On the road in Morocco, New Year's Day 2017

Living on the road

People have been asking me where I am living these days, so here’s an update. In early 2015, Genie and I started living on the road. We gave up our rented apartment in Crete, sold most of our stuff and stored the rest of it in my parents’ loft, bought a second-hand Toyota, and set off to travel around Europe.

Almost two years later, we’re still doing it. We’ve extended our definition of Europe slightly—right now we’re in Morocco.

On the road in Morocco, New Year's Day 2017
On the road in Morocco, New Year’s Day 2017

One of the reasons I haven’t talked about our travels much on here is that I don’t want to come across as one of those digital-nomad live-your-dreams douchebags who make their lives sound so fantastic that you just have to buy their overpriced travel-hacking course or ebook to figure out how you can do it too.

Of course, travelling full-time is indeed a wonderful thing to be doing, which is why we worked so hard over so many years to get into a position to do it. We’re also lucky to be living at a time when it’s easier to make a living through the internet, and to have skills (mostly writing and editing) that translate well into freelance work online. I’m most definitely grateful for all of this, and looking forward to another year of travelling (and hopefully many more years to come).

But the reality is that life on the road is not that different from life anywhere else. We still have to work, to pay bills, to put petrol in the car, to figure out insurance and tax, and all that fun stuff. We still have good days and bad days.

In other words, it’s life. It’s not a dream, a fantasy, an escape, or anything else. Oh, and it’s most definitely not a fairytale. Don’t even think about mentioning that word around me.

I guess I’m mentioning the negative or “real-life” side of it because people often seem to miss that. They often say how jealous they are and how lucky we are. But I doubt whether many of them would actually make the choices we’ve made, if they could. We chose not to have kids—for many reasons, but partly so that we’d be free to do stuff like this. We live with no house, no assets (apart from the Toyota!), zero savings, and constant financial insecurity. We don’t have a circle of friends and neighbours, the familiarity of local shops and restaurants, the comfort of routine, or any of the other benefits of living in one place. We’re cut off from our families. It’s always a challenge to balance travel with both our creative work and the freelance work we need to complete to fund it all. And lots more stuff.

I’m starting to sound as if I’m tired of travelling, but I’m not at all. I love it. It’s just that, when I post photos like the one above, it makes my life seem perfect. The benefits are pretty obvious. It’s wonderful to see new stuff all the time, to meet new people and learn about new cultures, and I’ll write more about that on the blog as we continue our travels. I just wanted to mention that it’s a choice with pros and cons, and it involves sacrifices that not everyone would want to make. For us, it’s fantastic, but this life wouldn’t suit everybody.

Would you enjoy living on the road, or do you prefer to stay in one place and travel a few times a year to specific places? Let me know in the comments!

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There are 15 comments

  1. Loved your column and agree that you and Genie have worked very hard and made serious decisions in order to maintain this lifestyle, which suits you both perfectly. I would just hope you might consider saving along the way just in case you might not always be able to be mobile. Enjoy your wonderful life and keep on writing!!!!!

    1. Hi Virginia
      Thanks very much! Yes, you’re right—saving is important. For now we are just happy to be able to live like this and keep our heads above water, and our contingency plan in case of loss of income is to stop moving and go and live somewhere cheap for a while (we have a few places in mind from our travels). But longer term, our plan is to increase our income steadily, so that we can start to save. This way of life depends on being healthy and being able to find enough freelance work, so we’re conscious that we should really have more of a safety net. Thanks so much for your comment!

  2. Thank you for telling it like it is, Andrew. I would be curious to know more about the life on the road. I know not everything is roses and unicorns behind every perfect picture I see on social media. Sometimes there’s a horror story somewhere but people would rather not talk about that. 🙂 As for myself, I love to travel but I also like a bit of a routine. A mix would be great. It would be nice to travel more this year.

    1. Good to hear from you, Delia! Sure, I plan to write more about it on here as we go along. Definitely not roses and unicorns, despite the idealized stuff you see online. I think I’ve been spending too much time on Instagram 😉 But we’re lucky not to have a horror story to tell either.

      A mix would be good too! We may end up doing that at some point: have more of a permanent base somewhere, and travel for half of the year or something like that. We bought a carpet at a market here today, and it feels a bit strange not to have a house to put it in 😉

  3. Hi Andrew, I am too old now to even think about it. Getting medication would be our number one nightmare. My imagination is still in tact however and I can live vicariously through you. Continue to enjoy, and BTW we would like you to try and find time to get a new book done.

    1. Hi Jennifer! Ah yes, medication would be tough. Genie had a minor health issue the other day, and it was quite a pain to navigate the healthcare system in a foreign town with a language barrier and so on. For ongoing health issues, it would be very difficult.

