Nomadic Lifestyle (Living Hand To Mouth)

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This is a post about what a modern nomadic lifestyle actually means. We enjoyed this lifestyle of freedom for almost 7 years, a nomad lifestyle with kids, in Asia, Europe, parts of Africa, the USA and Central America. We loved our nomad lifestyle and no, we were not “living hand to mouth”. And then I read a few comments on our chosen lifestyle from the lady below. Read on!

A Nomadic Lifestyle

Time for another rant post. I love to rant and I love that you read. So stuff SEO and making money today, this is real, this is me.

I don’t like that people are hating on the digital nomads and running down the nomadic lifestyle we love so much. I also don’t like that people are hating on the influencers. But today, digital nomad hate.

In this instance a wealthy older digital nomad was hating on the youngsters just starting out, the millennials presumably, and that’s just not fair. I am an older digital nomad woman and I think what these young people are doing is fabulous. So rant on.

This morning I was checking my Facebook notifications, it’s my job and I do it several times per day. I happened upon a post by a woman who shall be named Audra (for that is her name, real or otherwise) wondering why everyone in the digital nomad community disliked her so much for being rich.

The general gist of her post was, I’m rich, my husband plays golf, we earn pots of money and I’d just like to let all you other nomads know that, and by the way, why does nobody like me?

Well, I don’t like you Audra because you’re trying to shove your wealth down my throat. If we met in a bar would your first words be “I’m rich and my husband plays golf.”? I doubt it. We might get on until you started banging on about golf, I hate golf and have no desire to ever play.

You probably hate Ironman and homeschooling, so I don’t talk about either much in polite company. Much as I suspect you are a troll, here is some truth for you.

Everyone starts somewhere. Kids starting out work their way up. I, at 40 something, had to work my way up. The fact that these kids are starting so young is just fabulous, it shows grit, determination and imagination in a messed up world. So good on them.  You enjoy your fancy hotels and millionaire lifestyle, good for you, but stop picking on the kids.

If my kids decide to embrace a nomadic lifestyle I’d be very happy for them to do that. It was how they were raised so it wouldn’t even come as a surprise. They’d know what they were getting themselves into a what to expect.

The Lifestyle: What is a Digital Nomad and What is an Expat?

Venice Blue Gondolas driving to venice
We were digital nomad-ing in Venice a few weeks ago. It was worth a look but would I want to stay there in some fancy hotel? Nope.

You know what, I actually don’t care. A digital nomad works online and finds a life of freedom through online endeavors. The word nomad implies movement.

The expat/ immigrant divide is another hot potato and I’m not going to go there.

I really don’t care what anyone wants to call themselves in the same way that I don’t get involved in the whole worldschooler, unschooler, homeschooler thing. I stick with homeschool, it holds no controversy or definition issues for me.

If somebody wants to call themselves a digital nomad that’s fine. Why would it bother me?

We are digital nomads by default. We travel, we move, we earn. I like calling myself a traveller, a travel blogger, a travel writer, a mum, an entrepreneur, it depends on who I’m talking to and what they’ll understand.

Wearing the badge ” Digital Nomad” is not a status thing. It’s just who I am, like ” woman” or “50-year-old“, although I’m pretty pleased with both those things.

Does a Nomadic Lifestyle Involve a “Backpacker Mentality” and “Scraping By”

Europe Road Trip Romania to Hungary Hortobagy National Park
Here’s us living from hand to mouth in Hungary. Being together, all 4 of us, enjoying family life and me not having to cook! #winning

This was where I really got riled up. Audra’s initial comment was OK other than the self-glorification and “poor me” attitude, but the further down the page I read the more the other commenters added to the car crash.

People were telling poor Audra that people were “jealous” or that they were stuck in a “backpacker mentality” and couldn’t get out because their income was so low. There was also talk of hard work and slackers, implying that Audra and her financial peers were the only ones working.

I did not comment and I’ve never come across Audra before so there was nothing personal, I’m just annoyed on the part of my fellow digital nomads.

A lot of these nomads are young kids, just starting out. I bet they’re having a ball seeing the world for the first time and being their young, fit, gorgeous selves. Nobody wondered if Audra was “jealous” of their youthful fun.

