Preparing for a Nomadic Life
Updated: Mar 18, 2022
Top 5 Reasons It's More Complicated than I Thought by Kim
More than a decade ago, Paul said to me, “I think we should consider living abroad when we retire.” That seemed like such a radical idea, but several years of intense travel, including a 3-winter (their summer) stint with a work program in NZ and Australia convinced both of us that we wanted to travel as much as possible. When I was a child, I wanted to explore the world and now I realized I could live my childhood dream with the person I most enjoyed spending time with. So when we returned in 2017 from our second Australasian journey, we started to plan. In 2018 we sold our house and moved into a series of apartments. I thought selling the house and moving would be the hardest thing we’d have to do, but there was a lot more. In summer, 2021, I gave my notice to retire at the end of the year, but I still had no idea how many things had to be checked off the list to NOT have a home. After all, what could be simpler than going from place to place, without a residence? It turns out this is not at all a simple thing to do.
Kim’s top 5 reasons it is not simple to begin a nomadic life
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Reason #5: What do we do with all this stuff?
What to eliminate, what to pack, what to leave behind but accessible? Will we ever have a residence again? These questions were our constant companions for the six months before we departed. I “auditioned” my clothes all year – what do I like to wear? Is it comfortable? Is it light? Bulky? Shoes? Early on, we gave away sentimental things we hoped would be enjoyed in other homes. Just before the move, we decided to give away large pieces of furniture. Everything we now own, except what we packed with us, fits in one climate-controlled storage unit. It is boxed to be moved to another home, should we ever decide to have one. Physically and mentally, this was the hardest move I’ve ever made (and we’ve moved a lot!) This type of move is hard because there is no flex - no extra trips by car to the new place, or changing one’s mind once we get there. It was a relief to close the storage unit and leave that stuff behind. I guess we’ll see if we still hang onto it in a few years.
Reason #4: Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave
I had no idea how many automatic payments, subscriptions, and services we had, and they were harder to untangle than I thought they would be. I would start to make a list, then remember three more. Can we even use Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Paramount Plus overseas? When we cancel services, how do we get our deposits? All of this takes time.
Reason #3: Are we Taking the Right Tech?
Technology will bind us to our friends, family, work and experiences even more than it already does. Knowing how to select the right technology took some thought. Both of us are pretty tech literate and rely a lot on computers for our projects. I had been using mostly work equipment for a long time. Six months in advance, I bought a lightweight laptop so I could transfer files, check key applications, and get used to the interface. Paul transitioned from a custom-built computer and two large monitors to an off-the-shelf laptop. Do we take a projector-monitor? Will it be worth the weight and space? Will our connections work everywhere? This we will have to keep assessing.
Reason #2: Health Care
Insurance, prescriptions, travel insurance, check-ups. This is one of the most complicated, difficult, and bureaucratic problems to solve. Paul turned 65 the month we departed, and I will a year later. In the US, that means we have to understand all the Medicare options, in ways that won’t be easy to reverse later. We’re paying for U.S. health insurance we (hopefully, probably) won’t need to use (unless/until we have a health crisis). We both take regular prescriptions – and I have felt anxious not knowing if we can get them abroad. And, just when we set up a service that ships overseas, my insurance stopped using it. Back to the drawing board. A year in advance, I started getting medical work done I might have otherwise spread out or postponed: cataract surgery (great choice!), laser to zap floaters, crowns on my teeth, new orthothics (and new shoes, with time to break them in), etc. We have a regular doctor we really like, and he is very good at responding to e-mail. And, we will plan to return to the US about once a year, so we’ll pack in medical check-ups, dental cleanings and the like while we’re there. We know that many countries have excellent medical services. But, letting go of the familiar is especially difficult when your health is at stake. Finally, I spent a lot of time investigating travel insurance. But between our travel insurance that comes with our credit card and an inexpensive add-on to our first round-trip airline ticket, we don’t think we need it right now to supplement our US health insurance. But when we depart the U.S. in the fall on a one-way ticket, we might. Health care planning takes a lot more time and energy than I realized.
Reason #1: The world assumes you have a residence.
Underlying everything from voting, credit card billing, banking, border control and Social Security, the world assumes you have a residence. It is relatively easy to set up a mail service, where you can look at your mail from anywhere, but establishing a domicile residence – which is needed to vote, to get a driver’s license, to get Medicare or to have an address recognized by a bank – is harder. We are fortunate to have family members who allow us to stay with them when in the U.S. and establish our domicile there. But, there should be a domicile category for people like us – there are millions of U.S. citizens who live this way – without having to rely on the graciousness of family or friends.
Notwithstanding that it is not simple, it is wonderful. We’re only a few days in, and we’re loving it so far. Some things worth doing are worth a little bit of hassle. And, a lot of other nomads have paved the way. Some of the ones who helped us include: