Hello everyone and welcome back to The Road Jess Traveled where we are kicking off a brand-new nomad life adventure. GET EXCITED!
If you have been following along on Instagram, you are well aware that I took a huge leap and began living a “nomad lifestyle” – which is a manifestation & dream come true!
During our time here, I have been keeping personal journals of all of our adventures. Documenting travel has always been a huge passion of mine, but what makes it even more fun is sharing these experiences with others!
After having a deep conversation over a glass of Italian wine with my boyfriend and travel partner, Steven, I felt extremely inspired to dive back into my creative endeavors and start sharing these stories with you! Now we can all go on this adventure together!
(If you were around for my Disney College Program Trip Report back in 2013 on DisBoards, buckle up because we’re going on another ride!)
Before I start posting about our travels, I wanted to dedicate a post to nomad life and answer your guys’ questions. I polled you on Instagram (follow along for real-time updates – @JessicaFaye508) and compiled a list of FAQ’s.
Living a nomadic lifestyle is definitely something that people do, but it is by no means the norm. It can be particularly confusing to those who have never heard of it before! So, I hope this post clears up those questions that have been building up in your brains such as what the heck is Jess doing in Europe and HOW is she doing this??
So, let’s begin, shall we?
What even is nomad life?
The definition of a nomad is “a person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer.”
So, therefore, “Nomad life” is a lifestyle where people do not continually live in the same place for an extended period of time. They move around to all different locations after increments of time.
For us, we were trying to figure out a way to incorporate an increased amount of travel into our lives before we accumulated any “rooted” commitments.
I follow @lizmoody on Instagram, and saw that she and her husband live a nomadic lifestyle throughout the United States by booking Air B&B’s for a month at a time in all different places.
So, we thought we’d kick it up a notch and take that concept abroad, since that’s where our hearts have been calling us to explore for years now! And so far it has truly been a dream come true!
How did you guys decide to take the plunge together?
I’ll give you guys the summarized version of this – because it’s been quite an incredible journey to get us where we are today!
When Steven and I first started talking, he was living in China teaching abroad, and I was in the States, living between Orlando and Buffalo and tending to my health. After 7 months of getting to know each other from across the world, we finally met up in December 2019 in NYC and decided to officially begin our relationship. 🙂
In January 2020, I went out to China to visit Steven, and our original plan was to do long-distance. There were even serious talks of me moving out to China to come to teach as well. We are both extremely passionate about traveling and really wanted to explore the world together!
However, as we all know, 2020 was the year everything changed because of the pandemic.
I coincidentally (or serendipitously) happened to be in China during their very initial spike of the virus, so we had to cut my trip short and Steven actually came back to the States with me. (you can listen to that whole story in this YouTube Video) With conditions worsening in the world, Steven’s learning center in China actually closed down permanently and he ended up staying in the States. For the rest of 2020 and a good chunk of 2021, we lived with family while we tried to decide what our next move would be.
Our common goal throughout all of this was that we both wanted to go travel abroad and go see more of the world – and do it together! We thought of so many different options – looking for jobs all over the world, looking into concepts like trustedhousesitters.com or exchange programs, and ultimately trying to see what types of lifestyles could help us make this dream a reality.
But then comes along this new world of remote work plus the inspiration of others traveling the world full-time and… BAM! Our nomad life plan came together with velocity in a matter of a few short months.
How did you go about planning everything?
Since we knew for over a year that we were going to be doing some sort of big move, we had all of our stuff downsized, organized, and stored. We didn’t make any huge in-person plans/commitments for the foreseeable. Ultimately, we set our intention and aligned our lives to have a sense of freedom so at any moment we could just up and go.
Once borders started opening again for travel, we knew that was our chance to start looking into options. The Air B&B nomad life idea had been floating around in our brains since about April/May, but in July we finally made a move on it and booked some things!
We both want to go everywhere (yes, we’re both Enneagram 7’s, who’s surprised) so we made a list of all of the places we wanted to go and picked our top 3-5.
On the Air B&B app, we scrolled and scrolled for hours. Upon doing research, we realized that price ranges vary by city, and there were plenty that were well within our budget! We found a unit we were in love with for our first month in Rome, Italy, so after mulling it over for a few days, we decided to take the jump! We booked it about 2.5 months before departure. And that is how the adventure officially began!
Do you always know where your next Air B&B is or do you plan as you go?
We always book our Air B&B’s approximately 2-3 months in advance!
This is important because if a unit gets booked up for even 2 nights of the entire month, it takes away the opportunity for a month-long stay. So, to give ourselves the security of having a place to reside and also having more options of good quality units, we start looking pretty early!
