<— Read Chapter 6: Pets Can Be Nomadic Travelers Too!
We humans are social creatures, and we tend form and value communities of like minded people.
Whether it be via hobbies, spirituality, family, friends, special interests, sports, school, work, volunteerism – when you live in a stationary place, you tend to form connections with people around you that become important to you, and are very hard to leave behind.
And indeed, leaving a stationary life behind and embarking on a nomadic life of full time traveling does inevitably mean disruption in your local community connections. At times it may seem like a full on severing. It’s not an uncommon experience for a new nomad to have a grandiose celebration when they start their adventure to then come back to a lackluster homecoming on future visits.
Leaving behind peer groups and not being involved with them regularly can be painful, and it is easy to see why community often wins in the face of full time wanderlust.
However, living a nomadic life does not mean entirely forgoing community. It just means readjusting how you interact with community.
I have to admit, community is one of the aspects of full time travel that I struggle quite a bit with to find my own balance.
Use Technology to Stay in Touch
You may be physically leaving your peeps behind when you take off galavanting, and their lives will go on without you too – but technology has made it vastly easier to stay in touch than ever before.
Things like blogging, Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging, video chat and old fashioned e-mail give us multiple ways to keep in touch with friends and family who are now far away. And also to keep connections alive with those we meet in our journey.
Technology definitely can aid in community building and keeping connections pulsing. It seems very efficient to be able to quickly get the low down on what a lot of your friends are up to in their lives, and even be able to arrange for rendezevouses on the road as their travel plans converge with yours.
This sort of electronic presence provides a way to consistently keep up with a growing number of friends we make via our travels.
Know the Limits of Technology
But it is not a perfect substitute, technology is not always a satisfying enough replacement for in-person quality time.
It can be easy to forget that checking in on someone’s recent Facebook or Twitter status updates is not the same thing as checking in more directly. This is an important distinction to make.
While your friends may be posting about how hot the weather is, or what movie they recently saw – they could actually be having some pretty major stuff up in their life that they’re not sharing with their ‘online friends’. Or your friends may just simply not be compelled to use technology to stay in touch with distant friends. And that’s when you realize that as a digital nomad, you’re no longer considered a local friend.. by anyone.
Quite simply, you are no longer a regular part of hardly anyone’s life – out of site, out of mind after all. Your time in person can be intense and wonderful, but when you pull out of town the intensity seems to quickly disipate. You will be out of touch with the important things going on in the people’s life you care about, and you’ll feel like an awful friend that you weren’t in the know when you find out later that they switched jobs, had a death of a loved one or got a scary diagnosis.
You will fairly often only be getting the Facebook and/or blog-version…. which is hardly ever the full story.
And conversely, whether or not you’re blogging about your adventures – you’ll start to realize that few of your real life friends keep regular tabs on what you’re up to. That amazing mountain you just climbed? Or that life changing event? You’ll have few people who know you to share those experiences with.
The continuity of community is largely absent in the life of a nomad.
But if you take the time to reach out directly occasionally to the people you care about, you can bridge some of that gap and keep present in each other’s lives a bit more. Sometimes just a quick message that says ‘Hey, I’m thinking about you and would love to catch up soon!’ can really go a long way.
And you may also have to realize that some people just don’t have the time, energy or digital means to maintain friendships from a distance. And some of your friends just won’t ‘get’ you anymore now that you’re doing something they can barely comprehend – you are taking a very different life path than many. Try not to take it personally, and treasure those that do make efforts to keep you as a part of their life.
You will likely lose some connections in the pursuit of a nomadic lifestyle as you grow and life goes on. But you’ll also likely strengthen some connections.
When you live a life on the go, you have to make some efforts to redefine community as not being necessarily so geographically limited or as deeply and regularly integrated. And, it may take some additional effort on your part to find and stay part of communities.
You’ll need to reset your expectations that people important to you will feel present all of the time. Get used to there being gaps in communication and quality time.
But travel brings a new type of connection – you have the opportunity to find people of like minds, regardless of their proximity to you.
You can exchange depth of one local community for breadth of lots of regional and nomadic communities.
You also have a unique opportunity to re-kindle old friendships with folks who might have moved away from your previous home base. Reach out to those you haven’t been in touch with for a while, and who knows what invitations and conversations might come of it. It’s a really awesome thing now that when a friend announces they’re moving, that it means ‘Hooray.. a new city to integrate into my travels!’ instead of doom and gloom about losing touch with a friend.
Also be sure to let all of the people in your life know to keep you up to date on their travel plans. You just never know when you might be able to meet up with an old (or new) friend in a city new to you both. That’s one reason we make a lot of effort to announce our travel plans and current location, to help enable some serendipitous meet-ups.
But you will need to make the adjustment that by and large as a nomad, you will be constantly a welcomed guest visitor and bridge between existing communities – and rarely feel PART of a community. And that can be a tough pill to swallow at times.
Connecting with and intentionally rendezvousing with other nomads is one way to help fill this hole – other people who really get the many unique aspects of perpetual traveling lifestyles. People with whom you don’t start with the same old conversations (“you’re too young to be retired”, “what’s your favorite place”, etc.) and get right to the important stuff.
Make Efforts to Meet People
Remember, for a connection to happen – one side of the equation needs to be in a finding mode and the other making themselves visible to be found. You’ll need to make the effort on one or both of these sides if you want meet-ups to be more than happenstance. The way you used to make friends – at the office/school, by attending a weekly yoga class, etc. – won’t work as easily on the road.
