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Passionate experience junkie. Lover of the arts and architecture. Want to see and share the world, one village at a time.

Don’t Call it a Vacation: This is Living on the Road

A different angle on the Sydney Opera House

A different angle on the Sydney Opera House

This year Conrad and I are traveling for eight months. Two years ago we spent two months in Spain, and in 2010, we set out on an adventure that lasted three years.

I like finding the details

I like finding the details

I travel with intention that is often misunderstood. What I do is not a vacation. Seeing new lands and experiencing cultural differences pulls at me all the time with its wispy dreams of fulfillment. I thrive with change – and long to be changed –  for it is only there that I find true growth –  closer to my own personal Nirvana. That level of achievement is not reached by taking a 9-day tour or renting a cottage and sitting on a beach.

Apparently travel has changed a lot, which has led to confusion when I tell people I’m going traveling for months at a time.

Seventy-five years ago only wealthy folks traveled, perhaps on a steamship across the Atlantic. Travel in the 50s and 60s was a one-dimensional affair usually involving the kids crammed in the back seat, a tent, the Coleman stove, and a glove box full of huge paper maps.

Did the internet change everything? Definitely. Travelers research and book everything from round-the-world airfare, to lodging in a private home via Airbnb, to finding a personal tour guide in any given city, to sharing a meal with a stranger anywhere on the planet. The internet also opened up the world of online work too, or scoping out jobs anywhere, such as teaching English as a second language or working on a cruise ship. Digital nomads, (the term for full-time travelers working on the internet), live in one country for a while then move on to the next, usually with all their possessions in one bag. The definitions for traveling lifestyles span an entire spectrum.

In spite of all these changes in the past 15 years, I still have a hard time explaining my travel style. And people think Conrad and I must be rich. We’re not. Far from it. (More on that below.)

I talked to five location-independent travelers to help me explain what it means to live on the road.

“I think one of the main issues for me is people not understanding that I do work while doing this,” says Samantha Anthony, former New York City resident. “Friends send me job postings in the city I used to live in, thinking (I assume) that if I just found a nice job I’d settle back down. Nope, no thanks, I have a job (freelance writer/editor) that I like thanks! Also everyone always says how it must be so nice to be in X place and asks what I’ve been doing…sometimes I don’t do much other than work that week, do my own creative work, and relax/walk around/take a hike/maybe go out for dinner. It really is just living, but in a different place every few months.”

Nora Dunn, aka The Professional Hobo, wants her readers to understand exactly what her lifestyle costs. With a financial background before living on the road, Dunn posts her annual profit and loss statement on her blog, sharing everyday expenditures as well as what she brings in.

“I’m not on vacation. This is my life, day in, day out,” says Dunn. “Not that I’m complaining; I live a wonderful and free lifestyle that defies even my own expectations of what it would be when I started 10 years ago. “I once stayed with a family in Spain for a week. One of the children approached me towards the end of my stay and asked me why I spent all of my vacation in Spain on my computer. Of course I wasn’t on my computer the ENTIRE time (I toured about when he was at school), but I can see how it appeared that way. “I work (almost) full-time, just like anybody else. The only difference is that I can work from anywhere in the world, and when my work is done for the day, I can open my front door and explore a different destination full of new discoveries.”

“‘Where do you live?’ is an awkward question to answer,” says Louise Read, a nomadic grandparent, along with her husband Tim. “Trying to explain that you’re nomadic and ‘don’t really have a home’ leads to all sorts of interesting discussion. We often say that ‘today we live here.’”

Thad and Lucretia Evans follow a travel method closer to what Conrad and I do. They rent out their home in Nashville Tennessee, which in turn, funds their long-term travel.

“My wife and I have sold most of our possessions,” says Thad Evans. “I quit my job on 8/2 and we rented out our home. It has been difficult for us to answer the “where are you from” or “where do you live” questions. We have adopted the “location independent” description of our home.”

