Why “Settle Down” is a Bad Word….or Not

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On what it is to settle down:

An old friend from Toronto who keeps a fatherly eye on me sent me the following email after reading my post detailing all the bad things that have happened in my travels:

…you’ve done it all; I think it’s really aged you, despite the good times. At least you can say you did it…come on home and get back to an ordinary life, because you don’t want to be out there when you’re old….

He went on to beg me not to be mad at him and explained that he was coming from a dad’s perspective.

I know you’re reading this, Sal, and I want to thank you. I’m not mad. I know you’re saying everything out of love. And I’m learning from your years of wisdom.

I pondered the email for a few weeks.

Initially, although I maintained an overall sense of gratitude for Sal’s reaching out, I was angry at the contents.

Here's the most insulting question you can ask a digital nomad. #digitalnomad #TheProfessionalHobo #travellifestyle #remotework #longtermtravel #fulltimetravel

This post was originally published in 2013.
Ironically, in 2018, I did return to my home town to establish a home base (from which I continue to travel for about half of each year). Most of what I wrote in this post still stands, but has also evolved and shifted. Because…life.

Get back “home”?

Where is home? Although I’m originally from Toronto, and it remains a place where I’m ultimately quite comfortable by virtue of family and familiarity, it’s not necessarily a place I want to call “home” again. I’m open to the idea, but not banking on it.

My view of the world and how it incorporates my “home” has changed dramatically since I started traveling. Home doesn’t have to be a single, or constant, or life-long place; I lived in Australia for a year and a half, and for a time I called it “home” – even though I knew I wouldn’t stay forever. I had a local group of friends, community activities and portals, and a house with a key that was mine – which I referred to as “home”, as in: “Thanks for the great dinner, Sheila. I’m going home now.

Was Australia home? Sounds pretty home-y to me…at least for the time I was there.

The same goes for time I spent in New Zealand, and now Grenada.

Long-term travelers and digital nomads love to wax poetic about “home” and what home is; it’s an especially hot topic if you’re technically “homeless”, as I have been since 2007. Although I used to say that home was where I lay my head down for the night, or that home was my backpack, I must admit, these are no longer suitable definitions for me.

My definition of home has changed over the years.

My home town is Toronto.

But that doesn’t necessarily make it my home.

Home – for me – is now a place where I have my own space (and internet!), I feel relatively comfortable, I have social ties of some sort, and I can take time to explore or just relax – as I wish. An essential ingredient is the physical structure of “home” itself, which is my haven, my escape, and my grounding.

A place that provides these qualities might continue to feel this way for a month, a year, or many years.

“Ordinary” Life?

This is the other part of the email that irked me. What is an ordinary life? In my follow up post showing the highlights of my travels, I boldly stated that I choose an extra-ordinary life over an ordinary one.

Ordinary doesn’t beg images of…well…of anything, for me. At least, “ordinary” incites nothing exciting, or motivating, or even worth getting out of bed for.

I guess “ordinary” in the context of this email implied that my friend thinks I’ll still return to my senses, settle down (*shudder*….keep reading), get a place to live and a stable relationship, possibly restart my financial planning business, and maybe even kick out a few kids.

If we take away the societal template above and break it down to its most basic form, I would say “ordinary” simply encompasses the daily ordinances of life….with lots of familiarity and not too much variety.

As such, I have an ordinary life (sometimes)….it’s just that my ordinary and your ordinary aren’t the same. Although my daily routine when I’m in Grenada might be anything but ordinary for somebody in Alaska, rest assured that many days include lots of familiarity (work, cooking, cleaning, shopping, the tasks of daily living). Variety comes only when I go looking for it.

But with a repertoire of extra-ordinary experiences dating throughout my life, I don’t think I’ll ever quite shake that call which lures me beyond the world of ordinary from time to time. I’ve never – ever – been an “ordinary” girl (for better or worse), and I feel no need to become one.

“Settle Down”…Shudder

Although my friend didn’t actually use the words “settle down”, they were dripping from his email. It’s the easiest and most accessible term people use with regards to the assumed end-date of a person’s long-term or full-time travels.

And even if there’s no end-date in sight, onlookers sit back and knowingly nod at one another, understanding that at some point, the traveler in question will see the light and settle down. It’s nature’s way, right?

I’ve taken issue with this phrase since the beginning. The very semantics of “settling down” paints pictures of being a submissive, down-on-the-ground, obedient member of society. The words are low, restrictive, and final.

I even prefer the phrase “grow up” to “settle down”, because at least it implies an upward trend and something to shoot for!

And yet, one of the most consistent questions I’ve been asked over the years is “When are you going to settle down?It’s not even considered an “if”. It’s “when”.

For the first few years I reacted in anger and frustration for being asked such a question. I launched into tirades debasing the concept and explaining all the practical reasons why I don’t ever need to settle down.

I was surprised at the number of people who just didn’t grasp the idea that a lifestyle of financially sustainable full-time travel negates the need to ever settle down.

Settle down is a bad word.

Or is it?

I intensely dislike the unspoken implication that once you’ve settled down, that’s it. You’ve sowed your wild oats, now it’s time to live an….ordinary…..life.

Life changes, and the more prepared we are to flex and roll with the waves, the more we’ll get out of it. Sometimes that means “unsettling”.

So if “settling down” can be seen as a period in life instead of a life sentence, then I’ll agree to hate the term less.

Accidentally, and to my immediate horror, I actually used the term “settle down” in a speedy explanation of my lifestyle and travel/business progression to a new acquaintance. It slipped off the tongue, and I must admit it successfully communicated the idea of my creating a home base in Grenada.

I could probably stand to let go of my intricate semantic battles against the term.

“You don’t want to be out there when you’re old”…

This part of the email didn’t anger me at all; rather it gave me pause for thought.

Where do I want to be when I’m old?

What is old?

What will I want when I’m old?

And is there anything in my current course of action that could adversely affect my life when I’m old?

As a former financial planner, I believe I’ve planned for a comfortable future as best as I can; I’ve got savings and insurance; I’ve tried to anticipate my needs, and I’ve prepared – and hedged my bets – for a future unknown.

What I can’t plan for are the intangible needs of old age. What will be important to me? Physical comfort? A support/social network? A quiet routine?

Is it possible that spending a life traipsing around the world creating meaningful relationships with people scattered around is counterproductive to creating the local stable support network I might crave when I’m old?

This is one of a few scenarios I run through my head in wondering if my traveling lifestyle is bad for old age. But for every hypothetical suggestion of a problem, I have a compelling opposite argument. And thus, I spin my wheels.

I’m still thinking about that email…

…and I’m still musing on what it all means.

In the meantime, Sal:

If you can accept the idea that home is a place that can change in location over time and life, then please know – I’m home.

And if you will agree that “ordinary” is different for different people, and that it boils down to a life inclusive of familiarity, comfort, and continuity with the surroundings, then please know – I live an ordinary life. (Mostly).

And I can’t say what will happen when I’m old. (Can anybody?)

If “being out there when you’re old” means living somewhere else in the world away from Canada – there’s a good chance I’ll end up “out there” somewhere. But if that place is home, and I’m living an ordinary life, I figure 2 out of 3 is a pretty good deal.

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116 thoughts on “Why “Settle Down” is a Bad Word….or Not”

  1. I can imagine how you must feel. We (hubby and our 2 kids) are planning on taking off next year for a minimum 1 year trip (mainly to Chiang Mai and Penang), but when we come back “home” it will only be for a couple of months to work enough to keep my practicing license for my profession, then we’ll leave again for another year.

    I have noticed that this notion of taking off like this either makes people excited for us, or look at us with great concern as though we’ve surely lost our minds!

    “You’re being irrational!”
    “Why would you leave Canada to go to a third-world country?”
    “What about the kids?”
    “What about your jobs?”
    “You know a property manager will never take care of your house as well as you do!” (we’ll be renting out our house)
    And on it goes…

    I’m not sure why this idea freaks people out so much – it’s not like we’re going to Iraq – it’s not like we’re going to be living in hovel somewhere full of rats and fleas… But I guess the unknown scares people… whereas to us, after years of searching for the place we’d go, months of heavy research into our planned destination, it does not seem scary at all.

    As for your misadventures in 7 years of travel, crap can happen anywhere. If you ask a bunch of people who live here about what kinds of bad things have happened to them over the past 7 years, while there will be many lucky people who honestly haven’t had anything all that bad happen, there will be plenty who will have a list of things that were awful at the time, just as you do. Yet here they were, in Canada.

