My (Epic?) Search for a Home Base

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“He wondered whether home was a thing that happened to a place after a while, or if it was something that you found in the end, if you simply walked and waited and willed it long enough.”

– From the novel American Gods

In my last 12 years of being proverbially homeless, I’ve had a few home bases along the way, namely in Australia (1.5 years, 2008/09), Grenada (2 years, 2011/12/13), and Peru (2 years, 2014/15/16).

In all cases, these home bases provided a jumping off – and landing – point for all kinds of travel adventures, in addition to an in-depth exploration of my stomping grounds of choice.

I might even go so far as to say that the years I had a place to return to, were, for various reasons, the best years of my travels.

It has been over two years since I vacated my last home base in Peru, and I’m feeling the pinch. It’s time to search for a home base….and perhaps this time, one I can stay in for as long as I choose. Like, a real home. My home. (Base).

Here's why a home base can be important for digital nomads, even though it seems contradictory. #digitalnomad #fulltimetravel #longtermtravel #TheProfessionalHobo

This post was originally published in 2018. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. I’ve also added an update circa 2022 at the end to reflect on this home base and how it fits into my digital nomad lifestyle.

Mine, But Not Mine

Last year I published a post about how Hollywood Florida is my (Kind of) Home Base. It’s a great location for travel to/from South America (which I was doing a lot of at the time), and my friend there calls her spare bedroom “Nora’s room”, her office space “Nora’s office”, and the mango tree in the backyard “Nora’s mango tree”. While I’m so grateful for my friend’s generosity in welcoming me into her home and her life, it came to my attention that even though I have a room/office/mango tree, they’re not really mine, nor will they truly ever be.

Neither was my home in Peru truly mine, which was all mixed up with the apprenticeship I was doing; when it all fell apart, I was bereft of many things, including my home (a home which I thought was going to be “for good”, as I had been assured was the case).

My home in Grenada also wasn’t really mine; it was tied with my partner at the time and his daughter. It was a very complicated time in my life, and when we broke up in Panama, I never returned to my “home” (or stuff!) in Grenada.

And while you could say that my place in Australia was more “mine” than any of the other home bases I’ve had so far, I simply wasn’t ready for a home base so early on in my full-time travel career.

In all cases, my home base was in some way tied to another person; and when circumstances changed, I was the one who (by choice or otherwise) ended up taking a hike. (See also: My Sordid Attempts at Love on the Road)

My Home Base in Peru
Standing above the house I called “home” in Peru for 2 years

Too Much Traipsing

When I left Peru in 2016, I knew something had shifted in my full-time travel lifestyle. I was leaving a place I had called home, and I wanted to find another place to call home. While I hoped that Ecuador might be “it”, it didn’t resonate, and after eight months, the complicated stack of paperwork required to stay longer sent me running. (I was still traumatized by the bureaucratic nightmare I encountered in applying for Peruvian residency; a process that was cut short before it was completed – for better or worse).

So, the search for home went on the back burner and two months of house-sitting in Japan happened. This was followed by eight more Asian countries in as many months. (I figured while I was already in Asia, I’d make the most of it).

By the time I landed in India in October of 2017, I was in trouble. I had been moving too fast for too long. Even my planned hiatus in Bali a month prior was thwarted by a spewing volcano prompting me to evacuate.

It created a perfect storm for my experience of India; a country they say is often a reflection of what’s going on inside of us at the time. In my case the reflection was harsh, despite at times a ridiculously lavish and heavenly set of outward circumstances. (See also: Heaven and Hell: Panchakarma as a Reflection of (My Time in) India

The next two months in Chiang Mai Thailand were better, but by that point I was so completely burned out that I was suffering frequent migraines, inexplicable agonizing stomach pains, and more. (Here’s a video of the lovely apartment I rented that brought me solace).

But, I had to leave Thailand regardless after two months (for visa purposes). After a month checking out expat life in Hoi An Vietnam, I returned to another part of Thailand to undergo a dramatic detox program that I hoped would help. It may or may not have helped; either way it made for a great story: All Life is Suffering: A Month in Koh Phangan, Thailand.

Australia Saved my Life

You read it right: Australia. I’ll bet you didn’t even know I was in Australia for six weeks earlier this year. That’s because I didn’t write about it. I didn’t even whisper about it on social media. Australia was solely and completely for me.

I stayed with some friends who offered me a room in their home and no obligations/expectations other than to simply recharge my batteries. I did healing sessions three times a week, slept, ate great food, worked a bit, and very little else.

In so doing, I also explored the depths of my misery to find out what was going on. Sure enough, it was about home (or my complete lack thereof). I believe that staying with these friends in Australia saved my life in that it got my health back on track, and helped me realize that I need to get a place of my own, where I can unwind from traveling, unpack my stuff, assimilate my experiences, have time to work on the ever-expanding list of projects I’m jazzed about, and – last but certainly not least – to recharge.

Australia landscape
Australia’s beautiful nurturing landscape, where I spent 6 weeks recovering from burnout

Oh, Canada.

When I left Toronto in 2006, I was pretty sure I’d never live there again. While Toronto’s familiarity is comforting, its mix of cultures is fascinating, and its arts culture is nourishing, there are other boxes I need ticked that a big city can’t do.

