What is the right age to start living nomadically?
The topic of the right timing and age for starting a nomadic lifestyle is important and not often discussed. Wouldn’t it be better to it plan ahead (we’re talking years before) as a viable option for your life instead of making an abrupt decision about becoming a nomad, usually, at a time of crisis?
The episode is based on a comment by Nerra from a few years ago (in 2014). She said: “Hi there. I am a college undergrad and my parents are struggling (financially) right now. They can barely afford another semester. This may sound negative, but I feel kind of happy knowing that there’s a greater chance of me not going to school next semester. Honestly, I’ve never really been a fan of lectures and exams. I am more of the adventurous type with a bad case of wanderlust. I’m 17 and I really REALLY want to adopt the nomadic lifestyle. I am so tired of limiting my knowledge to textbooks and lectures. Do you think it would be a good idea if I earn money online and just wander about? I really need your advice on this.”
This is what I wrote back to Nerra at the time: “Hi Nerra, great to hear from you. I hope you don’t find my advice disappointing. I love the nomadic lifestyle, and becoming a nomad is probably the best decision I have taken in my life. However, if you ask me, 17 is too early to start with it.”
Nerra’s final reply to this was: “Thank you for the advice. Yes, it was somehow disappointing but I came here for a sensible advice and got one. It was a good thing I sought for opinions before I made a decision that might haunt me for the rest of my life. I am going to pursue college and graduate before diving into the nomadic lifestyle, then. Thank you again.”
It’s now two and a half years later. Nerra, you have probably graduated by now, accumulated some stuff, as well as student debt and you may be working in Wallmart to pay it off. You know who you should thank for that… but I still stand by my advice.
Later may be Better
Why is starting a nomadic life as a young person not so optimal? And why is it better to wait a few years and prepare yourself for the plunge?
I don’t think it’s possible to fully appreciate the nomadic life if you haven’t had a few years of the daily grind. As an example, I finished a BA and an MA, lived in the same city for many years and worked in the most boring job in an accounting firm for that duration. I know what the normal option looks like. It helps me with understanding what I do now in comparison to the alternative. I’m very grateful to have my “boring years” because that was an experience of it own; one worth having.
You might miss out on your dream
You might love the normal life. If you haven’t tried it, how would you know it is not for you? We have never said the nomadic life is better than the alternative normal life. We only claim that you should live the way you want to live. If the regular template (working 9-5, staying in your city, having a family) works perfectly for you, you’re lucky. There is a reason to why it’s so popular.
Arm your weapon box
If you start too early, you lack the skills to become successful and make this lifestyle sustainable. The normal path of accumulating education, and working on other people’s money gives you life skills. Every freelancing job I’ve done, and any business I’ve started, was built on my experience as an accountant/business consultant and on the education, I received in university (economy BA and MBA).
When you’re young, your personality is still evolving just by being, regardless of your lifestyle. At some point we stop changing that much (27 maybe?), but until then, we keep on rapidly changing and developing as humans. This is different for each person since our maturity levels change dramatically between people. The idea is that you should embark on a nomadic lifestyle when you are relatively stable and done with most of your natural growing. The reason is simple – the nomadic lifestyle is challenging. There are many disadvantages to a nomadic lifestyle and factors that can get you off balance such as lack of home, lack of certainty, loneliness, and constant change. When those things hit, you want to be a stable and a balanced version of yourself.
Optimize instead of running away
If you take your time, make this decision in a conscious way and prepare for it in advance, you are in a position of power. You “won” the regular life, instead of running away from it or being defeated by it. That means that you could handle it, and also go back to it if you wanted. Usually starting too young connects with a crisis of something not working in your life. In other words, for young people, living a nomadic life can actually be a self-defeating running away process – from family, relationships, education, or authority (army, university, boss). One of the common reasons for an unhappy nomadic life is the decision to run away to become a nomad, instead of taking a conscious decision to optimize your life.