    Car accidents causing broken pelvises, collapsed lungs and other horrors…
    Diagnosis of disease that will kill them years earlier than they planned…
    Horrible stresses at work leading to depression, counseling, medication…
    Bankruptcies and other credit problems…
    And on it goes…

    Bad things happen anywhere. I’m not trying to say one shouldn’t do careful research to travel to safer places and minimize one’s risks to a reasonable level, but I’m sure that most travelers (just like most “ordinary” people living “ordinary” lives), end up just fine. 🙂

    • Hi Sheralyn,
      Sounds like a great travel lifestyle plan you’re developing!

      I must say, I encountered very little friction from family/friends/colleagues when I announced my decision to sell everything and travel. Most people were supportive (some were confused, but didn’t do much other than to shrug their shoulders at the whole affair).

      And you’re absolutely right – bad things happen anywhere. I think that on the road it’s just a little harder to cope with (since you’re out of your comfort zone to begin with) and a little more dramatic.

      • re: harder to cope – yeah, I can see how that would make a difference being away from your comfort zone and support network back home

        Hopefully after getting whatever after-effects of your recent accident behind you (as much as you guys can, anyhow), you’ll be in for a good streak of luck for a good long while now!

  2. Amen for this post! I have been confronted with this as both an actor and also once I became a full time nomad two years ago.

    I think as we are going against the grain as nomads freaks people out for a multitude of reasons…but nowadays, I’m not all that worried WHAT people think. The ones in my life that get it and/or support me in my choice are the ones I like sharing with. Anyone else that starts up that whole “When are you going to settle down, buy a house, buy a car, get a man…”etc nonsense I leave on the sidelines…and send them postcards.

    • Hey Janine,
      Most people who ask when I’m going to settle down don’t do it with a judging tone. They either do it out of love and concern (as Sal did), or it’s just asked casually by people who I’m describing my lifestyle to. So I try not to be too harsh on them (any more)… 🙂

      • That’s true too. I sometimes put up the shield fast when folks start in tho lately, but this was a good reminder to take a breath and see if it’s more from a non-judgmental/loving place…altho the other day someone said “Gosh, I hope you find whatever it is you are looking for.” so maybe that’s why my spidey senses went into overdrive:) Thanks for the reminder not everyone is out to take you down.

        • re: “I hope you find whatever it is you are looking for.”

          This one gets me too… I think because I can’t help but feel like they say that meaning “I think you’re wrong to do this, it’s too risky, but I don’t want to offend you, so I’ll just tell you ‘I hope you find whatever you’re looking for’ and hope you don’t notice that I think you are doing the worst. thing. ever… your poor kids!!”

          When you go on a 2 week vacation, no-one tells you they “hope you find whatever it is you are looking for”… when you apply for a new job no-one tells you this… if you move to a new neighbourhood no-one tells you they “hope you find whatever it is you are looking for” etc. Rather, this statement is usually said when people disapprove, but don’t want to outright say it.

          And for sure, it is often said by people who love and care for us, but it would be so much nicer if they could find it in themselves to say “I’m so excited for you that you’re going to be doing this thing, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes!” or, if saying they are excited for us would be a lie, even just a “Wow! Good luck on your journey!” would be an improvement lol

          Ahhh, well… I guess this is the price we pay for not wanting the same life that most other people want. Not the end of the world, right? 🙂

          • Janine & Sheralyn – The other X-factor in here behind what people say is often a tinge of jealousy, and a feeling of their own lifestyle choices being challenged (and rejected by you).
            This is why our spidey senses go off when people say things that could be/should be (and often are still) coming from a place of love. They’re dealing with their own demons as well.

  3. Hi Nora…….this post resonated with me and how!! As you know I sold my house in Auckland last year in April, bought a pack on wheels and set off as a flash packer ….not a back packer.
    Skip the next 6 months wandering the world….back to NZ as I am a “pensioner”….hate that word…..and we are only allowed out of NZ for 26 weeks. If we overstay, the pension is cut off. So I wandered around NZ…..doing Grandma duties along the way…..and on visiting very old friends in Napier, one husband said to me. “Jo. I don’t know what you are doing or why you are doing it. I don’t understand. Why don’t you stay home and take up knitting”. Hahahaha. I nearly exploded with mirth. His wife nearly exploded with shock as she had been to Europe a few months before with a friend for two months….hubby is not interested in travelling any more.
    Well I have told that story to so many people that when I rang and told his wife I had bought a house in NZ and a condo in Dallas he wouldn’t comment in case he heard it all back!!! But then that is where he is happy….but he thinks others should be too. I thought later I would love to have said..(but wouldn’t have) Fred, what makes the adrenaline rush for you? Watching your hydroponic tomatoes grow? That would have been too mean. We are just different.
    People like you and me do not fit the norm Nora….which is why I enjoy your posts so much. I went to England in 1962 for 3 years and the travel bug has never left me. So what will you do when you are old? Probably be like me and keep on moving along…..and loving it! I did have a brief 13 year marriage and two wonderful kids….41 and 37…. And a lot of years bringing them up and attending to my future financially and now I am free. And they love what I do. So the plan is summer in Dallas and summer in NZ…..but lots more travel during those times.
    So Sal……some of us are different, and so different it’s hard for “normal” people to understand. I am sure you really know that Nora is more happy doing what’s she’s doing than she would be back at “home”.
    Although its hard to take these direct or indirect criticisms Nora……in the end it’s like water off a ducks back…..Without meaning to demean the worries of friends. We just have to learn to live with it.
    As always….love your posts…..and take care.

    • Thank you so much, Jo! I’m thrilled that your kids understand your lifestyle and love that you’re doing it – that’s a win! And you’re right about the rest of ’em…water off a duck’s back… 🙂

    • Jo,
      Your story gives me much comfort. I’m happy living my life as a wanderer, but sometimes the comments about settling down make me doubt myself. I’m only 27, what if those people are right? What if I’m supposed to be doing grown-up things now? What if I regret these years of wandering when I’m older and it’s too late? Thank you for showing me that life-long travel is a happy possibility! 🙂

    • Hi Jo
      I would so love to hear more of your travel stories as I am of the older generation too…I told my children from a young age that I would be a back packing granny one day. My daughter has since seen 52 countries and she is only 28 years old, This email story about Sal was such an interesting read. I wish I could put my thoughts on paper like her.. I soo envy you both. Please email me at [email protected] Cheers from down under Liz

  4. This post! You have won an instant subscription from me!
    I couldn’t agree with what you said more. It makes my blood boil when people refer to my travel plans as stupid or a waste of time. The standard narrative that is get a stable job, get married, have kids, buy a house never really resonated with me, not when the stable job was something that payed you well financially and let you spiritually poor.
    A life of monotony and routine would just never do, not when there’s so much out there in the world to explore. I plan on being rich in memories and experiences and comfortable financially.
    I understand travel isn’t for everyone but if you’re not pursuing a career you’re truly passionate about there’s no excuse not to try it.

    • Nick –
      I’d like to think the societal template (get a house/job/marriage/kids/etc) is shifting, in part due to the number of people who can make a living as digital nomads.
      Then again, maybe we’re still the vast minority and I’m just fooling myself! Ha ha!

  5. Yes, this strongly resonated with me too. So often you “take the words right out of my mouth” and this post has more than the usual number of instances of that. Your description of home is pretty much a perfect fit for me: “Home doesn’t have to be a single or constant or life-long place” and, “If you can accept the idea that home is a place that can change in location over time and life, then please know – I’m home.” Like Jo, although I’m not a pensioner yet, I have kids, 3 of them, back in Victoria, BC (Canada) where I – mostly – raised them. Mostly, because daughter #2 was born in Ireland while I was on a family mission. Daughter #1 attended Irish school for the time we were there and perhaps that helped contribute to some of her own wanderlust, as she has since often traveled and worked abroad with me (teaching English). When daughter #1initially talked me into ditching my law school plans and joining her in getting my certification to teach English, I sold everything (apartment, furniture, car…) and we flew to S.E. Asia to get certified, leaving daughter #2 and son at “home” with family for a couple of months. After that, I flew them over to join us and we wound up in Chiang Mai where we got great jobs and had an extraordinary time for a year and a half. My son – only he – longed for “home” and, so back to Victoria we went. Once he finished school and moved out, daughter #1 and I left for the Middle East to teach and travel and that has, almost entirely, with a brief stint in Edmonton last winter, been my “home” base for the past 6 years, mostly in the UAE where we could pop of to China, India, Africa or any number of places.

