In November 2021 I was invited to write a blog post for exit45travels.com telling our story of how we came to be home free nomads. Just in case at some point that website no longer exists, below is a copy of that article:
Our Home Free Nomad Life – 4 Years and Loving It.
- Who Are We?
Hi, we are Susan and Blair, a couple in our early 60’s originally from Calgary, Canada. We retired in 2017 and embarked on a full-time nomadic lifestyle.
We have been asked to share our story about Life Chapter 2 but for us, this is really chapter 3. We both worked hard and had successful careers in Calgary, but after 25 years we were looking for a change. Our chapter 2 started in 2002 when we sold everything we owned and moved to the Cayman Islands. We left behind our family and friends to start a new life on a very small island.
A few folks commented how lucky we were to have “retired” to the Cayman’s but the reality was we were still working. I put in 40 hours a week as an accountant and Blair worked 6 days a week as a scuba dive instructor/guide and trust me his job was not as glamorous as it sounds. We were not exactly living the relaxed, retired life our friends suggested.
- Lightbulb Moment – How to Pull Off a Home Free Life
We lived a happy life in Cayman but after 10 years the desire to quit work and travel while we were still young and healthy began to fill our minds. In 2012 a friend forwarded us a newspaper article about a couple from California who had sold everything and were traveling the world living out of a suitcase.
That was our lightbulb moment, and the seed was planted. I became obsessed with researching how we could pull off such a lifestyle. The more I researched the more I realized there are quite a few people out there who have sold everything and are home free. I followed numerous blogs, did more research, and even more research. We finally took the leap at the end of 2017, selling everything we owned and leaving friends, again. It was easier the second time around…..we’ve done this before, no problem!
- How to Financially Live a Nomad Life
Finances are a question that gets a lot of attention amongst nomads. Everyone has different levels of comfort and how they are willing to live. While we are far from wealthy, we saved enough during our careers to afford this lifestyle, which in fact costs us no more than living in one place, and you will hear that statement a lot.
For 5 years prior to retiring, I kept track of all our expenses to see what we spent in a year. We spend no more now than we did living in Cayman and going on vacations. Being an accountant, I am a bit (OK maybe a lot) anal about details, planning, costs, spreadsheets etc. I run our life like a business using QuickBooks and endless Excel spreadsheets. We have an annual budget and I keep track of every penny we spend, sometimes to the chagrin of my husband. But it works keeping our expenses under control and knowing we aren’t going to run out of money.
- Travel Planning in Our Nomad Life
How did we decide where to go? The blogs I was following encouraged slow travel and with our plan of living this way for 10 years, we have the time to travel slowly. We try to fly as little as possible, landing on a particular continent and staying as long as we can.
Our first long term destination was Europe. We spent 13 months there with a couple of side trips to Turkey and the Middle East. Unfortunately, our plans were interrupted by the loss of a parent. Flying back to Calgary we stayed for 4 months and when we resumed travel our destination was Australia/New Zealand. 9 months into our planned 18 month journey, COVID caused us to head home to Canada, where we remained for 16 months. This was definitely not what we planned, but we made the decision to stay safe, not travel and get vaccinated.
Where do we live on the road? We prefer the countryside and small towns, with visits to large cities and popular tourist destinations thrown in. To pull this off we need to rent a car a lot of the time. We see other nomads getting by using only public transportation, but we felt this did not give us the freedom that is important to us. And to be honest, hauling suitcases and backpacks on buses and trains was not that appealing to us, but we have done it.
Yes, having a car costs more money but it gives us the freedom we seek during our travels. Plus, apartment rentals in small villages are usually less expensive than big cities so we save money there.
- Every Day Living in Our Home Free Nomad Life
We stay long enough in one location that we can take our time seeing the sights and enjoying quiet days at home. Staying more than one week will also get us discounts on our apartment rentals. Time at home is necessary because we are constantly planning ahead, researching our next destination, figuring out how to get there and the myriad of details involved in travel. This takes time, but its part of the “job” of living the nomad life.