Finally, Pam Beatson summed up with this confident statement: “People assume I’m on vacation but I’m not bothered by what others think. I’m living this life for me. When people don’t understand, I just smile and nod.”

house sitting travel

We even house sat in a remote off-the-grid home on a Spanish mountainside

In addition to achieving clarity in explaining my traveling purpose, I hope to encourage others to take the same traveling leap as me. Here are just a couple of ways Conrad and I make it happen:

Taking advantage of house sitting and utilizing airline miles are the two greatest money-savers for us, (and most other long-term travelers.) When the cost of lodging, (average European hotel room per night: $185, according to statista.com), and cost of airfare are removed from the travel equation, travel can extend to months or even years. We have saved tens of thousands of dollars with our method. A cost analysis of our 6-week house sit in Copenhagen revealed that if we had stayed in a hotel and eaten at restaurants, we may have spent $13,000. Yes, Denmark is an expensive place! But our entire cost for the six weeks there was $2,400. And throw in that we pay nothing for airfare, and you have a wonderful vacation lots of folks could afford.

So when you dream about travel, let it take you anywhere. Forget about the past definitions of travel. What some of us are doing out here is real living, and for surprisingly little money.

Contributors:

pam-beatson

Pam Beatson is Canadian psychotherapist who left her homeland in January of 2016 to travel abroad via housesitting and online counselling. A flaneuse at heart, Pam feels most alive while wandering and observing in new and beautiful places.” Here’s the link to my website: http://www.pambeatson.com/

 

sam-anthonyAlternativeTravelers.com   Samantha Anthony

We’re Sam and Veren, a couple from NYC that explores the world in an alternative way. We’re both creative: Sam as a writer and photographer, Veren as a writer and filmmaker. We did a bit of these in New York, but not enough to live comfortably in one of the most expensive cities in the world. We realized that we could do more of what we loved while traveling if we did what we did best – took a creative approach. Now we combine housesitting assignments with freelancing and local gigs to travel in a long-term, sustainable way.

 

Free accommodation around the worldhile house sitting

Hi, I’m Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo. In 2006, I decided to take the plunge. I sold my financial planning practice in Toronto Canada, and got rid of all of my belongings in order to free myself up for the adventure of a lifetime.

Since early 2007, I’ve been on the road, traveling slowly through over 50 countries and five continents. I have lived a variety of lifestyles by working in trade for my accommodation. My location independent writing career takes care of the rest of the expenses. As such, I can travel in a financially sustainable manner like this for as long as I wish.

 

thadThad Evans: I am The Hungry Peregrio. I chose that name because my wife and I became “peregrinos” or pilgrims when we hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain in October 2014. We hiked and planned our journey for a year leading up to our departure. Everything we would need for 30 days was in our backpacks. With that under our belts we began to explore travel blogging and we came across the idea of “location independent living”. I had previously worked in health care for the last 23 years and although it was a fulfilling career, I felt the need for a break. So with my wife, Lu’s whole hearted support, direction, and blessing, we decided to quit my job, sell most of our earthly possessions, rent out our house in Nashville, TN, and travel the world for the next year.

We began our journey by visiting my family in Missouri and then we drove our dog and cat to Texas to live with Lu’s family. After that we flew to Cabo San Lucas, MX for a couple of weeks of vacation before flying to Vancouver, BC to begin the cruise.

Today we disembarked from a 16 day trans Pacific cruise ship in Tokyo where we are going to ride out typhoon Malakas for a few days. After a few weeks in Japan we plan to fly to Bangkok, Thailand where we will rent a place for a month or two. We would like to explore all of SE Asia and try to do some volunteer work here and there. Ultimately our goal is to go through Europe and catch another repositioning cruise back to the US i.e. circumnavigate the globe. http://www.thehungryperegrino.blogspot.com/

 

tim-lou

House Sitting World

Louise Read: Nomadic Grandparents. A semi-retired, professional couple who simply walked away from the demands of our respective industries. Why? Because one of our grand-kids has a shirt that says “should’ve,  could’ve, did”.  We were stuck at step two and we felt that simply wasn’t good enough.  Circumstances provided us the opportunity to make a change and we “did.”

 

 

As Always: My purpose is to inspire more people into more travel.

House sitting may make it happen for you. See more articles here.

Wishing you safe and happy travels,

~Josie

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25 Responses to “Don’t Call it a Vacation: This is Living on the Road”

  1. What a great article! I am in a similar situation, but base myself in Greece (not my home country) yet do travel quite extensively too.