    I had to smile at Sheralyn’s comment about Iraq, because that’s where I currently call “home” and live my pretty “ordinary” life (for the most part). For here (the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan), ordinary includes a number of things most people wouldn’t recognize as such, including frequent check points and soldiers with kalishnikovs sprinkled liberally about to name just a couple.

    Anyway, you’ve obviously touched a chord in some of us and I want to thank you for your post, and for all your oh-so-honest-and-real posts which allow those of us who sometimes feel on the periphery to have a sense of connection of community:) You are much appreciated.

    I would love to reblog this on my own blog if you would give your permission (and, ha ha, tell me how I’m on WordPress and only know how to do that with other WordPress blogs).


    • OMG! What are the odds of someone reading this currently making Iraq their home! I hope I didn’t offend you – whoops! Evidently, I should have picked another country for my example – sorry about that!!

    • Hi Maureen –
      I sometimes wonder if the travel bug is infused into our DNA – some people have it, some don’t. I think if you’re exposed to travel at an early age that you’re more predisposed, but as in your son’s case, not everybody.
      I know I have travel in my blood; it’s been more than a lifelong dream – it’s been an innate knowledge – that I would travel and experience the world. Which is why “settle down” is a relative term for me!

    • Fab,
      Truly, I appreciated my friend’s email; when something evokes an emotional response in me (such as anger), I ask myself why I’m feeling that; it’s usually because there’s some element of truth to it or a new viewpoint I need to see.

    • Great article about happiness, by the way – although scary that 50% of our ability to be happy is genetic. I like the tips for “being happy” – good lifestyle suggestions.

      • Hi Nora,

        as far as “although scary that 50% of our ability to be happy is genetic.”

        Here is a more constructive and logic approach:

        Ben-Shahar argues in his book that happiness is not an end state, but rather something you work towards your whole life. Thus, you can be happier each day. Even happiness is a journey, not a destination….

        Highly recommended!

        All the best!


  6. “…because you don’t want to be out there when you’re old….”

    Uh, well yes dear Sal, “out there” is precisely where I DO want to be… now that I’m, errr a lass of shall we say “a certain age” (a.k.a. in some misguided circles as the “O” word).

    And indeed… “out there” I dare say I AM – nearly 2+ years living here in a g-forsaken rice paddy in Vietnam, and having the time of my life riding camels in the Gobi, treking from ger to ger in the boonies of western Mongolia, riding elephants in Laos, gawking at Uluru in Oz and orangutans in Sumatra, and furthermore…

    Poised now to head off to… who knows? Likely Myanmar, Nepal, Tibet. Then I may well jump whole CONTINENTS, and “settle down” (for a spell) in Ecuador… or possibly Croatia.

    In short dear Sal – I know you mean well, but for some of us dodderin’ old fools – “out there” is what most tickles our (wanderlust) toes.

    • Dyanne!
      Tee hee! I love it. Thank you; you are an inspiration and and infusion of joy…and confidence.
      And I like the idea you are happy to “settle” and “unsettle” at will! Cheers!

  7. Hi Nora,
    I believe Sal has done you a very good service. By posing the questions, he has caused you to examine your future. This is a good thing.
    I am probably much closer in age to Sal than to you, so my perspective on life tells me that your vision of your future will evolve organically as you go along.
    That’s a good thing, too.
    You are fortunate to have Sal.
    Travel well,

    • Thank you, Josie,
      I do indeed expect to evolve and grow with life, experience, and newfound bits of wisdom along the way. And yes – I am lucky to have Sal. 🙂

  8. Hi Nora, Yes, I’ve often wondered that myself, about us being just born to it. I know I’ve always had it and, although generally an obedient child, I just couldn’t seem to help myself from wandering afar and worrying my poor parents, right up to when I was 17 and, on an impulse (!), grabbed a plastic bag with a few essentials, almost no money and left with my best friend to hitch-hike across Canada from Vancouver. My poor mother. And of my 3 kids, only the eldest is truly a wanderer as well; my second daughter likes to travel, but isn’t really compelled the way I am.

    And Sheralyn, please don’t worry; I wasn’t in the slightest offended, only amused:) After all, much of Iraq is still far from being safe, although it’s safe where I am, in Sulimainia in Kurdistan. It’s actually my second time here; I was here 2 years ago as well, working as a contractor and teaching English to Iraqi cadets on a US army base (and I a former pacifist). That time though I was based first near Tikrit and then in Taji, near Baghdad. If you’re interested, I documented some of my experiences there (www.maurdian.wordpress.com – the “Babylon Unplugged” one.)

    • Whew! Glad I didn’t offend you!

      Safety issues aside, I bet Iraq is a fascinating place to be, and it’s good you found a safe corner of the country to hang out – I will definitely check out your blog! 🙂

  9. What a post…I had to scroll and keep scrolling just to get to the bottom to leave a comment. So, so, so many well articulated thoughts in this post. I just read it non-stop and will keep rereading this. And your quote, “I was surprised at the number of people who just didn’t grasp the idea that a lifestyle of financially sustainable full-time travel negates the need to ever settle down.” It is a different concept, and had I not made the plunge I don’t know if I would get it either. That said, realizing the freedom of a life style of long term travel, I have no plans of going back.
    Thanks for this awesome and thought provoking post.

    • Thank you, Tiffany!
      There’s a common perception that traveling long-term/full-time involves shirking future responsibilities, hence it must have a limited time frame. It’s only recently that it has become more widely possible to cover all the bases and stay on the road.
      It will just take time for people to get used to this idea.
      Then again, maybe my friend is right in the end, and most/all long-term travelers will return “home” at some point! 🙂

  10. This post really resonated with me. I know those who care from us impart their advice out of a genuine desire to see us happy, but it’s amazing how they all fail to see that what makes them happy is not what makes other people happy.

    The whole, “when you come home” comments, with no real acknowledgement that all evidence points to the fact that people like us won’t return home bugs me. I wish that others in our lives could just see for a moment that we are living lives that make us happy.

    • Hey Paul – I hear ya.
      When faced with these jarring comments, I tend to do two things (hopefully before I get angry and let loose a tirade):
      1) I examine what in the comment upsets me (maybe there’s something in myself I need to look at)
      2) I try to understand where they’re coming from within themselves. Maybe they’re jealous, or they just want us to be home with them! 😉

  11. Fab – There was a study done a while ago to find “the happiest people in the world”. The results? They didn’t make $75k (or any money at all)….they were Tibetan monks in a tiny little mountain town.
    These people understand what it is to work towards happiness and they foster it in everything they do.

    • Hi Nora,

      thank you very much for the news!!

      But one thing is living according to certain values, virtues, principles which are appreciated within Western countries, another thing completely different is living according to other different values, virtues, principles which are appreciated within Eastern countries!!

      Hence, that kind of study is flawed by definition!

      In other words, the results of that kind of comparison are totally misleading!!

      Apart from that, we live, as human beings, for the body, for the mind and for the soul.

      Hence, I don’t think that a life as a Tibetan monk is a life that allows the full expression of your body, mind and soul, all the three together!!

      Unless you think that a human being is just soul !!

      Anyway, I respect their choice of life!!

      However, here is a recent model very accurate about the subject of happiness:

      The PERMA Model
      Bringing Well-Being and Happiness to Your Life


      All the best!


  12. I sometimes think “settle down” is just code for “settle for less than your dreams.” If dreaming dreams and going after them isn’t an integral part of what makes us human, I don’t know what is. I think it goes without saying that one person’s dream will be another’s bafflement, but people who love each other try to understand each others’ bafflements without trying to change each other. And that’s a life-long (and worthwhile) pursuit!

    Retirement is sometimes a similar kind of word. At age 53, it’s one I’m starting to hear more and one that comes with truckloads of often unexamined assumptions. I’ve horrified many of my friends by recently selling my house and getting rid of most of my belongings–and feeling so very free! I’m starting up a new business and getting set to go location independent as soon as my daughter finishes high school and is settled in uni, and I can’t wait to get to this next chapter of life!