Ways to meet new like minded people while traveling include:
- Become involved with social media. Starting a blog, get on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook – all good ways to tell your story and create a way for others to approach you. If you’re more introverted, it may be a lot easier to find your people if you put your information out there, than it is to always be the seeker outreaching. Have a way for people to find you (ahem, and now you know why we blog!). But also be sure to be active in following other like minded folks utilizing social media – engage with them by commenting, don’t just lurk.
- Be active in online communities. Have interests in knitting, motorcycles, technology, kink, Burning Man, yoga, RVs, alternative energy, flying or anything else? Heck, find the user groups for your RV type, boat, car, backpack, etc. Find online forums for these, and get involved. You’ll meet like minds with similar interests, and you’ll be surprised at how many people are interested in making contact to potentially rendezvous with as you pass through.
- Find local groups when you know you’re going to be visiting somewhere. Post an introductory message about yourself and you just never know when you might make a new friend.
Make an attempt to attend local meet-ups, events and conferences as a way to start forming micro communities in the places you have repeat visits to (we take this to another step, we enjoy organizing and hosting such events). Perhaps even finding community classes to take – making new friends while expanding your brain can’t be a bad thing, right?
- Even if you’re not looking for romantic partners, dating sites are a remarkable way to meet like minded people who are already seeking connections. A great free site is OkCupid.com that matches people through a series of surveys not just for romantic compatibility, but friendship. Just be sure to be very clear and upfront if you’re not open to dating or sexual encounters, and make sure you have your spouse/partner’s approval to having a profile on a dating site for this purpose. Yes, you’ll have to wade through some folks who don’t read, but those who do – can be awesome contacts to help you get acquainted in a new town. We’ve also met a surprising number of fellow nomads this way in our travels.
- Get involved in nomadic online communities such as RVillage.com (for RVers), Technomads Facebook Group, Couchsurfing.org, Xscapers (for working aged RVers) and NuRVers (social group for alternative minded RVers). Meeting other nomads in your travels is an awesome way to meet folks who really get the transitory nature of friendships in this lifestyle.
- Stay where other independent travelers are at – such as campgrounds and hostels. Be social when you get there, and make new friends.
Of course, none of this substitutes having a regular local community, but it sure does help to look at the bright side of things and appreciate the different kind of communities you can now explore.
Keep in mind, it takes time to integrate yourself in a new community, so a slower pace of travel can be really beneficial when you feel a calling to make connections. Have flexibility in your itinerary so that you can stop and embrace a newfound community that you want to form tighter connections within.
For more on meeting other nomadic (specifically, RVing) friends – our archived live video chat:
Our Experience with Nomadic Community
I used to say that lack of community would likely tempt me off the road eventually. And it’s certainly gotten better over the years for us – but the feast or famine nature of it can be quite unbalanced at times.
For instance we recently spent several months in Florida with my family during a very intense time, and where community was a bit lacking. It made it extra tough to go through that when we could have really used a few friends to hang out with and get away from the situation for an evening. We definitely appreciated every social opportunity that did transpire for us.
Some of the shifts we’ve had to make to manifest an abundance of community as we travel include:
Revisiting places – We’ve traveled long enough now that we’ve re-visited enough places that they now feel like home ports, as opposed to places we just pass through. We’ve put energy into those home ports to find like minded people – by investing time into attending events, meetups and accepting invitations to visit with folks who find us online via various means.
Adept at going deep quicker – Learning to quickly get through all the surface pleasantries, prejudgements, repeat conversations and getting to the meat of connections that used to take a much longer time. Instead of having months or years to get know a person, sometimes we have only hours to intuit if we’ve found a tribemate. I’ve come to really really appreciate and concentrate on the depth of connection and quality time that happens when time together absolutely can’t be taken for granted.
Reset expectations – Not all connections will feel present all the time. Not every connection is well suited for regular online communication, or even a specific type of communication. But that doesn’t mean they should be discounted. When in person, those connections are still there, still deep and still valuable.
Geography is limiting – Instead of rewarding connections being few and far between when I was stationary in my little Florida beachside town, we find like minded peers all over the country now. By listening to serendipity to guide us, we’re finding more of our tribe these days than I ever have. And when someone physically moves – my response is not dread of having lost a community member in my locale – it’s one of excitement of now being able to visit that person in a cool new place!
Connecting with other nomads – My nomadic friends and community have become very very dear to me. Not only do we tend to have lots in common for having designed amazing mobile lives – but we also share skillsets in dealing with turning short rendezvouses into the super glue that bonds life long and valuable friendships. If I could have any wish granted, it would be traveling amongst a small nomadic community of like minds – to embrace both a regular recurring community and having my wanderlust. For now, I remain content with the nomadic community we’ve become part of by prioritizing rendezvouses, hosting things like our Camp Nomadia and meet-ups as we roam.
So while I once thought it would be the thing that took me off the road, I now believe community has become a major core of my continuing and growing enthusiasm around being nomadic.
<— Read Chapter 6: Pets Can Be Nomadic Travelers Too!
What happened to the eBook version of this series?
We used to offer an eBook version of this content on a ‘Pay as you Wish’ basis. That book got so out of date and we have no time to keep it updated – so we took it down.
We do our best to upkeep the segments in this blog series, but realistically can’t see republishing the book edition.
In November 2018, RV Love released their brand new (professionally published) book – Living the RV Life. It goes over a lot of similar content to this series (and more) on RVing. We highly recommend picking up a copy!
You’re of course welcome to browse the No Excuses: Go Nomadic series online for more of our tips & tricks on the logistics of nomadic travel.
If you do appreciate this series or the content on our blog, we always LOVE hearing your appreciation – leave a comment, leave a tip (link at bottom of every page) and/or share this post. Thank you!