7 Reasons Living Anywhere Sucks

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There are a lot of benefits to being on the move constantly and living in new places every few months. You get to explore new places, meet new people, experience vastly different cultures, try new things, step out of your comfort zone (you have no choice in this matter; fight or flight), amongst many other things. But I’ve received a lot of e-mails/questions asking if there’s anything I don’t like about it. Are there things I would change about this lifestyle? Do I ever want to quit and settle down somewhere permanently?

The truth is living anywhere is not all double rainbows and chocolate cake. There are downsides to being on the road in perpetuity …

  1. Less Than Stellar Beds
    I haven’t slept on an extra firm bed in 18 months. For whatever reason most people believe the softer the better. Not for me. I like a bed that is just shy of a wood floor. Like maybe a wood floor with some really thick shag carpeting. :) What I usually get I’d liken to a big soft sponge that gives me a wake-up back ache (which only lasts a few minutes, thankfully). It is true that I could buy a new bed in every country I move to, but that’s a little extreme. I will, however, consider it the next time I decide to stay in a place for ~6 months.
  2. It’s Difficult To Maintain Relationships
    When you’re regularly in different time zones and anywhere from a few hundred miles to tens of thousands of miles away from friends it’s not easy to maintain those relationships. Yes, there is facebook and the like, but that’s really passive and it’s bare minimum maintenance. Just check out why Sam deleted his facebook account. I really commend him for taking that step to consciously improve his relationships. I’m not sure it’s feasible to cut myself off from everyone on facebook at this point since I’m usually not in a geographic position to maintain those relationships otherwise. Or maybe that’s just a lazy excuse.
  3. Creating New Relationships Isn’t Always Easy Either
    As you travel more it becomes easier, but starting from scratch with new friends every few months isn’t exactly the best way to form strong bonds with people. If everybody knows “this is going to end in X amount of time”, but still stays in the moment then that helps, but it can be a drag none-the-less. This largely depends on your personality as well. If you’re able to shut off your emotions and become a robot then you’ll do much better with leaving the friends you make in every new town. Most of us can’t do that. Sometimes I worry that I have become too good at it.
  4. Getting Settled Takes Time
    No matter how many times I do it, getting settled takes a bit of time. I know I adapt much quicker now than before, and the whole process of figuring things out and getting settled is an adventure, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. What I’m specifically referring to is learning the pulse of a city. Where things are. The fun places to hang out. The good places to eat. Where to buy a pillow. :)
  5. Finding A Short-Term Furnished Apartment Is Usually A Frustrating Experience
    I wrote about exactly what I do to find places to live in How To Live Anywhere. Each time I do it it makes it easier, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not frustrating. Finding any apartment anywhere is already a frustrating experience without the short-term fully furnished requirements. When you need a furnished apartment for a short amount of time and don’t want to pay astronomical corporate housing rates it’s exponentially more difficult. That said, it has been most difficult in the United States than elsewhere. We’re just not set up for travelers and nomads here.
  6. Missing Certain People
    You’d think this is similar to maintaining relationships, but it’s not quite. When you travel you make a lot of connections without always making plans for keeping in touch. That can be for a variety of factors, but there are people I sometimes miss and I know I’ll never see them again.
  7. Is It Too Much To Ask To Want A Blender At All Times? :)
    Yes, it might be, but I want a blender at all times. Hummus, smoothies, the options are endless. And a good juicer would be sweet as well. ;)
  8. Maintaining A Workout Routine Can Be A Hassle
    Sure, you can do pushups and things like that anywhere, but let’s say you like to ride a bike. (I rode my bike for 2-3 hours/day when I lived in Poland.) That means you’ve got to first find a bike to buy and then sell it or get rid of it otherwise at a later date. It helps if you’re a runner. I’m not. And if you’re in a cold weather place most outdoor activities go out the window anyway. If you’re a gym rat it’s easy enough. You can find no-contract gyms everywhere, but gyms are not my style.

As you can see three of the bullet points above deal specifically with people. The reason is that people = life. You don’t need a lot of awesome people in your circle to have an awesome life, but you need a couple. And it dramatically helps your sanity if you are able to maintain and grow those relationships. We’re living in a very exciting time in that the Internet does make it easier to establish and grow relationships all over the world, but it’s definitely not an end all and be all replacement for actual human interaction.

This all begs the question, what’s the point of the nomadic existence?

For every negative reason up above I can come up with 10 positives. Maybe I’ll do that in the future but, if nothing else, know this:

I wouldn’t change a single god damn thing in my life.