    The great thing about basing oneself in a country other than their birth country is that feeling of being foreign…of, as one of your interviewees said, stepping out the front door and doing something different.

    It’s nice to read about people worldwide who can relate.
    Rebecca recently posted..The Hora of SerifosMy Profile

    September 19, 2016 at 4:35 am Reply
    • Good to hear from you Rebecca — and Welcome!
      Yours is an interesting point of view — “basing” yourself in a foreign country. Yet another travel style. And I agree that it’s nice too, to know there are many other travelers out there living on the road. We gotta stick together, you know!!!!
      ~Josie

      September 19, 2016 at 11:42 am Reply
  2. As a travel blogger, I never quite know how to reply to people who say “You’re off on holiday again”. With all the planning, note taking and organising photographs I hardly have a free moment when I’m travelling (there’s all the normal stuff of dealing with emails and maintaining the website as well). It’s good fun but certainly not a holiday!
    Karen Warren recently posted..Sea, Sky and Sculpture at Stockholm’s MillesgårdenMy Profile

    September 19, 2016 at 4:50 am Reply
    • Hi Karen,
      So true, my friend! And yes, it certainly is good fun. Thanks for weighing in.
      ~Josie

      September 19, 2016 at 11:43 am Reply
  3. Really interesting post. I totally agree, you (and the others) are not “on vacation”. Most people don’t understand this. What a great opportunity to see the world without spending a fortune. So funny that Samantha Anthony’s friends send her job postings. They still don’t get it!
    Janice Chung recently posted..The Most Beautiful Villages Of France: Visiting All The Villages Before I DieMy Profile

    September 19, 2016 at 7:28 am Reply
    • Hi Jan,
      Thanks for your kind words — and for stopping by!
      ~Josie

      September 19, 2016 at 12:07 pm Reply
  4. Wonderful insights about location independent lifestyle. Love that you included input from other people.
    Charles McCool recently posted..Travel Happy at These No-Tech DestinationsMy Profile

    September 19, 2016 at 11:08 am Reply
    • Thanks Charles!

      September 19, 2016 at 12:08 pm Reply
  5. Thanks for having me weigh in on this article! Very well done.

    You know, it’s funny – now, when I go to my hometown to visit my family and friends, they think I’m in vacation when I’m back there. The irony of this lifestyle is, that I’m simultaneously always – and never – on vacation!
    Nora recently posted..Financial Case Study: Danielle and Mat – Artists, FreelancersMy Profile

    September 19, 2016 at 6:38 pm Reply
    • Haha Nora — Great turnabout!– that your family and friends think you’re on vacation when you go home! Love it. We could say that at the least they’re “getting it!”
      Wishing you safe and happy travels,
      ~Josie

      September 20, 2016 at 1:40 am Reply
  6. You explain it very well.
    Travel comes in many shapes and sizes.
    Thanks!
    😉

    September 19, 2016 at 8:20 pm Reply
  7. Great article. Although I am not on the road full-time, I could relate to a lot. Travel times are fun, but they are also busy and I do spend a lot of time on the computer. My husband and I have spent extended periods of time in another location during the winter (anywhere from one month to five months). My husband always reacted when people asked us about our vacation. Our time was great and we did explore the area, but it was mostly ordinary living in a different location.
    Donna Janke recently posted..Underground Seattle: City Beneath a CityMy Profile

    September 19, 2016 at 9:38 pm Reply
    • Hi Donna,
      Good to hear your traveling style story! Thanks for adding to the discussion.
      ~Josie

      September 20, 2016 at 1:42 am Reply
  8. Interesting to read about others in the same boat as us. I do wonder how people managed to do what we do back in the days before the internet. I guess you find a way, just like we all do to deal with whatever challenges pop up as we wander the globe.