Jealous? Why would anyone with the freedom to travel the world in ANY way be jealous of anything? We’ve all won the lottery. We’ve created the lifestyle we dreamed of and we’re making it work, we’re out there having fun, our way.

If people can’t understand a way of living different to their own, they may rationalise it in terms that make sense to them, but anyway, I’m not jealous, I don’t think anyone is Audra.

Are We Scraping By as Digital Nomads?

making a haystack in romania
Living here, in Breb, has been a million-dollar experience. No money could ever buy the magic of being here with these people for the last couple of years. It cost us almost nothing financially. No Audra, I would not swap your millions for this.

This bit is just about us and our circumstances, about how we best enjoy our travelling or digital nomad lifestyle. No, we’re not scraping by, we make more than enough to cover our chosen lifestyle and have done for a long time now. We finally got it right and made the websites pay.

We’re not staying in fancy hotels every night because we DON’T WANT TO. I do not talk about our income publicly, it’s vulgar. But you can all figure out how much we need to support ourselves so how much we need to be earning.

In year 1 we did ultra budget purely because we were trying to make $30,000 last as long as possible. It was a neat challenge and we enjoyed it.

I wouldn’t want to travel so cheaply that we had to couch surf, volunteer or house sit or camp, that would destroy my enjoyment, but each to their own.

Plenty of people enjoy all of those things and their choices aren’t based on finances.

We happen to have a post on how to travel for free here if you’re just starting out or enjoy that lifestyle. When you’re starting out you absolutely need to take the ultra budget route sometimes, it can be a means to an end.

I know plenty of people who do it that way and love it, again, I don’t care what anyone else does so long as they’re happy. I would never for a microsecond think that the couch surfers, volunteers and house sitters were jealous of us staying in hotels.

And by hotel, I normally mean cheap hotel or guest house because that is what we like best.

I know one travelling volunteer who went to Yale and works for Google. It’s not for financial necessity that she swaps work for bed and board, it’s about choosing a lifestyle.

Travel is The Priority in Our Nomadic Lifestyle

One of the kids asked me last night if we could afford to buy him a new computer. I told him that of course we could, I could buy it right now and Amazon would deliver it tomorrow.

It’s not about “Can we afford it?” It’s about WE DON’T NEED IT.

I’m not paying $1000 for a laptop purely for him to play a particular computer game. Well, maybe at Christmas, but not in August for no good reason.

We only buy the things we need, not things to impress because otherwise, we couldn’t afford the travel that takes priority.

In the same way, I don’t need fancy hotels to enjoy our travels. We’ll book one now and then sure, we just booked a beauty in Langkawi, but for the next several months we’ll be paying $20 /night for what looks to be a lovely place in Vietnam.

It’s not, in any way, the cheapest, nor is it the most luxurious and expensive, we picked it because we LIKE IT.  Booking fancy hotels every night would have cut this trip short several years ago.

We drove a clapped-out old 4 x 4 for 2 years, we LOVED her, far more than the brand new model that we drove back home in Australia. She had balls and she had character.

I cried when she left us last week because of all the fun times we’d had together, much as we laughed when she was breaking down all over Europe. So many happy memories in that rusty old chassis. A fancy car does not make for a happy life.

Our backpacks contain few clothes because that is all we need.

I spend on jeans and running tights because quality in those two departments is vital to me, everything else doesn’t matter and I’ll happily wear my faded, washed-out, raggedy travelling wardrobe for as long as the seams hold.

I have a few toiletries that I love and spend on. My LUSH shampoo bars and Clinique mascara are my favourite splurges and I’ll stock up if I can. Otherwise, we’ll take whatever is available and usually pick the cheapest. I’m really privileged to be able to afford those two things.

A treat now and then brings so much more enjoyment than luxury every day.

Cheap hotels of Asia. Digital nomad sufferring
The first time in at least 5 years that the boys have been to a hairdresser. The first time in 17 for my husband.

We haven’t had professional haircuts in years. I’m more than capable of cutting everyone’s hair but last week we splashed out. It’s got to the point where my time is more valuable than the cost of a haircut and it was a fun experience for the boys.