We very heavily base our Air B&B decisions on a few things:
- Cities of Interest
- Air B&B Prices
- Quality & Cleanliness of the Unit – basing this decision off of guest reviews and “superhost” ratings
- Amenities Offered – particularly, for us, we look for strong Wi-Fi and prefer to have a separate bedroom from the main living area
- Location – we prefer city centers, as of now, and want to be able to walk or take public transport!
Do you have all locations decided ahead of time?
Yes and no. For the short term, we have about 1-3 Air B&B’s booked at a time. (think of it as securing your rent for the next few months!) So those destinations are locked in.
As far as the long term goes though, we do have a rough plan but nothing set in stone until they’re booked! We talk and daydream about it all of the time. It is flexible and subject to change, but we definitely have some amazing ideas in mind!
One huge thing about planning Europe particularly, is we need to keep in mind the Schengen Area rules, which is that travelers can spend 90 days out of 180 days in a list of 26 countries. So this definitely has a huge impact on choosing our future locations because we need to track our time! It is very important to research and stay on top of each country’s individual rules when traveling as a foreigner.
So ultimately, I think I’d say there’s a beautiful blend of stability and flexibility in the dance of coordinating our locations! And I really love the variety.
How many suitcases do you live out of?
Steven has one large suitcase and a backpack.
I thought I would want to bring more since we’re staying for such a long time, but I am SO GLAD we try to keep things condensed. Once you’re here, dealing with too much stuff becomes overwhelming and heavy. We also try to purge some excess stuff each time we move.
Essentials you packed for Nomad Life
- Passport & Vaccine Card
- Clothes for the season we started with (fall and winter for us!)
- Packing Cubes
- Makeup + any specific toiletries I couldn’t buy abroad
- Technology (travel adaptors are specifically a must!)
I wrote down everything I initially packed for Italy, I was thinking of doing a whole post on this? Let me know if that would be of interest to you guys!
How do you pack for being gone so long?
I think one of my biggest pieces of advice is to bring clothes that you like and feel good in, but also wouldn’t mind parting with.
Packing cubes have been my saving grace for winter clothes.
Don’t bring large generic toiletries that add a lot of weight. Buy that stuff abroad! Most cities I’ve gone to so far have had a Sephora or a Pharmacy, so restock on location and get it early in the month so you use a bunch and lessen the weight for the next move.
Adversely, if there are specific things that you really love or need, stock up on that! Specifically medication, supplements, or specific products you don’t think you can live without (especially at first).
I just ultimately have the mindset that, obviously, there are other people living lives and fully functioning in these countries as I do at home. So even if the items I’m looking for aborad are not the exact same, I should be able to find something similar in stores to fit my needs. Worst case scenario, I could have my Mom ship it to me! (but very very rarely because international shipping is ridiculous.)
Is it exhausting packing and unpacking?
Yes and no. Because of the way we’ve been doing this, we stay in one place for a month and we only have 2-3 bags each. So, when we get here on the first day, we move in! Then we have about 4 weeks until we need to pack it up and do it all over again! The minute I’m unpacked I’m genuinely relaxed and don’t really think about it until a few days before leaving.
Plus, since this is everything we have at the moment, each time we move we pack up EVERYTHING! No decision fatigue based on what to bring and what to leave behind, which is a plus. It just turns into a monthly game of tetris!
Physically carrying the bags through the airport is the most exhausting part. (Thank God for Steven and his strength) The packing itself is like a nice reset every month so I don’t really mind that.
Any time we take a side weekend trip, we only take my small rolling carry-on and Steven’s backpack. So, the big suitcases don’t get repacked unless it’s for a monthly move!
Do you have travel insurance?
Yes! We get it through World Trips!
What jobs do you guys have that enable you to do this?
REMOTE JOBS, BABY!
One of the actual good things that came out of the pandemic was a wider spread of remote opportunities. I feel like my soul has been yearning for a remote job for years, as I constantly used to travel on weekends and rush home when I worked in person. I cannot express how grateful I am to finally have the sense of freedom that a remote job provides.
We work in human resource fields, which is a lot of admin, scheduling, and emails! It’s the same hours every day, aka great for being remote and for building a consistent routine.
I know your next question is going to be “how do I get a remote job?!” And I am just going to say straight up – as of now, that’s not my area of expertise.
However, I am going to refer you to @itsatravelod on both Instagram and TikTok. Her whole focus is helping people find remote work!
If I was to offer any advice, what I can say is – if a remote job is the type of job you really want, go for it! Manifest the opportunity by getting clear about what you want. Write out the qualities of your ideal job in a journal! Start aligning yourself and your life with that type of role before you even have it. When you search on Indeed or LinkedIn, search for “remote” or “remote worldwide” opportunities. They are out there, especially now! If it’s your dream, I know you can do it. 🙂
How do you navigate remote work and unpredictable Wi-Fi?