Oh yeah, and then there’s winter. I don’t do winter. I think I’ve proven this in the last 12 years of hemisphere-hopping when the weather turns. I grew up with winter. I know it. And I know I don’t like it.

So with all these factors in play, over the years I discounted the possibility of living in Canada ever again.

But somewhere in there, I also unwittingly discounted some criteria that has become increasingly important to me, like:

  • Living – perhaps even buying property – somewhere that I have rights as a citizen (or at least, as a resident).
  • Living somewhere I have access to health care (which, as a Canadian, requires provincial residency – something I’ve lost over the years and had to compensate for with Expat Insurance).
  • Being amongst people with whom I share linguistic and cultural commonalities.

Suddenly, Canada doesn’t look so bad. And let’s get real – I’m a traveler, planning on using this place as a home base. I can get outta dodge for the winter.

Here’s the Epic Plan. Whoops: New Plan

When I originally drafted this article it was all about how I was going to explore a certain area in Canada’s most westerly province of British Columbia. I was going to embark on the mother-of-all-road-trips in an epic search for my next home base. It was going to be rad.

But now I’m not doing that.

Which in some ways is good, because if you think about it, an epic road trip is perhaps not the best plan for somebody who is recovering from burnout. (Nora: “So…hey….I’m looking for a home base cuz I’m tired of lugging everything I own around the world…..so I’m going to live out of a car (!) for a few months and drive like 10,000 miles while I’m looking.” Yeah, cuz that won’t be tiring or ungrounding at all.)

Since arriving to Toronto in June of this year, my life has taken so many twists and turns, I’m dizzy from the changes. The daily dramas of my life are so resplendent and constant at the moment, that if you put it all together, it bears an uncanny resemblance to minutia, but I assure you, it’s not. So I won’t bore you with the details, which would require hours to read and likely leave you more confused than before you started.

But many of these dizzying life changes have pointed me towards staying in Toronto….at least for now. And while I have no hope of ever affording a piece of Toronto real estate as an owner, everything else about the place feels right, including my proximity to family and friends, and the sheer ease of setting up shop in a place that I know like the back of my hand.

Over all these years of full-time travel, I’ve learned over and over again that moving is tiring. A massive amount of effort is required to acquaint yourself with every new area; how and where to shop, get around, meet people, and more – all just to achieve some sense of comfort and sense of “home” in the surroundings.

And while this was a big part of the thrill of travel as a lifestyle, frankly, I’m over the expenditure of such gargantuan amounts of time and effort at the moment.

So although certain other areas of Canada still intrigue me as a home base, for the time being, what I need is a more nurturing environment, and the sheer familiarity of Toronto feels right.

At least, for now. Because something else I’ve learned over the years, is that few things are forever, and a home base is one of those things. So as long as Toronto feels good as a home base, great. No lifelong proclamations of undying love need be made.

Oh, Canada!


What About Full-Time Travel?

Even with my home bases around the world, I’ve continued to call myself a full-time traveler for the last dozen years (and nobody has particularly argued that point).

Will I still be considered a full-time traveler if I have a home base in Canada? By many if not most accounts, perhaps not.

Quite frankly, I’m not concerned if it counts or not. I will continue to travel (likely at least half of the year in total) from my home base. And if anything, I expect that my travel disposition will be much more positive and lively on the whole once I have a place to rest and recoup, and a renewed lust for the road.

Even the simple idea of not having to pack up everything I own to go somewhere makes me more excited about travel.

Full-Time Travel is Sustainable, but Not Maintainable

But Nora! Hobos don’t have homes. (Right?)

You might balk at my eschewing the full-time travel lifestyle in favour of having a home base. I’ve hinted in newsletters and posts about craving a home, and it has met with reader comments cautioning me against the “anchor” that they’ve found their own homes and stationary lifestyles to be.

The reality is very few full-time travelers last as long as I have. Pretty much all the full-time travelers who started around the same time as me now have home bases. They still travel all the time, but they also have their own place to return to. And I believe this makes a huge difference.

Years ago, I balked at a friend who wrote to me saying it was time to “return home and get back to an ordinary life”. While I still bristle at various aspects of what he wrote, perhaps the vehemence with which I responded in my post about Why “Settle Down” is a Bad Word has tapered.

The beauty of my life and lifestyle as I redesigned it way back in 2006, is that I have freedom. I have freedom of where and when and how to work, and where in the world I want to be at any given moment.

By these criteria, absolutely nothing is changing for me. If anything, I’m excited to harness this ultimate freedom that I have to redefine and redesign my life again.

laughing at life

2022 Home Base Update

I’m writing this in September 2022, almost exactly four years after moving into my Toronto apartment. While the apartment remains, my experience of it has changed many times in the last four years.

My intention on moving in was to spend a cumulative six months per year (give or take) in Toronto. This was for a few reasons, but ultimately it was a relatively arbitrary decision. That said, it was a decision that felt like more of a commitment (albeit entirely self-imposed).

In 2019 I came and went at will and it was good.

Then the pandemic happened, and what was supposed to be a resting and launching pad turned into a prison of sorts. While I was grateful to have a place to lock down in, and my parents felt better about me being “safe” at home rather than traipsing around the world, it was the first – and only – 15 month period of my life when I didn’t travel anywhere further than the grocery store.

