Paying for Alone Time on the Road

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 I have arrived. By that I mean, I am here. Present. And Productive. Or at least, Pleased. But I’m Paying for it.

Now that I’ve exhausted “P” words to describe my current state of being, let me explain.

This post was originally published in 2014. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

I have rented a place of my own, in Gulfport Florida for 10 days; something atypical of my travel lifestyle, which usually surrounds some form of free accommodation.

Instead of this place being free, it’s expensive. Like, holiday rental rate expensive. It’s reasonable when you see what I’ve got – a stand-alone one-bedroom house with full kitchen, gym, and other unique features, in a very funky area – but it’s not exactly cheap on the full-time travel scale.

Sometimes, it’s worth paying for alone time on the road.

The Dark Side of Hospitality Exchanges

So far this year, I’ve bounced around from place to place, staying two days to two weeks with various hosts and close friends. And it has been lovely. I’ve stayed with hosts that provided cultural exchanges, catch-up time with girlfriends, and pow-wows with colleagues.


Since arriving in the States a few weeks ago, I’ve been sick. This has been exacerbated by my hosts’ pets to which I’ve had various allergic reactions. In one case, I was sharing a 400 sq ft apartment with a friend and two big dogs. If anybody could squeeze together in that space and not kill each other, it was us. But it was also too much, physically and mentally.

When you stay with other people, you make sacrifices. You must abide by their house rules. You keep to their hours. You lose personal time and privacy. And very few hosts understand a location independent person’s requirement to “play” on their computer for hours each day. (And no, it’s not play. It’s work. And it pays the bills too).

You’re interested in the cultural/friendly exchange, so you engage in more conversation and fun time together. This is nice, but it comes at a cost; either the cost of work, or personal space and alone time. (Or sleep). This is a no-brainer to cope with in the short-term; but long-term, it’s just not maintainable.

What about House-Sitting?

I’ve long professed house-sitting to be my favourite form of free accommodation, since it affords me my own time and space to work, while allowing me to sample local life around the world.

I stick to these words. But I also throw in the teensy caveat that you’re still living on somebody else’s turf and terms. And not all house-sitting jobs are so easy; I remember one gig in particular that took me and my mother (who joined me) hours each day to keep the house clean, the dogs walked and fed, and garden tended to. I have no idea how the home owners managed on a daily basis, with full-time jobs.

Alone Time

This isn’t to say I’ve given up on hospitality exchanges or house-sitting, or other forms of free accommodation. Rather, after seven years of full-time travel, and after having had the luxury of my own place in Grenada for a while, I realize I need to pay a little more attention to me.

I’ve lost a little piece of myself in adapting to so many different scenarios and circumstances for so long.

Maybe I’m getting old. Or tired. Or jaded.

But more likely I think I just need to have my own space and alone time on the road every once in a while to decompress, reflect, project, and just be.

And to sing in the shower.

And sometimes, that’s worth paying for.

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27 thoughts on “Paying for Alone Time on the Road”

  1. There is no free lunch…
    if you need the time & space then you need it. “Need” being different from “want”, the good thing is you are in a position to buy what you need.
    Get well.

    I had to look up Gulfport Florida on a map just to see where it was, looks like a nice area. I think I’ll be heading to Florida next winter..

    • Hey Rob,
      Good delineation: need vs want. True indeed!
      As for Gulfport, I’ve kind of stumbled on it; it’s near St Petersburg, where I need to be for a meeting next week. I’m happy I found it; it’s very cool!

  2. Alone time is something I definitely treasure – without it I transform into a huge grump and don’t appreciate all that I have and that is around me!