    I’ve thought about that question of where I want to be when I get old. “Out there” makes it sound like the rest of the world is a scary, cold place. Every place has positives and negatives, and the healthcare (lack thereof, expense, etc.) in many of them is something that does make me stop and think, since I enjoy freely available healthcare here in Canada. That’s a consideration of ageing, for sure. But what’s scariest to me is the idea of not making my contribution and not reaching for my potential–in short, of not, at least, pursuing my dreams!

    • Hi Loretta –
      What a fabulous plan you have afoot! And I hear everything you are saying. You are obviously driven by a dream, and for you not to pursue it would be a shame. You’re on your way!

      I wonder, if for others, the dream really is to “settle down”. To create a nest, stability, and a loving – and easy – environment to live in; now and for years to come. I know a few people for whom that defines happiness, and I don’t begrudge them an iota for it.

      As for the “R” word, I’m hearing another term used that more accurately describes the shift from lifelong career to something else: Re-engagement! Because that’s what it really is; these days people rarely retire and cease to do anything (in days gone by life expectancy at retirement age wasn’t very long – now it’s decades); so they’re often starting new businesses, traveling, and….re-engaging the world in a new way. Like you! Hoorah!

      • I love that re-engagement word! I still hear a lot of people using the other r-word, but it would be great to shift the conversation! In the meantime…well, I’m used to the pitying looks and head scratching by now! 🙂

    • Ha ha! Fair enough.
      Our lifestyle preferences aside, I must simply conclude that you have a much higher tolerance for cold weather and snow than I do! 😉

  13. I moved abroad to study in NZ for a year 4 years ago, and stayed and addtional 3+ because I got a “real job”, (teaching). I quit my job to travel across Canada (roadtripping with my kiwi boyfriend), and although I am “home” in the country I was born, in the area I spent 4 years at university (Niagara was ‘home’ at one time too) and am headed back to my home town in Nova Scotia, when I tell people about New Zealand, I tell them what ‘home’ is like. I’ve got this ridiculous Nova Scotian/New Zealand mixed accent and have tickets to go back to NZ. I’ve left pieces of my heart in every home I’ve had, even I get confused sometimes explaining “where I’m ‘from'”

    • Kate – I very much understand! Each place we call home tends to instill a little bit of itself in us. I do believe that as life goes along, we are a cumulation of our experiences….and homes….and friends….
      Enjoy your visit back “home” in Canada, and your return “home” to NZ! (I loooooove NZ).

  14. First, Brava to all the lasses of a certain age touring the continents! I too, hope to be “out there” when I am old. As an American, there is really no such thing as a stable job or future anyway, so why not throw it all in a backpack and vaminos?Kudos to you, Nora, for blazing a path. Save me a seat!

    • Haha – thanks, Elena!
      True enough; the days of employer/employee loyalty and job stability are out the window. It’s a new landscape; we’re all just learning how to shape it! 🙂

  15. Thank you for this post! I can totally relate. I appreciate your perspective about trying to decipher what it is about any particular comment that upsets you, or what might be the real feeling that motivated the person to say it in the first place.

    I’ve traveled for blocks of time as well, and most of my friends and family were supportive, even if they didn’t quite understand why I’d want to downsize my lifestyle (even though, to me, there was nothing “downsized” about it).

    But I did hear that exact phrase mentioned above — “I hope you find whatever it is you are looking for” — from one friend in particular. I was totally offended by it at the time… it felt condescending and judgmental. Over time I realized that I’d been insensitive as a friend (some totally unrelated stuff) and that my travels probably just compounded her feeling that I’d abandoned her. Realizing that there were probably these other motives behind her comment helped me to be a little more understanding.

    I appreciate your honesty with yourself and with your audience as you grapple with these things along the way. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hey Kim,
      Human relations and communication is a funny thing; good for you for realizing that your friend might feel abandoned – it’s a very valid observation, but one that is rarely consciously acknowledged by either party. Hence, the off-handed comments and ruffled feathers.
      Thanks for your support!

  16. Well… I have similar pressure from family in that way… I have even had one of those year out med students tell a guy I was sitting with when he revealed his age of 40 and the girl said “that’s married with children time!” that line has stuck in my head as I am now 35 and the same person I was back then when I heard that…. what did she mean ?

    There is nothing exciting about “settling down” the way it is implied is that you should now give up on life and swim with the current.. alot of it comes down to taking it easy, and collecting the most items you can…

    Now I have been sort of settled for about 5-6 years, in a small cabin on the BC coast with only short trips once per year, and I do value the closer friendships you make over time, and a sense of comfort .. but truth be told it makes you lazy, time goes by way quicker without anything really changing… and I see some people are happy as they scored a good partner, have some beauty children, and worked their way up to a nice home.. but many others didn’t choose it, the majority that didn’t score a good partner are some of the most unhappy people you could imagine.

    Life is a quick slip threw the forest, and it’s over… if you die in a desert somewhere alone, or with a new friend, it might a little sad for a few moments that you aren’t surrounded by all sorts of comfort and friends and family, but on the other hand if you spend your life in constant submission, it can feel sad everyday all day, as people are busy, you might get away once a week, ad o a never ending list of daily chores like fixing your house, washing your car.. and of course there is always the weather issues in Canada…

    I thing I have learned more from older people (70+) is that if you get to live that long, you know you better do everything you can, you aren’t just sitting around waiting to die.. and if you skipped out of life and just settled for whatever you were told and didn’t follow your heart, you know it by 70.

    Also It’s impossible for some people, Canadians are some of the worst, to understand that there is much more depth to life then staying huddled up infront of a warm fire or having that big closet for all your clothes can be all neat and tidy… it’s a product of being brainwashed to accept life as a submissive person, we don’t even question why our food is so expensive and bad, our lives so fenced in with rules.. our country is nice, but the urban situation is bland..

    Humans are weird that way, we tend to only see what is there, what someone has build and the squares your supposed to fit into…

    I have finally gotten to a point in my life when my some of my richer family members start asking when I am going to “settle down” and become like them, I finally got the guts to pick apart their life and point out they haven’t stopped talking about their purchases, their house and how I find their daily lives boring, how they don’t seem to have very many exciting things to talk about, and how they seem to only mildly satisfied with their choices…

    Now when they ask me when to settle down, I ask them when they are going to start living and do something with their life they were given past the realm of boring, materialistic, comfort driven mass consumption … they think I still some clueless hippy..

    I am not trying to be to negative, really I am just saying, do what TURNS YOUR CRANK, you might feel lonely for a month or two one day on your death bed in some lonely little place … but then again that is more likely to happen to you right at “home’ in some sterile mega hospital in Canada…. or you might pass way in the arms of a nice family somewhere under a palm tree in bliss… who knows… if you spend your whole life planning for your old age, you find out quickly that it was when your healthy you should have lived..

    anways… sorry for the ramble, this really bothers me… it’s hard to show someone back “home” why you left, you are there and they show you all their toys and stuff, and you and their eyes glaze over when you even hint at your adventures..

    • Hey PJ – I don’t even know where to begin! I agree with everything you’ve said – very eloquent and thought-provoking.
      Some of your comments that especially resonated with me:

      With regards to your currently “settled” life in BC (awesome place to be, by the way!): “but truth be told it makes you lazy, time goes by way quicker without anything really changing…” Indeed, the more our environment changes, the more time moves slowly. I wrote about that here:

      “and if you skipped out of life and just settled for whatever you were told and didn’t follow your heart, you know it by 70” – I believe there’s so much wisdom to glean from older generations. Too bad they tend to be viewed more as “excess baggage” in places like North America than revered members of society.

      “we tend to only see what is there, what someone has build and the squares your supposed to fit into” – The overlying human condition is to follow, I believe. That leads to ‘keeping up with the Jonses’.

      “you might feel lonely for a month or two one day on your death bed in some lonely little place … but then again that is more likely to happen to you right at “home’ in some sterile mega hospital in Canada…” – As much as we might try to prepare for “old age”….or anything in life really….we can’t plan for the curve balls that come our way.

      Thanks for all the food for thought!