If you can say the same then it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you are on your right path.

Are you on your right path?



62 COMMENTS

  1. I’m still on the fence with that question. There are some things I regret a lot, things I feel shame for because I let them happen to me and a few things I did to others. But even though I went through a deep dark valley and am only now starting to see the light I would still say that I mostly made good choices and that even the bad ones set me up for the good ones. I have a firm sense of who I am and what is important to me.

    Yes leaving friends hurts, sometimes for a long time, but traveling and immersion in a new culture are worth it. And fortunately travel is so cheap nowadays that you can always visit them if you want, of course to do that it has to be a priority over the new gadget.

    • Thanks Miss P. Travel is cheap nowadays, but that’s not really the issue. As I stated in the comments below, the above represents about 1% of the negative … 99% of the lifestyle is positive. :)

      Awesome that you have a firm sense of who you are. You’re right, sometimes you gotta go through the deep dark valleys to get there. Unfortunate, but I know what it’s like.

    • That’s the choice I’ve made as well and I love it. As I stated, I wouldn’t change any of this. I’m simply offering up some of the downsides of this lifestyle. :)

  2. Thanks for including my article on Facebook, Karol. It’s been a huge boon to my relationships already and I wish I had done it earlier. Also, thanks for discussing the less than stellar aspects of a location independent lifestyle. Sometimes it is portrayed as all gumdrops and rainbows when I’m sure it really isn’t.

  3. Hey man,
    everything has a pro and a con. The best advice I could give is that you do something because the pros outweigh the cons. As soon as something becomes more of a hassle than the benefits and joys it brings you, you should consider stopping it asap. (Whether it be lifestyle, relationships, travel, sports etc.)

    Hope you’re keeping well?
    Cheers!

  4. Points 2, 3 and 6 are things I know have been holding me back from long term traveling. I am quiet and have always had trouble meeting new people. I’m afraid that I’ll never find new people to connect with if I go travel and that I’ll lose the relationships I do have. It’s ridiculous and irrational and I am aware of all that but it still gets to me.

    I am curious about getting settled and how you do find the cool places to hang out at. I am sure a lot of it is just exploration and getting a feel but do you do anything specific? Find people on couchsurfing to meet with for a little bit in a new city or a certain guidebook or forum that’s good for that?

    Thanks for the list. I hope you’ll find harder beds in the coming months!

    ~Scott

    • Hey Scott, there is no reason you should let any of this stop you. If you’re letting something stop you then you’re not living the life you want to live.

      Getting settled & cool places: friends, the internet, twitter, couchsurfing and make it happen pretty quickly. :)

  5. My yoga teacher Scoty has a saying “No problems, only solutions!”

    I’m also a cybernetic yogi, so it takes a shift to get to these solutions, but I think it’s possible.

    1. Sleep on the floor. Yes, it’s awesome and I think if you do the research it’s also better for your back than a bed.

    2. I fixed this by embracing online relationships almost exclusively. I follow the collective through the world instead of trying to operate on my own these days. This was way more difficult last year than it is this year, because the population of us exploded since we got started. Cheers!

    3. Creating new relationships with humans is difficult and takes a lot of time, hence building them online first and then meeting is less work. Again, embracing collective.

    4. Settling for me is a combination of location-based Internet aps and a lot of yoga. The iPhone has really made getting settled far easier, because I know where everything is and I can tweet in real time to meet up with people in the city. Not sure if you have one, might be useful for your future plans in the US. I really adore it. Or a good droid.

    5. Maren Kate and I are working on Homebase, a solution for this that we hope will spread virally to cities and allow people who want to stay still to build profitable “Homebases” for location independent entrepreneurs (and cyborgs) which are cost effective and furnished shares/co-working spaces.

    6. Can’t miss people when you’re having ambient intimacy with them all day. The solution is getting everyone on Twitter.

    7. Yah, someone needs to invent a good portable blender. I’ve been outsourcing most of my food to cities.

    8. Yoga, Qigong, Kung Fu –> no equipment.

    I hope that helps!

    • Thanks Ev. I love sleeping on the floor when it’s carpeted. But when it’s a wood floor (seems to be everywhere I live has a wood floor) it’s not something I can get used to. It’s a step below sleeping out in the woods without a camping pad or sleeping bag, which I have done.

      Homebase sounds awesome.

      iPhone/Android: if they didn’t have 2 year contracts I’d probably get one, but I like being lost out in the world and exploring. I have a phone, but I keep it off except when I need it.

