Things I Need to be a Nomad

If you could live a nomadic life, would you? Where would you go? How would you decide? What would life be like without a “home base”?

I start work at the end of the month, and in preparation for my proper insertion into the Real World, I’ve been looking into a host of adult-y things like investment platforms, insurance coverage and driving lessons (because… I never got round to doing it #regrets). But that’s nothing compared to my friends who are tying the knot, trying their luck for an HDB (public housing in Singapore) or buying cars. More so in Singapore than any country, these big-ticket items saddle you with debt that makes it  more than just a little harder to up and leave whenever you want.


During our Trans-Mongolian trip we met several people who had sold everything they had, quit their jobs and embarked on an indefinite itinerary of exploration and wanderlust. I clung on to their stories with admiration and envy, clutching the fragments of our own adventures with desperation and fervor. For as much as I told these new friends, “I want to do that some day too!”, I know that this plan is a remote possibility that will lie in wait on cobwebbed shelves. This isn’t cynicism or fatalism speaking, but practicality.

  • My contract with my company only ends when I’m 29, which is still relatively young. But even with the country’s plummeting birth rate, I could be a mom (!!!) by then. How do you backpack when your baby is on your back?
  • What if we’ve sold the (hypothetical) house to fund part of the trip, only to find that a life on the move isn’t for us, and need to come back but have no more money (if the ever-rising price of flats is anything to go by)?

And underlying these concerns: what is the point of travelling? 

I’m still figuring it out, but over the last couple of months, I have come across several individuals on the Internet with enviable lives. To my surprise, I realized that many of these Enviable Individuals are not financially successful by the world’s standards. They’re not bankers or lawyers or in possession of a glamorous job.

A few things they hold in common: they write well, lead what I perceive to be untethered lives by their own volition, and are settled down — not physically but emotionally — with someone they love and care deeply about. Some examples: Lynne Martin and her husband whose retirement plan involved selling their house and traveling the world, Jurgen and Mike who live in another place for 91 days each time, Victoria and Steve who uprooted themselves from London and are currently in San Pancho “living the lives they want.”

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more. — Pico Iyer, “Why We Travel”

Each renewed act of travel, of discovery, reveals a little bit more of ourselves and the space around us. But I think the key thing about living a nomadic lifestyle is that it isn’t just travel, but a necessity. After all, a nomad moves from place to place for something, be it food, water or shade from the elements, and not just because he is bored. Already I am entertaining thoughts of setting down roots in London or Cusco in the distant future, but until we have a purpose drawing us to that place, I think I would be very tired.

As ambiguous as this may sound, it’s helped me realize a few ‘wants’ :

  1. I don’t necessarily want to be able to afford a HDB or condo effortlessly, I want a job that lets me write.
  2. I want to lead a life of and by choice. This sounds rather duh, but I think it’s two different things for me to accept that I’ll never be a banker ‘cos I hate numbers and ratios, and to actively define that I would like to publish a book someday.
  3. I want a life partner who loves me and is on the same page as me on this.
  4. Above all, I want to fulfill my Purpose on this earth, which sounds vague but I guess The Man Up There has plans for all of us.

If I could have all these things: a physical purpose (eg. writing), volition, love and a spiritual aim, then I wouldn’t need houses or money or cars (but aren’t they always nice) but adventure and meaningful conversations and breathtaking landscapes. You wouldn’t need a home base, because you would already feel at home (there will always be Skype, mom).

But in any case, these are plans for six years on. Who knows what will change in the time in between?


First time answering the Daily Prompt, because I thought it was super relevant to the thoughts going on in my mind.

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