  17. From my head on paper! Thank you for this!

    As a fellow life long traveler, I’ve never lived in one place for more than 1.5 years, and I’m nearly 30. My jobs (tour guiding and dive guiding) are steady and keep me financially stable and happy. Working in Canada vs abroad for me is settling down and I always shudder when I’m asked that infamous question. Its definitely a struggle to constantly have to repeat the same thing, explaining why their version of ordinary/setting down is different from my version. I’m stable, I’m happy and I feel like I have MANY places to call ‘home’ so why do I need to have the 9-5, mortgage payment lifestyle right? Definitely sharing this well articulated post! 🙂


    • Thanks, Rachel!
      I wonder if there would be more friend/family support or tolerance of moving regularly if it is done in a smaller geographic area – like all in Canada. I think there’s something about the globetrotting aspect that makes it appear…less…responsible? I don’t know.

  18. Excellent Post that brings up some of Our Human and most “basic” feelings.

    Almost everyone wants to “fit in” and simply feel comfortable. This is a most basic Human Desire. Some (those who truly “get it”) realize that this “being comfortable” is ALL about what is WITHIN and the Awareness that Peace & Joy are always as close to us as closing ones eyes and just FEELING.

    For the rest of us, we search, sometimes constantly, to find this Inner Peace or Joy by looking outside of ourselves. This comes (easily!) in the form of “going with the flow” and following The Pack, or the rest of Humanity, perhaps in the hope that “they” have an idea of where True Happiness is (haha). (Certainly the Media will show us!)

    Anyone NOT following this well worn path along which the countless millions tread MAY pose a threat to those who are still plodding along that well worn path. The “oddity” or cast-out, the Free Thinker may cause the “ordinary person” to have thoughts or (heaven forbid) doubts about their OWN Choice of Path.

    And, of course, it is ALWAYS Choice, whether or not we are AWARE of Choice or making Conscious Choice. Plodding the “normal path” of Humanity IS after all making a Choice, even as most see it as “normal” and are just going along for the ride. For those who are Awakened, this Choice becomes a Daily (if not Moment by Moment) Awareness.

    We DO indeed get to CHOOSE everything in this Life and there are those who make more (if that is the word?) of this Choice than others. You have obviously made Choice that is OUTSIDE the “normal realm” and so this Choice provokes thought (concern, doubt, curiosity, etc.) in others, especially those who are close to you (and feel that you are not just some whacko nut!;-).

    The Key in Life is to be able to make this Free Choice, Daily and Moment by Moment and then to go forward in Life KNOWING and Feeling the Truth in Our Choice. Whether this Choice fits the “normal” or is far outside of it! If we are “activated” or feel a charge when confronted by others comments or concerns about Our Choice, then there may be some underlying issues within us which we may want to address.

    Thank goodness for those who Walk in Free Choice and then give the rest of us cause for QUESTIONING this Life and bringing forward our own curiosity, wonder and excitement. A “normal life”? What the heck IS that anyway? There are almost as many choices of “normal” as there are Humans. Getting old? Only generations ago NO one “grew old” and then “retired” or stopped LIVING~! Settle down? Hmmm, settling down is merely being at Peace with Oneself.

    That which is Within is (and always has been) MUCH more important than ANY outer trappings. Prepare for the future (financially or otherwise)? Good luck with that. As a World Traveler OR even as an armchair Observer of this, Our World, we know that all the planning that we are capable of may never cover ALL of the Possibility. Life can easily simply end, very often unexpectedly.

    Life is NOW, in THIS Moment to Enjoy and to Be at Peace with Oneself.
    To each their own, we must follow Our Own Path, Every Day and in Every Moment~!

  19. You have to follow your heart and your passion, and many people, even those who care about us (As much as Sal obviously cares about you) will have to live with that and accept it.

    There are few who understand why us who wander do it- and that’s ok. I love how you know what makes you happy- many people never find that.

    Keep doing what you are doing and thanks for sharing your passion with us who can admire what you are able to do from afar 🙂

    p.s. I ‘Settled Down’ at 36, and while I love my wife, it’s been harder than I thought to give up traveling as much as I would like.

    • Thank you, Erik!
      I’m sorry you had to give up traveling to settle down with your wife. It’s hard when we need to make these choices in life….but then again you never know what will happen in future, and it’s in ultimately making such choices that we learn about ourselves.

    • re: being settled down at 36… maybe if you are able to figure out a way to earn a living in a location independent manner, she’d be open to trying to fit in more travel? I suspect that financial worries are what stop a lot (maybe most?) people from traveling more. If that part of the puzzle can be solved, then there are so many more options…

      If being close to family is a must, then maybe travel half the year, and stay “home” half the year…

      Or, if saving money is the most important thing, then stay abroad for long periods so you don’t have to buy expensive flights too often…

      Maybe if you do the legwork, she’d be open to it? Might be worth chatting about it to see what her wants/worries are…

  20. Hi Nora!

    I was in the waiting room of a doctor’s office (probably before my pre-traveling shots) and found a magazine article written by a man who’d gone to visit his elderly father in Thailand. The father had always been a traveler and had finally decided to “settle down” and live out the end of his life in a country where elephants wandered down the street outside his house! Amazing.

    I’m about to hit the road again after a three-week adventure to “home” because my bf is selling his house and this post is just great! I think I might actually be more comfortable on the road than in my hometown now. Totally different priorities in the different lifestyles. And you’re so right, there is a whole lot of “ordinary” during travel. Laundry is mundane all over the world!


    • Hi Jeca!
      It took me many years and a few visits back to my home town to come to terms with my feelings about it, and understand that there’s an undeniable element of it being home (in that it was home for many years – and in a way it always will be), but without disliking the place, I just don’t feel that it needs to be my home (that way) again.
      Maybe it will; maybe it won’t. But it doesn’t need to be.

  21. Thanks for a very interesting and thought-provoking post. I remember a counsellor once giving me homework, which was to consider what “settling down” meant to me. I was going through post-travel blues after returning to the UK from a 16-month trip.

    I never went back to the counsellor but I never lost the travel bug. I became an English teacher and used the job to allow me to travel and live in various countries. I did, however, get tired of the temporary lifestyle. A 2-year contract, which was a period of commitment that scared the hell out of me to begin with, began to feel too impermanent. I found myself longing to put down roots somewhere and make friends who would stick around.

    I moved to Portugal in 2007 at the age of 36 and promptly fell in love, got married, got a house and a dog. I was ready to ‘settle down’ but not to stop travelling. I don’t think I will ever lose the desire to travel.

    My circumstances make it difficult to travel outside of Portugal very often but I use every opportunity I get to explore Portugal. It’s still exciting to me as it’s not where I grew up and I’m constantly learning about it.

    As far as ‘home’ is concerned, it’s something I recently explored in one of my blog posts:

    As you rightly say, you have no way of knowing now what you will want when you are older. None of us do. All I know is that I am happy to have found a place to call home and to have established a more permanent set up. I feel grounded yet still able to explore and take advantage of opportunities.

    • Hey Julie,
      In the same way that you love to explore Portugal and it’s exciting, I feel like I’m traveling every time I step out in Grenada! It’s a nice way to stoke the travel bug, and I’m of the same mindset as you – settle down as I may, I’ll never lose the desire to travel. It’s in my blood!
      Your observations in your article about home needing to be a “safe haven” are bang-on.

  22. Wow, this article came at a great time for me. Being back in my home town and house sitting for my parents as they set of on a 3 month vacation, I have been pondering this same question. I agree with you that “settling down” is more of a mindset than it is a physical location – why can’t you “settle down” in Grenada? “Settling down” doesn’t mean going back to the city/town where you grew up, much to the chagrin of friends and family who want you to move back.

    The discussions that I have had about it inevitably end up going back to perceptions and what people think and want. Typically, the people who can’t conceive of living an location-independent lifestyle think settling down means a 9-5 job, kids, mortgage, etc. The concept of life being what you want, and living how you want wherever you may find yourself, if a difficult one to grasp.

    • Hi Brian,
      I agree – I can “settle down” in Grenada…as I kind of (shudder?) am! But I don’t attach a sense of dramatic permanence to the idea, and I’m still structuring my life to be abroad quite frequently, when and as I wish.
      Enjoy house-sitting back “home”!

  23. Wow, there are so many insightful comments here and I can see why. This really strikes home with us nomad types because every one of us has encountered our own “Sal”.

    My family is the same way. They don’t actively oppose my location-independent ways, but I can tell that they disapprove deep down, that they feel I should, yes, “settle down”. A mortgage, a “proper job”, 2 kids and a dog.

