“Where are you going next?” – people often ask me this question. In fact, I also ask myself this question every 2-3 months into my nomadic journey. The answer is neither simple nor straightforward, so I’m spilling the details in long-form content instead.
How I choose my destinations as a nomad
You need to know that I view my entire lifetime as a nomadic sojourn and I go wherever God guides me. In this post however, I prefer to focus on the practical side rather than the spiritual. Let’s assume that when I know God still have sovereignty over where I go (or don’t), there are still some factors that I consider.
Sometimes the destinations choose me. Other times, I rely on these to help me decide:
As a writer, I travel and intentionally place myself outside of my familiar places to bask in beauty of other environments. It inspires me, and makes me happy.
Beauty is of course subjective so for me I look for natural beauty in the landscape. The location does not need to be epic in the sense of THE most beautiful place on the planet. But where I go needs to be pretty. Even a small garden will do. Or lovely patios and charming buildings.
I tend to be highly sensitive (amongst a myriad of things), easily overwhelmed by external stimuli (sounds, pollution, etc), and there are certain things I do differently from most people. I have to factor these in when I’m looking for a destination, and then further narrow it down to accommodation, ease of walking around, the local population’s kindness level.
Largely, my next destination depends on my current location and the one after the next. In practice, you’ll rarely see me do trips that don’t have good connectivity or that are too long. So, it’s more likely that I’ll travel to one spot, stay a while to recover, and then pursue the journey.
That’s why slow travel works best for me.
I need to travel on my own terms and at a pace that feels comfortable and manageable.
A trip over a month from Japan to New York then to Indonesia will shatter my nerves. You’ll likely see me travel slowly and break the distance from Japan to New York in 2-3 legs over 2 or 3 years! It might not make sense for most people, and can even seem complicated and costly, but for me, it’s something more manageable that way.
There is a financial value we’re talking about here.
For instance, when I was considering digital nomad visa programmes in the Caribbean, I looked at both Bermuda and Barbados.
They both seemed like great islands I’d love to visit. I was slightly leaning more towards Bermuda because of the chic living; and the visa application fee per person was also a lot cheaper than Barbados – $263 versus $2,000. However, when I researched accommodation, by far Barbados offered a wider range of decently priced dwellings.
In the long run – because I intended to stay for longer than 6 months – Barbados for me was better value. Even if it’s not exactly the ‘budget island trip’ like Thailand or Bali. The cost of living per month is as high as a city like London; at least in our experience and receipts/bills.
Ease of travel
This may seem similar to the neurodivergence factor, but it’s not. Here, I’m alluding to the travel rules, regulations, and restrictions in some countries.
With the pandemic period, travel isn’t as easy as book ticket and fly. Now, things can change rapidly over a week. One country that is Covid-free may have to go in lockdown due to rising cases (e.g Mauritius). Another country may in a flash be on the red list by bordering countries (e.g Albania, England). Some countries require specific vaccines, others require quarantine upon arrival, or tests before and upon arrival.
I usually contemplate about 3-4 destinations at a time and then closer to the time, I will double check each of the country’s entry requirements and see. Because I nomad full-time, it means I not only look at the entry requirements for the country I intend to go next, but also the one after – are there flights right now? Are other countries open to travellers coming from there?
For example, it wouldn’t make sense for me to go to South Africa from my current location – even if I qualify – because by the time I wish to leave, where would I go? My options may be severely limited considering that many countries have restricted entry from travellers coming from South Africa. Of course, this may change, but with so many changes already in my nomadic life, I try to make it easier for my peace of mind.
The less ‘hassle’ there is at border entry, the better.
My business is entirely online and I serve clients worldwide.
While any time zone works, and I can adapt, I have certain plans I want to see come to fruition. Specific people I want to continue working with, and also my own classes I attend to further hone my writing craft.
I take into account whether where I’m going next would completely wreck my schedule and have me do a call with my literary agent at 3 a.m. instead of the more reasonable late afternoon.
For my group programmes, I consider where the majority of my clients are so I can best serve them on our live calls. I don’t think anyone has great motivation to plan their content at midnight or an ungodly hour! I do my best to try accommodate this.