So when travel became possible again, I was reborn. I came and went in the last half of 2021, and even did an epic train trip to kick things off.

The first half of 2022 was a flurry of travel, and for the most part it was amazing. So amazing that when I returned to Toronto in July, it was the last place I wanted to be. I was confronted with the fact that I had no real life or social network after almost two decades of travel. My close friends were still in my life, but they’d ostensibly moved on and I felt it. And the pandemic had obliterated whatever progress I’d made towards developing a new social network.

It felt like a prison again, but one that I realized was 100% of my own design.

So going forward I’ve released myself of the idea that I must be in Toronto for six months, or five months, or even any months of the year. But – I am keeping the apartment.

Why, you might ask?

Because it’s comfortable, familiar, and near to my family. I have my espresso maker, my smoothie maker, and my comfy bed. Whenever I want or need a break and a dose of the familiarity of Toronto and my place, I’ve got it.

I also have the deal of the century on it so it isn’t prohibitively expensive to keep, and I can leverage it through home exchanges and such as and when I like.

It works for now. But like I’ve said before, anything can change. Just like I gave myself permission to change how I view my Toronto apartment, I can redesign my entire lifestyle once again, and whenever I choose.

And so can you. What’s next on your radar?

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75 thoughts on “My (Epic?) Search for a Home Base”

  1. We, too, are conducting this search. Our 3 year old has now been to 35 countries, but we are thinking about longer term schooling and friendships. Where do you live, when you can truly live anywhere?

    Reply
    • Hi Jeremy,
      “Where do you live, when you can truly live anywhere?”
      Funny you should mention this. Because as much as it’s an opportunity, it’s also a problem! Sometimes having the world as your oyster can be complicated.

      Reply
        • Angeline, which country do you want to buy a property without citizenship? I am from NZ and bought a condo in Dallas in 2012 with no Green card etc and the same in NZ is allowed. In fact I dont where where you can’t. I guess there are many but I dont know where.

          Reply
  2. I am a vandweller, it’s a choice (since 2012). Right now we’re in Maine at a friends small homestead just sitting, relaxing & saving money (when you’re on a pension money not spent ismoney saved).
    A couple of years back I woke up one morning, it was winter time & I was in the desert of Arizona. I laid there & as I woke up the thought “I want to go home” popped into my head. It took several seconds for me to realize where I was & what I was.
    My van was “home”, that was it.

    After that morning I knew I needed more than I had, I needed some “place” I could call home. That one spot on the earth where I could point myself towards the next time I wake up & the “I want to go home” thought pops up.
    Almost found it twice now, almost. We’re still looking, me maybe more than my bride but she’s looking too.

    Someplace with out a ‘real’ winter because I don’t do real winters anymore either!
    (I did 13 yrs in the upper midwest, IL, MI & MN)

    Having a “home” doesn’t mean I’m going to get rid of the van, it’s just a place to return to when I feel the need.

    Good luck with your search Nora!

    Reply
    • Hi Rob,
      I’m glad this concept resonates with you as well.
      To tell the truth, a part of me is very nervous to announce my “homecoming” in this way, especially since I never dreamed of living in my home town again. With all the changes in my life, I’ve got a bit of cosmic whiplash at the moment! 😉

      Good luck in your own search for home. I hope you are led directly to it when the time is right.

      Reply
  3. Sounds like a great plan, Nora! I love reading your stories. They never disappoint. I wish you the best in Toronto, and I look forward to the day we meet in person. =)

    Reply
  4. Well this sounds awesome for you. Yeah! I have been wondering how you were doing and where you’d end up. There is so much constant evolution to how we live a traveling life. I was just interviewing Lisa Niver and I absolutely loved one of her quotes, she said, ‘Everyone’s gotta figure out a way to make it work.’ We roughly live about half the year in Vermont and travel half the year. I so hope you get some really good sleep, just embrace Canada and get ready for your next travels! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hey Tiff,
      Indeed, Lisa is right….everybody has to find their own groove, and there are enough “grooves” to fit each and every unique style and set of preferences!
      Do you keep your place in Vermont year round, or find a different place to live each year? I’m curious how other travelers do it. I’ll be maintaining my own place (a rental) in Toronto year-round, but it isn’t exactly the cheapest solution….

      Reply
      • Hey Nora!
        Well, we are so fortunate in a way. We manage a park on behalf of VT State Parks. Part of the job is it’s “mandatory” to live on site – which for us is perfect! For us, and we are USA citizens, one of our biggest hurdles is health insurance. Currently we are trying to be in country 6 months (5 months working and then 2 wks each side of starting/ending the season to see family and transition) and then be out of country 6 months. If we can start that then we can get some decent health coverage.

        So as far as the house goes, we call it our park home. So we get to live there and because we do like the place we’re at, we choose to leave stuff behind in totes and whatnot for the winter. We also have stuff stored at my sisters and parents, but overall we mostly just have clothes, gear and electronics. The closest thing we have to furniture is our nice fluffy mattress pad that we just like to have. And I have a good espresso machine.