    It bothers me when people say something like that because it feels like there’s this assumption that the “norm” is something innately superior than my wandering ways, and this “norm” is something everyone should aspire to. In other words, “settling down” is the bestest way of life possible but we just don’t know it yet, unlike the more stable, responsible people who have been enlightened. That’s why people say things like “I hope you find whatever it is you’re looking for”, thinking what we’ll get tired of moving around and “settle down” at the end.

    Sometimes I wonder if the fact that I’m living the way I want and loving it is taken as a threat/challenge to the idea that “settling down” is the ultimate ideal. Maybe I make them think whether there’s more to life than following the script and it scares them.

    • Hi DF – I think you pinned it; anybody who strays from the “norm” is seen to be challenging the norm (and everybody who is “normal”) in the very act of doing something different. It’s a threat to anybody.

      Keep doing what you’re doing…as long as it feels right for you!

  24. I 100% can relate to your post. Just remember that your friend’s email is just a reflection of who he is and what his truth is. What I gather from what je wrote is that he could,never do what you did… Which entails that he would never experience what you e experience. He has imposed on himself life restrictions that would never allow him to do what you’ve done. Which is sad if you think about it. The thought that you can’t sustain the life that you have means that he would,never take,the risk, the chance to enjoy, explore, learn, grow the way that you have through your travels.

    my advice (which may be completely unwanted) is to not take his email personally. He doesn’t know… He may be speaking with love, but he also speaks out of fear and ignorance. If he knew the blessing and joys of being an expat; he’d probably pray that God allot him the same privilege.

    live and let live!

    • Hi Ray,
      Thanks for your kind words and appreciation of where I’m at.

      The funny thing about my friend, is that he is actually extremely well-traveled, through his past and presently. He was one of my biggest fans and supporters when I began and through my years of full-time travel. This email was a fairly recent change of tone for him…I think my post about the bad things that have happened to me on the road was a little overwhelming and saddened him.

      I don’t – in any way – take offence to his email, and I actually think he gave me some good food for thought….I am thankful!

  25. Wonderful post Nora. When we first started traveling in 2007 we also had some mixed reactions from friends and family. The most surprising was from my mom when she said “I wondered what took you so long”!
    Perhaps those of us who travel the world as long-term travelers, digital nomads, location independent workers, hopeless wanderers etc will start a new trend! In this day and age it is possible but maybe just a little unusual for most people to grasp. I consider us all pioneers!

    Continued safe travels!

    • Hey Cheryl,
      You bring up a good point; maybe we are pioneers in the burgeoning industry of location independent careers. Technology has made our lifestyles possible. Amazing (and a little scary – ha ha)!

      And I had a few people say the same to me when I announced that I was selling everything to travel (like they saw it coming); one guy even said “Awesome! I’ll be very angry you if you don’t end up going….” 🙂

  26. Nora! This is a really great post and I completely agree with what you’re saying. I too have lived away from “where I grew up” for over 10 years of my life (I’m 33, so almost 1/3 of my life). I get some friends also asking me “when am I coming home?” The definition of home should not be strictly the town/place where we grew up. The world is my home. Some friends also ask “are you not bored or travelling all the time?” That question baffles me! Even if I’ve been everywhere, I’ll still not be bored. I love travel. Those that ask these questions are happy with their lives, and people like you and I are happy with ours. Safe travels and keep living your extra-ordinary life! Jonny

    • Hey Jonny,
      I think that when people equate “travel” to “vacations” (since that’s their frame of reference), then it’s tricky for them to understand how we could possibly always be on “vacation”….financially or otherwise.
      What they forget is that travel – for us – isn’t a “vacation” nor does it have the pace or properties of most vacations. It’s a lifestyle, and a career. Big difference!

  27. Hi Nora,

    You definitely bring up some great points, and I totally resonate with you getting angry and offended by some of the comments about being “normal” again and “settling down.”

    My life experience makes me fall inbetween you and the “normal” mediocre life that so many people live. After “making” it, and living the tim ferriss digital nomad life that everyone hypes up today, I found it pretty overrated and unfulfilling.

    I had online somewhat passive income streams. I traveled whenever and wherever I wanted. etc. etc. But I still wasn’t very content… and when I met many other long-term travelers and travel bloggers, I found that many of them had similar discontents (regardless of whether or not they told anyone).

    In other words, I doubted the long-term contentment, meaning, happiness-factor of being a long term traveler.

    Do I want that white picket fence with 2.5 kids and a perfectly groomed lawn? God no.

    But I’ve realized that I (and many others, despite what they’re doing) don’t want to travel forever either.

    So where does that leave us? Have you personally found some kind of inbetween (or a new path altogether) that is more fulfilling?

    Cheers for the thoughtful article

    – Alex

    • Hi Alex,
      Your observations of long-term travelers and travel bloggers are very interesting. ALthough I’d agree that some aren’t nearly as fulfilled by their travels as one would think they should be, I’ve met others who revel in the lifestyle – wholeheartedly. Not every aspect of it is perfect (life doesn’t work that way); it may be more in the personality of somebody who focuses on the negative than it is in the person’s situation.

      In answer to your question, after 6+ years of full-time travel, my pace of travel has slowed and slowed (and slowed some more), and now I’m setting up a home base in Grenada. I still plan to travel (probably for many months of the year), but I’ll also have a place to come back to for resting and regrouping…..and one that is still full of discovery for me.

  28. Hi Nora,

    Great article. When I decided to work online and start traveling about three years ago, everyone around me figured I’d just be out of the country for a few months, maybe a year. I didn’t come back for a visit for 2.5 years and, when I got back, they were sure that I would be there to stay. But I didn’t. The questions about when I’m coming home have quieted down and, although I might set up a home base back in San Fran at some point, you just never know.

    Like you, I don’t consider a specific place to be my home. My home is where I make it, where I feel the most comfortable and where I have the kind of lifestyle I really want. Breaking up fixed ideas about what constitutes “home” is a challenge. I don’t even bother arguing about it … I come from a very conservative and traditional family and have had quite a few very traditionally minded friends and colleagues in the past. What’s funny to me is that, after expressing my desire to live this lifestyle long before I ever did it and being told by everyone around me that it just wasn’t possible/normal/okay, I stopped saying anything and quietly plotted my way to creating it. Then I flew out of the country and notified everyone afterwards. I’ve found that this works best with the naysayers, concern trolls and the truly envious. Sometimes people have good intentions and are expressing their fears, not yours. Sometimes they truly do want to stop you from doing it. It pays to know the difference because that changes how you handle them and the comments directed your way. Still, I believe it was Wayne Dyer who said that mostly we should work in silence on our true projects and dreams and only bring them into the light when they are stronger and more ready to be scrutinized because snipers can kill dreams before you’ve even launched them. I have found this to be very, very true.

    Love you blog.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Sasha!
      And whoops – if Wayne Dyer is right, then I shouldn’t have leaked my latest business ideas out so early! (Luckily, no naysayers or snipers so far. Whew!)

  29. I took off the summer after high school in 72 and in Jan 77 left the States, “settling down” to me means anywhere you stay long enough to buy groceries, cook your own meals and stay for a few months with a few more creature comforts than at budget accommodations while living life on the road. “home” is where the heart is within each person’s perspective not any geographical location. “Old” like “retirement” is unnecessary because when one loves oneself and what one does then the saying “your as old as you feel” applies making it possible to die young at any age over 50, 60 , 70 or over 80.

    • Hi Bill,
      I like your idea that home is anywhere you stay long enough to buy groceries (etc) and experience a few more creature comforts. I agree!
      And thank you for your musings on the meaning of “old”….I’m a big believe that age is a state of mind.

  30. Tricky topic, this. The language is a minefield. Where “ordinary” is something rational, common-sensical and desirable for your friend, it suggests something different to you and to any seasoned travelers. Different definitions = ideological rift…

    I’m betting your friend sees nothing wrong in suggesting a life abroad is bad because it’s filled with uncertainty. He probably doesn’t understand that you originally sought it out for that very reason. And it’s easy to take a pop at suggestions like his – it’s easy to label “stay at home” as “bad” and “travel” as “good” (I remember Nomadic Matt doing so at the HuffPo). But life is not that simple and neither are the human beings that wander – or stay put – through it.

