidekicks, Darwin + Kali—from Roaming About: Nomads for 10+ years
What inspires you to travel?
Now that I am attempting to write a memoir about my last decade of travel, friends have asked me that same question. Weirdly enough, I have never given it much thought. It is just something I do and have basically done my whole adult life. It has become natural and a way of life. I have always been curious about the unknown, from trying new experiences (like bungee-jumping and skydiving) to exploring the world. And, I have always been on a tight budget. Those two things combined led to my first trip without my parents when I was 17. I hitchhiked to Italy from Belgium with a friend for five weeks over the summer. It was exciting and it was cheap!
Each time I see a documentary about another culture or country, my heart beats faster and I have this urge to visit, and every time I look at a world map, I can’t turn my gaze away without dreaming up some destinations I really want to check out. I am passionate about travel and addicted to it. Following my adventurous spirit makes me very happy. I travel to feel alive, to meet new people, to discover new cultures, to be immersed in the scenery, to enjoy nature with all my senses, to interact with wildlife and to be overwhelmed by the beauty of this world. With new impulses, ideas and excitement around every corner, you never, ever get bored! Expanding your horizons is what life is all about.
You lived on a boat for 8 years and have traveled long-term in a truck camper. As a veteran of “living small,” what would you say are the little luxuries worth having with you while on the road?
One of the beauties and advantages of traveling long-term in a basic way, is that you don’t really need much. I actually enjoy living “primitively” and respecting nature’s bounties of fish, wind for sailing and the wind generator, sun for the solar panels, seawater to wash ourselves and the dishes, and rainwater for rinsing off and laundry. On the boat, the motto was “The less you have, the less that can – and will – break.” Fixing things or finding replacements for gear is very hard in the middle of the ocean. A simple life creates less complications and makes you appreciate the small things.
That being said, I have experienced that the most important thing for happiness (other than health and love) is comfort. To be able to live on the road or the water, you need to create basic comforts, whether it is a decent mattress or a comfy seat, a stove to cook on or a fridge to store food. These are not luxuries, but must-haves. For other cruisers, the list of must-haves might be more extensive. When it comes to luxuries, I am thinking about my digital camera, my laptop and my diary. I couldn’t live without any of those and they travel with me everywhere. Oh, and my pair of glasses to be able to see what I type and read. Other than that, I have some clothes and a few other personal belongings. I still don’t have a phone and don’t miss it. Skype does the trick. When we sold our sailboat in the South Pacific, my husband Mark and I filled two travel bags each with stuff we wanted to take back. The rest of our eight-year life stayed on Irie. Currently, all our belongings fit in the trunk of our Prius.
You’ve managed to make a living while on the road. What’s it like to be able to move freely and manage a business at the same time?
Being able to work while traveling is a blessing and a curse. You can live the lifestyle you want, but when your friends and neighbors go have fun every day, you sit at home, behind your computer. When we were living on our sailboat, we started an online business in St. Martin, in 2009. After that, each anchorage we stayed in needed to offer an internet connection, which restricted us from going everywhere we wanted. We left many gorgeous bays after discovering we couldn’t get online. During the weekend, we took full advantage of our time off to explore the islands and towns we sailed to.
One of the main reasons we decided to sell our 35’ catamaran Irie was so Mark could expand the business a bit and give it the attention it needed, which required living ashore. Running the business and dealing with customer support and potential issues had become very challenging and frustrating once we traversed the Pacific Ocean and found ourselves in more remote areas, like the islands of French Polynesia. So, moving freely has to be taken with a grain of salt. As long as we work remotely, we need internet and that defines where we go and stay, on land and on the water. All in all, I’ll take the nomad life over a more ordinary one, of course. And, since we don’t need much funds to travel the way we do, we manage just fine focusing on our own little careers while seeing a bit of the world.
If you had to settle down, where would it be (and why?)