        So that’s our give and take. I do still find it a bit taxing/time consuming when we have to figure out what our winter trip will be, but having a place that we stay at for almost literally five months straight, nestled up in a ferny forest, seems to be a decent balance for now for the other times of the year spent traveling.

        I find it’s a constant assessment and reevaluation…and more recently I found I just had to be ok with myself about that because ‘every body’s gotta find a way to make it work’ and for me, part of that was just being ok with the evolution.
        I do think about you often. I hope this time in Toronto, for however long it’s meant to be, is a wonderful part of your evolving self.
        Big hugs,
        Tiff

        Reply
        • That’s a great gig you’ve got, Tiff! And nice that you can leave stuff behind and know that you’ve got a place – and a job! – to return to each year.
          As for me, I won’t be in Toronto beyond early November, so I too will have to do the where-do-I-spend-the-winter dance, but that will be fine. The sheer idea of not having to pack up everything I own to go with me lightens my proverbial load a lot! 🙂

          Reply
  5. A very enjoyable read, as usual, Nora, especially since I had already read all the supporting linked articles! Friends say, “Bob, you and Jane are so adventurous, living all over the world.” I often reply, “Thanks, but honestly, compared to the true adventure travelers of the world, like Nora Dunn, for example, our life is conservative & easy.”

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  6. Hi Nora,
    Okay, I’m a little dizzy from reading your post, but that’s okay, I’m a relative newcomer to this travel thing. Like you, I have a connection to Toronto [4 generations]. But after visiting in July during To.’s heatwave, and non-existent bike lanes, it was back to Victoria for me. I’ve chosen this lovely place by the sea as my new home. 2 yrs. now. Very much closer to the places I love like California, Arizona and Hawaii. And the snowbird life is how I’ve rolled the last 3 yrs. Although secretly I long to find more places that feel like home. Thanks for writing about all your nifty adventures!
    Kent

    Reply
    • Thanks, Kent!
      I love Vancouver Island, but I can’t take the rain. After a few overcast experiences in various places, including a month of cloud-cover and rain in Vietnam earlier this year, I’ve realized I have no business living somewhere the sun doesn’t shine regularly. It literally destroys my will to live.
      Lucky for me I love the heat and I don’t ride a bicycle in Toronto! Ha ha.
      Glad your Victoria home feels good. It’s so important.
      And good luck finding some other homes as well!

      Reply
  7. This could be my post. One year ago tomorrow (August 8th) Indy (the cat) and I arrived in Vancouver after almost 18 years in Asia. It was never my intention to return to Canada, but, when I decided it was time to move on, Canada ticked all the boxes for me — no hassle residency, since I’m a citizen, healthcare, no language or cultural barriers. I’m now happily settled in my home province of Nova Scotia. I even spent the winter here and was amazed that I survived. I didn’t return to Halifax, but to one of the most historic towns in the country. I was even able to buy a wee condo. The plan is to travel late in 2018 and eventually be gone for 5 or 6 months of the year (still have no use for winter!). I love being back, and knowing I can travel for a good part of the year if I choose is the icing on the cake. Enjoy Toronto. Oh, Canada 🙂

    Reply
    • That’s great, Nancie!
      Nova Scotia was also on my list of places to explore (and possibly buy a wee condo), but Toronto is it for the moment. Amazing that you even survived winter there – which can be brutal!
      What town are you in?

      Reply
  8. Funny you mention Toronto — whenever we plan to settle in somewhere, it’ll be Toronto (or Mississauga or one of the other satellite cities around town). We were there for a few months last summer and it really did feel like a great fit. Helped, of course, that every week had a new and different festival of some kind…

    Reply
    • Hey Chris,
      I must say, I do love this about Toronto…..there is something for everybody. My biggest challenge now is not to OVER-extend myself with amazing extra-curricular activities….ha ha!

      Reply
  9. This was an interesting read. I have not even started a travelling lifestyle yet, although I did live near Vienna, in Austria for 2 years (3 different places) when I was 19-21, and I have lived near Seville, Spain for the last 18 years – in fact, I have lived here longer than I have ever lived anywhere!
    Having become mixed up with many house sitting people, who have no fixed abode, I have been consistently wondering what they will do in the future…
    My intention is to return to Scotland, where my parents have a farm, and use that as my “home base”, setting out on my travels from there… of course, the cold is one of my concerns too, as I fear than Spain has spoilt be for Scottish winters!! – But, as you have said, I can always arrange to be travelling during the winter!!

    Reply
    • Hey Fiona,
      There are certainly worse home bases than Scotland! I love that country.
      In Canada, there’s a term for Canadians who “fly away” for the winter….they’re called “Snowbirds”. Looks like this could be a global phenomenon….

      Reply
  10. Nora,

    A pleasure to read this; the question of “home” is close to my heart. My husband and I rent an apartment in Eureka, CA, on the North Coast of California (about 3 hours from the infamous Carr wildfire in Redding, currently raging). We own an old home in Guanajuato, Mexico, in the Central Highlands. We spend about 1/3 of the year in California, 1/3 in Mexico, and 1/3 in Europe, staying in airbnbs for 1-2 months. This year is was Romania and the Baltic states. We do keep our rental in CA when we’re away. Unlike most of the state, we don’t pay stratospheric rent, but still it adds up. But we’re in our 60s and 70s and can afford it. It’s a fantastic lifestyle; the only thing I feel guilty about is the carbon footprint my flights contribute. I didn’t have children, though, which is my rationalization. Best of success to you in Toronto! I love all the ethnic communities there. Eureka, unfortunately, is very white.

