A Journey Ends: When to Give Up a Nomadic Lifestyle

nomadic lifestyle

I’ve been living in Spain for a little more than a month now, and it has given me a lot of time to think about what I plan to do when the next few months are finished. I have been a bit of a nomad since graduating college almost four years ago. In that time, I’ve been to over thirty countries, five continents, and I’ve lived in a foreign country for much of that time. I am twenty-five years old, and there are times when I can feel my age (don’t laugh) and how things have changed over the past few years.

There’s a somber moment as a vagabond when you realize that you can’t live this lifestyle forever. And that time is different for everyone. Maybe it’s when you realize that you’ve missed all the major events in your friends’ lives. Maybe it’s when a family member becomes ill and you aren’t sure if you are going to be able to return home to see him or her. Maybe, it’s when you fall in love and decide that it’s time to find a place that feels like you could belong there.

Some can live this lifestyle as long as they want, but for most of us, knowing when to stop is just as brave of a moment as knowing you want to start—choosing something slightly off the wall and coloring outside the lines. I’ve recently been thinking about when that moment will be for me, when I realize that this isn’t viable anymore, that I want something more stable.

My mother has always encouraged me to think about what will happen when I’m done traveling. After applying for a number of PhD programs over the past few months, I’ve been waffling back and forth about how I feel about going back to school and settling in a more permanent place for a while.

“I don’t know if I’m ready,” I told her. “I feel so young, and there’s so much world left to see. But at what point am I putting off reality? At what point am I going to wish I had done the ‘safer’ thing?”

“So the past four years haven’t been reality?” she asked. “You haven’t made it work?”

I was about to contradict her when she stopped me.

“You and Daniel like to do things a little differently. And you’ve made it work so far. ‘Reality’ will always be there. This opportunity to live a brave life won’t always be.”

The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe she was right. Reality is not a universal perspective, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of my past for an alternative future. It would be strange if we as nomads didn’t question the choice we made to live another type of life.

I’ve always been a person who refuses to have regrets. If I chose to settle down now, I know there would be a part of me that would still be itching to explore more. I would be unsatisfied—even if that meant that I would miss out on some of the highlights of a more stable life.

I want to take a bit more time, to enjoy this period of my life of constant learning and discovery. I want to satisfy any itches I have left to scratch so I don’t look back and wish I had taken a chance when I could have.

I’ll eventually get to the point when I’m ready to give up this voyaging lifestyle. I’m just not there yet.

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander


  1. Jess

    You post is rather timely (and gorgeously written), Lex. I’m having the same discussion with myself — have a client who wants me to come on full-time and travel less. The turn to 30 is looming next year, and it’s the conversation of when am I going to “grow up” and settle down. You mom’s wisdom in context of “reality” really hits home — whose to say what our own individual reality is?

    Keep writing, keep traveling, and keep doing you, girl. Proud of you! (And let’s finally catch up next time you’re home!)

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      Alex Schnee

      Thanks so much, Jess! You’ve been a big inspiration for me and I don’t think I would have even thought this would be possible without you.

      Can’t wait for the day when we finally get the chance to meet up again–wherever in the world that may be!

  2. Claire

    I totally get this! I do wonder when this will happen to me, but for now I love this travelling life; and until I don’t enjoy it anymore I’ll just keep on keeping on 🙂

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  3. Alex

    I’m on the flip side to this, I’m 30 and just finished PhD and looking to travel more and would prefer a more nomadic lifestyle.
    The one advice I would give is of you’re not 100% ready or committed to do a PhD then don’t. Not because you can’t but because it will be torture with all the wanderlust! Keep doing what you’re doing and remember, the PhD will always be there if and when you decide to do one.

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      Alex Schnee

      Thank you so much for your comment! This kind of solidifies what I’ve been thinking I love to learn and I love an academic setting, but you’re right. It will always be there.

      Thanks again and happy travels!

  4. Dreamsvoyager

    Nice post! well lets say what if you would have lived the “reality” and decided then to start the voyaging lifestyle, would you wanna do it then? We can never know what we should or shouldn’t have done, only thing we know is to follow our heart! so keep traveling! Covering 30 countries and 5 continents at age of 25 to me still looks like a big achievement! So keep up and all the best 🙂

  5. AlisSimo

    You’ll feel it when it’s time. Everything is reality and you’ve achieved great things for your life so far. The good thing about PhD is that you can work it out to have lots of trips around the world for conferences etc. Or get a scholarship to spend a couple months studying somewhere else. Settling down doesn’t ultimately means staying in the same place forever, so don’t be afraid of what’s going to come after “giving up” the nomadic lifestyle, but enjoy it as much as you want it!

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  6. Migrating Miss

    Love this post! I’ve thought about this many a time, and I’ll be 30 this year!!! I’ve actually just moved to a place I plan to live for around the next 5 years, but it’s not my home. I guess that means I haven’t really stopped? I don’t think you ever how to stop, but you might just slow down a bit 🙂

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  7. MillennialWhoWantsItAll

    Love this! Thanks for sharing. Choosing to ‘settle down’ or keep traveling is something I struggle with. At the end of the day, the world will always be there to explore. We just need to find balance- right?

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  8. Straight On Detour

    Hey there,
    A difficult dilemma written so well. I too am a traveller. I am 28, have been travelling full time for 7 yrs and like you have flipped and flopped with that decision to settle down. I have decided give it a go, I still am a little scared however there is one thing you have forgotten: You can become nomadic again! See you don’t have to give up one for the other, you can work for 5 years buy a house and live it up like everyone else and then You can sell it all when you’re 30 or 40 – loads of people do it and hey you will probs have more money than you do now 🙂
    Happy travels and I’m stoked
    You found the right decision.

  9. Pingback: Pushing Boundaries: Testing Yourself When You Travel – The Wayfaring Voyager

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