    I know of a lot of long-term travelers who are doing their best, their very best, to find “home” – to find a place where they feel they truly belong and have everything they need. I’m one of them, even though my travels are sporadic at the moment. Remember York, Nora? (Ah, good times). I love York. But it’s not home. It never was. The closest I felt to home was sitting in a bar at the seafront in Naxos (Greece). And that’s absurd. That was a *bar*. (Hey, maybe I’m a cocktail bum waiting for the right moment to melt down).

    All those relatavist, each-to-their-own arguments aside…

    Anyone who says that mishaps, chronic uncertainty and advancing years are all good reasons to back away from living an exciting life and chasing a better one – I do not envy them their future.

    • Hey Mike,
      And it’s your eloquent and clever response that makes me regret not attending your TBEX workshop! (Please forgive me…)
      You touch on one of the greater deeper darker issues that many travelers choose to deny or ignore: the idea that those who travel are looking for something. I won’t say running away from something (which is what most people who don’t travel call it!), but rather I’ll say looking for something….in the context of the inner search for “home”.

      Did you grow up in York? (Ah yes, good times).
      As for your home in Greece…may you return to it….soon! (What were you drinking? Maybe you can replicate the feeling of being there with booze. Probably best attempted as a group exercise; I’ll be right over.)

  31. Home is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and we can carry that anywhere. My tribe today is largely online. If I run into a serious problem with resources, then the first place I’m going to turn to is my remote network. It’s that network which also provides the resources to keep me going. If I’m being kept alive by tubes in a hospital, then it’s my immediate family which will be there for me (as well as the resources I have built up to deal with that scenario) and no matter where I go and what I do, my immediate family will always be my immediate family.

    I think people who are “rooted” might be concerned for us because they don’t see that network like they see their own. If it’s not tangible in the sense that you can visit many people in your network within an hour then it’s not real. Right, if you drop me anywhere in the world with no money, as long as I can get an internet connection, watch me make rent and groceries within days (just don’t drop me in Manhatten New York!) And since the place is probably new, I might just stay a while. Try that with your local network.

    You might be able to go couch surfing in your local network. After a few days you will begin to wear out your welcome. My network has sustained me for six years and it only grows in time. I don’t wear out my welcome with my network, I become more valuable to it.

    You might have an employer who has sustained you for just as long, but a one connection network doesn’t live up to the definition of network. Your co-workers might be part of your network, but will they pay your rent? Are they gatekeepers with decision making powers? Going back to my example of being dropped in the middle of no-where, my co-employees couldn’t help me in that situation. Perhaps in some cases they could, but a remote tribe allows me to cast a wider net.

    My remote network is mostly clients and peers. Many of these clients are also good friends. Some of them have even visited for a vacation.

    For me, this is settled and the longer I do it the stronger and more settled my situation becomes. The location loses its importance.

    • Hi John,
      What a great perspective! I have come to rely on my online network (comprised of many friends I’ve known, the friends I have, and colleagues/friends I’ve *mostly* only met online).

      Sometimes the online network doesn’t feel real though (or it feels fickle)….although I’ve derived great comfort from the timeless ability to reach out and get a response….I think it’s still a poor substitute for good ol’ fashioned seeing, touching, and feeling people in the flesh.

      But where the online network fails in providing the human need for intimacy, it excels in crowdsourcing information, getting assistance, and often a helping hand that spreads across continents.

  32. I’m with you 100% – the word “settle” is so, well.. unsettling. My favorite phrase that my mom told me was this – “Since when do others get a say in how you live your life?” I just love that!! When they’re paying your bills, they get a say – until then, shut them out! Surround yourself with positive people and do whatever you want. It’s really their loss!! 🙂

    • Hey Phoebe –
      Love it: when they’re paying your bills, they get a say!
      I do still respect the context and grounding I can get from people who have known me for many years (despite their own preferences), but you’re bang-on with the advice to surround yourself with positive people.

  33. Hi Nora……this post has really started something! I admire the way you reply to everyone…and so well! I think it is probably helping you in your recuperation….and I am imagining your man being amazed and incredulous as to the response!

    I was intrigued when I read your comment re the online community feeling …..even “fickle” and I think I know what you mean. I feel as though I know you but when I write I think “oh she has so many followers she won’t remember me so maybe I wont write.” Then I do….and you do! Big surprise! Is this cos I’m an oldie and though I bought my first computer in 1984…pre Internet….I still feel like a newbie..? Well, it’s a fairly new way of making friends I guess.
    My mother always said home is where you hang your hat. No wonder I’m an inveterate traveller.
    I feel privileged to be able to go on travelling…..and taking no meds with me!! Being blessed with good health is better than being blessed with money…..tho’ I’m sure I could handle that too.:-)) I hope you and your partner are regaining your health physically and emotionally. I think you know how many people treasure your writings so well done for keeping on keeping on!

    • Thank you so much, Jo!
      I’m glad you have always chosen to email me (even when you thought I wouldn’t remember you), and it’s quite special that we’ve almost crossed paths a few times.

      And indeed I think it has helped me in recuperating. After the accident I had only my own company (and pain and self-pity) to keep me company while my partner was in hospital; although my concussions severely limited my ability to get online, it was a lifeline of sorts.

      I worry that online friends are fickle in that when the crap hits the fan, they’re the least likely to rise to a challenge and help; it’s easier to ignore the suffering of somebody from behind a computer screen, especially if you’ve never met them in person.

      But then again I guess it boils down to your definition of help and support; from my readers and online colleagues I received moral support, helpful books, healing meditations, physiotherapy advice, and more.

      So once again, I bow my head in gratitude – to you and to the many others who are truly friends of mine. I just haven’t met you yet. 🙂

  34. Aawww…..tears in my eyes.
    I think online friends either don’t know how to help or don’t want to ask if they can come and stay to help you…..we all think everone else knows you better and will do that! Not that that is necessarily what you want but you know what I mean? It is a tenuous relationship.
    I have discovered that when people say if you need help just ask…..they mean it….but I find it very hard to ask. It is easier to give than to receive……such a shame. Lesson in humility I guess.
    A bit off topic but had to reply to your warm hearted reply to me. 🙂

    • Hey Jo – You pinned it on the head: it’s harder to ask for and receive help than to give it. That has been a big challenge of mine, especially through recent times. But whenever the tables are turned, I’m happy to offer a hand. Cheers!

  35. Hi Nora,

    an Italian woman, Klelia, would like to tell you something:

    “At 35, when people expect you to settle down, get married and have kids, I decided to travel instead. I decided that life is too short to wait for the right moment. I knew I was ready for that. I started planning every single detail and saved as much money as possible.

    I was scared, and felt a lot of pressure on me. Nobody understood why I was “throwing away ” my perfect, well paid life.. And for what? Travel??….


    Enjoy her case history!

    All the best!


    • Fab – I like her catch phrase: The Ultimate Guide for Self Ironic Travelers! Thanks for introducing me to her site!

  36. First, I really like your site. It is very interesting and encouraging!

    Second, I completely understand what you are saying (and I think I might be really offended if someone told me that my lifestyle had really “aged” me. Ouch! How can travel “age” someone? Argh!).

    Anyways, as someone who has lived as a nomad, I completely “get” it – home is wherever you are.

    That is how I felt. The more I traveled, the more the world became my home. (It got to the point that I was wondering if I even needed a roof over my head anymore, but that is another story. 🙂 )

    The truth is that a life like how you live, and like how I have lived, is not for most people. A lot of people can appreciate it, even wish they could do it, but given the chance, few do.

    It takes a certain daring, a certain courage, and a certain self-sufficiency that is not always easy.

    It is your life, your path, and your dream. Go for it as long as you want!

    • Hi Isabella,
      You know, it’s not until your referral to the comment about how I’ve aged that I realized how much that also irked me! Given me a bit of a complex, really. 😉

      And your observation of choosing the nomadic life is bang-on. It really isn’t for everybody!
      You are also referring to your nomadic travels as a thing of the past. I see from your site that you’ve recently taken to the road again….are you still traveling?

      • Hi Nora,

        Sorry for the delay getting back to you. Things have been pretty crazy.

        I was actually thinking about you earlier today, and it dawned on me that a lot of the “come home” that people give could be partially missing the nomads they love, but it could also, in a small way (and this is just a guess here, I am not mind reading), be envy.

        After all, if we are home with them, then we are not off doing all the things that they might secretly wish they could do. We are doing the same things they are doing, and that might make people feel better in the end.