    Reply
    • Hi Louisa,
      Is sounds like you have a most excellent balance of having a home (two homes, actually!), and traveling as well. And like you say, the stumbling block for some people can be affordability, but it looks like you’ve created a good plan for yourself in that regard as well. Good for you!

      Reply
  11. I don’t think there is anything wrong about wanting a base for your travels that you call home. And I don’t think that you need to be homeless to call yourself a full-time traveler either. Travel to me is about experiencing other countries and immersing yourself in other cultures. You can do that whilst having a home that you return to unwind. And as you say, you will enjoy your experiences a lot more, if you’re not stressed and burnt out.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Juan! Indeed, I’ve had lots of food for thought, and more to come. But it’s all part of life’s adventure….on to the next stage of the fun!

      Reply
  12. Hi Nora,

    I retired early at 53, bought a large fifth wheel travel trailer and have been on the road ever since. Although I’m moving most of the time, my household “stuff” is stationary in my vehicle. I have my own bed each night, all my junk in the bathroom, my book by my favorite chair, etc. This is how I stay sane and it’s how I roll. I honestly don’t know if I could replace my RV for airplane rides, hostels and hotels. I’ve done that, but when I was younger. The stress of that style of travel would wear me down in short order I think these days. It’s astonishing to me that you have been so successful at this mode of world exploration. You should be proud.

    Now, I’m doing a year long campervan tour of South America in 2019 and after that, shipping my little rig to Europe for another year, then who knows. I may then return to Cuenca, Ecuador and apply for residency. In Ecuador, you have to be a “temporary resident” for two years before getting permanent residency. Immigration law was just changed as of last year here. During the first two years, you can’t leave Ecuador for more than 90 days. Once you get the permanent in year three, foreign travel is more accessible. It will take me several more years, or longer, before I can stay in any country for 9 months, so I’m holding off on my application to Ecuador for a few years. I do think I’ll roost here. I love this country and access to so many other places to roam in my campevan.

    But for you, settling into a “home base” in Canada makes a lot of sense and you should take pride in all you’ve accomplished and will accomplish. You have many, many more travel days in front of you than behind you. You’re still a young women, attractive and most of all, intelligent. I think you’ll do well with your new plan and I wish you luck. I spent 14 months in Alaska in late 2016 to the end of 2017. I agree, the winders are no fun. Negative 40 F in Alaska – WTF, I’m from Florida!!!! How about the western coast of Vancouver Island for you? Laying back in a recliner, sipping fine tea, watching the whales blow, perhaps even a little chanting – sounds like your kind of place. 🙂

    Take care,

    John

    Reply
    • I LOVE this idea, but wondered about the practicality of shipping the rig around the world – I want to see so much of it!! I am from the UK, so EVERYWHERE is overseas!!

      Reply
      • If you search google for “overlander” “overlanding” you’ll see how popular this is. Shipping is expensive. For example, Baltimore USA to Amsterdam is a common route. It’s about $6,000 all in round trip: big money! However, the break even for shipping is only about 30 days or so, because once you get there, it’s really cheap. It’s important to understand that cost for RV travel is always in comparison to planes, hostels and hotels. I’m certainly not saying either is cheap. But RV life can be really cheap, because you travel with your own accommodation and have a kitchen and refrigerator. Meals can kill a budget, as you know. Often places to park at night can be free, or $10-$15 USD per night, or more. It’s a choice you can control.

        Reply
        • Yes, that shipping cost is WAY too high for me, at least at present… and the accomodation and food costs, I had thought to reduce significantly by house sitting… of course the transport costs within a continent would be less with the camper…. I will have to think on it!!!

          It’s not going to happen until I mangae to find a buyer for my property, and get a bit on an online income, in any case!!

          Reply
    • Hey John,
      Indeed, I think your home-on-wheels is a great way to enjoy life on the road while taking your nest with you. Good plan! And yes, Ecuador does have some great residency options, especially for retirees who can demonstrate lifetime pension incomes.

      And while I appreciate your suggestion of Vancouver Island, it’s the rain that keeps me from seriously considering it. Even worse than winter for me, is the idea that the sun may not shine for weeks at a time. (That’s also why I could never live in the UK). It’s soul-destroying for me!

      Glad we’re each finding our respective roosts….at least for now… 🙂

      Reply
      • The loneliness is what creeks up on me. I’m divorced and my trip plans didn’t include bringing a girlfriend. I didn’t know how difficult it would be to meet someone on the road, but it has been to some extent. I think when I come to South America, I’ll order a 10,000 bill from the Fed (if that exists ha ha) and fly it like a flag on my antenna. Heck, I’ll bet I could fill a stadium of eligible women down here! ha ha ha

        For me, the reality is that a relationship matters. I suspect that’s a factor for you, but please know that I’m not trying to be presumptuous. It’s tough.