We get this question all of the time and the answer is plain and simple – choose a home base with reliable wi-fi and work there. On the Air B&B listing, look for a wi-fi listing, see if they mention the speed, and browse the reviews to see if other people had good (or bad) experiences with it. We choose to stay in larger city centers so we know there are millions of other professionals living there who use the internet daily. When you have a remote job, you can’t let unpredictable Wi-Fi be an option.
How do you manage being in a different time zone from the people you work with?
We adjusted to having mornings free and working in the afternoon/night instead of it being the other way around, so we still work the same hours. And let me tell you, I actually much prefer it this way! My natural body clock loves a later set day.
How do you stay motivated to work while exploring new countries?
Since we are approaching this as a lifestyle and not a vacation, there is so much well-rounded balance involved.
Compare it to this… you’re living in the States. You run your errands, you tend to your home, you go to the movies/theater/concert for entertainment, you have a job, and sometimes you take a quick weekend trip.
It’s the same exact concept here. We have the same exact amount of time in the day as we did before, we’re just using it to go see well-known landmarks or check out local restaurants. It’s strangely similar, actually, just with a different backdrop!
I’m not going to say it’s not foreign and glamorous, because a lot of times it totally is! (and I fan-girl about it regularly) But it ultimately comes down to how you spend your allotted free time outside of work or on the weekends.
Most importantly, though, when it comes down to work, my biggest advice is – ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE! Work time is absolutely non-negotiable. Those are the hours and they are set. Our jobs are what fund our dream, so they are a huge priority.
Thankfully, a month has seemed like a long enough time to balance everything between work and play so far. We just keep a constant list of things we want to do and pencil them in before work or on weekends to try and get to them before our time is up!
How do you pay for everything?
As mentioned above, our remote jobs are our full-time gigs at the moment!
We’ve also found that reallocating normal daily life funds to fit this current lifestyle helps significantly on the financial front. To get more specific…
We cut down on a lot of things:
- No apartment lease or house payment (rent money goes towards Air B&B’s)
- No car payment at home and no long-term rental car abroad
- We aren’t buying a lot of “stuff” since we don’t have much room to carry it
- No more online shopping! (imagine how much money that saves in itself LOL)
- Plus, neither of us has pets or kids! So we only need units big enough for two people.
As far as budgeting choices for nomad life:
- The best-kept secret OF ALL TIME – renting an Air B&B for a month actually has a discounted rate. There’s a whole variety of price points, especially depending on the city, so you can really set your budget. When splitting it with a partner, my portion equals out to almost the same amount I was paying for my share of a place & utilities in Orlando, Florida. The minute I calculated that, it was a literal no-brainer to take the jump on this opportunity. Instead of locking into yet another apartment lease, we are spending about the same amount to live in all of these bucket list cities. Dreams come true.
- Transportation – we get everywhere by either walking or taking public transport. All of that money that would’ve gone towards car payments, gas, or repairs now goes towards flights and trains. (which are a lot more affordable within Europe than in the US) We don’t rent a car and we barely even Uber – once in a while, but it’s rare!
- Food – Probably one of our biggest splurges is food but, let’s be real, I splurge on food no matter where I am in the world. I just love it so much! Depending on the country we choose; the food prices vary! (for example, Prague has much more affordable food, whereas Paris does not.)
- Experiences – You can choose as many or as few experiences as you like, and that’s really what makes up your budget there. We’ll usually purchase tickets to see location-specific landmarks, to take a cooking class, or to go see a show. It’s the same way you would pick and choose what experiences to invest in at home! (there does tend to be a lot more to do here though, of course, so you do have to prioritize!)
A lot of this really comes down to choice! There are so many areas where we choose a good budget option, and there are other areas where we invest because of the quality of an experience. Depending on what country you choose and the exchange rate, the value of your money can either go a lot farther or things can be more expensive.
I am not going to say living this way is cheap, as I do acknowledge the exceptional privilege and gift it is to be here. But it is by no means impossible! It’s about prioritizing what’s important to you, staying aware and conscious of your financial health, and investing your money and energy into slightly different areas than normal. For us, this really checked all of the boxes for what we wanted out of life, so we went all in!
Did you have a lot saved up before you went on this nomad life adventure?
Yes! Having a good base before coming out here provides peace of mind and I am grateful that I did.
I would highly recommend tending to your financial health before taking the jump! (or honestly, just any time in your life!) I follow @herfirst100k and she really motivated me to get my Savings Accounts, Roth IRA, Investments, and Credit Cards all sorted before taking on this venture. (all things that used to be very intimidating to me that I am proud to say I finally got a grasp on)
Speaking of credit cards… A HUGE tip is to apply for travel credit cards. We actually got round-trip flights from the States to Europe for free because of the amount of Delta points we got when signing up for their card. Also, a HUGE cash-back bonus from Chase that could very well pay for my Air B&B portion one month. Look out for those sign-up deals when applying for a new credit card because they help a ton. (and then, of course, spend responsibly!)