    • Emily – I think I might have a bit of the grump in me if I don’t get my space regularly as well… 😉

  3. I did some traveling from Washington State, to The Big Island of Hawaii, to Seattle, to Los Angeles, and finally to the East coast of the USA where I have established a base. I was facing homelessness and battling long term illness. I became a sort of unwilling vagabond. I found myself house sitting for a month in Seattle, renting a room from a pal in Hawaii for four months, moving on to Seattle again for Week staying in motels and couch surfing, then driving headlong toward Hollywood where I was a house guest for two wonderful months, and finally, tossing the dice and gambling on a cross country drive to the East Coast, and landing in a resort hotel on the Atlantic ocean. I can relate to everything you said about being alone in your own space. I felt, always, the guest, never totally at ease because the daily routine was not mine with hosts, or even renting a room in someone else’s house. You spend time in your room if you really want any sense of privacy, you go exploring on your for the same reason – this is a bit better house sitting because you are alone; I have been regularly house sitting (for pay) for a friend in the next state, a two hour drive, for up to ten days at a time. I now feel like their house is my second home when I am there. I know all the routines, take care of horses, cats and dogs, and work on my paintings in a secluded 9 acre forested two story country home owned by the daughter of a famous Golden Age of Hollywood film star. I am comfortable there but it’s not “my space”. All of their personal things are there, and few of mine. At my home base, it’s my agenda, my door key, my things, even if most of what I own is in storage all the way across the country. I don’t think I will ever feel I have a home again. But I do have a space to call my own, for now. I intend to do some traveling this year, it’s why I read this blog and follow Nora’s adventures. You never know where Nora is going to pop up, right now, she is about 700 some miles south of me in Florida. Later, she could be anywhere in the world, with or without a home. What did they used to say? Home is anywhere I hang my hat …

    • Hey David,
      Indeed – you’ve found (as I have too) that the definition of home changes when you lead a nomadic life. Everything we’ve grown up to understand home to be isn’t there. But sometimes, we can feel quite at home on the road. Which begs the question: what is home…

  4. Hi Nora,

    Pity it is not exactly the Sunshine State at the moment now is it ! 🙁 Or so I am let to believe ..9 C and rain ? Perfect weather to reflect and ponder 🙂 Now also listen to some Satie while you are at it !

    Hang in there !

    • Dick – Indeed it has been cold and rainy for the last few days…a perfect excuse for a shut-in! It will be warmer by the weekend and should be “normal” by next week…which is good, as I don’t own enough clothing for anything much below 8 degrees (Celsius)!

    • You got it, Deia!
      I’ve defined and redefined my travel lifestyle and preferences a few times over. I expect it will continue to ebb, flow, and evolve as I do!

  5. “What is home”? is a good question.

    15 months ago we drove away with all we still owned in a house on wheels. Is ‘home’ really where you hang your hat for the night (or park)? 15 months ago I thought I knew but today I’m not sure…
    You’ve been a nomad for some time now, any thoughts (you’d be willing to share) on “what is home”?

    • Hi Rob,
      Hmm….what is home….that’s a loaded question! I’ve had various answers for that question over the years, the most prevalent of which is the standard “wherever you hang your hat for the night”.
      But I too, am struggling with this definition after 7 years of hanging my hat in a lot of places that didn’t necessarily feel like home. However for lack of this definition, I don’t really have a good substitute.
      I will say that I do still automatically tend to refer to wherever I spend the night as home (“I returned home after xyz sightseeing”)….maybe it’s just easier than saying “I returned to the place I’m staying for the night…”!

      • I was sort of hoping you had an idea…
        I grew up moving & continued it as an adult, but did finally stay in one spot for 9 years. That was right until we moved into the RV & left.

        Nomads used to be part of a tribe, everybody moved, ‘home’ was always with you just the location was different. I think I had that for almost all of my life, now it’s different.

        I have an RV, I wake up in the same bedroom every morning & the toilet is always where it is but the last few weeks I’ve wondered about ‘home’.