        Reply
        • Hi John,
          While I agree that a relationship is important and loneliness can set in while trying to make your way in countries and corners of the world where you are culturally and linguistically marginalized, please know that in my case, loneliness hasn’t been an impetus for this change. In fact, I am in a relationship, and have been for a couple of years. Sometimes, even when you “have it all”, things still need to change. 😉

          Reply
  13. Great article! Especially about really listening to your spirit and doing what you need to restore it so you can feel free again! While this is a great lesson in the twists and turns and adventures of full-time travel, the bigger take away, for me, is that there really is no place like home (…or having one…wherever that ends up being).

    Reply
    • Hey Dawna,
      I like that the “no place like home” idea is your takeaway from this!
      And….there’s nothing like being in town long enough to have time to hang out with cool people like you… 😉

      Reply
  14. Nora,
    I have always felt family was important to me. Whether it’s as instrumental to your life isn’t for anyone but you to decide. I definitely appreciate it more now that I am grandfather!

    As far as a home goes, I’ve always had a base I could return to and haven’t experienced your amount of travel away from my base. The longest I’ve been away is a little over 6 weeks.

    I think you have to know yourself and ensure you put your needs first in life. Otherwise you will never attain satisfaction. Obviously there will be opinions that are contrary, but I know if you continually place other’s needs ahead of yours, you won’t be happy in long run.

    Rest is a very important part of life, especially if you plan on hanging around a good while. It sounds to me like you really haven’t rested since you left Toronto in 2006.

    Relationships can be tricky no matter how long they exist. So put yourself first going forward, get some rest and be with family until you feel better. If you ever need to talk, the old man has big ears! Take care of yourself whatever comes!
    Mike

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Mike!
      I’ve always appreciated your support and wisdom. And you’re absolutely right, on all accounts. I have learned in the last year just how important it is to take care of myself. That lesson became critical in India last year.

      What has surprised me is just how much rest I continue to need. I’ve been attentive to my “needs” for many months now…..and progress has been incredibly slow. I have a feeling I’m in this one for the long haul. Good thing I have a home base now! 😉

      Reply
  15. That is certainly true, Nora, for your rest and the expected progress you will have to take some time and to be patient…
    As far as I understood your breakdown had different causes and a long history… India has been only pretty much at the end of it and has shown you how little energy and strength you had left.
    That’s why you should presumably allow yourself at least one year to set up in your new home base and to find back to balance and harmony… until you’ll start again to look eagerly forward to traveling… and returning home 🙂

    A bit from my own experience:
    I’ve been fulltime travelling and living in SE Asia and Middle America since the beginning of 2006… had my burnout more than a year ago, since then I’m living on a small and quiet island in a rented house together with four cats >^..^< and next spring I’m going back to my country of origin to find some rural property where I can grow really old… maybe 😉

    Reply
    • Hi Vic,
      Interesting that you refer to your own burnout as a matter of course….I guess it happens to all of us after long enough on the road!
      And you’re absolutely right about India; I was burned out long before arriving to India….it’s simply there that I realized I had nothing left in my “batteries” and the bottom fell out.
      Enjoy your homecoming!

      Reply
  16. Nora, yet another delightful read. It’s been a pleasure following your travels since I had the joy of getting know you all those years ago in Eildon, VIC ❤️

    Reply
    • Alex!
      My, has life ever changed and morphed for both of us since our OEG days, huh? Nice to know I’m still on your radar. 🙂

      Reply
    • Hey Steve,
      Well, you never know. For the moment, I’m revelling in the fact that I don’t have to worry about visas and residency in Canada, as a citizen. Not to mention proximity to family.

      Reply
  17. Greetings from a “full-time traveler with a home base” (in Ukraine) 🙂 Thank you for sharing your journey with us so earnestly!

    Have you considered it, by the way? I’m not sure how much has changed since you were last here. I found it easier to find information and help in English when i first arrived last year than you describe in your post from 2011.

    Anyways, i understand you’re happy with Toronto for the moment, i just thought i’d mention what i believe to be a highly underrated country to live in for anybody out there looking for some simple 😉

    Reply
      • Temperature/snowfall-wise, it’s probably similar to Toronto — but the infrastructure might be wanting, i won’t lie 😉 For me it boiled down largely to the cost of living and ease of acquiring residency, while at the same time being quite safe, chilled, and conveniently located just outside EU — the language and the weather are real challenges though!

        Reply
  18. Absolutely can relate—I finally settled back in NYC after 6 years of constant travel, and just got my own space recently…and I’m just enjoying it for the now….the road is always there, and a good traveler knows when to break for a respite! Congrats on this respite!
    Janine

    Reply
  19. Congratulations on finding a home base that you are happy with for the present, because the present really is all we have, it’s something that I chaff at all the time.

    We’ve been nomadic for a year now, we wanted to give it a shot when we retired early last June and we are glad that we did. But I think The hobo lifestyle is getting old, I can’t imagine doing it for 12, but we are older. As you mention every long term blogger that I follow has been going the homebase route.

    In the comments you mentioned the cost when traveling 1/2 the year of keeping a home base. We came up with what we thought was an ingenious solution. We sold the house in CA and used part of the proceeds to buy a house in a retirement community outside Phoenix 45 yo +) that is beautiful (if you like desert) that gets lots of snowbirds. Our property manager guaranteed us three months rented a year, almost guarantee of four months, good chance on 5 months, less so on 6 (one tenant not Airbnb). For over double the rental income of a full time rental. I figured the break even point was 4 1/2 months. This year was 4 months next year will be 5 months. So we rent it to snow birds (and travel somewhere cheaper), live in it shoulder season (for free), and travel again in summer when it’s to darn hot in Phoenix. Maybe there’s something similar in Canada in reverse.

