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Living on NST – Nomadic Standard Time


Asking us about our upcoming travel plans is akin to asking for a weather forecast. We may have a fairly accurate idea of what the next few hours may hold, and that there is a chance of some snow in the winter. But the details in between are hard to pin down, particularly more than a few days in advance.

We do set intentions for things we want to do and places we want to be, but we intentionally avoid holding ourselves to a fixed schedule or itinerary for most things.

By and large, we wake up in the morning without knowing where we’ll be that very evening.   And we love it.

It didn’t happen overnight

Before I became full time nomadic, I was very much a planner. On the Myers-Briggs Personality scale I’m an INFJ, with a moderate J leaning (which means I’m definitely more inclined to be a schedule oriented planning personality type).  When Chris and I first set off on our journey together, I would become quite anxious if we didn’t have a plan for the coming weeks, let alone the day. And I’d become more frustrated when I couldn’t give people a reliable arrival date and time.  Chris (an ENFP) humored me.

But two years of full time travel has definitely been the cure to this pesky personality quirk. I’ve moderated out and come to appreciate the benefits on setting intentions but embracing what we find ahead of us.

Nomadic Serendipity

Routing on the Fly

Routing on the Fly

When you allow the adventure to unfold in front of you, instead of trying to stick to a plan no matter what, wonderful things can happen. This is something we’ve come to call Nomadic Serendipity.  Aren’t those fabulous words?

Whether it be allowing for chance encounters with amazing people, finding an unexpected scenic route, arriving just in time to help someone out, capturing that perfect picture, stumbling into an introduction to a potential business opportunity, finding a favorite rare treat in a little rural town or finding respite when you need it most…

Trusting in nomadic serendipity has yet to fail us.

But trying to stick to a plan has a remarkably high failure rate.  Despite our best efforts and intentions, several times we’ve set in motion plans to meet up with someone, or visit somewhere – and had those plans fall through for various reasons.

I’ve found that I’d much rather live in a constant state of delight with the things that serendipity brings me, than the frequent frustration of missed plans disappointing me.

Nomadic Standard Time

The downside to living a life without a firm itinerary is that it’s awfully difficult to convey arrival times and destinations.  When we don’t know where we’ll be even tonight, how can I tell our next rendezvous or host when to expect us?  At first, this caused me a great deal of stress.  Either we were rushing to meet a plan we conveyed, or we were afraid of leaving friends and family in a state of limbo.

It actually once contributed to a pretty major highway scare for us because we were pushing too hard to make an arrival date. Spinning down the interstate jack-knifed while towing a trailer was a wake-up call. Never again.

And thus now when conveying potential plans I always prefaces all dates and times being on NST – or Nomadic Standard Time.

A nomad, like a wizard, always arrives precisely when they are meant to.

This let’s folks know our general intentions, but also not to plan dinner around our arrival.  Even our travel planning calendar is on NST, and it’s constantly in flux as serendipity lays things out for us.

NST doesn’t mean being a flake

However, just because we don’t normally prefer to follow a plan or set firm intenaries, doesn’t mean we can’t.

There are indeed times that having a firm arrival time is imperative. Such as when we have a work commitment to be onsite for a client, or a speaking engagement at a conference. Events we really want to attend, like Burning Man, also become firm destinations in our schedule.  And we’ll even make firm intentions of rendezvousing with loved ones, and being there for important occasions.

And we’re darn reliable too when we need to be. If we tell you we will be there, we will be.  Probably right on the dot, as I am by inclination a scheduler. It’s just, we’re very picky about the things that merit setting a fixed arrival date and time.

And yes.. we do miss opportunities

There are downsides to living a life on NST with Nomadic Serendipity being your pilot – you will indeed miss things.

Serendipity leads us to the Appalachians

Serendipity leads us to the Appalachians

For instance, there was an event a couple weeks ago on the east coast that we were quite interested in attending. However the ticketing process was definitely not nomad friendly and required quite a bit of advanced planning and logistical coordination. Yet we didn’t even know for sure we’d be in the vicinity until after ticket sales had closed.  While we set intentions to manifest tickets, it just didn’t happen.

But we weren’t disappointed – we just trusted in nomadic serendipity finding us something else. And instead we had a delightful time hiking and exploring in the Appalachians. Attending that event just wasn’t where we were meant to be.

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  1. Most of my nomadic meanderings are conducted solo style so I can avoid making any sort of specific scheduling. The “flake” bit made me smile. I just returned to the boat after almost three weeks of mostly non-tech nomadism evidenced by a few stretches of forced internet deprivation. During that time I became acutely aware that others were a long way from understanding how many variables come into play when traveling without a strict itinerary. I’m pretty sure I even preceded one of my disclaimers with, “I don’t want to sound like a flake, but…”

    Within an hour of returning, someone suggested that I sail down the coast to meet up in San Francisco on one or two specific days. It’s bad enough inland. I was delayed for a day because one too close for comfort lightning strike resulted in a canceled day of kayaking… and that was just on a lake. Throw sailing weather windows accounting for wind and waves into the mix and my target date is roughly from here to eternity.

    Anyway, I appreciated this post. Thanks for validating my persistent ETA variance syndrome. Or is that just my INTP mind scrambling to develop a logical explanation for something I’d do anyway? 🙂

  2. This is much like my plan for my Best Man’s Toast at my brother’s wedding this past weekend.

    I had a few quotes I wanted to mention, but I didn’t write anything down.

    If there’s no strict specification, then there’s no pressure/stress involved in sticking to that specification.

    Taking this into consideration, all I had to deal with was the usual fear of public speaking… =]

    • *laugh*

      I did the same thing when I had to give my brother a Best Man’s Toast! I really had no idea what I was going to say when I opened my mouth, but apparently I wowed the room. I’ve always been better making things up on the fly than delivering a canned routine.

  3. That’s awesome, I love the idea of NST! Unless I have a teaching gig or a consulting call scheduled I also rarely know where I’ll be for dinner or what other wonderful things will happen—when I’m traveling or even staying put in my temporary home, Bangkok! It’s much more fun to embrace chance and serendipity than to try to always stick to a plan. Thanks for sharing!
    .-= Cody McKibben´s last blog ..How to Turn Your True Fans into Your Worst Enemies =-.

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