        • Rob – I think this is a good thing to ponder, and I also believe we need to cut ourselves some slack on our definition of home, which we should be allowed to change as our life outlooks and priorities change.
          You may have been used to a lifestyle of movement in your earlier years, but after 9 years in one spot maybe your own definition of home is due for an update. And that’s totally okay! 🙂

  6. I like the way you put it “I’ve lost a piece of myself”……you captured perfectly how it makes me feel. With one exception, some very dear, old friends in France who offer me a perfect place to stay, I never feel totally at comfortable. This is no way the fault of friends or even family (I crashed with my son last year, but he has such a tiny space!), sometimes it’s because they are too welcoming. I’m doing slow travel now, so renting at normal rates instead of vacation rates is perfect, though I did feel I wanted to move on more quickly the other day. Still, it’s what I can afford so que sera, sera!

    • Hi Linda,
      How long do you rent for in order to get normal rates? If you’ve got itchy feet, can you leave for greener pastures, or are you locked into leases and such?
      Hopefully if and when you get those feelings of wanting to move on, you can do so – or at least can do something to rekindle your desire to be in that area. I wrestle with it in various ways sometimes myself…I think it’s a hazard of the occupation! 🙂
      Somewhere in there for each of us is the perfect balance between traveling slowly enough that we aren’t drained by the constant movement, while staying motivated and energized by new experiences and cultures.

    • Great suggestion, Maria! How do you find affordable furnished studios to rent for the short-term that are cheap? I’d love to know.
      In this particular case I only had 10 days to play with….I think that pretty much put me out of the market for anything other than holiday rentals…(but I’ll admit I also didn’t have the energy or time to find something at the time; I stumbled on this place online through AirBnB, and it was perfect, so I took it).

  7. I can understand a lot of what you say. I would love to hear more of your thoughts on your comment about loosing a little piece of yourself – I found that an interesting one but wanted to hear more of what you meant.

    As for me, I really do not like “travel” in the sense that I am over, and have been for a long time, running around to sights. I prefer to “move in” to an area – stay there for months on end, and just “live” like a local. I skip all the touristy parts, find a few awesome places that speak to me personally (even if they are not something that would “wow” a typical tourist), and just soak them up until they become like the back of my hand.

    I prefer to get to know a place at my own slow pace, rather than “visit” it. Otherwise I start to feel drained, tired, and worn out. I know one person who sometimes goes into a dreamy speech about how great it would be if right now we were traveling around a foreign country, heading from town to town, and sipping drinks in cafes in famous locales, and I just groan inside and think, “no.” Been there, done that. I have no desire to constantly be on the move like a tourist anymore.

    Some of my best travel memories are hanging out for days on end in secluded places that no tourist would ever think to be worth their time – and that is fine with me. 🙂 Sometimes the best type of travel is the type where you no longer have to travel. 🙂

    • Great observations, Isabella!
      Indeed travel is so very different for everybody, and it’s also an evolution. The more places you see, the less it is about seeing places, and the more it is about BEING there. (At least that’s the way it has evolved for me, as well as you).

      As for having lost a little piece of myself, I find when you are constantly flexing and bending and generally being a chameleon to your surroundings (as I often have), the less I remember what it is to just be me – whatever that is.
      I’m still working on this theory, so it’s a little messy to describe…. 😉

  8. Hi Nora. Once again your thoughts resonate with me. I followed you for years before I sold my home in Auckland, stuff into storage, bought a pack with wheels and took off to wander. With a son in Dalllas I headed there, stayed with him for 2 weeks and realised I was invading his privacy so 2 weeks was the limit. From there to McAllen TX, London, house sitting UK, Madrid for VT, Dallas, house sitting San Diego and Atherton Tableland Australia, and back to NZ to claim my Pension! After staying with daughter and family and friends for a few months realised I couldn’t do this…my mother always said visitors are like fish….they go off after 4 days, so my visits were always 4 days max…except my son! You are right about old friends not understanding
    the time one spends on iPad….and one even thought she had to entertain me. What had happened? I flatted with her in Wellington in the 1960’s….why this new attitude??
    So I bought a condo in Dallas and a house in Omokoroa, out of Tauranga. Now I find I haven’t got that feeling of freedom I had when I sold in Auckland!! I bought both as investments and am willingly going to to sell this. Too much garden, mainentance etc…everything I was delighted to lose! But I’ll keep Dallas as its my base for ME. I know now how important that is. Once sold here I’m off to do two more VTs with friends I’ve made doing it before and then a Spanish girl who holidayed with we three is taking us to her home town for another wild girls holiday!! But I do know I have a base to return to which I know for me is important. Hard to find perfection isn’t it!!!

