How Being A Nomad Ruined My Normal Life

While writing this article, I was on an 18-hour train to New Brunswick for another two weeks of travel. Today is August 21, 2016. Ten years ago, on August 21, 2006, I had just started my first overseas adventure in the USA. I decided to travel on this day again, to celebrate my anniversary of 10 years of living and traveling overseas. For me, there is no better way to celebrate an adventure than to go on another adventure.

Living and traveling overseas has had a positive impact on my life and my character. It pushes me out of my comfort zone to discover new places that I have dreamed of visiting. I’ve made friends from all over the world. It also makes me realize that the world is a beautiful place, and life is too short to just live in a cubicle and repeat the routines of home, work, and back home again.

Being a nomad has many benefits; it’s certainly not come without any downsides and sacrifices. Living abroad has been my best decision, and I do not hold any regrets about my initial decision. I have realized that travel and expat life is too addictive and too hard to let go, I’ve also reached a point of no return to my normal life.

I have read countless pieces on how travel benefits us, change us for the better, but let us not forget about how travel ruins our chance of a normal life.

Relationships

This possibly comes as a surprise. Having lived through almost a third of my life, I have hardly entered relationships. It is difficult to have long-lasting relationships, as I frequently move from place to place. In addition, I have developed a high standard for my life partner after seeing so many places, as a decent job, mortgage loans, cars, expensive clothes, and luxury candle light dinners can no longer please me anymore. I still believe in a happy marriage, as I did when was young, but I am unable to sacrifice my nomadic life for the sake of a relationship.

Family and friends

It has been three years since I last saw my parents. I have missed out on my best friends’ weddings, my two cousin’s first-born, and several other conventions and numerous family get-together celebrations.

After living on your own in a foreign land for many years, you can finally return home during the holidays. You are filled with so much happiness and excitement that you can finally see your parents and your friends again. As you enter your home, you are excited and overwhelmed by the warm atmosphere. You give your parents and friends enormous hugs and wish you all will never part again.

After those refreshing moments and hangouts, you gradually realize that your friends are no longer on the same wavelength as you. Conversation quickly turns ugly after 10 minutes of sharing your passions and travel stories. They cannot understand why you still travel so much and be cool with it, while you cannot live with just having a job and taking care of the household like your peers do. Your family’s repeated speech of the uttermost importance of settling down strengthens your desire to escape again. Four years ago, when I told my family I was planning to move to Canada, they thought I was off my trolley. They started an intervention and tried to make me settle down, but I was too crazy to go back on that path.

Extremely independent and low-maintenance

Being independent and low-maintenance is a good thing, but being too independent and extremely low-maintenance makes me tricky to be around. I do not live with the help of others for anything, be it advice, travel tips, taking care of the household, and career pursuit. Like a hermit, I gladly embrace the solitude and do everything on my own – rent a car to drive around an isolated island, hop on a plane to a foreign land without knowing anyone there, and navigate new places.

I am comfortable having meals in restaurants and going to movies by myself.  I would become a mess when being thrown into a group setting. My introvert persona makes it difficult for me to stay among crowds for long. It only adds tension when I have to wait for others, compromise my own decisions, and please other people. I prefer to venture on my own than, to go out with a group of people.

Career

I have read that travel helps with career advancement. It allows us to get to know the world, to connect with others, to learn new languages, and develop exceptional problem – solving and communication skills. All of these are what employers are looking for in potential applicants. However, I have moved so much I have barely had any jobs for more than a year, and when an employer sees my resume highlights seven jobs in five years, and takes into account my several unemployment gaps, they will undoubtedly question my stability. They will hardly believe that I would not quit my potential job in my first year to travel. It is also difficult for me to live with a full-time job with a limited vacation period.

The worst of the worst, I still cannot stop traveling and living my expat life

I have spent most of my twenties traveling and living in North America. I caught the travel bug when I first stepped on that 12-hour flight to the USA. My only antidote is to continue traveling. The more places I explore and the more I learn, the more I want to travel. It brings me invaluable experience, fulfillment to my soul, and unbelievable joy. One of my favorite moments was in Cavendish this summer. I was coming back to my cottage, turned my eyes towards the bonfire inches away from my room, and I was then greeted by two travelers next door. We shared baked potatoes, exchanged stories, and laughed throughout the night. The twilight illuminates the night sky; the Milky Way hangs low, the air filled with peace and serenity. Turns out we were the only group in the area. Cell phones and computers were tucked away. That moment is something I craved for a long time-to not think or worry about anything, just enjoy a simple moment in a beautiful place with beautiful people.

There are times I fear losing myself and my adventurous spirit. Deep inside, however, I know I will never give away my nomadic life for anything. Travel is an addiction, and the desire to explore does not just go away because of the sacrifice we’ve made and the critique we receive. So, be brave. Be crazy. And if you want to book a one-way ticket to somewhere that you cannot even pronounce the name of, do it. And, if you made it this far, celebrate it every day.

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Adventure and living a nomadic life

Julie Cao

Julie Cao is a travel blogger, travel writer, and global citizen currently living in Toronto Ontario.

20 thoughts on “How Being A Nomad Ruined My Normal Life

  • September 14, 2016 at 4:18 am
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    Wow I can so relate to this! I have been traveling and living abroad for most of the past 12 years and although exactly like you I wouldn’t change it, I do agree completely with the downsides you mention. I’ve become an outsider in my own country and relationships are definitely a challenge! 😉 But, mostly it’s an amazing lifestyle and I am grateful for all the unique things I get to experience!