Then there is the time spent working on our website, editing photographs, and keeping the accounting and spreadsheets up to date. Some days there is just not enough time. Me being a bit of a control freak, this generally falls in my lap but when needed Blair jumps in to help with planning and the time-consuming research. To stay fit and healthy on the road, Blair has found us a gym in virtually every city we have lived in. The added benefit to keeping fit is the opportunity to meet locals in a non-tourist environment.
- Where are we now? *November 2021*
With so much of the world still closed, unsafe or difficult to travel to we have settled in Loreto, Baja, Mexico for 4 months. We are living in a gated ex-pat community which is not our typical way of travel, but while covid is still problematic it was a good option. Neither of us wanted to make travel difficult or a lot of work so we went for the easy choice.
Life is slow here, we paddleboard, we go to the gym, we swim every day, we walk around the neighborhood and basically live a quiet retired life, with some fabulous weather as a bonus. We are also feeling confident enough to plan future travel and are busy mapping out our return to Europe in the spring of 2022.
- The Benefits/Drawbacks of Living a Home Free Nomad Life
The biggest benefit for us has been the time and freedom to go places and do things we never imagined. Like the 19.4 km/7.5 hour hike over the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand or hot air ballooning over Cappadocia, Turkey. With research and planning the benefits have been tremendous with few drawbacks. We are lucky to be engaged mentally, there is not much time to get complacent when you are always in a new place or looking for a new place.
Drawbacks are minor and more of an inconvenience such as language barriers, ill-equipped kitchens or missing a few favorite things. To make our favorite fruit smoothie breakfast, we have bought 8 blenders over the past 4 years, leaving them at the last place we stay before flying, there’s no room in our suitcase for such a large item. We also travel with pillowcases, just a small thing that gives us comfort staying in endless apartments.
- Visa Requirements and Planning
Being Canadian we are fortunate to have easy access to many countries around the world. Research is the key to abiding by each countries rules of stay and applying for any visas in advance. The only time we got surprised was boarding a flight to New Zealand we were asked for our Australian Visa (our next destination) which we did not have yet. Yep, they would not let us into New Zealand unless we could prove that we were allowed into our next destination. This was quickly resolved by throwing money at it. The airline staff processed a rapid visa for Australia, and we boarded our flight just in time.
- Advice to Those Interested in Living a Nomad Life in the Future
Just Do It 😊 Read other nomad blogs and join nomad Facebook groups, there are a lot of them out there. You will find inspiration and people that fit your desired way of travel. Everyone travels differently so you need to find people you can relate to and see how they travel.
Make contact with other nomads, we are a friendly bunch and happy to share what we have learned. Start a blog or some record of your travels to share with family and friends. More importantly, you will have a diary of your experiences, it gets hard to keep all the details straight when you travel for years.
Be flexible, oh boy that’s a big one! No matter how much you plan, shit happens, and you need to adjust. We plan ahead more than some nomads, but that is what makes us feel secure. I sometimes wish we could fly by the seat of our pants but as a Type A personality I would find it too stressful. In the past we have found many desirable apartments are rented well in advance, so another reason to plan when you can.
Technology is important to stay in touch with family and friends. We each have dual SIM card phones and buy a local SIM card wherever we are. Internet is a must-have everywhere we stay giving us a variety of choices to keep in touch. We make the effort to maintain our connection with family and friends while we travel, plus we end up back “home” more often than we thought.
- Our Final Thoughts
Coming up on our 4 year anniversary, we have no regrets. We love our life, embrace the challenges and look forward with great anticipation to where this journey will take us. In the words of Gandalf from The Hobbit:
“Home is now behind you, the world is ahead”
Susan Kerr, homeless retiree on the adventure of a lifetime with my best friend and husband Blair. Follow our travels at www.blairandsusan.ca and on Instagram.