It’s OK To Be A “Sometimes Traveler”
There are days when you want to sit down and write a post about investing, but some creature from within crawls its way from the dark depths of your brain. Writing is like that sometimes — it can get messy.
Today was one of those days. I wanted to write a cool post about investing, but instead found myself writing about a financial independence topic that’s been nagging at me for months — The association between financial independence and a nomadic lifestyle.
The Nomadic FIRE Lifestyle
If you read a lot of FI blogs like I do, you’re bound to encounter it — Individuals and couples that have achieved financial independence and spend most of their days traveling the world.
These people have millions in savings, but no “home base” to return to. Instead, they simply keep traveling and the adventure never really seems to end.
This makes for plenty of cool blog posts — nomad FIRE blogs and tweets are filled with foreign locales, exotic dishes, and sun drenched beaches. This kind of imagery really ‘sells’ the whole FIRE lifestyle.
Even I’m guilty of showing off our travels — We went to Japan for a month and I spent weeks writing blog posts about that adventure. This summer, we went road tripping around the Pacific Northwest. In 2016, we went to Hawaii and lived it up — dining on fresh fruit and seafood while chilling-out in front of our own private pool.
We’ve had an awesome time, but this makes a FIRE seem like some kind of endless travel party… a life of perpetual travel and hedonic bliss.
But is this reality?
Different Travel Models
For some people it is. Some of my favorite bloggers like Millennial-Revolution and GoCurryCracker spend a huge chunk of their life traveling from place-to-place… and they’re still going at it!
So yes, there definitely people that can do it. They chose that lifestyle and get to enjoy all the positives and negatives associated with it.
Don’t let those blogs fool you into believing that’s only what FIRE is about. FIRE can be about any lifestyle you want!
There are all kinds of models that work — some individuals travel intensely for years and then finally settle down to a less mobile lifestyle. FreedomWithBruno is a great example of this — Amanda and Travis spent about a year traveling Central and South American, and then suddenly stopped. They now run an AirBNB in Asheville, North Carolina.
Another category of travelers I’d like to call attention to (and I put myself into this bucket), are individuals with families who only travel occasionally. Bloggers like RootOfGood, RetireBy40, and the Tako family spend most of our days actually NOT traveling. Why?
Not everybody wants or needs to travel the world 24/7!
Back before Mrs. Tako and I reached financial independence, we did a ton of traveling — We visited places like Europe, Australia, Mexico, Japan, and Canada. We had a great time, and we still managed to save over 50% of our salaries. But here’s the thing — many of those locations I have very little desire to visit again.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed traveling to those places… They were fantastic, but we’ve already checked those boxes, saw the sights, ate the food, and taken the photos.
The idea of living out of a suitcase day-after-day has lost most of its appeal.
Now, we’re what I call “Sometimes Travelers“. Instead of traveling full-time, we simply prefer to go on occasional trips during the year (like our month-long trip to Japan).
In 2017, the Tako family spent 2 months traveling (roughly 17% of the year) and $7k of our annual budget on travel costs. That seemed like plenty of travel for us!
Other examples of “Sometimes Travelers” — The RootOfGood family spent 3 (summer) months traveling in Europe, and RetireBy40 recently returned from a trip to Cancun after visiting Hawaii earlier in the year.
Despite indications to the contrary, we’re not all nomads and travel bloggers — we’re just regular people who gained complete control of our finances and can now travel more often.
Most days we live a typical home life, doing typical home stuff — making dinner, doing laundry, gardening, taking the kids to school, grocery shopping, raking leaves, etc.
It’s true that we do travel more now that we’ve FIRE’d — but our travels end-up being more like a vacations, instead of a nomadic lifestyle.
The Family Factor
Another reason why the nomad lifestyle isn’t realistic for many , is the whole ‘Family Factor’. If you’ve ever tried to travel with young children, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about — traveling with young children can be a lot of work.
Not only do parents need to carry a bunch of extra stuff (diapers, a change of clothes, toys, books, snacks, etc), but fussy children can make travel absolute hell. I know what I’m talking about here folks — As a parent who recently landed in Japan covered in vomit, I speak from experience. Some very wet and smelly experience…
Traveling with kids isn’t easy.
There’s also the added expense of traveling with your kids — in many cases children pay the exact same price as adults for airline tickets. This can dramatically increase the cost of travel for a family.
While it is possible for families to travel frequently, it takes a certain amount of steadfast dedication to do it full-time. Many FIREd parents like myself simply default to an easier option — being “Sometimes Travelers” instead of full-time travelers.
