Insights from My Long-Term Travel Destinations
In this article I will share the major insights about the nomadic lifestyle that I have gathered from each of the destinations where I have made a home since I first began traveling in 2010. Starting businesses in Israel, doing yoga in India, and Couchsurfing in Buenos Aires. Every destination taught me something new about myself and the nomadic lifestyle. If you are interested in a more organized version of my current rules without any reference to the experiences I will now describe, please refer to my digital nomad case study article.
Highlights from “Insights from My First Long-Term Travel Destinations”
Destination 0: Israel (4 months)
- Career Changes: Although Israel is my home country, it was also the first place where I lived as a nomad. Here, I resigned from my 9-5 accounting job, started my own business, got my first freelancing gig on Odesk (now, Upwork) and made the leap into a nomadic lifestyle. (If you’re wondering, the business I started is called Lingolearn. It’s an online language school, and it’s still going strong!)
- Nomad Tip: I recommend that if you’re starting your own business, you should plan to stay in once place until it’s up and running; maybe 3-5 months, minimum.
- Slow Travel: When I first started traveling, I changed locations every day. Seriously! I initially had a rule that I had to sleep in a new place every night. After about a month an a half, I decided that this “ultranomadic” life was too extreme and that I needed more stability if I was ever going to thrive as a nomad. I learned that slow travel, spending 1-2 months in each location, is a better lifestyle for me.
- Loneliness: Moving constantly can make it super hard to create a stable social life and the consequences of loneliness can be grave. Traveling as a nomad can give you a lot of chances to share moments with other people though, if you seek them out. A good nomad quote for this, from Alone in the Wild: “Happiness is only true when shared.”
Destination 1: India (3 months)
- Travel Challenges: India is an amazing country, with a true uniqueness It’s also a great first destination for aspiring nomads. But it’s not Europe, and traveling there can be a real challenge.
- The Spiritual Lifestyle: Here, I understood the existence of a lifestyle that is deeply spiritual, one that can be achieved only in certain places or states of mind. Sometimes, it is important to take a break and focus on a more aware, centered, spiritual lifestyle. Self-awareness is ultra-important to every nomad, and India is an amazing place to cultivate it.
Destination 2: Arequipa, Peru (6 months)
- Staying Longer: Arequipa is one of the most diverse and rewarding destinations out there. I stayed in Arequipa for 6 months total, and it gave my projects a major boost. This was the first place that I worked on my remote projects for more than 8 hours per day on average. Since then, I’ve always worked at least that much and it has definitely paid off.
- Learn What You Need: In Peru, I also learned that I do not like big cities. Arequipa is underneath a huge and beautiful volcano (seriously, go check this thing out: Volcan Misti), but the city itself is not very green and has poor air quality. Now, I look for cities with more trees and cleaner air.
- Safety: Peruvians are awesome, fun people, but safety is not always a top priority in Arequipa. I found some dissonance here between the local culture and my own views on personal security.
Destination 3: Buenos Aires, Argentina (2 Months)
- You can’t always go back. In 2003 and 2007, when I first traveled to Argentina, Buenos Aires was undeniably my favorite city in the world. It was posh and European, with a distinctive South American flair. Naturally, I thought that living there as a nomad would be incredible. It wasn’t. Traveling as a tourist is very different from traveling as a nomad. While tourists are partying, nomads are working. Your experience of a city is largely dependent on your own situation, so don’t expect to have the same experience twice.
- Coworking: It was here that I first discovered advantages of coworking, something I have done extensively since then. When working from home becomes lonely and unproductive, coworking can be a real game changer.
- Couchsurfing: Here, I also started using Couchsurfing as a tool to build a social life in his nomadic destinations. It’s not just for sleeping on couches!
Destination 4: Asunción, Paraguay (2 Months)
- Times are changing. Paraguay is much less touristy than the rest of South America, and is often overlooked as a travel destination. However, the developing world is changing at an unbelievably fast rate. After visiting a village here in 2003, I was shocked to find the same village almost unrecognizable less than a decade later.
- Hostel Communities: During my stay in Asunción, I booked a month-long stay in a small hostel that turned out to be amazing. The other hostel-goers were also staying for a month or more and a small, but vibrant community popped up out of nowhere!
Destination 5: Barcelona, Spain (1 month and a half)
- Find a Hobby: In Barcelona, I found an awesome hostel in the mountains with an outdoor swimming pool, where I discovered my love of swimming. Finding a hobby can give some routine to your days and exercise will help you stay productive, too! Since then, I’ve been swimming in pools or the sea in each of my new destinations.
- Coworking, again. Europe is expensive. Sometimes, this means cutting down on the costs of living and working. However, there are certain things that are worth every cent. For me, coworking is one of these. I chose to work from home in Barcelona, and soon realized just how much I relied on my coworking space.
- Problem-Solving on the Road: I moved to Barcelona with a leftover injury from doing yoga in Buenos Aires, after debating a longer-term stay back home in Israel to solve the problem. Luckily, I found a solution on the road in Spain. Sometimes, traveling can help you find new solutions to old problems. Why not try?
- Public Speaking: It was also here in Barcelona that I discovered my love of public speaking. I now speak often about the nomadic lifestyle, startups, and building small businesses.
Destination 6: Granada, Spain (1 month and a half)
- An economic crisis can be a gift. In the past I’ve traveled through Argentina, Greece and Spain in the height of an economic crisis. The fact that it was so cheap allowed me to do so much more. Recently the Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova have also suffered from economic instability, and can be good places to check out. Instead of picking the most successful and hyped city where you’d spend a lot of money, my suggestion is to tune into the news. But also be careful when doing that – don’t run to dangerous countries just because they’re cheap. When deciding to go to those places, you’re also helping the local economies rebound.
