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Traveling Abroad: The Life of a Nomad

Some people homestead; others travel. I’m a traveler. I’ve always been a traveler. Oftentimes, I am asked what it is like to constantly be on the move. In this post, I will share my experiences and perspective on living a life on the go.

Although I consider myself a world traveler, I have not been to nearly as many places as some of my friends. Of the 50 states, I have visited (or lived in) all but six (Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming). I have also been blessed to spend some time in 14 foreign countries: Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cambodia, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, and Vietnam.

My extensive travel is not a result of coming from a wealthy family. My father was a steelworker and my mother, at least when I was growing up, was a stay-at-home caregiver. My ability to travel and the passion it ignited in me was a result of circumstance.

Midway through college, I joined the United States Air Force intending to take advantage of the educational benefits while getting a chance to see more of the world. Initially, I planned to stay for four years, but I would up making a career out of it. The money and benefits were good and the travel was great. I have said this before, but I will say it again: visiting a foreign country is nice, but living in one is amazing. I was fortunate enough to live in several different countries during my time in the service.

After retiring from the military, I took an engineering job with a telecommunications company. Although the money was fantastic, the opportunity to continue traveling was even more valuable. For several years, I traveled all across the United States and around the world testing cellular service for major providers including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and others.

Sometimes I would only get a one or two-week stay in a particular location. Other times, I would live in a place for one, two, or three years. Currently, I have been living in Vietnam for just shy of four years.

I have many friends and family members who have never ventured far outside of their hometowns. There is nothing wrong with that if it suits you. In fact, there are a lot of benefits to homesteading that a traveler has to sacrifice.

Life on the road can be a lonely existence. I think of the old television series Cheers where “everybody knows your name.” People who remain in their hometowns have the advantage of building long-term relationships whereas those of us who are always on the move see friends come and go. Sure, a few of us stay in touch via social media or the occasional text message, but it is not the same as a neighbor you’ve known since high school.

So, what is it like to travel as a way of life? As I said in the beginning, I have been asked that question many times. I’ll do my best to summarize my perspective.

First of all, traveling is amazing, especially if your stay is more than just a visit. There is nothing like being able to immerse yourself in another culture – the people, the food, the traditions, etc. The world is an incredible place filled with wonders. From futuristic architecture in Baku to the ruins of Rome to the art of Paris, there is always something spectacular to see wherever you go if you look for it. Tastes are so subjective that every country offers a slightly different style of cuisine.

The one constant I have seen in my travels is that we are all the same! We love our families, we want better for our children, we strive to provide and have goals and dreams.

Secondly, as I mentioned before, while adventurous and rewarding, a life of travel can be a lonesome existence. Some of you may have lifelong friends that you see on a monthly or even weekly basis; I rarely see my old friends. Just as I am getting close to someone, I move. We keep in touch, but regular visits just aren’t feasible. Kurt was a very good friend of mine in the military. We send each other Christmas cards and the occasional text, but I haven’t seen him or his family in nearly twenty years.

Finally, as a traveler, you have to sacrifice that direct connection with family. I can’t even begin to count the number of family birthdays, marriages, graduations, births, and deaths that I have missed due to living abroad. You still keep in touch, but it is not the same as being there. I miss family Christmas or Thanksgiving dinners. I wish I could be there for them in times of sorrow and times of joy.

I guess the gist here is that everything in life is a trade-off. If you are comfortable with the things and people that surround you, then stay put. If, however, you are like me, craving change and diversity, then get out there and see the world. Just remember, everything comes at a price!

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