      If you’ve got a good imagination, though (and I know you do!), who needs to travel? With that and some good books, you can go anywhere you want!

  4. Hi Andrew

    I wondered if all was well with your nomadic life. Thanks for the thoughtful post and I’m glad to know you’re enjoying your journey and travels. I think that you’re both lucky to have a spouse who is happy with this life, it’s not a given and that’s a gift to cherish.

    Part of happiness is to know your own limits. While I distantly envy you in a way, I know it’s a choice I wouldn’t be able to make. So I’m not jealous. 🙂

    1. Hi Emma! Yes, all’s well. I am definitely lucky. We both had the same dream for a long time, since before we met. It took us a long time to get here, but we are lucky that we both shared the same dream. It would be hard if one person wanted to roam and the other to stay still.

      I’m glad you’re not jealous 🙂 I remember we talked by email once about things like moving around and having kids, and you were very clear about the choices you’d made. I think sometimes we can get a “grass is greener” mentality, but ultimately we make the choices we want to make (assuming we are able to choose rather than being forced into one thing or another).

  5. I had wondered, thought you might still be in Crete. In regards to your paragraph following the photo, there’s a big difference between what you’d be writing and those sites 🙂

    Whether I’d like it would depend on the places I went to, I think, though I’d probably want to remain in places for a while at a time.

    1. Haha, thanks for saying that, Charlie 🙂 I’ve been spending quite a bit of time on Instagram, and there are so many people there who post idealistic photos of their “dream” lives. And a lot of them are selling their lifestyle—either by getting corporate sponsorship or by taking advantage of people’s desire for freedom and a better life and selling them expensively packaged information products. “Want to travel and make money? I can show you how!!” It really annoys me.

      Anyway, maybe I should take a step back from all that stuff 😉 I agree with you—it would be great to remain in places for a while at a time. We do that to a limited degree—we stayed in Belgrade for a month, for example, after planning to be there for four days. But still it feels like a lot of moving on. We plan to go back to some of our favourite places for longer stretches when we’ve finished getting an overview.

  6. I recently listened to a recording that said, “The problem with salesmen is that when they are on the road selling, they wish they were home with their families. When their home with their families, they feel like they should be selling.”

    Thanks for mentioning the reality of the travelling lifestyle. Sometimes it does look perfect and idyllic. It’s the goal for so many of us but it has it’s stresses. Like anything, there is a divide. “I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it, you learned what it was all about.” – Hemingway

    1. Hi Raymond, Thanks for the comment! I think you’re right about that. And perhaps the travelling salesman’s dilemma is a contemporary form of eternal human dilemmas: to stay or to go, to move or stay still, to stick or twist. Accounts I’ve read of great migrations often mention a similar phenomenon: the people who left yearn to go home, and those who stayed home wish they’d left. The life unlived can exert a powerful pull.

  7. Hi Andrew,
    Yours is the first blog I’ve interacted with. There are so many, I find it overwhelming and I wouldn’t get any work done, but yours somehow fits in. I followed Genie on Instagram and through that signed up for your emails. From the beginning, I’ve enjoyed seeing Genie’s photos and reading about your travels. We recently returned from a trip to Barbados because Genie piqued our curiosity with her posts. (We learned much about the geography of Barbados as well as the rhythm of life there.) I think you both have worked out a life style that lends itself to the writing life. I like your ability to withdraw from time-eating interactions so that you both can get on with your work. (I need to improve on that) I’ll be looking forward to more news.

    1. Hi Barbara

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. It’s great to hear from you. I know exactly what you mean about the overwhelming nature of the blogging world, and I feel happy to know that you’ve chosen my site to comment on. Don’t worry, I don’t post very often, so it should be easy to keep up 😉

      Genie’s photos are amazing, aren’t they? It’s wonderful to know that her images inspired you to visit Barbados! I just took a look at your Instagram images of the trip, and I loved the way you captured so many different sides of the island, beyond the beaches that most visitors focus on. I loved your portrait of the coconut seller in particular. And great to reminisce about some of my favourite haunts. Hunte’s is fantastic, isn’t it?

      Ah, getting the right balance between work, travel and time-eating interactions is a constant work in progress. I’ve found Morocco to be fascinating but quite draining, so I’ve had to cut back to the bare minimum. I’ve stopped Instagram completely, for example. But I do love “meeting” and talking to people from all over the world, so I don’t want to shut myself off completely. It’s about finding a rhythm that allows me to write first thing in the morning, get paid work and other important tasks done later, see all the things I want to see, and then do blogging and social media as time and energy allow. They can quickly take over if I’m not careful.

      I’d love to hear more about your writing and art, if you’d like to share 🙂

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