When you read about digital nomads who travel the world with nothing but a backpack, your brain kicks into high gear and thinks “Oh wow! How freeing. I wish I could sell everything I own.. but I couldn’t. How could I get rid of my beloved Barbie collection?”
I might be the only “digital nomad” who is not in favor of selling everything you own and stuffing your life into a backpack. In fact, I have never not checked luggage. You can be a full-time traveler without giving up the things you love.
I have this amazing collection of designer dresses that has taken me years to amass. Erin Fetherston, Nicole Miller, Cynthia Rowley - we’re talking glamorous designers every girl kills to get her hands on.
This colorful array of dresses really does make me happy. I’m ecstatic when I wear one. I love looking at them lined up in the closet. Call me weird, but getting rid of them would make me sad, angry and full of regret. I don’t usually pack them for my travels, but they are kept clean and safe in my family’s home. On the other hand, I don’t miss any of the burgundy colored garments I’ve donated. I realized one day I really hate burgundy, so I purged my wardrobe of the color. Why keep something I really don’t like, enjoy or use?
You’re the only one who can dictate what location independence means for you. If it’s not a capsule wardrobe of 30 items or less, you haven’t failed as a digital nomad.
These are the most important things to think about when preparing to travel while you work.
What kind of traveler am I?
Are you adventurous and eager to explore jungles? Or would you prefer the spa facilities over hiking? Be realistic. If you have never hiked a day in your life you probably won’t climb a mountain right away, if at all. Your current habits and preferences are telltale signs of your travel life. If you don’t like the height of your neighbors diving board, you won’t like the elevation of the cliff you’ll feel pressured to jump off of.
While most travel pictures online show people doing extreme sports like skydiving, surfing and rafting, I know that’s not my style. I prefer swimming, beach days, and exploring cities on my terms. There’s a heavenly place for everyone, and the sooner you figure out what yours looks like the easier your life will be.
Have I traveled long term before?
It’s crucial that if you haven’t traveled while working for at least a month that you do a trial run. This means going somewhere and working as you explore. Everyone has their own preferences and schedule, so get into the rhythm of what works for you.
A trial run is vital to ensuring this how you want to live indefinitely. If you’ve already sold everything you own, get on the road then realize you’re homesick - it’s not fun. What a waste!
What can I absolutely never get rid of?
It’s important to think this through. You could easily donate a few outfits and still have a few left over. But your heirloom jewelry? Your sofa you searched high and low for that makes you smile every time you lounge? Your scrapbooks? Your coveted book collection with signed copies? Note what you will never part with and can reasonably keep. If you feel like you’re a bad person for throwing away your 5th grade art project you hated, then you might want to enlist the help of a professional to work through the emotional and mental roadblocks you have that are preventing you from sending your stuff to a better place.
All clothing, accessories, furniture and even tchotchkes can be donated if they’re in good enough condition. I was always taught to think about how much they are going to help the next lucky person who gets them. I have 20 black cardigans, so getting rid of one I never wear doesn’t affect my wardrobe. But to a girl who desperately needs a cardigan to look presentable at her job and can’t afford one? That makes her day. Once you realize how much you already have, it’s easier to happily pass on items that others aren’t so lucky to possess.
Do I have somewhere I could store my extra belongings for free?
Maybe it’s a family member’s home, a friend’s garage or an existing family storage unit you don’t pay for. If you don’t have anywhere to freely store things indefinitely, the more you’ll need to sell. Paying for a storage unit is wasteful and should be reserved for dire situations only.
Do I want to rid myself of my home completely?
This depends on your circumstances, but it might make more sense to keep your current residence and either rent it out (for a profit) or put it up on Airbnb. If you’re paying rent, then just get rid of it. But if you already own it, are almost paid off or could make more money renting it out, then it’s worth exploring. Just know that this involves you learning how to be a property manager or paying someone to run it. They need to be trustworthy and responsible. There are also agencies that handle your Airbnb listing and just take a cut of your profits.
If you frequently celebrate occasions with local friends and family that you wouldn’t want to give up, keeping your residence is an option as long as it isn’t costing you extra money or adding a headache. When you keep your home, you get a place to store all your things!
I am surely going to receive backlash for even presenting this as option because most “digital nomads” are extremists and miniamlists- they sell everything they own, say goodbye to homes and family and venture off into the adventurous future.
I’m bringing this up because I know it’s not realistic for everyone to pack up and leave their life behind. If you ask me, it seems like an underlying issue of many digital nomads is that they aren’t super close with family or friends and don’t miss anything they leave. Not everyone, but a lot.
Extended travel around the world with the comfort of knowing you still have an actual home is viable. Especially if you have a loved one who isn’t well or children in the family who are hitting milestones you don’t want to miss. You don’t have to come home every month, but being able to pop back in a few times a year can mean a lot to both you and your family.
Your values should dictate your ideal life, not the other way around. Just because everyone is living a location independent life a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the kind of life you want for yourself.
The key is to downsize as if you’re selling your home.
Be ruthless in donating and selling any items you don’t use and wouldn’t think of packing. Unless it “sparks joy” (thanks Marie Kondo), consider it useless.
By the time you leave, you have safely stored all your nonessentials away and left enough furniture and basics for guests or yourself when you return.
You feel lighter already.