    Reply
    • Hi Ian,
      You’ve hit on a great plan that gives you the best of both worlds!
      It’s a wee bit more complicated in Toronto due to the seasons I would want to be here and the horrendous cost of real estate, but thinking outside of the box is always good. 🙂

      Reply
  20. Hi Nora! Glad you’ve joined the ranks of those of us needing a home base for our continued travels! Last year I made Oaxaca my base (I have a MX residency visa): new apartment very near the Centro. I’ve been busy building a community here, improving my Spanish and planning my next few trips abroad (Europe and Central/South America). And appreciating this wonderful climate!

    Enjoy your time–for however long–in Toronto! I had an herb farm in Western New York for 9 years in the 1980s, so I know what the winters are like up there–ugh!

    Most of us past 60 have had a bad burn out, so we know just how valuable our health is. Get some deep rest, connect with the inner you and create a new level of health for yourself. Consider it another journey–one that doesn’t require packing or logistics, just a big letting go! 😉

    Te deseo buena salud!

    Reply
    • Hi Kate,
      Thank you for your wonderful support and empathy! I’m still working on the “letting go” part…. ha ha!
      Enjoy Mexico; it’s on my potential list of places to go this winter. We’ll see!

      Reply
  21. Congratulations on returning home! I don’t know HOW you did the nomad thing for 12 years!! I’ve been living the nomad life for only 2 1/2 years now, and I realized about a year in that my restless going from one place to another was really a deep wish to return home to Sweden after living (permanently) in the US for 27 years. Still working on that… but getting closer. When I left Sweden in 1991, I never in my life thought I was going to want to live here again, and now, I can’t wait to be back, for all the same reasons you described. Home is home, and that feeling of belonging is something I think you never really get anywhere else. I haven’t anyway, not even after living in another country for more than half my life. Thank you for sharing all this, it makes me feel better about wanting to move home (and less like a quitter!).

    Reply
    • Hey Cattie,
      Wow! In turn, sharing your own story has helped ME to better understand my own journey of “coming home”! Amazing that after 27 years in the U.S., you’ve now felt the call to return to Sweden. Good luck with the move, and congratulations!

      Reply
  22. The quote at the beginning really resonated with me. I’ve been in the same place now more or less for the past 5 years and renting an apartment for the past few. I love my apartment and having a place of my own, being close to family, being on a large body of water, and having a low cost of living. But there are so many travel dreams I still do have. But coming home to pets sounds so great too… I would also love to live in a bigger city. Basically, I’ve become quite settled in a place I never, ever, ever thought I would live in and I feel like I’ve been here because I’m too lazy to move and too paralyzed by the choice of what’s next. That being said, I don’t feel ready to uproot my life. I guess it’s strange because my life is so different from how I envisioned it yet I don’t want to leave where I am, so have I made this home now?

    Reply
    • I hear you! Loud and clear. You are not alone with your concerns.

      From my perspective, you don’t necessarily need to uproot your life in order to satisfy your travel dreams/desires.
      When I feel paralyzed by choice (having the world as your oyster isn’t always such a blessing!), I find that baby steps can help shift me out of that stuck feeling and into the flow.
      What can you do today to get you one little bit closer to satisfying your travel dreams?

      Reply
  23. Dear Nora I only just discovered you courtesy of your interview on Exploring Alternatives. I have literally spent the last 2 days devouring everything in your site. Amazing information. Thank you.

    I myself spent 10 years travelling but more conventionally i.e. taking jobs in different countries, plus 2 longish stints of up to 12 months of full time travel. I am now back “home”, in the city I grew up in and love, Sydney, Australia. However, it is this idea of having a base and then traveling 4-6 months a year that most intrigues me. I have loved reading comments on this post of how other people manage it. Some really interesting and creative ideas here. Like Toronto, property in Sydney is crazy expensive as well.

    Maybe that might be an idea for a future blog post, i would love to hear more about how you make it work.
    thanks again

    Reply
    • Hi Sudeep,
      While I’d love to wax poetic about how I manage to live in Toronto for a song, I kind of feel like I lucked into it. Like the stars were aligned for me to make this change, as stars can align.
      My cost of rent is $1,000/month (in Canadian dollars); not exactly cheap, but a steal for a large 1 bedroom apartment close to downtown and across the street from the subway. Whether my landlord friends are giving me the friend-discount or whether this is the going rate is unknown.

      So my life and lifestyle is likely going to go up in terms of expenses (since I’ll be maintaining a base while still traveling), but throughout my life I’ve always made specific spending choices so I can enjoy the things that are really important to me (skydiving, sushi, whatever)!

      I hope you find a cost-effective place to live in Sydney so you can enjoy the lifestyle you wish to.