This is a good question. Ten years ago, my dear grandma, who is now 96, asked “Will you ever come back to Belgium?” Later, it was “I don’t think you will ever come back here. This country is so dreary and has nothing to offer you.” A few years ago, she said “You are so right to travel while you are young. I wonder where you will finally end up. You liked New Zealand, right? And, Belize?” And that became “You can’t roam forever. But, you are still doing it. You must settle down at some point. Or, will you not? Hm. I thought so.” To be honest, ten years ago, I did think I would “settle” at some point. Mark and I even kept a loose eye on a possible “perfect spot” in Mexico and Central America when we traveled there with our truck camper. That’s when the Belize idea emerged. But then we found a suitable sailboat for us and our two dogs in the Chesapeake Bay.
Now, at an older age, where most people truly feel the need for some routine and a place to call home, I am not so sure anymore. Especially when we found this new lifestyle of house- and pet-sitting. Doing this long-term in certain places gives us the feeling of living in a home, with pets we care for and love. After a few months, we move on to repeat this elsewhere with a different scenery.
To answer your question, I don’t think we will ever settle somewhere for longer than a year, or maybe two. Why stick to one place, if you can immerse yourself in different ones? Why stay in a place you don’t like, while you can easily move on and try to live elsewhere? Packing up and moving all the time does get tiring, which was our number one reason (and the fact we didn’t want to settle) to become house- and pet-sitters. This lifestyle (in the US for now) allows us to experience different areas and discover whether it might be a place to live one day. We haven’t found it yet.
I did think at some point that New Zealand might be the place. Then, last year, I went back there with Mark after 16 years and that feeling of wonder and belonging disappeared. It might have had to do with visiting in the fall and being cold. If there is one thing Mark and I do know is that we love the tropics – at least, our bodies do. So, we could happily live on a Caribbean or Pacific island for a little while, until it will feel too small again and we have to venture further afield to experience a new place. I don’t think we will ever settle in our home countries of Belgium and the US. The perfect place to live does not exist. That is what we have learned from all our explorations. So, we will hopefully be able to divvy up our time in the places we like and find along the way. Plans to travel more extensively are a topic of every day, however. On the agenda for the near future: finally buying a RTW ticket (before we rescue two dogs again) and combining backpacking and house sitting for a year, and getting a campervan to explore South America and Africa, and to drive from Europe to Asia.
What advice would you give to fellow nomads hoping to create a career that allows them to travel?
I would start by saying that if you are a frugal person, that would help. The less money you need to survive and travel, the less pressure there is to take a job or do something you don’t like. Or the easier the steps are to go from a “normal,” stable life to a more risky one on the road. As a freelance writer, I have many ideas for articles, but, if and when accepted, they don’t not pay much. We do need Mark’s income from selling our products to make ends meet.
Figure out what your priorities are and focus on that. Make sure you are out of debt first (this is for American readers) and try to save some money by living very frugal for a while, not spoiling yourself with goods or frivolities, before you leave everything behind. You will be amazed at how little money you actually need to travel full-time, without all the monthly bills, rent or mortgage.
If you decide to become a nomad after having worked – or say, lived the American Dream – for ten years or so, you could have it made! Sell your house or rent it out, grab some savings and get out there, explore, and be careful with what you spend. You don’t even need to work that way when traveling.
For people like me, who have never actually owned anything and have been on the path of exploration their whole lives, or who are still in their twenties or thirties, find a talent or create a knack for work you can do remotely, online, like writing, translating, blogging. Even better is having an education you can use to make money as a nomad, like website designer, IT specialist, teacher…anything you can do as a freelancer. Or, the opposite, if you are a hairdresser, therapist, masseur, chiropractor, nurse, diesel mechanic, bartender, barista…you can try to find hands-on work wherever you go. The main personality traits to become a successful nomad are courage, determination, flexibility and creativity. The pay-off might not fill your pockets, but the experiences are priceless!
Follow Liesbet + Mark’s adventures around the world at roamingabout.com where they urge you to “be free and create life on your own terms. Follow your dreams, expand your horizons and live the life you desire, without breaking the bank! It’s all about choices and it is easier than you think. Take it from a frugal couple that has been on ‘the road’ for over a decade: ‘Don’t just dream, do!'”
Think your story would make a great inclusion to ‘Meet Your Fellow Nomads’? Submit a brief summary of your travels and information to: info – at – moderndaynomads dot com, along with a photo or two. We’ll be choosing some of our favorites to feature in upcoming editions!