I'm becoming semi-nomadic

A year ago, I proposed to my wife that we sell everything we own and become full-time digital nomads. She wants to travel, but also wants a "nest" — a home base in the United States. Starting tomorrow, our compromise plan goes into effect.

Both of us are lucky enough to have work that can be done from anywhere over the Internet.

My vision was to live a totally nomadic lifestyle, choosing where to live and how long based on opportunity, desire and whim and not owning or long-term renting any sort of home or the massive pile of belongings (furniture, appliances and garage full of junk) that goes with it.

But because my wife wants both travel and home base, we came up with a compromise solution: Cheaper travel and cheaper home. Today we're moving out of our three-bedroom home, and into a one-room studio. For the past month or so, we've been selling or giving away half our belongings, and putting another one-quarter away in long-term storage.

Getting rid of junk is just a small part of our plan of radical simplification and minimization. We canceled our cable TV subscription and won't be renewing it. We cancelled our landline phone line, and sold the phone. (We'll use cell phones only, but with unlimited international calling and data plans.) We're giving up covered parking for our car, the ability to have house guests, a yard, and all the luxuries of a full-size house. We've packed away and stored all of our beloved books (but we both have Amazon Kindles). I've given up my desktop in favor of an 18-inch Sony Vaio laptop. We've downsized, digitized and minimized.

Sounds like sacrifice, but what do we gain? Paris. Rio. Santorini. Morocco. Goa. Freedom!

We have no plants, pets or other living things that need to be cared for. (Our kids are now both independent adults.) Now, when we want to go somewhere, we'll just go.  

The American dream, as it has been conceived of since the end of World War II is that you graduate from school, marry somebody and buy a house. Once a year, you go on a two-week vacation. You own a house, but the house also "owns" you. It needs a new roof. It needs the lawn to be mowed. It needs to be painted, updated, fixed and cared for. At some point, you retire and, if you're lucky and adventurous, you can travel from time to time.

This basic narrative was partly determined in party by work that required you to show up at a specific place every day — a reality still for a great many people.

However, as digital and mobile technology advances, an increasing number of people will not have the constraint of geography. If you can work from home, you can work from anywhere. And this is the new American dream.

For some, including Yours Truly, the joys of travel and exotic places far exceed the joys of home ownership. So I've downsized my home, and everything in it, and will supersize my travel schedule.

My wife and I will probably start out in South America, slowly wending our way through Columbia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and other countries. We may spend half of next year in India. We'll see.

We'll probably come back to the United States several times a year for the holidays, to see friends and family and attend conferences and the like. And when we do, we'll have our little studio. Now that our plan is finally coming to fruition, I'm finding the "semi-nomadic" approach more appealing than the fully nomadic.

All this sounds crazy, or so I'm told. But I think it's totally rational. We've decided to do what we love to do at the expense of things we only like a little bit. That makes sense to me.

The best part is that if our math is correct, our daily expenses will be about the same as before. We'll be making American salaries, but spending most of it in countries where things are much cheaper.

In the meantime, I've got to finish packing. And if you want some useless junk, come on over. We're giving it away.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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