      Reply
  24. Hi Nora…..I’ve been wondering if/when you would feel the pull of a home base. I hope you settle in well but having chosen a place where you have family and friends Im sure you will. My first “home” was a stunning beachside small place 19 Ks from Tauranga…..full of retired couples who were very chatty on the street but no “come and have a cuppa/drink”. Contented in their togetherness. So I sold and now in Napier where my kids grew up & have many friends….love it….weather great too. But I do go away in winter….usually Spain. My travels were cut short due to need of a hip replacement which was soul destroying! Leaving for Madrid 28 April to do Camino & catch up with friends made doing Vaughan Town…..thanks to you ?. Did SpeakinItaly.com 2017 but home early due to sore hip. replaced 6 months ago…..yay…..Im away again! Good luck….there are a few bumps as you find your feet…..just go with it. “This too shall pass” is my mantra when a bump comes. ?
    You couldn’t stay in Auckland….Napier’s weather is better & that bed is still on offer. ?

    Reply
    • Hi Jo,
      Long time! Glad to know that you’re back up and at it after your hip replacement – doing the Camino no less! Wow.
      I was only in my Toronto apartment for 2 months before I left for 5 months of travel….and realized (in Guatemala) that what I really needed was to be home.
      I’m pleased to say my reentry back home has been smooth and wonderful. I never thought I’d live in Toronto again, but I must say that 12 years abroad has helped me appreciate it on a whole new level.
      Happy travels, Jo, and happy pilgrimage! That’s incredible, only 6 months after a hip replacement. You are an inspiration!

      Reply
  25. What you want to be when you grow up? This is asked by teachers and parents alike when we were wee kids. My answer was flight attendant. It was being humble or realistic but from dreaming of the big world out there since I was able to walk outside.

    I did get accepted by a couple of airlines in my early 30s but I decided to turn them down. Part reasoning was that I was going thru a divorce, not the best time to uproot to a new city. A deeper reasoning I didn’t get until years later.

    Although I love to get away, whenever I felt trapped I got into my car to languish for a week somewhere. I have always traveled solo whenever I took vacation or in college backpacking. Slowly with age I realize that traveling for me isn’t a mean to an end. It is more or less a reprieve, a change of scene to my normal daily life. My daily (currently working) life is the backbone to my existence. Without it I would lose my rudder. I don’t like routine but routine keeps me grounded mentally so that my mind can be free to create.

    Although I am still planning to travel extensively after retirement and after my mother departs (always finished research on the cargo van and modification I want as my rig), I will always have a home base and routine to get back to. Full time traveling is not for me. I am happy to come to this realization without a hard lesson.

    Wish your time in Toronto much agreeable and fuel your desire to back on the road.

    Reply
    • Hi 33,
      Those are great realizations, and indeed it’s fabulous that you didn’t have to learn them the hard way!
      Full-time travel served me well for a time, and it may again be great later on. In the meantime, having a base has been instrumental for me on a variety of levels. For example, like you I also benefit greatly from having a routine, and now when I travel it’s more of a reprieve (like you say) and also a chance to shake up my routine for a while. Being able to return to my place for grounding and routine helps me to appreciate my travel experience all the more.

      Reply
  26. Hi Nora!

    My name’s Grace and I recently decided to drop out of college (I just finished my first year) and pursue a more direct path to a location-free career. With the pandemic, everything is up in the air, but I’ve had a lot more time to think. I really really love your blog, and I stumbled upon it again today while doing some research.

    I’ve been planning on travelling full-time and working remotely since I was 15, but I’m concerned about the social drawbacks of constantly moving around. I wouldn’t call myself an extrovert, but I’m definitely a people person. Even though I prefer slow travel, I’m afraid I won’t make enough friends during my travels to stay sane. I have a handful of good friends at home, but they’re all going to be in university for years, and I probably won’t get more than a couple of phone calls a month from each of them.

    This fear has really made me consider finding a home base before I start travelling so I can make more friends that can keep me company (electronically) while I travel. Reading about your different home bases over the years has definitely given me some perspective. Thank you! It is comforting to remember that I can make any place my home base for as long (or as little) as I need one.

    I think I need to build the foundation of my career before I have to make any decisions, but I was wondering if you have written anything about your friendships throughout your travels? I’ve read your post describing your romantic endeavors, but I am also curious if/how you’ve made many friends while travelling (locals or expats?) and if/how you’ve maintained those friendships.

    Thanks for all your amazing content, I hope you’re happy and safe (in regards to the pandemic and otherwise).

    Reply
    • Hi Grace,
      Great question! In my experience, it’s easy to make friends when you travel, but difficult to maintain those friendships when you are no longer in the same destination together. Friends come and go on the road, and that’s okay. It comes with the territory.

      It also depends on where and how you travel. If you are staying in hostels or working at co-working spaces, it’s easy to network with like-minded people.
      It’s almost always easier to meet other travelers or foreigners than to make friends with locals, especially if you’re in a touristy area and they’re so accustomed to the steady stream of foreigners that they don’t even notice you.

      Volunteering in trade for free accommodation is also a terrific way to meet people and make friends (both local and travelers). However it’s also quite difficult to maintain a location independent job while volunteering (though the flip side is if your accommodation is for free you don’t need to earn as much money). I highly recommend checking this out: https://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/travel-tips-resources/get-free-accommodation-around-world/

      Hope this helps!

      Reply

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