  6. I have to agree with Karol and with Everett Bogue. I really think it depends on if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. Everett sounds like an introvert, so having friends online makes him happy. I’m an extrovert and don’t like going days without actually seeing people. There is nothing wrong with either one of them, you just have to find out works for you.

  7. One of your best posts recently. Is this inspired by “owning your failures” that Norcross recommended? Regardless it makes your other opinions seem more human and credible. :)

  8. I’ve been hoping (subconsciously) that you would post something like this, so thanks K-r0x0rs (that’s my new nickname for you, hope you like it)

    I’m impressed that you believe (and I agree) that “people” (and our interactions with them) are what truly matters in life.

    Do you think that being a nomad, but staying in the same place for 1-2 years would help alleviate a lot of these problems? Theoretically if you have a family and 3 uber close friends, you could move to where those friends are every 1.5 years and minimize the transition problems and better maintain the people problems…Just a thought.

    • Ha! Thanks for the nickname. It’s too tough to spell so I’m gonna stick with Karol. ;)

      I’m not interested in changing the lifestyle and bringing friends with me. Weird, huh? I enjoy the process of meeting new people even though it’s difficult at times. :)

  9. Great post, and very timely. I’m setting off in Feb/Mar on a year-long trek as a nomad because I just need to go out there and see the world. At the moment, I have no problem with this. What I expect to discover is if I like the nomadic life enough to continue it indefinitely, or find a place to settle down and make a homestead where I can grow my own food (including chickens).

    As for the blender, if I could figure out a way to take my Vita-Mix along, I’d do it in a heartbeat! I’ll miss that most.

  10. I like how you accept the restrictions of your traveling lifestyle. But don’t be too sad, buddy. We’ll see each other again someday. Promise.

  11. I’m so with you on the blender thing!! When we were traveling via RV around the US, we had a small one that would run off our solar. So worth the space it took up! And what was the first thing we sought out when landing at our latest location in the USVI? Yup.. a blender! A green smoothie in the morning is an awesome way to start the day.

    After 4 years on the road, I can concur with all of the rest of your observations. The community aspect is one I struggle to find balance with. Having more and more nomadic community has totally rocked for us, and made it easier – where the people we spend time with aren’t necessarily linked to a particular location, allowing for rendezvouses all over the place.

    All and all.. don’t regret it one bit, and see no end in sight to this mobile lifestyle.

  12. Glad that you wrote this, as sometimes it does seem that people who write about this stuff make it look like is all gumdrops, chocolate cake and rainbows :)
    I probably would change a few things about my past, but that no longer matters, what matters is that I am working on the right path now and it is awesome! Some days I wake up and I am ridiculously happy for no stupid reason and that rocks!

  13. Yo Karol,

    I haven’t even started packing my bags and you’re freaking me out. But you know what I rather you be honest than paint me beautiful pictures. THat’s why I like your blog.

  14. Like Cherie, I enjoy our nomadic lifestyle and don’t want to change it for a while, but I do miss old friends and family and real life (instead of virtual) interactions often. The great thing is that we seem to meet up with people we met online almost everywhere we go, but it is also fun to spend time with old friends who know you through and through. That’s why we decided to extend our time in Thailand recently.

    If you figure out a portable blender, let the rest of us know!

    • Thanks for sharing Audrey. The beauty of this lifestyle is that you have the option to extend your time anywhere you please. :) No time limits makes for a more beneficial experience.

  15. I agree with your bed comment. I sleep on a tour bus about 125 nights a year and I always get that “5 minute” back ache that soon goes away. My bed at home is very firm and I love it. But, the benefit of traveling the country is worth it.

    • I haven’t tried every air mattress in the world, but it’s hard to believe an air mattress could be firm without being filled with rocks. :) That said, what brand are you using?

  16. I miss having pets and gardening desperately. I also really miss participating in team sports and working on my house. While I’ve enjoyed traveling for almost a year now, I know I’m not going to do it long-term because the tradeoffs are (personally) too great. I have little interest in owning things, but I find the activities I most enjoy doing are dependent on staying in one place. Perhaps some personality types are more suited for traveling?

    • How in the world did I forget pets? My cat Jessie is the #1 thing I miss most when I’m gone. She’s the reason I stayed in Austin for 7 weeks recently (she lives there). I think I blocked it out of my mind for this list.