While popular FIRE blogs do a great job of selling a nomadic lifestyle of perpetual travel, don’t let those exciting blogs alter the course of what you find fulfilling in life. You don’t have to travel all the time to have an amazing life!
For some people, a full life is definitely going to be about travel. For others, perhaps they find joy in volunteering for their local community. It’s entirely up to you!
Simply put, a nomadic travel lifestyle makes for great blog posts, but it might not be what you need to live a long and happy life. A little bit of travel might actually work better for you than a life of endless travel.
How much of your year would be the ideal amount of travel, and where would you go?
37 thoughts on “It’s OK To Be A “Sometimes Traveler””
When we finally do retire I plan to travel six months of the year. However it will largely be in place traveling to experience a culture in depth not move around a lot. Even today I spend about a month total away with kids so I know it works for me… but I also to your point know it doesn’t work for everyone. I also know it has limits for me as after six months I’d want six months home. Know thyself.
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That sounds like a very exciting plan FTF! For us, a few months of traveling per year seems just about ideal! 🙂
This is a great distinction of different FIRE travel plans. Mr. FAF and I definitely want to travel to different places and see what the world has to offer when we’re FIREd. But I’m not sure if we want to travel full-time either.
We visit our family in Asian once every year or two years, and we get tired from sitting on the plane, security check, and jetlag. I particularly dislike jetlag since it makes me feel so dysfunctional. Overall, anything in moderation is good for us. 🙂
Absolutely — there’s sooo much overhead to traveling overseas (security, long flights, delays, layovers, etc). If you travel for a typical vacation length it’s often one or two days lost to just travel overhead … which is exactly why I believe in taking much longer trips if we travel that far.
One month seems to be just about the right length of time for us. We recover from the jetlag, have plenty of time to spend in a location, and really only lose two days to travel overhead.
We try to limit our travels now because of my five year old daughter. She is much different than her older sister and much more difficult. She often makes trips to the grocery store or restaurants pure hell. We’ll wait to travel a bit more when she’s a lot more mature.
I’m with you…sometimes traveling works for us for now.
I hope you had a change of clothes on your flight in your carry-on bags…
Nope, no change of clothes for me! The kids had a change, but I didn’t. I had to go through Japanese customs smelling like some kind of hobo!
Thankfully they let me in! 🙂
Life has cycles…. I’ve been to over 40 countries, all 7 continents, and seen much of the good ole USA, but I’m at a part of my life where I’m not as thrilled about it. I’m positive that will change and that I’ll be itching to go back out on big adventures again.
Right now I’m interested in more slow travel in America. Even though I’ve been to almost every state and region numerous times, there’s just so much more to see of our own country….. especially if I take it more slow and dig deeper.
I totally agree… slow travel is better! After having traveled around much of the United States, I’ve found that (at least the urban areas) really aren’t all that different from place to place. The same stores, and same tall buildings.
To enjoy the real differences, I really feel like we have to be outdoors hiking or camping.
I’m more a homebody, only travel occasionally. In 2015 I had a vacation for 2 months in China. It was fun. At the end. I couldn’t wait to get home. It was odd feeling once at home, I felt my English was rusty, as I didn’t speak English much while in China. And I felt awkward driving, and had to practice locally before hitting the highway, as I didn’t drive in China. Down the road, I might want to travel a little bit more.
Yeah, I hear you. Traveling is great… for a while, but it gets old too. I hate feeling like a dumb tourist.
Travelling endlessly around the world is a lifestyle that is only doable IF you don’t have kids. Once kids come in the picture, this is pretty much impossible. You going to drag them along to Mexico then Peru then Thailand then Indonesia then etc etc etc ?
Going to school is the main thing. Toys and all the other items that come with kids are another thing. Yes travelling for a month or 2 is fine. But with kids the majority of the time should still be spent in one place.
I’ve seen and met quite a few families who travel full time. It’s surprisingly common, and the kids seem very well adjusted and intelligent.
These families homeschool or “world school” the kids — They aren’t schlepping them around to tourist traps all the time. It seems doable, but the onus is really on the parents to provide a proper education and stimulating learning environment.
We have kids in school so can’t travel that much, other than during school holidays. At present we dont plan to change our vacation schedule beyond what we used to do before FIRE.
Once the kids are in college I think we will travel more but I don’t anticipate it being more than 25%
I’m with you — 25% of the time sounds about right. That’s 3 months a year. Once our kids start school, we’ll probably be doing most of our travel during the summer months.
