Choosing Your Initial Destination for a Fully Nomadic Lifestyle

Choosing Your Initial Destination for a Fully Nomadic Lifestyle

While choosing a destination for your newly nomadic lifestyle is important, it’s also not the end-all if it doesn’t work out. You may find that your initial choice is, in reality, the furthest thing from ideal long-term living. It’s a good idea to use this initial spot as a starting-off point until you figure out exactly what you want – and what you absolutely don’t.

The amount of time you’ll want to spend in your initial destination depends on your individual situation. Some folks prefer somewhere they can lay down roots immediately. Others may want to spend time exploring the world. Neither is wrong, but we don’t recommend putting too much stock in your initial destination right away.

Living a fully nomadic lifestyle requires flexibility. No matter how much planning you do, there are just some things you can’t account for. You’ll need to get in the right mindset to be nomadic-AF, and that usually requires a certain level of spontaneity. So, if your initial destination doesn’t work out, don’t worry! That just means you’re one step closer to figuring out what will work for you.

While we can’t pick the exact spot that will make you happy, we can offer up a few tips and tricks on how to decide what it is you want… and how to find it.

The First Step: Deciding What You Want

As a couple that gets itchy feet quite often, it might seem a bit hypocritical to help you decide what it is you want. But, because we do move so often, we’ve gotten really, really good at finding what it is we want on our next adventure.

For example, just last week we decided we were tired of the beach life and were ready for some cooler mountain weather. Two weeks later, here we are in the beautiful lake town of Valle de Bravo, Mexico.

So, let’s take a closer look at some things you can do to help decide what you want in your initial destination. Then we can move on to narrowing down your exact location.

#1 Factor – Climate

For most, this should be a pretty easy starting choice. If you’re tired of seeing snow in your current location, you’ll likely be interested in introducing some sun into your daily routine. Conversely, if you’re tired of being hot, hot, hot, a cooler mountain town might be in your best interest.

This is where you’ll need to do your research though. Just because a place is “down south” doesn’t necessarily mean it will be warm all year long. We’ve met many people who move from places like Canada to high-altitude regions in Mexico thinking it will be warm year-round. In reality, you’ll likely need a fireplace to enjoy places like San Cristobal de las Casas in the winter months.

Nomad Tip: Research, research, research. Find out when the rainy season is. Also, when “off-season” is (and why). This will give you a better idea of what you’re walking into when you arrive at your destination.

#2 Factor – Type of Lifestyle

It may go without saying certain locations are better for certain types of lifestyles. Are you looking for an adventure-filled spot, or would you prefer a quiet place to relax? Do you want to spend your time partying with expats, or would you rather immerse yourself in local culture?

Everyone has different wants and desires, and that’s okay. The world is a big place and has something for everyone. Again, this is where research is key.

When choosing a place to fit your lifestyle, ask yourself if you’d rather have:

  • City life or small-town living
  • An expat haven, an authentic local experience, or something in between
  • Access to water, mountains, jungle, desert, etc
  • A family-friendly environment or a more socially-active community

All of the above have advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately, you’ll need to decide which factors are most important to you because you can’t have it all. Some sacrifices will be needed if you’re truly going to get the most out of your newly nomadic lifestyle.

For example, it’s not uncommon to want a view. But that often comes with downsides as well (being further away from town, limiting walkability, noisy beach-goers, etc). You’ll need to be willing to make sacrifices along the way if you’re going to make it as a full-time nomad.

Nomad Tip: Decide what you’d like your week to look like. What are the most important things for you? What comforts do you absolutely need to be happily settled? Once you decide that… and what you’re willing to give up to achieve those goals, you’re golden.

Would you like to wake up, walk to the water, and do a sunrise paddle board class? Or would you prefer to be in the middle of the jungle and only go into town intermittently? Do you want to own a car or be able to walk to everything around you?

These are all decisions that can play a role in how much you’ll enjoy a place. The good news is, whether you’re more of a homebody or someone that prefers having an active lifestyle, your perfect spot is just a few decisions away!

#3 Factor – Cost of Living

The best location to take a vacation isn’t always the best place for your new nomadic life abroad. Vacation spots can often be expensive, and even if you’ve got the funds it’s a good idea to stick to the lower-end of your budget – at least initially. Or until you truly get to know a place and decide you want to put down roots.

We tend to travel to locations where we’ll be getting the most out of our dollar. For example, a beer back home in the states would run us about $4 USD. That same beer in Mexico (where we’re currently based) costs a quarter of the price. And trust me, it tastes so much better with your toes in the sand!

That being said, not all locations let you live a life of luxury. It’s a good idea to do plenty of research before you make your decision. You can generally find info on the cost of living online in just a few minutes – but we also recommend checking local Facebook groups and finding out what real-life people with their feet on the ground have to say.

Nomad Tip: Worried about cost of living? One of the best ways to save money is to travel during “off season”. That means if tourists usually head to a location in the winter, you’ll be better off booking something during the summer months. It may be a little hotter, but you’ll also see significant discounts on accommodations and activities.

We also tend to slow travel for two main reasons. First, we enjoy immersing ourselves in the local community. Another reason though is considerably more budget-conscious. We get better prices when booking by the month rather than on a per day or weekly basis. And when you know the local area, you’ll also find the best cheap eats in town!