      I do think some personality types are more suited to long term traveling. I’m one of them. :)

  17. I work for a company that doesn’t have an office and not only allows but encourages it’s employees to travel anywhere and everywhere, as long as we have reliable internet to do our work. In the past year and a half I have lived in Costa Rica, Turkey, Germany, Mexico, the US and New Zealand. While I am definitely so glad that I have had those opportunities, I am exhausted. I agree whole heartedly with everyone of your comments. I have friends scattered all over the world and while I have been lucky enough to have a few that come to visit me in the various places I go, I have lost my connection with many others. I really want to have people around me who I have a history with, and not a connection that just began two months ago and will only continue for another month or two. I understand the dangers of not traveling and not putting yourself outside of your comfort zone but I also think that there is a risk of becoming a perpetual traveler and never making or maintaining strong connections with the people you meet. I have loved floating around the world but I am tired of the ‘who are you/where are you from/where have you been to/where are you going’ conversation that you have with most people who travel a lot. After I go to Italy this spring (I can’t resist one more stop!) I am going to head back to US and make a homebase for myself. I am looking forward to finally getting myself a good bed, finding a great apartment, and reconnecting with friends (and buying a blender)!

    • Thanks for sharing Mandy. Awesome that you have a job that allows and encourages travel. We need more of that in the world. :)

      I don’t think there is a problem or risk with becoming a perpetual traveler. I have no intention of settling down anywhere for very long. 6 months or so? Maybe. 1 year? Possibly. Longer? Most likely not. I get bored quickly and travel (especially outside the US) brings with it so many fun stimuli. It’s a necessary part of existence.

  18. […] Again with the “this is why I respect you” more well-rounded opinion of Karol Gajda on Ridiculously Extraordinary he writes about the bad and the ugly parts of location independence (while also covering the good) in 7 Reasons Living Anywhere Sucks […]

  19. Hello, that was a funny titled, and the seven you listed are right on track speaking as a person has lived anywhere for 12 years and 88 countries. Generally, people glamorize this lifestyle and romanticize it, this is the sure sign of person who has not traveled perpetually.

    Living anywhere does suck, the biggest problem I have is this, I have too many choices and options. When I was living on less than 10 dollars per day, my life was easy as a traveler. I needed to travel by land and worked a complete continent before moving on to next continent.

    Now that I earn 50,000 plus, I have a problem, it is easy to get culture fatigue and just want to leave. I am in Togo, West Africa right now, I am becoming tired of this culture. I can buy a ticket and be “anywhere” in less than 24 hours.

    This is stressful, it is hard to commit to anything and give life a chance. I decided about one year ago, enough of jumping all over the planet. I am now going by land for about 10 countries before I jump cultures.’

    I do not recommend this lifestyle, you did say live, I think the average person can handle living in maybe two locations per year. A perpetual traveler must move every three months, or they are living in a location.

    • Thanks Andy. You bring up a lot of good points. It’s funny that if you have money it makes the lifestyle more difficult, considering most people think the other way around. :)

      I find it strange that you don’t recommend the lifestyle since you’ve probably experienced more in 12 years than most people experience in a lifetime.

      Thanks again for sharing Andy.

  20. “Finding A Short-Term Furnished Apartment Is Usually A Frustrating Experience”

    Agreed 200% that is the biggest pain in the ass I have.

    I noticed the easier it is to find the place the higher the price.

    For example if I see an apt online, in english with good pic = $1000+
    Walking around new town finding a for rent sign hanging off the balcony of an house or building, and the owners do not speak a lick of english = $300 or less.

    It seem once I find a place to stay everything else falls in place very smoothly.

    I also agree with Andy the problem is too many choices once you start making more money.

  21. I get that you’re not interested in staying in one place more than 6-12 months. Maybe that’ll change in future. If it does, you can look forward to these downsides mostly disappearing. With 2-3 years in one place, you can rent an unfurnished apartment at a lower price (or bigger, or better location), furnish it to your taste, buy a blender* and speakers and whatever you like. Most consumer stuff has an expected lifespan of a few years anyway – not a great attitude for the environment but likely no worse than you’d behave at home. A few years is long enough to establish and enjoy proper relationships. It’s long enough to open a local bank account (if that happens to work out better vs ATM fees). It’s long enough to learn the language (ok I’ve been reading Benny the Irish Polyglot, still think three months is beyond most people if you have other distractions!) Hell, it’s long enough to contribute to a pension scheme! (2 years minimum is common).

    * Actually, even at your current pace, why not buy a new blender each time? They’re cheap enough, and you can donate to a neighbour when you leave.

  22. Great list. I totally agree with you on the blender and juicer thing (market for inflatable ultra-portable Vitamix/Omega blender/juicer combo under 1lb?). The other thing I really miss is a long and deep bathtub.

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