My life is happier now than when I had cool hair. After all, who do I need to impress with outward appearances? Maybe Audra.

We own a few very expensive, very good quality backpacks. One is the new Osprey Farpoint 40, a good quality backpack will last a lifetime and be your best friend. I’m happy to spend in that department.

I also spend good money on sunglasses because it’s worth it, although my decades-old Oakleys have this week been replaced by Sungods, more on those later, but sunglasses with a lifetime guarantee have to be a good thing.

Cheap hotels of Asia. Digital nomad sufferring
The cheap hotels and guest houses of Asia are what really make me feel alive. This is what I love. Fancy hotels are nice now and again but I would never give up this lifestyle for 5 stars. My husband has worked in 5 stars for his entire career, we’ve stayed in some of the best hotels in the world through his work and through mine, but we love our style of travel best.

Money Does Not Equate With a Happy Lifestyle

I’ll tell you a little secret. I have 3 people in my life who are very wealthy.  It made a difference to my financial journey when I was younger, so yes I’ve seen real privilege. I’ve been rich and I’ve been less-rich, although never truly poor, but I’ll tell you the honest truth, I have NEVER been happier than when I have my backpack on my back and my kids and my husband at my side laughing at what the world throws at us and loving its diversity.

The world is big and amazing and fantastic and if you stay in fancy hotels (with golf courses) all the time you’ll miss out on some of the wonder. I know because I’ve done it every which way.

This is why I’m not aiming to be rich. This is why I’ll charge peanuts for helping people. I’m in a position of privilege to be able to do that.

Just live life your way. Don’t waste one second thinking about jealousy, who may be jealous or what others think. So long as you and yours are happy and you’re doing no harm, just live, don’t judge. Ignore the Audras and their offensive vocalisations. Be kind, be gentle, aim to live your dreams.

Glad I got that off my chest 😉

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

23 thoughts on “Nomadic Lifestyle (Living Hand To Mouth)”

  1. Hi Alyson,

    Still enjoying your blog most of the time. But please, please stop justifying yourself. You don’t need to. You have chosen a life that suits you. You pay your way, you don’t bludge on anyone, you have fun, you are constantly expanding your horizons, you are making new friends….it’s nobody else’s business how you live and not up to them to judge you. Forget them and move on.
    I loved the photo of the Asian restaurant. That’s our sort of place and so beautiful. I remember telling a good friend about our back packing experiences in China in 1983, when we visited an ethnic minority area and went to one of their markets. I was given a little red berry to taste….it took the roof off my mouth and paralysed my tongue for about 20 minutes, while the assembled market ladies rocked with laughter until they cried. My wealthy friend looked at me sadly and told me how lucky I was. They had to stay in big glossy hotels because of her husband’s job and she felt she missed so much. She did!
    Our lifestyle rubbed off on our children. One of my daughters spent 6 years travelling around Europe. Cooking in Greek taverns (she is a chef), sweeping floors, picking fruit in Israel etc. She met her husband on the way. And now the grandchildren are travelling through South America on a shoestring, sleeping in mud huts in West Africa, and walking the el Camino and so it goes on.
    I find your advice on what to buy for travelling very useful. Having bags and packs that really work well makes a lot of difference to me. So thank you.
    I also hope you have been reunited with your lost baggage. To lose all those furry creatures is a loss indeed.
    Best wishes
    Jade fish.

    • Yes we have the bag back, thanks.
      I know I don’t need to justify but I enjoy doing it, people love reading the ranty stuff, so it’s good for business.
      The more rants the better, they’re the quickest, easiest posts to write.
      Thanks for being with us and happy Christmas!

      • I’m not so keen on the ranty stuff myself. It feels as if you are doing it more and more at the expense of your fascinating travel adventures. But I guess you have to help support the family.

        Glad you got the bag back and happy Christmas to all of you.

        • The post above, that you’re commenting on, is almost 2 years old. All of our recent posts are on Tibet and Nepal. I fully support my family, have done for ages. The date on the top is date updated, I probably fixed a typo or something.

  2. I don’t know what a dosser is, and I’m not going to bother looking it up because I love your article and who you are! I came here because I read your facebook post. Keep on keeping on!