        In answer to your question, I am actually am back in my home state for awhile, as I had an offer for free storage (yay!). So I came back to move everything to my freebie spot (and save some $$$. 🙂 ) I was on the road for a year though, and was sad to interrupt it for sure.

        Hope all is well and know there are some out there who support your adventures. (Us nomads need to support each other – sometimes it seems like no one else will!)

        • Isabella,
          Interesting viewpoint about envy and holding us back from doing the things others secretly want to do. I hadn’t thought of that.
          Hey – free storage and a chance to pop in on family after a year sounds like a good enough reason to pop back to your home land!
          And yes – we are a small but tight community of nomads. You never know if or when our paths will cross! 🙂

          • Very true. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to reply! You have a wonderful path that you are on.

    • I would turn Robert Frost’s tongue-in-cheek aphorism on its head by saying “home is the place where, when you go there, they take you in with joy and arms wide open.” By this reckoning, my birth family has never been home–something I intuited at a very early age–but I have homes all around with world with dear friends. I suspect many of us do. It’s part of what makes sustained travel not only feasible, but indeed, inevitable..!

      • In both cases, there’s still reference to people as being what makes a place home. I believe there’s such a thing as “chosen family” – they complement your blood family quite nicely!

        • Very true! Here’s another interesting perspective, to add to the conversation, from a recent TED talk:

  37. I think I know what the problem is. Travel is much like music.
    Think about it.
    When you are getting to know someone new, you ask “what kind of music do you like?” You don’t really stop to think that maybe, just maybe, they don’t like music at all. There are few things in life that we think are so basic, so common sense, so natural that everyone must have their own style, but enjoy it to some extent.
    To people like you and me, travel is the same way. Exploring a new place, being unsettled, we sometimes feel, must be a natural desire. In the same way, maybe your friends think that having an “ordinary life” is a natural desire, something so basic.
    This is where the clashing starts. Two people are trying to explain something that they both feels is part of nature. To be honest, I don’t think your friends will ever understand. They think that you desire to be like them, having an orthodox life, even if you have never shown any signs of desiring that.
    Even if our friends sometimes say that they envy what you are doing, they really don’t. Traveling terrifies them, and who could blame them. Like anything worth doing, it takes effort, desire, and hard work. Most people stay in during their vacations. “I did nothing and it is awesome” are posts I often hear. I also do nothing, but not because it is awesome, but because I am tired of doing something every weekend (read: I’m broke). It is easy, I get it.

    I think the trick is not to convince the other person that your life if great. People take that as an attack, as in “your life sucks compared to mine.” I think the best thing is for both of you to agree that you are very different people and that this is important for you that they realize you are happy this way.

    Love the post Nora!

    • Hi Julio – I like the music analogy. And you’re absolutely right – different strokes for different folks. The longer we try to evangelically convert, the more we create a divide. Best to coexist and acknowledge that people are simply wired differently.
      Thank you!

  38. I have been trying to put these exact thoughts into words for quite some time and you have literally captured my very thoughts so perfectly. I even sent it to my boyfriend to read and we chatted about it for a while. I think there will always be people who just don’t quite understand this life and are just waiting for us to “grow up” and “settle down”. Thanks for the wise words!

    • Wow, thanks Laura! I’m glad this resonated with you. Different strokes for different folks is what makes this world special – for better or worse! 🙂

  39. I chuckled at the concept of settling down when one gets old. First of all, I looked into getting old once and saw no future in it so I decided to skip. I’m in my 60s now and wrapping up my present life (job, etc.) so I can start my next one (translation: what others call retirement).
    One thing I’ve found in my travels (lived in 7 countries and visited about 4 times as many) is that “going back” rarely works. The particular mix of weather, circumstances, chemistry, etc that made one place so memorable rarely is duplicated when you return. Hence, my answer to ‘what is your favorite place’ is now always: “the next one”.
    The term settling down also bothers me because it denotes a stagnant mindset. Unless one is growing and expanding, one is necessarily shrinking and withering; there is no such thing as an unchanging environment. Put another way, rather than settling down until I die I would rather keep growing until I just stop living.
    Personally, I am getting my English teaching certificate and setting up some online businesses so I have a variety of options. And if country number 8 where we’re going to move to doesn’t work out (not going to visit it first) we’ll just move to the next. The only serious objective I’ll have at that time is to be able to spend some coffeehouse time with TheProfessionalHobo so I can personally thank her for the inspiration and motivation she has (and continues to) provided me.

    • Wow – thanks Ken; what a thoughtful reply! (Coffee shop thank you’s notwithstanding!)
      I echo your sentiments about “going back”…things are never quite the same. Everybody moves on in their own ways, and each special moment/favourite place is more about the circumstances rather than geography.
      Good luck in your travels/lifestyle…when do you leave and where will you go?

    • I love your post and the “I looked into getting old and saw no future in it so decided to skip it”. I read somewhere recently “old age isn’t so bad. It doesn’t last long.” All the more reason to live it 100%. Looking forward to reading about your plans….or movements if no plans. 🙂

  40. Wow Nora, what a great post and heaps of comments.

    Today is my 42nd birthday and I’ve been travelling for 2.5 years with my husband after selling everything in the UK.

    We had an ‘ordinary’ life and had settled down, bought a house, paying into a pension each etc etc. Every year we wanted to see more of the world so we squeezed as many holidays in as our jobs would allow. Then over a period of 18 months we had 6 funerals; 3 grandparents, 2 dads (58 & 61) and a friend (40). My dad was terminally ill and if he had survived we would have had to have sold his house to pay for his long term care. So he had worked all his life to pay for a house which he would then have to sell to pay for his care – why did he bother? This and a few other events changed the course of our lives. We questioned what was important to us. After selling everything, we realised that we needed very little of what we had spent years accumulating, it was liberating getting rid of it all, no longer feeling that we had to keep up with the Joneses.

    We are constantly asked: What are you running from? Have you found what you are looking for? What are your plans for the future?

    We aren’t running from anything, just taking our time to see what else is out there. We never set off looking for anything in particular. The plan was not to have a plan and this is still the case now after 2.5 years. We have been lucky to secure work along the way. https://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/make-money-while-traveling/

    We are currently working on Koh Phangan, which is a beautiful, tropical island. Some people think we are in paradise, but I have to say we have found that no matter where we have lived and worked life is the same, but with a different view. We still have to wash our clothes, shop, cook, clean and right now work for someone who we aren’t getting on with too well. We are staying as we think the storm will pass as we enter a new phase of work (building to operational).

    Home is a figure of speech and can be many different places, so far for us it has been Chile, New Zealand and now Koh Phangan. Home is where you can take off your backpack and not re-pack it for a while, get to know a few local people, make friends and enjoy the area you are living in.

    I agree, one person’s ordinary life is another persons hell. It would be a boring place if we all wanted the same thing.

    Old age….age is just a number….as I’ve already proven by working without a WHV. When you’re 20, 45 looks old. I’m not that far off 45 and I still feel (and some people say LOL) that I’m still twentysomething. Nora if you are still in Grenada at say 75 and still swimming and snorkelling everyday…then wow 🙂 You go girl.


    • Hey Debs,
      Wow right back at you! What a story – and a very interesting background to your interview post on my site as well!
      I agree with all of your observations and experiences – life’s ordinances and challenges tend to be the same no matter where you go – it’s what you make of the experience that makes the difference.

  41. Gee, Tolkien wrote “Not all those who wander are lost”, and I still think it’s the best answer to this kind of questions!
    Loved this article!
    I’ve got to a point where I can honestly understand that other people might find my lifestyle strange, but it still gets me if the criticism/encouragement-to-settle-down comes from friends or family, mainly because it reveals how little they have been willing to really know me for what I am. The gap between this kind of doubts and my mindset is so wide it just shows these people don’t even try to see what’s really there, they just project on me their thoughts on who I am, and that’s it. That hurts. Still.
    But, as Sheralyn said, if this is the price I have to pay to be myself in MY life…well, I’ll gladly pay it anyway!

    • Claudia – You bring up a great point; what we think we project as our selves, and what other people see us to be, are often two very different things. Everybody has their own special tinted sunglasses, and thus, we see the world (and everybody in it) differently from the next person. Which is why friends and family might not see through to the person you believe you are showing them.
      And I’m right there with you; I don’t mind marching to the beat of a different drum…never have minded….

  42. I really enjoyed this post. It should be mandatory reading for all concerned family and friends. Thanks for writing it!

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