Money and the Nomadic Life: How Much do You Really Need?
This article is about something that hasn’t been discussed much in this blog. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most interesting topics for most aspiring and even current digital nomads – how to sustain yourself while traveling. There is wider and more comprehensive article in the works. It’ll include all of the practicalities – how to get funding, what to do for work, should you be a freelancer or a startup entrepreneur? You’ll soon have a much bigger and better resource covering this issue, but in the meantime, let’s introduce the subject using the blog’s (always appreciated) comments.
This piece is more of a general discussion than a guide with practical tips. As a nomad, a question comes up regarding the path you should take when making money on the road. Some people drift into total immersion, total uncertainty- making as less as possible. Others, like me, are more career oriented. The two comments below explore those way of thought. Please keep leaving your comments!
Money Helps You to Get Unstuck
John Corvus asks (January 2014): I was wondering why you lack the option of nomadic travel outside of cities entirely and consistently talk about finance? I have been a nomad since I was 16, I am now 28, and have traveled only my own country so far. I am not criticizing, only curious if you had any possible tips or know anyone like myself who shuns Value Papers ($), and prefers a more natural off grid nomadic experience.
Recently, we published a very long article (over 5000 words) about trending digital nomad locations, cities and hubs. This connects to John’s first question, of why I don’t spent time outside of cities. Almost every location in that article was a city, usually a large one. So John, you’re right – I’m ignoring villages a little bit, even though I actually love villages and towns more, and feel really in flow there.
The reasons I stay in cities are connected to work infrastructures and social life. Because I work on the road, I need coworking spaces and sadly, only big cities have those. This is starting to change, though – and I can now start avoiding capitals, which is really nice. There’s also the social aspect like I said. I’m more likely to meet other people in coworking spaces and in other city locations. City locals are more open to interaction with foreigners since city folks are more liberal and open-minded. If you don’t believe me see who city people are voting for in comparison to people in rural locations (like the latest, in the US).
Cities also offer more culture events, nightlife and better transport connections and accommodation options, especially if you don’t stay long. In conclusion, I feel like focusing on staying in cities is not optimal, but it makes life easier on most aspects. I keep villages and towns visits for the weekend, that’s when I don’t have to work or meet new people.
I talk about money because we need to eat, drink and sleep. I didn’t set up the rules. I also talk about money since freedom is important to me and to a certain extent, money gives you the option to do what you want and to get unstuck. I can’t help but assume you only traveled your own country (and maybe you’re stuck there) for 12 years because going further is expensive and requires resources.
On a personal note, I went too far and work is the most crucial part of my life. I would like to try and get off the grid and disconnect. However, I would also like the option of coming back to the regular flow if I want to, so not considering money and your financial future is a suboptimal move.
Money As Insurance
Ritu asks: Hi, do you really need to have a constant source of income or money at all when you begin? Isn’t it possible to earn doing odd jobs on the way? After all, you need money to fulfil only your basic necessities and transportation… and travelling is a matter of courage and not money.
Traveling is a matter of traveling, and of fun – not of courage or fun.
If you want a lasting experience, which is independence; if you want to rely less on strangers, and have more say in the direction of your life, than money is important. If you want to narrow the uncertainty factor, which is both exciting but can also be negative – money is also important. You have enough uncertainty while traveling as it is, without thinking about how to afford your next meal or bus. You can plunge deep, but it is too scary for me, I’m not ready for it and I will probably never be.
Odd jobs can be exciting, but they take time to achieve, and are probably illegal if you’re traveling in a foreign country. I’ve never done those – I’ve always had my own profession and business. My advice, if you’re doing odd jobs like a chef or gardener, develop a skill. Life is too short to not be the best in what you do. Skills allow you to work less, earn more and focus on what you do best, which is probably what you like doing the most.
As I see it, you don’t only need food, transport and accommodation, you also need insurance. I’m not talking about the literal sense, which is the insurance policy (although it’s important to have one). By insurance, I’m talking about knowing that if things go wrong – you’ll be okay. The idea, again, is freedom – having backup and peace of mind from that backup. Most of us also need to know they have the financial ability to help family and friends if needed.
Lastly, work and career are not just about the money, they give meaning and satisfaction, and help your self- esteem. Especially during long periods of travel, when you strangle to find purpose. You also have something to show your friends, family and social circle, and change the way they look at you. This allows you to connect faster. As a personal example, my startup, StartupBlink gets me invited to events which gets me more friends than almost any other method. In conclusion, I think that focusing on building things brings you so much more than just money.