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How Do I Explain My Nomadic Life?

Above Koh Samui

One of the things I’ve had the most trouble with since I started this journey is when people ask me “Where is your home?”, “How long are you traveling?”, and “How do you afford this?”. It usually results it me pausing, saying something awkward that doesn’t really explain, and probably coming off sounding like a complete dick. I’m working on it, though. It took a lot of work to get where I am, but it’s hard to explain to others when I’m not entirely sure where that is.

Where is your home?

This one is a tricky one for me, because it’s all context. Once I go overseas, I can just say I’m from America. For now, I’m stuck with the fact that I’ve lived in three (or so) states, and my home is wherever I happen to be standing. Saying that out loud, however, makes me sound like the world’s douchiest traveler.

The response has shifted over the last few months to a quick explanation about the fact that I’m traveling with no home base, which tends to lead to a nice conversation about where I’m going and where the other person has been. I’m beginning to worry about rattling off a list of cities coming off pretentious as well, but so far it’s gone well.

So far, I am extremely thankful to everyone who has let me crash at their place for a bit, and excited about all the people whose couches I’m going to crash on soon. These are my real homes, and I doubt I will ever stop being grateful for that.

When are you coming back?

This one is sometimes substituted with the equally awkward “How long are you traveling?”. The direct answer is that I specifically didn’t set an end date because I expect this to change my priorities in life and open up new opportunities and goals, and I want to be able to devote myself to them. Right now I’ve planned as far ahead as Tokyo in the spring (I’ve wanted to see the cherry blossom festival for years), but after that, who knows? It’s not like I’m ever going to stop traveling, and I don’t think of this as just a trip. It’s my life now, and I need to act accordingly.

But again, this explanation suffers from douche overload when you tell it to the random person in a store you just met, and the more you shorten it, the more of an asshole you become. So far, the best I’ve done is “I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.” Self-deprecation is always a safe bet when people think you are living some sort of dream life, despite that fact that it’s a lot of effort and is much cheaper than people think. It’s also not completely honest, or even a really good answer yet, so I still have some work to do on that one.

Wading into the sunset

How do you afford this?

This is the roughest one, because the question is preloaded with a giant, slimy chunk of jealousy and contempt before I even open my mouth. The most frequent companion question to this is “Did you save up money?”, which is true, but reeks of “Are your parents paying for this?”.

Yes, I saved some money, as everyone should. However, I have also worked out some ways to get income along the way (huge thanks to everyone who buys through my Amazon links!), but the truth is that It’s way cheaper to live like this than it is to have a furnished apartment.

I have a tiny 32 liter backpack that houses all of my earthly possessions, and I keep looking for ways to reduce what’s in there. I never buy anything that I wouldn’t mind having on me at all times, which isn’t much. Mostly it’s just replacements for bigger or worn out things.

My rent in San Francisco was expensive, as it’s the second most expensive place in the US to live. Thanks to my math dorkiness, once I added it up and found out it would be cheaper to live in a hostel, and even a fair amount of hotels would be a better deal (with free house cleaning!). I hosted a lot of great people at my apartment while I lived there (it’s always been important to me to have a crashable couch and air mattress), and now I’m cashing in some of that karma by staying with friends as I travel the world. Thanks to my travel ninja skills, it is way cheaper to buy airfare than it ever was to pay rent. Couple this with the fact that healthy food can be bought cheaply around the world, and it doesn’t take much income to sustain me.

Just think for a moment about what your life would be like if you had no more monthly bills and no possessions to maintain. How much money would it really take for you to have an amazing life full of adventure? That’s what I’m reaching for, in both quality and budget.

You may have noticed that this explanation is the longest one, and that’s probably because it’s the hardest one to explain to people who have always thought they could never afford to travel extensively as they sip their mocha on the couch in front of their 36″ television. I don’t have any of those things, and the cost of them alone is enough to get me through a few countries. Eating local fruits for pennies and meeting amazing people fire dancing at a free beach-wide party or hanging out in the bustling downtown square means I can have great experiences for next to nothing instead of sitting in front of the television or going out to an expensive club.

I’m sure there are people rooting for me to crash and burn, penniless in some scary back alley or desert. I also know there are people who support me and want me to succeed beyond any expectations I may set. These are the people I want to spend my time around, helping them as much as possible to succeed in their lives, making them laugh as we write our own stories.

I may be overly romantic about the idea, but I have thought it through every pessimistic angle first, trying to stress-test every weak point in the plan. Thanks to this, I can relax now as I hop on yet another airplane.

So far, so good. I just need to avoid those scary back alleys.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Masafumi Matsumoto, Ashley Ambirge and Everett Bogue, Chris Dame. Chris Dame said: How Do I Explain My Nomadic Life? […]

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  2. Skot says:

    Epic, inspirational post, as usual! Especially, sitting in a room largely furnished from your apartment…

  3. Chris Dame says:

    Ha! Thanks!

    Enjoy the furniture. I’m happy to have it there instead of carrying it around in my backpack. Customs would look at me funny.

  4. J. Crabtree says:

    Truly epic post, my man. Keep doing what you want.

  5. Masa says:

    Hi Chris,
    I’ve come across your blog via twitter. I’m interested in having a nomadic lifestyle – I enjoyed reading your post and look forward to reading other ones too!


  6. Chris Dame says:

    Thanks so much! You keep doing what you do so well, too.

  7. Chris Dame says:

    Thanks, Masa! Keep living your art through your life. It’s a very inspiring goal to have. Feel free to ask any specific questions you have, as I’m happy to answer. It is my life, after all.

  8. Mel says:

    Awesome post Chris! Since June, it’s been tough explaining the nomadic lifestyle to family & friends. Thanks for the response insight. Cheers to more adventures!

  9. Carmen says:

    Hey Chris,
    I found your blog through our community site for nomads like yourself. One of our members posted it. Nice stuff. We’d love to have you join us at the Tribe so we can learn more about you. You can advertise your blog there too if you’d like. Find us at

  10. Chris Dame says:

    Thanks, Mel! Your site has tons of great advice as well that I fully believe in. I’ll have to start saying “swiss out” as my new slang for finding things with multiple uses. Keep it up!

  11. Chris Dame says:

    Hey Carmen, thanks for the heads up. It looks like it could be a great resource. I’ll be sure to dig in to see what kind of resources you have developed. Thanks for taking the initiative to pull a group together. Hopefully it develops into an amazing center for information.

  12. […] nowhere is home, you begin to see the world in a different way. There is no vacation to escape to, and no place to […]

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