    September 20, 2016 at 1:07 pm Reply
    • Hey Veronica and Dave,
      I know. Back in the day you had to carry all your finances, usually in the form of traveler’s checks, or have mom & dad wire money via Western Union. I imagine people networked at hostels, helping each other with info on work or places to go, cheap eats, etc.!
      Yeah, we all need to know about one another and stick together. Glad you guys are out there now, too!
      ~Josie

      September 20, 2016 at 2:47 pm Reply
  9. I feel our lifestyle is accepted and understood easier these days than it was five years ago when we started. Now I just point people to our blog which was one of the main reasons I started it. I just finished a blog challenge on the freedom lifestyle and the thing I find amusing is that a friend of many years messaged me and said “oh so thats what you do”. For us this lifestyle is more a mindset rather than a location or what we do.
    Gavin recently posted..Celebrating Freedom My 10 Day Blog Challenge ExperienceMy Profile

    September 21, 2016 at 7:26 pm Reply
    • Hi Jill and Gavin,
      So true — what a difference five years have made. The word is getting around, slowly.
      ~Josie

      September 22, 2016 at 4:10 am Reply
  10. I can’t help but wonder/hope that it’s a lifestyle that won’t have to be explained as much as the years go by, given that more companies are allowing virtual employees, as well as utilizing freelancers, and also because of the unbearably high cost of living in so many major cities (Seattle is clamoring to join that category; Vancouver is already there).
    Laura Zera recently posted..The Dangerous Way “Collateral Beauty” Homogenizes GriefMy Profile

    September 21, 2016 at 8:25 pm Reply
    • Hey Laura,
      I’m sure you’re right — this lifestyle won’t have to be explained in a few years. And yeah, I’ve heard that Vancouver’s cost of living is going through the roof.
      Thanks for coming around, my friend!
      ~Josie

      September 22, 2016 at 4:13 am Reply
  11. Our younger son is a true digital nomad who at this point in his life prefers slow travel, so he rents places for a month at a time wherever he wants to be. He no longer carries the expense of his own place in the US. I’d like to try house/pet sitting, but my husband still has a serious day job. The silver lining of that is that his job provides usually several travel opportunities each year. We reduce our travel costs by tacking our vacation time onto his work trips when his main travel expense and some hotel nights are covered. I inherited my wanderlust from my father, so I remember those 1960’s trips you so aptly described: “.. a one-dimensional affair usually involving the kids crammed in the back seat, a tent, the Coleman stove, and a glove box full of huge paper maps.” We didn’t camp in the US, however, so nights were the 5 of us in one $13 per night motel room. Guess who usually ended up on the floor?
    Suzanne Fluhr recently posted..Touring Iceland’s Golden Circle Route from ReykajvikMy Profile

    September 23, 2016 at 2:50 pm Reply
    • Hi Suzanne,
      Your son got the wanderlust gene, too, and has a style all his own.
      You and your husband make travel work in a very clever way.
      So many ways to travel! Thanks for adding two more.
      ~Josie
      PS: $13 per night? You guys went luxury all the way. I don’t know what my parents paid for Holiday Inn or the like in the 50s and 60s, but I do remember sleeping in my car rather than pay the $19 for a hotel room in Boston in the mid-70s. Nineteen dollars, I said? That’s just ridiculous. Who pays that?

      September 25, 2016 at 1:15 pm Reply
  12. Great post, Josie! We love coming up with new answers to the question “Where do you live?” We are currently enjoying two months in Oregon, just a half hour from Portland and our oldest son. We love that we can hang out with him, meet his sweetie and still not crowd him. And we are sitting our first standard poodle, thus adding to our dog sitting skills set! I am noticing that I am a bit antsy staying in one place too long now! I used to be such a homebody. Without a full time job, I am always seeking new and interesting things to see, explore, read and write about.

    September 24, 2016 at 5:00 pm Reply
    • Hi Laurie and Welcome!
      Using house sitting to stay near loved ones. Yet another fantastic reason to house sit. Thanks for adding your traveling style — and congrats on breaking out of the homebody mold!
      Wishing you safe and happy travels,
      ~Josie

      September 25, 2016 at 1:18 pm Reply
  13. Hi Josie great article. We can relate exactly to what you and others are saying as we are exactly the same boat. Being location independent is a great lifestyle and we wouldn’t change for anything. I don’t know how many times we have been asked ourselves where do you live. We now just say we are from Australia (our home country) as it’s easier. Housesitting has made it all possible and great friendships have been made with some of the people we have met along the way.

    May 22, 2017 at 4:22 am Reply
    • Welcome Alan and thanks!

      May 22, 2017 at 7:36 am Reply

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