    • Hi Jo,
      I so love to hear from you as the years roll by and to see how your own travels are evolving.

      Very interesting about the change of circumstances with your friend with whom you used to room with in Wellington. In my experience, when I stay with old friends (and even new friends), it’s generally considered a time of celebration and a special event. Thus, the need to “entertain” as you say; which if I’m to interpret it correctly (given my own experience with it), is simply a desire to get quality time in together. And when you’re a traveler – your hosts want to show you the best of their home town.

      But sometimes I don’t think hosts understand when all you want is to simply “let it all hang out” and just be with your friends/hosts. I find blunt communication is the best way to get everybody on the same page – although that doesn’t always work either. 😉

  9. Hello Nora,

    Happy belated New Year!

    I am happy to see you doing so well.

    Your willingness to share reflections on the evolution of your views on travel is truly unique and clearly comes the heart and soul.

    Depending upon your personality, and the time you have available, time alone is often as important as cultural immersion, seeing new things, learning a new language, eating new food. Your mind and imagination needs to take all these experiences in, as you certainly cannot give if you do not have a certain peace of mind. I loved nothing more than drinking a glass of wine in France or Italy while looking out at the countryside, deep in daydream, not stressed by any upcoming “schedule,” perhaps reading a great book or listening to music that connected.

    Slow travel, slow food, good life…

    Just ask the great writers and artists of the past centuries who eased into life in inspiring but relaxing environments. Matisse, Cezanne, D.H. Lawrence, and on and on. Life you, we are all artists, some, like me, lacking the formative skills, but able to appreciate…

    You instincts are clearly right, in my book.

      • Hi Gregory – You have spent a lifetime traveling in various aspects, and I very much respect your opinion on such matters…and thus your support is all the more appreciated.

        You’re right – my words do come from the heart and soul; although somewhat selfishly I must admit, since putting these thoughts into black & white seems to help me understand – and own – my state of affairs.
        I’m simply glad that other people can relate to and learn from my own reflections.

        PS – Happy New Year to you as well!

  10. Ha! So true. Someone was telling me that having to explain to family members, friends or newly made friends what location independent means and that you are actually working and, in my case, that I need hours of uninterrupted time to get the work done because IT PAYS THE BILLS is an opportunity to educate others. I find that having to educate others on the concept comes with too high of a time and energy price and some are so resistent to the concept that it just doesn’t pay to try to explain it to them.

    So, I go for renting my own apartment and paying the higher cost which ends up costing me less in lost work time and overall stress. Right now I’m renting an unfurnished apartment in the middle of a medium-sized Korean town … and sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag. I have my own internet connection, control over my own schedule and bought the basics for cooking. It’s me, my sleeping bag and my computer. And we are getting along like long-lost best friends. Ahhhhhhh! What a relief.

    • Hi Ana – I’m glad this resonates with you! Your little Korean dwelling sounds like a paradise all its own.
      Since renting this place I describe above, I moved over to a close friend’s home (a much bigger one, in which we both have ample space to co-exist), and have been staying with her for almost a month now. Sometimes the work-life balance is easier than other times; I’ve learned that it’s a matter of sequestering myself somewhere that I’m not accessible for easy interruptions (eg: don’t set up in the living room), and explicit communication that I need to work like a full-time job has helped. But we all falter at times as well…

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