How to nomad America, 6 myths busted, starting with vanlife

Burnout has always been a problem in America. But with the last 2 years weighing heavy on our souls, it’s become more than a problem; it’s a crisis. Now that we know what’s important, we can’t stop obsessing about how to get it. And what better way to take control of your life than to nomad America? If you’re like me, you have always thought that nomading was for the young and beautiful. But that’s simply not true. Nomading is for anyone who is brave enough to take the leap.

Nomad America - Zion National Park in Utah
Zion National Park – Utah

Let’s start busting some myths about life on the road. 

Myth #1 – Vanlife is the only life 

I can not count how many times people have assumed that because I am nomadic, I live in a van. Don’t get me wrong, vanlife is certainly one way to nomad America, but it is NOT the only way. Modern-day nomads live in a variety of housing situations including long-term Airbnbs, housing for traveling nurses (like Furnished Finders), boats, furnished apartments, unfurnished apartments, vacation rentals, and the homes of friends or family, to name a few. 

There is no need to purchase an $80,000 Mercedes Sprinter to start living the free life. My vehicle of choice is a Ford Fusion with 95,000 miles, and it works just fine.

Myth #2 – You’ll have to quit your job to nomad America

No one can deny there’s something romantic about quitting your job for a life on the road. However, I’d argue that keeping your job while experimenting with a new lifestyle is the smarter way to go. For those of us that can work remotely, nomadic life is easily within our reach. Start by setting up a permanent address where you are “based” for your work. Make sure to follow the tax residency laws when filing your tax return. Traveling Mailbox is great for generating a permanent address if you do not have family or a trusted friend nearby. 

Saguaro National Park – Arizona

Another common concern about working on the road is that you won’t be able to get good enough Internet to do your job. I understand the concept of bandwidth anxiety more than most, however, you can easily mitigate this risk. I always call ahead to check on the signal strength for each housing arrangement. In a few cases, I’ve utilized my Netgear Nighthawk Wifi Extender and, as a backup, I always keep a Verizon Hotspot close by.

Myth #3 – It’ll be lonely 

It’s a common perception that life on the road is lonely, especially for solo travelers (like myself). But this is only part of the story. The part that’s often untold, is what it looks like when you become your own best friend.

Yes, extended times without interaction with close friends or family is difficult. However, the reward for pushing through is so great that it justifies the struggle. When you strip away your home, friends, favorite cafes, and daily activities, you are only left with yourself, your true self. And isn’t knowing your true self worth a little bit of struggle?

Myth #4 – It’s too expensive to nomad America

With constraints, comes creativity – this is one of my favorite quotes of all time, and nowhere is it more true than in the world of nomading. For those who nomad America, the price tag can range significantly.

Nomad America - frozen waterfall in Minnesota
Frozen waterfall in Winona, Minnesota

One common way of managing costs is renting directly from property management companies and either furnishing a small studio yourself or paying for a service like Fernish to rent furniture for a monthly fee. 

Another popular method of lowering costs is to spend time in low cost of living areas (LCOLs). Some of these areas are next to some of the country’s greatest wilderness. I loved my time in South Dakota, all the while I was paying half of the rent that I paid in my “normal” life in LA. 

Myth #5 – Nomading is scary

This is the most common critique I hear. But the truth is a few basic precautions can go a long way. For example, I check in with a friend or family member at the beginning and end of a long drive. I also explore new areas during the daytime and make sure to research each new destination. 

I think the real reason that nomading seems scary is that it’s different. It’s hard to wrap our heads around such a novel way of life. But when you really dig into it, the risk is not much greater than living as a permanent resident in any big city.  And the rewards are enormous.

Myth #6 – Travel in America is uninteresting 

Being constantly bombarded with images of the young and hip living a free life in Bali, it’s easy to forget the beauty in our own backyard. Due to time zones, work visas, and tax laws, you may be constrained to nomading in the US. If you find yourself in that situation, you are in luck! Limitations in geography mean that you can deeply explore areas that are less traveled. My personal favorite areas in America are the Southwest and Alaska

Now that you have a clearer picture of how to nomad America, it’s time to get started! Some basic first steps include researching storage facilities in your area and/or how to rent or sublet your current living quarters. Once you figure out how to detach from your current home, you will become a resident of the world. And that’s when the true adventure begins. 

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

For more content visit the Working Nomads resource page.

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