Step Two: Narrow It Down Even Further

Now that you’ve got a clearer picture of what it is you want – and what you can afford – it’s time to start looking at more specific locations. Let’s say you’ve decided you want an affordable beach town that offers a good deal of amenities for expats. Great start! But that could leave you with hundreds of options to choose from.

Some additional things to think about (and research) can include;

  • Visa Requirements – Some countries have very strict rules about how many days you can spend there on a tourist visa. Happily, more and more countries are offering digital nomad visas – allowing you to stay longer if you work abroad.
  • Language Barriers – This is a tough one. In most tourist areas, you can usually get away with not speaking the language. However, it’s a good idea to at least learn a few words or phrases to get you by. If you’re not comfortable with that, you might want to seek out a place where they speak your Native language.
  • Food & Culture – If you’re still on the fence, this can be a biggie. Nothing, and I mean nothing, drives our decision to move to a certain place more than food and culture. Opting for a place that piques your interest in these areas is definitely a good place to start!

But how do you find your Goldilocks location?

Nomad Tip: Utilize the tools around you to get a better idea of a location before your feet are even on the ground. The internet is a wild place. You can find the answer to almost any question with the click of a few buttons.

Here are a few of our favorite online tools we recommend using:

SkyScanner

We often use this website to seek out our next location. The search function is extremely easy to use and allows you to search locations based on country, region, or worldwide. We typically do not recommend booking through Skyscanner though since cheaper prices can often be found elsewhere.

Local Airlines

Once we narrow our options down on Skyscanner, we’ll often go to more local airlines to find budget-friendly flights.

Kiwi

This is another great site for finding your ideal location. It’s nice because Kiwi provides a map-based search system allowing you to easily see prices across the globe. They generally have great prices on flights as well… but we’d still recommend doing a bit of extra research before booking through Kiwi.

AirBnb

It may seem silly, but occasionally we will choose a place based on a house rather than a specific location. Airbnb allows you to enter your dates and has tons of options to narrow down your search. You can even be as specific as something like “a lake town in South America”.

Many hosts also offer significant discounts when you book on a per-month basis. We really enjoy this because it gives us a month to scout out the area and see if we want to stay longer. And once you have your feet on the ground, you can find much cheaper accommodations that aren’t over-inflated.

Facebook Groups

Once we’ve picked a place (or two) in our minds, we’ll often join “expat groups” on Facebook in that location. It’s a great way to ask questions about safety, cost of living, and the best neighborhoods to be in.

Facebook Marketplace

While it’s true that once a place hits the internet it becomes more costly, there is something to be said for the FB Marketplace. You can get a general idea of prices for just about anything you can think of, from long-term rentals to home goods. You’ll also find the occasional worthwhile gem with a quick search or two.

Google Maps

A great way to do research (and get hyped about a place) is to use Google Maps’ “street view” function. We often “walk” around a neighborhood and city to scout out the best food places and get excited about our next location.

Of course, there are dozens of other resources you can find online to help pick your location. We encourage you to do as much research as possible before making the big move. Being realistic about your expectations can go a long way toward a happy outcome.

Step Three: Try It Out

The best way to find out if you’ll enjoy a long-term life somewhere is to get your feet on the ground and try it out. All the research in the world won’t be enough to make that final decision. Beginning your nomadic journey can be stressful and intimidating, but sometimes you just have to make the leap.

You’re probably wondering, what if I choose the wrong place? Don’t stress!

Sometimes the initial destination might just not be for you, and that’s okay! The best part about living a nomadic lifestyle is that it doesn’t have to be your forever place. We still haven’t decided where we want (or if we want) to settle down full-time after 12+ years.

That’s why we don’t recommend putting too much stock into a place… at least initially. Think of it as a learning opportunity. Use the pros and cons of your first destination to decide what’s best for your individual lifestyle. Then use the tips above, pack your bags, and do it all again until you find your perfect piece of personal paradise.

Nomad Tip: Don’t burn yourself out! Living a nomadic lifestyle isn’t the same as being on a perpetual vacation. Sure, there will be many days that you’ll want to spend enjoying your new location and all the attractions it offers. But that go, go, go can get pretty exhausting, pretty quickly. There will be days you just want to lay on the couch and binge-watch your favorite TV show, and that’s perfectly normal!

Are You Ready to Become Nomadic-AF?

You don’t have to be rich or even special to become nomadic-AF. However, a good rule of thumb is to have at least 6-months of savings before making the leap. Finding work abroad is very uncommon (and often illegal) so don’t expect to make an instant income once you land at your destination.

Nomad Tip: Talk to your current job ahead of time to find out if a transition to remote work is possible. You can also check out our blog on digital nomad jobs you can easily do abroad.

It’s also important to realize that sustaining a nomadic lifestyle is not all sunshine and rainbows. You’ll need a decent amount of adaptability, fearlessness, and a general sense of adventure. But if you’re determined to make it work, things tend to fall into place.

  • Are you tired of living the 9-5 rat race?
  • Do you want to truly immerse yourself in another culture?
  • Would you like to improve your overall quality of life?
  • Are you ready to get the most bang for your buck?
  • Do you want to see the world in a whole new light?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you’re on the right track. While everyone has their own reasons for becoming nomadic-AF, adaptability is key. We’re confident that almost anyone can live the best lifestyle for them if they really put their mind to it!

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