Ever feel like the walls of your home are closing in on you? Do you find yourself dreaming of throwing off the shackles of a traditional lifestyle and hitting the open road? You’re not alone. A growing number of people are ditching the white picket fence and embracing a nomadic life free of a mortgage, utility bills, lawn to mow and gutters to clean.
At a time when remote work is all the more common, an increasing number of workers are welcoming the freedom of the open road and living life on their terms.
Granted, nomadic living isn’t for everyone. It requires a sense of adventure and the ability to accept an element of uncertainty. But if waking up in a new place every week sounds more exciting than another day stuck in the daily grind, nomadic living could be just the change you need.
What Is Nomadic Living?
Nomadic living, or “van life,” means you’re not tied down to one place. You have the freedom to roam where you please, unencumbered by the responsibilities of a fixed abode.
Whether traveling place to place means your home is an RV, camper van, or converted tiny home on wheels, you have to be willing to live simply since space is limited. And while Instagram may make van life seem endlessly exciting, the reality also includes mundane tasks that require planning ahead.
Still, for many, the rewards of nomadic living outweigh the challenges. You can wake up to a new view each morning, surrounded by natural beauty. You have the freedom to go wherever your wanderlust takes you. You can follow good weather and avoid harsh winters. And you can connect with like-minded nomads, forming a community on the road.
Pros of a Nomadic Lifestyle
If you crave adventure and value experiences over material things, it a life on the move can certainly scratch an itch. If you’ve already considered downsizing to a tiny home and decided it’s not quite right for you, it may be time to take it a step beyond.
Freedom and Flexibility
When you aren’t tied down to one place, you have the ability to go where you want, when you want. Feel like beach hopping one month and exploring the countryside the next? As a nomad, you can follow your whims and interests without constraint.
You also have ultimate flexibility in how you spend each day. Want to work for a few hours, go for a hike, cook a nice meal and call it a day? When you don’t have a strict schedule or routine to follow, each day can be what you choose.
For thrill-seekers and wanderlusters, the nomadic lifestyle is a gateway to an endless array of adventures. You can trek through rainforests, climb mountains, camp under desert night skies, learn to surf in Australia or volunteer at an animal sanctuary. When adventure calls, you have the freedom to answer.
Following your passions wherever they may lead can far outweigh the costs, provided it’s something your career affords.
Cons of Nomadic Living
One of the biggest downsides to nomadic living is dealing with constant change. Packing up your life and moving to a new place every few months or years can take a toll. You have to find new living arrangements, get used to a different area, make new friends and figure out new routines. While exciting at first, the frequent change in scenery may start to feel unsettling or make it difficult to feel rooted anywhere.
Lack of Stability
Without a permanent home base, you may miss having a place to call your own and the stability of staying in one spot. It can be hard to feel settled when you’re always on the move.
Beyond the challenges of making long-term plans and not knowing where you’ll live six months down the road, things like achieving career goals, relationships and starting a family can be complicated or off the table when you live on the road.
Difficulty Maintaining Possessions
Unless you have a large vehicle to haul your belongings, nomadic living typically means minimizing your possessions. This can be freeing. It also means frequently parting with things you care about. Storing extra belongings during moves requires time, money and organization so that’s something to keep in mind.
Feeling like an outsider
Constantly being the “new person” in different places can prevent a sense of belonging, making you feel as though you don’t fit in. Making new friends and social connections requires effort, and you have to start over building a community with each move.
Tips for Transitioning to Van Life and Nomadic Living
Transitioning to nomadic living or van life can prove challenging. Here are some tips to help make the switch:
Pare down your belongings
Life on the road means having limited space for storage. Go through your stuff and get rid of anything you don’t need. Have a yard sale, donate to charity or recycle what you can. Keep only the essentials and a few cherished items. The less you have to store, the more freedom you’ll feel.
Choose a Rolling Home
Select a nomadic “home” that suits your needs. Think about things like the size, layout, storage options and how many people it will accommodate. For example, a smaller van may be easier to drive and park but less roomy. A larger van provides more space but may cost more in gas and be trickier to maneuver. Find the right balance for your situation.
Build out Your Van
Add fixtures like a bed, seating, storage cabinets, a small kitchenette, bathroom and electronics. Keep the build-out simple — you can always modify things later. Focus on necessities and multifunctional furniture. The more customized your roving home, the cozier it will be.
Budget and Save Money
Nomadic living can be more affordable than paying a mortgage or rent — or not. You still need to budget for costs like gas, insurance, repairs, food and entertainment. Set a realistic budget and stick to it.
Connect With a Community
Seek out others with similar lifestyles for support and advice. Check websites like CheapRVliving.com, follow #vanlife tags on social media and join related Facebook groups. Meet up with other nomads in person when possible. Having a community will help combat feelings of isolation and give you valuable tips for transitioning to and maintaining the nomadic life.
Nomadic Living FAQs: Answering All Your Burning Questions
So you’re intrigued by the nomadic lifestyle, but still have some questions. That’s totally normal — it’s a big life change. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about nomadic living answered.
How Much Does It Cost?
The cost of nomadic living can vary greatly depending on your needs and lifestyle. Renting an RV or camper van and staying in campgrounds or RV parks will likely cost between $500 to well over $1,500 per month. If you own an RV outright, costs may drop significantly — until you’re hit with an unexpected repair. Some nomads spend as little as $500 per month by boondocking on public lands. The key is to get rid of unnecessary expenses and only pursue what sparks joy.
Where Do I Stay?
There are many options for nomadic accommodations. You can rent or buy an RV, camper van or motorhome and stay in RV parks or campgrounds. Boondocking on public lands like Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, national parks or national forests is inexpensive to free. Some nomads house sit or do short-term apartment or home rentals, too.
What About Mail and Healthcare?
Establishing a permanent mailing address with a mail forwarding service makes handling mail, bills and paperwork much easier. For healthcare, many nomads use services like Healthcare.gov to find insurance plans with nationwide coverage. Some use membership programs like Escapees or Good Sam, which provide resources for mail, insurance and more. With some preparation, the logistics are really just that.
Won’t I Get Lonely?
While solitude and loneliness can be a challenge, many nomads find connection through online communities and in-person meetups. Using social networks like Instagram, Facebook groups and NomadList, you can connect with like-minded travelers. Stopping at popular nomad destinations and attending local events are also great ways to combat feelings of isolation on the road. With a bit of effort, you’ll find your tribe.
There are so many ways to lead an unconventional life these days. You’ve got to find what works for you. At the end of the day, you only get one life. Why not spend it exploring all the world has to offer? The open road is calling. All you have to do is answer.
Looking for additional ideas about traditional — or untraditional — homes? Looking to make a move in one direction or the other? Our blog is filled with ideas to help you live a life that’s authentically you.