Here are the two cards that I have and love:
*However, not everywhere in Europe accepts American Express so I prefer Chase!
What is the biggest challenge?
Finding a way to balance blogging and social media with traveling, working, and resting. It’s another full-time job in itself but it’s what I love, so I am working hard on figuring out how to master this.
Then other than that… PACKING WINTER CLOTHES. Guys, they’re so heavy. I love European fashion and wish I could fully embrace it, but you really have to think about space and weight. Also, I am getting really sick of wearing the same stuff all of the time… but it’s just part of this lifestyle!
I am grateful to say that the challenges we’re coming across as so manageable and, in the grand scheme, quite minuscule. So that’s how I know that being here is so right.
How do you conquer anxiety/fear of traveling to new places?
- Start by traveling in small bits closer to home with people you trust to build up your confidence.
- Get to know yourself as a traveler – what works for you and what doesn’t.
- Know that everything isn’t going to go smoothly all of the time. Get into a place of acceptance with that.
- Practice being flexible and trust all of those missed flights, delays, and reroutes. The Universe always has a bigger plan in mind!
- Know that you can handle anything that comes your way.
- Being smart and aware of your surroundings.
- Educate yourself on the places you’re going to beforehand.
- Bring something grounding from home in case you start to feel anxious – for me that is Peppermint or Lavender essential oils or, weirdly enough, Listerine Spray!
- Make plans that make you feel excited!
- Know that the payoff of traveling is filling up your cup and enriching your life experience. Use that as motivation to fight through any fear!
What do you miss (if anything) about “normal” life?
Oh goodness, let’s see. My parents and my dog are what I miss the most, of course.
I’ve had multiple dreams about going home and swapping out my clothes, LOL. Admittedly, I love and miss my stuff. (I’m a Taurus, what are you gonna do)
Online shopping and the convenience of finding whatever you need at your fingertips. There’s a lot more in-person shopping in this lifestyle which can be challenging when you don’t know where to buy what. Especially because stores here are more specific rather than general. (sorry guys, no Target!)
I definitely was someone who went to a lot of appointments in the states, whether it be for health, eyebrows, hair, self-care, etc. So I miss the people I go to for that.
I am really, really bummed because I am going to miss a few of my friends’ weddings.
Or anytime my friends have a reunion and I can’t be there, I do feel sad. So I live vicariously through their social media posts for now!
Besides that… I believe that’s it? Genuinely, I can say this is one of my all-time favorite chapters of my entire life and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be in this moment. I really haven’t gotten homesick once yet, so I would say the tradeoff is worth it.
What has been the most surreal moment so far?
Just the fact that Steven and I met while living across the world from one another and now 2+ years later, we’ve built this beautiful partnership and we’re going on the adventure of a lifetime together. I’ll look at him from across the table and get so emotional because I’ll be like oh my god, this is really, really happening! He’s my best friend and such a wonderful human. We travel so well and being out here together living this lifestyle is what I dreamed of for so long!
As far as actual travel experiences go… Seeing the Trevi Fountain for the first time. Sitting out on our rooftop balcony looking over at the Duomo at night while eating pizza in Florence. Riding a gondola and walking the streets of Venice. Any time I ate Italian food was an ethereal experience. Disneyland Paris at Christmastime. Doing a river cruise along the Seine for our 2 year anniversary. Seeing the sparkly Eiffel Tower. Having it snow on Christmas morning in Old Town Square in Prague.
But ultimately, I think the most surreal part of this whole thing is that it’s a manifestation come true. I used to script in my manifesting journal back in 2018 “thank you, Universe, for letting me travel the world full-time with a partner who is a perfect fit for me” and now I’m LIVING IT. I need to go back and find those entries. It’s magical to be living all of this in real-time!
All of this to say, I am overflowing with appreciation and gratitude and “I can’t believe this is my life” moments every single day. It is so incredibly emotional and I am just so thankful.
Do you have an end date of nomad life planned?
We’re hoping we can do this for a very, very long time. It’s a lifestyle that we both love so much. I know we will definitely be coming back to the States for a bit for my friend Erika’s wedding, but we are hoping to continue on after that! (and maybe pivoting somewhere new??) I think we are just going to try and keep doing this for as long as we possibly can!
That’s All For Now!
Thank you all for submitting your questions! Again, follow me over on @JessicaFaye508 for more current Instagram updates. I am so excited to see where this journey will take us. Thank you so much for being here.
I hope you’re loving the new layout of The Road Jess Traveled! The site got a makeover just in time for this brand new chapter and hope you love it as much as I do!
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For the next post, we’re gonna jump into the travel journal entries. So first stop, ROME, ITALY!
Until then, I will talk to you soon! See you in Italy! 🙂