    • It’s a lazy or homeless person who ” dosses”. Sleeps on people’s couches or in ” doss houses”. As we own a very nice home and stay in lovely hotels while working a job that takes more hours than my previous one in the NHS… what a prat! But I don’t think it’s aimed at us , I think he just has a chip on his shoulder about anyone living a digital nomad lifestyle. Thanks though Jan.

  3. Wow, the author of this blog is up her own arse, big time. Get over yourself love! You are dossers, not “digital nomads”, which is fine but let’s not dress up being a slacker family as something more ethical and Uber cool, eh? I hate golf and rich people too, but the woman you are slating sounds vastly preferable to you.

    • Oh I do love a troll. Thanks Jake, for adding to my ” dosser ” website that funds a lifestyle of unimaginable awesomeness. You’re a diamond.

  4. Thank you for directing me to this post Alyson, really enjoyed and will mention you on my next rant post at The Grey Traveller. Happy travels to you and your family.

  5. Hi , I Love your rants!
    I am so much as-tonics taht , really the first time in at least 5 years that the boys have been to a hairdresser? Thanks a lot for sharing this awesome article !
    Love your blog so much!

    • No, like the first time in….forever! I’m actually pretty good at cutting hair and we carry clippers and scissors/comb. I remember taking them once in Australia and a couple of times in London so this might be like…their 5 th haircut at a hairdressers in their lives. LOL. What’s as-tonics taht ? It sounds rude.

  6. I always sigh a little when a co-worker says, “I wish we could go on great trips like you do” when I know that person makes the same amount of money as myself. What they’re saying is, “I wish I could travel without giving anything else up” which is stupid. If your nice car, beautiful house, fancy haircuts and expensive wardrobe are making you truly happy, own it! Who says one is better than the other? If it’s not, then be honest with yourself about that. I think many people have been brainwashed into thinking they don’t have choices or just keep doing what they’ve always done out of laziness. to Not changing anything is a choice too. People who are living the life they want to live in a deliberate way don’t have time to worry about others or be jealous of them!

    • Hallelujah! All about priorities – not about being jealous – own your choices (or change them). I stepped out of a high $ career four years ago to spend time with my daughter, and while we aren’t living a nomadic life we are regular travellers. I work part time to fund our adventures and am constantly fielding comments about my alleged trust fund/ability to ‘afford’ what full time workers on a lot more money can’t. No financial wizardry, I just spend my money differently. Just back from two weeks in Bali – one at a $$$ villa with longtime friends and their kids, the other at a cheapie (but perfectly comfortable) hotel. Cheapest meal was $3, most expensive $30, and both were enjoyable. Priviledged to have had a choice; smart enough to have made it; not jealous of my former colleagues drowning in debt despite their high salaries. Travel makes me (and the kiddo) happy. #dontbeAudrey

      • Absolutely agree. We live on our pensions, good, and travel all the time. People keep telling us how lucky we are and that we must have heaps of money. Nonsense, we just spend differently, with a beat up old car that has never let us down, a small neat home that needs little maintenance, and a simple life style. We love the sort of place pictured above and have travelled all through Asia on a shoestring. Now that we are in our 80s I have banned camping!

  7. Oh yes to this: “I have NEVER been happier than when I have my backpack on my back and my kids and my husband at my side laughing at what the world throws at us and loving its diversity.”

    Family and laughter are what it’s about — and traveling with that. I have done all the fancy stuff too and had the job with the big title that took me to embassies and top spots but nope, happiest when heading out with my kids and our backpacks on. I go to the 5 star restaurants (have to when your brother and sons are chefs:) but give me a plastic chair at a beachside restaurant, a cold beer, simple, local food and a sunset anytime. My kids laugh when I tell them that is 5 star every time:)

  8. I hope Audrey got the message ????love this post speak volume happy days to you and yoursee xxxx

  9. And this is why we all love you guys. Thank you for being awesome

  10. Love this so much! Everyone has different priorities and can spend (or not spend) their money as they choose. Who cares?!
    We don’t hate Audrey because she’s rich, it’s because she is bragging and big-noting herself while being intolerant of others.


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