- Choosing the countryside. I spent most of the time in Granada in a village named Quéntar, about 30 minutes outside of the city. I stayed in a really nice family hostel and it was a great experience. Economically, spiritually and recreationally, in makes sense to go to the outskirts, as long as there’s public transport that you can use. This is the only downside, though, as you’re always on a race to catch the last bus. The few times when I missed it, I had to spend the night in my coworking area, but that’s a part of the fun.
- Know the language. I speak fluent Spanish and that was a great gift in Spain. Knowing the language allows you to make connections on a much higher level. It makes a lot of sense to learn the language or pick a location where you speak the local language – it really allows you to get to know the place, the people and create a much better experience.
Destination 7: London, England (1 Month)
- It’s not always what you imagine. England has always been my dream city, but London turned out to be very different to what I imagined. It’s very international, multicultural, fast and money-oriented. Not at all like the classic England that I watched on TV growing up. But this kind of thing happens all of the time – places usually don’t match your expectations.
- Pick a location to fit your budget. My disappointment of London was probably due to it being a very expensive place. I had a very tight budget and my quality of life suffered greatly from it. I found out how hard it is, traveling using dorm rooms in hostels, as I spent a month in a 16-bed dormitory, and eating at fast food chicken joints to save money. As a digital nomad, it doesn’t make sense to settle down in a pricey place, especially if you don’t work there.
- The budget stays the same, as the lifestyle changes. I noticed I would spend around the same amount of money both in London and in Sarajevo. But while in London I would live in a dorm, eat fast food and walk to save money, in Sarajevo I rented the best room and ate in Sushi restaurants every night.
- Economical hub. On the plus side, a place like London offers a lot of great business opportunities. You can schedule meetings, go to meet ups and make great connections. If you’re the kind of person who has big ideas and the ability to network, London it’s a great place to be.
Destination 8: Zagreb, Croatia (3 months)
- Surprising connection. Zagreb has a reputation for being one of the most boring places in Europe, but for me it was amazingly interesting. It was my first encounter with a place that’s influenced by communism and the cold war. Maybe it was the familiarity I felt from Israel, but something there created very deep connection. I was just happy to be there.
- Community. Most of the people in the hostel where I stayed, were on a long-term basis, and mostly locals as well. I connected very fast with the hostel guests, the hostel owner and even the owner of the coffee shop downstairs became a very good friend. I learned that forming a community is absolutely crucial for your happiness. It makes you feel that you’re a part of something, but unfortunately it’s not easy to find.
- First European winter. During the winter of 2012, the temperatures were extremely low in Zagreb and it was snowing as well. It was my first time in those conditions. That winter was very harsh, but very beautiful at the same time, and I haven’t decided yet if I want to spend another winter in those conditions.
- Home is always there. As you know, I’m originally from Israel, which has a long and complicated history. During my nomadic lifestyle I expected to lose a bit of my connection to my birthplace, but surprisingly, my ties became stronger. One of the things which shaped my re-connection was the antisemitism that I encountered, in high levels, in Croatia. It makes you realize how important it is to have a safe place to go back to, if necessary.
Destination 8: Belgrade, Serbia and Sarajevo, Bosnia (1 month)
- Coworking, yet again. It’s so important. Without it, I simply cannot remain in a place for longer than a week, and that’s why I escaped Serbia and Bosnia early.
- Geopolitics comes between people. After staying a long period of time in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia, I didn’t see a big difference between the people of those countries. They all have the same mentality and even look a bit the same – but you can see how a big event can separate nations and change mindsets. How some are very pro EU (Croatia and Bosnia) and others feel betrayed (Serbia) and how the war wounds remain fresh for many years.
- Reconnecting to my roots. When staying in Sarajevo (one of my favorite cities) I rediscovered how much I connect to Mediterranean mentality, which is common in Israel. I felt somewhat at home there, because my grandparents are from Iraq and Libya.
Destination 9: Athens, Greece (1 month)
- It’s good to get away. Athens is a big, touristic city. And just like London, I discovered that kind of place is not for me. I do not feel at peace in a capital city. What I thinks helps when you stay in a big city, is finding a place to run away to on the weekend. Athens has a big port called Piraeus and every weekend I would take an hour boat ride from Piraeus to a peaceful island, Aegina.
- Air B&B: Athens was the first place where I shared an apartment with someone, using Air B&B. Instead of jumping between locations in the city (from one hostel to another), renting gives you the energy to get your work done. I’ve been using that system ever since, and I really recommend it.
Destination 10: Thessaloniki, Greece (1 month and a half)
- Read a book about the city. I had an instant, unexplained connection with this Mediterranean city. It’s close to the seaside and also has a lot of interesting history as well. When arriving, I received a book about the history of the city that gave me a lot of context. I could really understand the story behind Thessaloniki, as I walked along the streets. I think reading a book about the place can really upgrade your experience.
- A good friend makes a good stay. I met a good friend in Thessaloniki, and that made all of the difference. A good friend that you trust and can spend time with, gives you a feeling of belonging to the city. It also opens a lot more possibilities – they can show you around, introduce you to their family and just improve your experience altogether. Those relationships are also something that will stay with you after you leave. It’s a great boost to your happiness, and offsets the disadvantages of the nomadic lifestyle.
Thanks for reading or listening! I will post another podcast soon about my travels in more recent times. Tell us about your own amazing (and not-so-amzing) travel destinations in the comments for this post. And make sure to tell us what you learned along the way!