I’ve read a few different posts this morning, but all have a common underlying theme: make the journey to/after FIRE your own. This post is another great example of this. There is no one way to FIRE. But bottom line is do what makes you happy, since you’re the own that has to live it.
Absolutely! Often times I think bloggers (especially travel bloggers) give people the wrong impressions… which is why I wanted to write this post.
People can travel if they want, but it needs to be said that you can stay home and garden too!
What I like about the idea of FIRE is that the trips you do take have much more flexibility. You might not be traveling constantly, but when you do go, you can spend as much time as you want at a place because you don’t have to worry about only being able to take a week or so off of work.
We’ll probably still be sometimes travelers when I quit my job in a couple years. However, I would actually anticipate that it won’t be as much since the plan is to be living in Panama. I’m hoping that will be like one long vacation there.
Although we’ll still do an occasional cruise or what not, I’m guessing the majority of our travel would be to come back and visit friends and family.
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Makes sense, you’ll have a whole new country to explore! There should be plenty of day-trip opportunities to keep you guys busy for a long time!
I desire to be a “sometimes traveler” particularly because we are teachers and hopefully we can do more extensive sometimes traveling soon. For me, that is a hard hurdle at the moment because we have debt that we need to pay off. I also think it can be difficult when you have pets. We consider our dog part of our family and to leave him with friends for a month would be difficult for us to rationalize. However, a compromise for us might be doing a long vacation domestically in one spot and then going abroad might satiate our travel bug a bit.
Yeah, pets definitely complicate the situation. We don’t have any pets, so it’s relatively easily for us to pick up and travel for a month or two.
If you have friends who really love your dog it might not be a bad experience for him/her. Kindof like summer camp for kids… only for your dog!
What about a second home in a desirable location (for you and your family)? A warm climate if you live in a cold one. A place with good access to other places for day trips or overnight trips. You’re not living out of a suitcase because your second home is equipped with your stuff.
You know, I’ve thought about this. What if we bought a second house in Hawaii or something?
There’s a ton of questions to answer, like — Would we get bored with that place? Would it be cheaper to just rent something instead? Could we rent out the place when we’re not there?
I’m definitely going to be thinking about this idea.
My target of FI is partly to not be constrained by 2-3 weeks of vacation. (I’m considering remote work / independent contractor type jobs as my ideal. ) Some time would be great for travel. I spent the summer of 2015 unemployed. I met my friend on a Thursday for lunch and a hike. I went to a historic farm with my friend and her daughter. My sister & I had a mini golf place to ourselves a Wednesday afternoon. I spent more time visiting friends and family without the rush back Sunday night. I could drive home midday and miss traffic. I went to daytime yoga classes and freed up my evenings. I cooked lunch more often.
I have a friend in Oregon and it would have been cool to visit, but not knowing if the call for an interview would come in, and not wanting to spend too much, I didn’t travel. That much time off would have been ideal to go to Hawaii.
Being employed again I’ve crammed visits to family into just a few days. It would be great to go for 2 weeks, even if I had to do some remote work some days, the view of the lake while working would be fine by me.
Right now we do family trips every other year or so, because I have to save up vacation days. We go cool places so it is worth it, but I’ve also scrimped on going anywhere this year. My mom is retired and had 3 trips last year and was kind of traveled out. It was just how things lined up. There’s something nice about also getting projects done around the house. Or just appreciating the house and the view etc. I think it’s finding a balance. I look forward to my own struggles for that balance one day. 🙂
Good luck finding it!
2 to 3 weeks of vacation per year is really nothing (especially if you don’t get sick leave), and was one of the main reasons why I wanted to quit my full time job.
It’s turned out to be an excellent decision! 🙂
Thoughtful post, Mr. Tako.
Personally, I find the travel more enjoyable when there is a novelty factor of visiting a new place and exploring some of the local sites by foot or bicycle if possible, especially if it coincides with pleasant weather. That makes for a great experience and more importantly the building up of some nice memories that can be visited by reviewing photos and videos plus in your mind’s eye.
Having traveled to exotic destinations repeatedly for work I can say with some certainty that repeat visits to the same places get old simply because I tend to take them for granted and the experience ‘blurs’ into some of the previous episodes and is less worth the value of the experience.
And I think continual traveling won’t be that fun as burnout and fatigue will set in and many of the places will ‘blur’ together. I like the episodic nature of traveling, like 2-4 trips per year. Once retired I’ll try to keep that schedule, too- although as you correctly indicate, traveling with children is very expensive due to the extra number of tickets needed.
