The stereotype is obvious. 20-something backpackers wearing linen, bikinis, or beachwear – working from a beach/cafe/co-working space, with a view to die for – fill the pages of your favorite social media platforms and search engines.
But what if you don’t fit the mold – like me? Can you be a mature nomad, just as I am? And what do you need to consider before taking up nomad life?
I’ve been living this fucking excellent lifestyle to the fullest for many years now, but it wasn’t always that way.
I won’t claim to have had a white picket fence, but my life before was extremely standard. Three-bedroom house. Big car. Huge garden. I was the epitome of a social construct before I packed a suitcase and a backpack and started traveling around the world.
Eventually, I ditched the suitcase. An airline lost it for over 40 days while en route to Mykonos. While I didn’t really care about the contents after a few minutes of its sudden departure, I definitely didn’t after living without it for more than a month, so when they finally did reunite us, I gave the lot to charity.
The rest, as they say, is history. Throughout my nomadic journey – until the pandemic – I’ve moved from country to country every five days on average (two or three days here, seven or eight there). I’ve added to my original “places visited“ tally, and I’ve now managed to enjoy seeing friends and working in 86 countries (and partied all night in all of them).
So how do I do it, and why can I outlast those 20-somethings you see in all the stock photography photos? And what do I need to pay special attention to so I can maintain this life, considering I’m old enough to have used a modem to dial-up to the internet, in an age before smartphones?
Listen to your body
It’s true. While mature nomads aren’t exactly walking around with zimmer frames and walking sticks, there are a few bodily grumbles that you need to pay attention to. It would be a mistake to try to keep up with the younger generation in every way, as that’s a fast route to injury, but if you listen to your body and treat it with respect, you’ll have no issue at all.
For example, I have a degenerative cartilage issue in my left knee that resulted from a misspent youth, racing sports cars, and performing millions of gear changes in supercars that needed more pressure on the clutch than you’d usually put into a leg press.
So what did I change? Well, I can’t run for any real distance (my days of marathons and obstacle course races are over), but I can walk without issue. I walk as much as possible, and since much of that is with a 40-liter backpack/house strapped to me, it keeps me fit without painful impact.
An excellent way to figure out where you may have issues is to perform a body scan meditation once a week. It’s perfect if you’re not used to identifying signs of pain or trouble. The Calm app has a brilliant one built-in, so until you’ve practiced enough that you don’t need it, let the meditation app guide you.
Your experience gives you advantages
While most freelancers and nomads are between 18 and 34 years old, your experience and knowledge as a mature nomad are more valuable.
In this study, it’s clear that until you reach the age of 65, on average, you’re going to be able to command up to twice the hourly rate of your younger counterparts.
Not only that, but your life experience is going to help you manage your time more effectively, deal with issues and problems better, and you’re more likely to have a larger number of friends that can assist you when you need them (and that you can help too). Besides, the larger number of connections that usually comes with age could help you land more deals and contracts to keep the nomad life going for longer.
Are there downsides?
Sure, but everyone, at every age, has to deal with something. In the case of the mature nomad, you’ll likely have more expensive travel than younger vagabonds, because you just might not find it comfortable to sleep on a train or stay in a hostel anymore. I personally don’t have any qualms with that, but you might feel different.
And it is likely that health costs and insurance will be higher for you too, so while you can earn more than a Gen Z or Millennial nomad, you may spend a little more of that hard-earned cash on staying fit, healthy, and covered against unforeseen issues.
But, honestly, I think that finding nomad life later in my time on this beautiful blue marble we call Earth is bloody fantastic, and I’m not sure I would have had such an incredible, enriching time of it if I’d have started in my 20s when I knew very little about how the world works, and when I could only command a small salary.
It’s never too late to be a digital nomad. Trust me.