10 Things No One Tells You About Being a Nomadic Family

A Nomad? I was definitely not born one nor do I fit a nomadic personality. In fact, I took up architecture for the love of designing and building something and the love for creating stylish spaces and surrounding myself with beauty. Yet, our recent good and bad experiences made the temporary nomadic lifestyle the best choice for us.  Since we always go out of our comfort zones all the time, why not?

I don't mean to burst your bubble. It is not an easy lifestyle but what I do love about it is not having a routine. I am the type of person who will scream if I do the same things every day. I like the constant change that can either make you feel wild and free or drive you insane.

The suitcase is our home. Our life fits into one.

Okay,  I may be cheating a bit because we have some boxes stored away for the time we're ready to settle. Still, having our lives right now in a suitcase each while moving around allows us to evaluate what really is important. We do have our ups and downs which led me to draft this list based on our experiences so far. 

You will inevitably become one (if not already). Throughout the years of expat life, we knew one day we are bound to move. When the D-day came, we had to meticulously "sift" through our belongings and only keep the essentials. Emptying a two bedroom apartment and discarding the "unnecessary" made us see life in a different perspective.  I waved goodbye to my stilettos and parted ways with my hair dryer.  The hardest  for me was fitting what I would need for 1 year in 1 suitcase considering the limitation in weight too. Despite having portable ones, I learned to be smart and prioritise comfort and practicality without sacrificing style. We all had to do this including my baby's. In the process, you will also master the art of packing.

Imagine yourself fitting your next 1 year in one suitcase, what would you be taking with you?

"Change is home." We learn to adapt and adjust our sails where the wind takes us. Though we have goals and long term plans we need to accomplish, like being in the Philippines for administrative blah blah and to spend time and make memories with family before settling for good, we spent the last few months, changing our plans due to circumstances. We received a lot of questions everyday from friends asking us, "When are you leaving? When will you be back? Where will you be in July?" These were hard to answer because they really depend on how our activities and the results of those unfold.  Flexibility comes with making fast decisions, the more accurate information we get, the better the decision becomes and so are the results.  

This is a reality that I come to terms with everyday. As we stayed from one hotel and inn to another as soon as we moved out of our apartment in Dubai before staying with a friend, the experience was bizarre waking up in a different place every day. It was definitely hard for my baby. She had to sleep in different cots everyday. 

Bam! Everything is indeed temporary. All I do own is a collection of experiences. Fortunately, traveling with family is not as lonely as being a nomad traveling alone for a very long time. This vault of memories is something no one can easily steal away. It will always build and strengthen us as a family.  It'll reminds us always that we have each other.

Apart from #2, we learn to thrive and keeping the peace is one of them.  Living with friends and family will at one point cause a lot of friction. No matter how good your relationship is. I know you're asking, "why don't you stay at a hotel instead?" Since we're living frugally and  have not won the lottery, we can't.

In our case, the reason we chose to become temporarily nomads is to make the most of our time with family and friends before we live far far away, and yes # 5 to stretch our budget.  Though we contribute in our own way through chores and food and other expenses, we'll always be grateful for their welcome and the least we could do is keep the peace. We learned to choose our battles. I failed miserably in this in the beginning but I've realised some things are not worth the fight. Time is too short to dwell on the negative. 

Living a frugal lifestyle meant, giving up things we used to do before, like dining out, unless we choose to. Expect to be smart and wise and always on the lookout for great deals. Again, we don't mind splurging on experiences from time to time.  One experience I can tell you recently is our trip to Puy du Fou, an award winning medieval theme park in France where we paid a lot for discounted tickets for two persons for 2 days including 1 night of mind blowing theatrical performance (which will be next week yay!) During our first day, I wanted to go so badly to dine in those 1900s themed restaurant but decided not to. Instead, we chose to spend Eur 5 for 2 persons for 2 meals as opposed to Eur 30 per person per meal.  How did we do it? We bought baguettes and pate in the supermarket with a bottle of water and taboule' all tucked in our backpack. Et voila, while queueing, I sat on a rock and ate my sandwich.  

When completing administrative forms, even raffle coupons for contact details, I often pause and think of what to write. We end up putting our parents' addresses.

Private space is important. Since starting this lifestyle, I started walking a lot, sometimes alone. It helps me when I feel disconnected and when I feel lonely for the lack of stability. My own space, my own thoughts, my convos with God while walking whenever I feel lost for the lack of address. 

Because of # 3, It will remind you that whatever you do,  you can't buy any of them because you don't have a house or a place to put them in. This is the case for me and it's even more frustrating since I worked as an Interior Designer for a living before becoming a nomad. I can only look at them. Drool, Arni. Just drool. 

Because of # 3 Think many many times before buying anything whether you have a space in your luggage. Do I need it? Do I need it? Do I need it?...is the mantra.

I'm bad with math. The biggest adjustment whenever we move was always converting Euros to Dirhams in my head all the time during my first few weeks in France. I was converting Pesos to Dirhams too. You will realise that you already acclimatized with the the new place once you stop converting to the old currency.

You'll face unimaginable challenges you never would have expected to come across especially when traveling with your spouse and kids. Things don't go according to plan and it's easy to become frustrated. Like I broke my tooth in half while biting on a hard baguette and facing an expensive dental bill in France without medical insurance kind of experience. You'll also gain a lot of learning and future funny stories from these unforgettable moments. It will also shape you and your family.

Again, nomadic lifestyle experiences differ from one person to another and these are based on our own. I would love to hear your tips and learnings.

Will you ever consider a nomadic lifestyle?
Even a temporary one?
If you had a suitcase for a 1 year travel, what would be in it?

Love & light,

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  1. Not sure I myself would fit the nomadic lifestyle... I'm a home person. But when you have to, you have to...

  2. I like to travel, but I don't think I'd be good at a nomadic lifestyle. I need roots. I'm amazed by how you manage to do it with a little one. How does she hold up through it all?

    1. It was hard for our little one. She was lost and much as we try to keep the routine the same, the constant movement disrupted her sleeping pattern, not to mention the time differences. The first week in a new place is always horrible. She usually adjusts after a month.

  3. I would definitely love to do this - it'd be such a challenge but oh think of the stories. I love to think about all the stories that your daughter will have to tell when she's older

  4. I dreamed of a nomadic lifestyle when I was younger but now I don't think it's a life for me with a family.

  5. You and your family are so brave. From reading your blog I knew you were living a life but you sacrificed all that to live as nomads. This post is very eye-opening, one of the best that you've written in my opinion. I actually have plans to live as a nomad, I just don't know when. I want to see the world and write all about it. I really don't know which stuff will I bring in just one suitcase. Boy it will be hard! You're doing well Arni and I can't wait to hear more of your stories on the road.

  6. I am born to be a nomad ! I hope one day I will do it. i don't like to have one identity and limit myself to one place / job ..at least until I find myself
    I salute you and your spouse for this courage and spirit :)

    love and peace.