The Good and the Bad of Being a Modern-Day Nomad

Snow Covered Mountain in the Chugach Mountains

What good is livin' a life you've been givin' if all you do is stand in one place...

Lord Huron, "Ends of the Earth" Tweet
Josh and Kali Taking a Selfie offers two definitions of nomad:

  1. a member of a people having no permanent abode, and who travel from place to place to find fresh pasture for their livestock.
  2. a person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer.

We’re the second type.

We’re Josh and Kali, two modern day nomads who are 36 and 26 years old. Up until 2015 We were a typical young married couple each working a full-time job and saving money for a house. And kids. And future college funds. And retirement. All while trying to keep a little money on the side for our favorite hobby: traveling.

One day it struck us that we were living our lives backwards. Josh worked remotely, so why not move out of the condo we were renting, buy an RV (“caravan” to the rest of the world) and a truck, and do some traveling? We decided to try it, and we’ve never looked back.

June marked our first full year on the road. During that time we’ve had a lot of ups and downs. We’ve learned that being a nomad is like a really good roller coaster: exciting and sometimes terrifying; communal and alone; addictive and draining.

In the last year we have:

  • Driven the Alaska-Canada Highway from the “lower 48” to Alaska.
  • Stood at the entrance of the Brooks Range of mountains, just miles from the Arctic Ocean
  • “Boondocked” (a fancy word for taking your RV out dry camping, usually off of roads) feet from the ocean in Alaska
  • Drank water from a spring that comes out of a rock in the Chugach Mountains
  • Slept at the foot of beautiful mountains and by lakes, rivers and streams all throughout the Yukon and Alaska
  • Camped on the side of the famous Stampede Trail by Mt. Denali
  • Walked the Strip in Las Vegas.
  • Swam in Lake Havasu
  • Kayaked in Lake Tahoe
  • Hiked to the most northwestern point of the Continental US
  • Sat under the night sky in Neah Bay, WA, listening to the Ocean and wondering what the countless stars in the sky contain
  • Plus countless other adventures!

We’ve also:

  • Watched a friend’s suspension break and his tires rub together and burn on drive to Alaska
  • Towed our RV up 12% grades in solid mud on the way to the Arctic Circle, hoping we’d make it to the top.
  • Stepped on a section of our RV floor and heard it go “crack”, only to spend the next 3 weeks with half of our floor missing while we repaired dry rot
  • Arrived in Alaska in April to find all of the campgrounds closed and the public water supplies frozen, leaving us homeless and with no water
  • Got caught in surprise snow storms in the mountains in Oregon
  • Put countless dings, dents, scratches and scrapes on our constantly-moving home
  • Had our RV in the shop 5 times
  • And the list goes on

Did I mention it’s addictive? The life of a nomad has plenty of ups and quite a few downs, but there are  things that you can do to make those downs less frequent! Here are three tips to get you started.

1. Think Like a Traveler

A Picture of Mountains With a Road in the Foreground

Stop thinking of traveling as a vacation and think of it as a lifestyle. This sounds simple but isn’t. When you’re on the road–or a boat, or a plane, or at an Air BnB–life goes on. There’s laundry to do, dishes to wash, vlogs to upload, blog posts to write, and, most importantly, a living to make. If you make your living from vlogging then it’s more work, not less. It’s a serious commitment.

We’d all love to be doing nothing but hiking, skiing, swimming, kayaking and adventuring all day, but that’s not the way it always works.  It’s hard work but the payoff isn’t a paycheck, it’s to do things like we’re doing now–sitting in Alaska in the Chugach Mountains at the foot of a glacier. During the next two weeks we’ll be kayaking around glaciers and hiking in the mountains around Valdez. We’ll gladly sacrifice to make that happen.

2. Avoid Burnout

Boondocking Along the Beach at Turnagain Spit in Alaska

When you start traveling it’s easy to want to go, go, go; to see the world and everything it contains. That’s also a great way to burn out. When we started traveling we thought that it would never happen to us, but when we arrived in Alaska in April we found two things we didn’t anticipate: The water in Alaska is very bad so it can’t be provided to the public until it’s passed a yearly test, and the test isn’t  not done until May when the tourist season starts (and the pipes thaw!).

We were literally homeless. There was no place to stay and no water to drink. For the first week I found myself thinking, “I (Josh) really wish I had a place to just STAY.” I had never thought that way before. I was burnt out–in Alaska! I never thought it could happen to me.

But here’s the thing: Instead of turning around and heading back down the Alaska-Canada Highway to Washington we stuck with it. We got online and found some federal land just outside of Hope, AK, about 2 hours from Anchorage. It was just big enough for our RV, although we did almost roll it over trying to get into the spot! It was right on the ocean. Literally. The tide came up to within 5 feet of our RV. We had to drive almost 2 hours for water, but the water that we found came out of a spring in a rock. We pulled to the side of the road and filled up water jugs with the best water we’ve ever tasted. We stayed there for two weeks, got rejuvenated, learned the area, and moved on.

What we’re saying is traveling is a journey, not a destination. Cliche? Yes. True? Absolutely. If you start feeling burnt out then don’t be ashamed; just slow down and enjoy the journey.

3. Be Prepared for Sacrifice

Truck and RV On the Dalton Highway in Alaska

Saying goodbye to family and friends is easy at first because you’re so excited, but it’s hard later when you’re in a new place with no friends and family to keep you company. You have to re-orient yourself in every new place you go to. You have to learn the good and bad sections of town, what there is to do, and who you want to do it with. It’s hard–especially around holidays.

But we’ve met so many wonderful people in our travels. We’ve sat in a hot tub in the Santa Ynez Mountains and met a retired tennis star. We’ve swam in Lake Havasu with a cousin we hadn’t seen in a long time. We’ve kayaked Birch Lake with friends that we met through our vlog. We’ve convoyed from New Mexico to Lake Conner, TX, with friends we also met through the vlog. (Did I mention that these are the friends who gave us kayaks as a gift?) We’ve met wonderful people everywhere and developed friendships that we’ll always remember. It’s a sacrifice, but it’s worth it.

We talk to countless people who dream of travel but are afraid to take the leap. To those people, we ask this question: When you reach the end of your life would you like to A) Wonder what things would have been like if you had taken a leap of faith and followed your dreams, or B) Delight in the fact that you took a risk and tried something new, even if you ultimately decided that it wasn’t for you? For us it was “B”, and we’ve never looked back.

2 thoughts on “The Good and the Bad of Being a Modern-Day Nomad”

  1. Avatar
    Stephen and Kathy Bowers

    Discovered your website and have “thoroughly” enjoyed reading and learning from both of your experiences. My wife and I hope to make our first trip to Alaska this year or next.
    Branson West, Missouri

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