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    • September 16, 2016 at 3:55 pm
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      Living abroad certainly is not easy but it is nice we both have an amazing life. We are so lucky to have the opportunity to explore this world firsthand that only a selected few have.

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  • September 15, 2016 at 2:50 am
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    While I cannot relate to this on all levels I can relate to how you feel on some accords. I was hit with the travel bug hard after doing mission work in Australia and the longing never left. Some family and friends don’t understand that feeling of emptiness so the best way I explain it to them is like when they finish a good book or show on Netflix and think “where do I go from here?” I would much rather spend my extra $$$ on travel experiences than anything else!

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    • September 16, 2016 at 3:57 pm
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      haha that is a good strategy to explain to your family and friends of your travel addiction. And so much like you, no matter what happened I wont trade my travel life for millions of dollars.

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  • September 15, 2016 at 2:01 pm
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    The traveling life is so addicting. I have experienced many of the things you are describing and so agree that it is not an option to quit traveling. I would say that the hardest part for me is relationships. There isn’t enough time to spend with friends/family let alone make new friends, except while traveling. I have made new friends while traveling. Thanks for this thoughtful piece.

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    • September 16, 2016 at 4:01 pm
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      Thanks for commenting. It is amazing to meet so many kindred souls in travel community, Relationships is currently not in my demographic now haha but so much like you, the friends we met during our travel is amazing.

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  • September 15, 2016 at 4:32 pm
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    This is a great piece. Thank you for sharing your lifestyle with us. I love travel too, but I’m a bit of a homebody so I am more likely to take 2-3 week trips and then come home again. But I guess that’s what makes the travel community so interesting- everybody is different and we all love those differences.

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    • September 16, 2016 at 3:59 pm
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      I have meet the most amazing people in the travel community and it is amazing to embrace those differences. 2-3 week trips is nice too and that you can come home to recharge and release the travel exhaustion.

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  • September 17, 2016 at 3:36 pm
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    Thought-provoking and well-written! I found that I’ve been able to create a balance between traveling and having a somewhat “normal” life by working as a flight attendant. I have a home base (Seattle and spend days between trips there. When I have short stints of time off (eg 4 or 5 days) I often visit my parents in Oregon and when I have 10 days or more off (usually once a month) I travel somewhere abroad. Living abroad permanently is difficult for relationships, as it isn’t easy to find someone who understands the need to be nomadic.

    And I agree with your point with regards to jobs. While yes, traveling gives us skills that make us more marketable, it is difficult to justify the inconsistent work history/schedule gaps etc. After living in Namibia and becoming a flight attendant, I don’t know if I could ever get a “real” job.

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    • March 7, 2017 at 12:29 am
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      Relationship is definitely difficult for us and I think the only people who understands the need to be nomadic is other travelers, but they probably need someone more “conventional”. Namibia seems like a great country for safari and you have a great job to explore the world as a flight attendant. I had some non-real and odd jobs too but they are really interesting and fun at the meanwhile.

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  • September 20, 2016 at 3:55 pm
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    What an awesome lifestyle! Sounds like you got it all pretty figured out. We hit the travel bug hard and travel as often as possible!

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    • September 20, 2016 at 5:06 pm
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      Thanks Lisa! Bite by the travel bug is amazing too! We all have a great lifestyle 🙂

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 4:00 pm
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    I cannot relate with you, although there were times when i was struggling to keep the balance between the traveling life and my relationships. I am very connected with my family and i cannot imagine to miss some important events…

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    • September 20, 2016 at 5:08 pm
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      That is the sacrifice travelers made. None of us like miss our family events and every lifestyle we choose comes with sacrifice too. We just have to learn and embrace what we have now,

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  • October 20, 2016 at 3:12 am
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    Bless your heart, I wish I could be a nomad but there are too many things stopping that. All the respect for doing something you are passionate about even though it’s not easy.

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    • October 28, 2016 at 5:40 pm
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      Thanks Dolce!

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  • October 20, 2016 at 5:59 am
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    Wonderful article Julie. This past spring, my girlfriend and I started a life of full-time RVing. Our goal is to live this alternative lifestyle for a long time as a way of exploring new places and living a less stressful life. I still wonder if we will come across some of the obstacles you’ve noted in your article. Only time will tell but as of now, I’m certainly not trading in this lifestyle.

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    • October 28, 2016 at 5:46 pm
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      Hi Adam, full-time RVing is a great lifestyle and a green style to travel, and I am glad you enjoy it. I have signed up your newsletter so I can stay tuned with your travel stories. My friend and I was actually talking about an off-road trip from Quebec to Labrador on a RV, but since neither of us owns a car we have to figure out the insurance part. Excited to see how your new lifestyle takes you and your girlfriend.

      Reply
  • October 24, 2016 at 2:16 pm
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    I grew up a Coast Guard brat, and my family moved every 2-3 years. I find that I get very antsy if I stay in one place too long. I want to go everywhere, experience new things, eat new food, and talk to new people. I am currently living in a house with a 30 year mortgage, and every time I think about that, I sort of hyperventilate just a little bit.

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    • October 28, 2016 at 5:51 pm
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      My feet get itchy after staying in one place for too long as well. It would be great if we travel and have a home base, but I just could not imagine what my life would look like to have 30 year mortgage loans.

      Reply

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