Best to you,
Yup yup, totally agree Mike! A few trips per year sounds about right…
And I absolutely agree with you on the “novelty wearing-off” factor. I feel like that about most cities in the states. After having visited most of the big cities, they no longer have much appeal.
Great post! I agree that the distinction between the nomadic FIRE and sometimes traveler FIRE is children, especially school age children (unless they are home schooled).
I’m not FIREd yet but we are in Hawaii for 5 weeks with a 3 month old and it’s definitely not the same without children! We don’t go out after 4pm and pretty much have one outing a day lol. There’s still some sleep deprivation in paradise. If I was FIREd I would be in the sometimes travel camp too. Though having the flexibility to take a vacation when you want, for how long you want, and where you want is still a component of both FIRE styles :). It’s not limited to a 2 week vacation every 52 weeks.
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Five weeks in Hawaii sounds awesome!
I only wish I could have gotten two weeks off when I was working — The maximum my employer ever let me take was a week at one time. It kinda sucked. 😉
Sometimes I feel a little out of place in the FIRE community, surrounded by others with lofty travel goals. I don’t have a strong desire to travel extensively pre or post FIRE. Sure I have a bucket list of places I’d like to see, but it’s not very long and many I’ve seen already and many I don’t plan on returning to. I don’t have a strong sense of adventure or thirst for the “experiences” that travel supposedly offers, there are just a lot of places I have no interest in visiting. I tend to look at travel like any other purchase and analyze the value of what I’m buying when traveling and there just aren’t a lot of places that I highly value for travel. Additionally, I too find long trips tiring. Living out of a suitcase gets old, constantly moving around gets old, the act of traveling and dealing with other travelers gets old and annoying, and I can even see the location getting old or boring after some time. I tend to feel ready to return to the comfort of my own home after a couple weeks. I can see one trip a month on average, whether it’s a few days to a week, being more than enough. I’d probably do an international trip once every year or two, but mostly domestic trips, particularly national parks and road trips, but also the many great cities in our own country and visiting friends/family.
I’m five years into FIRE and travel almost never. I find it a hassle.
Also, I am human or cephalopod and have checked the appropriate box.
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I hear you — security, delays, crowds… it’s a huge pain. Especially if you have kids!
Thanks for the mention!
I agree 100%. You just do what’s the right fit for your family. I’d like to travel more, but it doesn’t work right now. Maybe when our kid is out of the house and Mrs. RB40 retires full time, then we’ll travel more. I want to try living in Thailand for a few years and explore Asia more. We’ll see how that goes. Mrs. RB40 definitely wants a home base somewhere.
Sorry about to hear about the barf, yuk. 🙁
That’s parenthood for you… if you haven’t been occasionally coated in vomit or feces, you’re not a real parent. 😉
I’m thinking we’ll do a month in Thailand someday. Maybe when you’re there! I’ll probably hit you up for Thailand travel tips!
Hi Tako, I think you are spot on about different tastes for travel and stay at home life … there are plenty of chances for fun local trips by home that are relatively free … once the travel bug is partly satiated, then more occasional travel is perfectly fine …. it can be simple too like camping, hiking and canoeing etc …and locals schools are great for the children … if an FI person orworking expat were to want to live in a country like Thailand or Germany for year … they could do homeschooling too …. as an option to traveling the world slowly with kids … I wrote about it recently … CPO, From the Far Side of the Planet
Thanks for the shout-out, Mr. Tako!
I think there’s a bit of a misconception here that nomadism means you are travelling ALL the time. There are times where we stay in one place for months (like in Mexico, we stayed for 4 months), and there are nomads who have home basis they come back to every 6 months. So even in the nomadic world, there are different ways of travelling. I’ve met World Schoolers who are simply living over seas and travel only occasionally within the Southeast Asian countries.
I agree with you that everyone needs to tailor their retirement to suit their needs. That’s the beauty of the FIRE community. There are different role models so everyone can “choose your own FI adventure” 🙂 If you prefer to stay in one place and only travel for vacation, especially if you have kids, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You gotta do you!
I guess from my perspective it looks like you guys are always traveling. I had no idea you guys were in Mexico for 4 months. My guess would have been a month or two.
Blogs often give one impression, but the reality is often different. This post was all about dispelling the myth that FIRE folks always need to travel… and you’ve done just that! Thank you!
I agree with you! Sometimes travel is good for all. It’s like when you will be thirsty for water then drink and enjoy. Thanks for your such a great post!