After Barbados, we were considering (my husband travels with me) going to Scotland. We had found a flight for early Jan and a lovely home in the south west coast of Scotland.
However, I quickly realised that I had neither winter gear nor the appropriate fitness level to go there during peak winter months. A quick search for buying the boots, raincoat/ rain jacket, beret I might need dissuaded me from wanting to go there. Notwithstanding the fact that I’ll only need these for that trip and not again in my nomadic travels.
You see, the thing is I have a minimalist wardrobe and I only have 2 pairs of shoes at a time. Currently I have an additional pair of flip flops because my shoes were getting damaged from sand, sea water, sargassum. I also have a pair of wool slippers that I wear indoors (but have been known to wear on the plane, by the pool, and other places due to my limited wardrobe).
Compromise with my husband
Given that I travel together with my husband, his preferences also matter. We are two polar opposite people, which does add to the complexity of our decisions! The great thing is we share similar values, so we can reach a compromise after much debate.
He likes cities, urban spaces, close to amenities like train stations, airport, grocery stores, markets etc. I prefer more bucolic places, where charm and chic merge to form a beautiful characterful location. While safety is his primary concern, mine is beauty. When I wanted to visit Ukraine, it was in tears that I accepted when he disagreed. Some time later, he did agree to visit Albania so here’s a start!
He loves a good deal, which generally I have an issue with – most of the cheaper countries to nomad in have a higher level of air pollution, more seafood or food I’m allergic to, and it’s more difficult to navigate. That’s where I put my foot down and the destination debate ensues. 😅
As if things weren’t as complex as they were, why not add a cat in the mix? 😂
We have our cat Leïa to think of now. Wherever we go, we have to ensure she gets all her rabies booster vaccine, which depending on the destination can take between 6 months to a year (by which time we’d already move on to another location!).
The solution we found is that she is currently with sitters whom we pay until we find a flight to bring her to wherever we are. Anyone who has ever gone through pet travel requirements knows how lengthy and strict this process can be, especially for international travel.
It’s not like we are moving cross country, from a privileged nation like European region or America. Not at all. We’re from a country where most people (pet travel officers, brokers, etc) often ask… where is that?! I’m weary of having my cat lost in transit somewhere… so I’d rather plan to be in a developed country where flight connectivity in terms of pet cargo is accessible.
So, where are we going next then?
We’re now in the process of looking for coastal European towns for early spring. But whether we will make it there is still to be confirmed, because the flights will have to first stop in either U.K or Germany, which means before I make it to these coastal towns, I will need to check entry requirements for U.K and available flights from there to the next destination.
We’re also looking at the several visa options to apply. In the past, I would prefer visa-free travel and have done mostly that on my Mauritian passport. That said, right now with the rise of remote working and many countries making it ‘legal’, it’s such a relief for me to see visa options suitable for the nomadic lifestyle.
Because we aren’t applying from a country of residence, but a country we’re visiting, things can get tricky. Do we have all the documents needed for the visa? Is there a consulate or embassy where we are? Can we apply from where we are, without having to go to our passport country? Will our application be successful and on time before we have to leave current location?
There’s a fine balance of juggling work admin and the nomad life admin as you can see.
Why it’s fine to not have certainty
And it’s also the reason why I seldom share where I’m going next to anyone. I don’t even know.
I might have 4-5 options simultaneously in the works, but I never know for sure until the path appears.
Even when things are booked and confirmed, there’s still a possibility that they don’t materialise. I’ve learned to pray always for God to close doors on my plans if he isn’t in agreement with them – not just for travel, but for anything.
Over the past four decades, I’ve come to understand that when our plans ‘fail’, though things may look bleak and unfair, God’s plans are way better.
In conclusion, I’d say that I prefer the uncertainty of the external circumstances and arrangements WITH the assurance of God’s guidance and hand in every decision I make. Mind you, I’m not saying that I don’t get frustrated or impatient or that it’s easy for me. It’s far from easy; but when I rest in the hope I have within, I can set my eyes onto more meaningful things than what happens here on earth.
I can begin to love the journey with Him, enjoying the ride and not focusing so much on the destination (outcome/result). I hope this encourages you to do the same. Even if you’re not a nomad like me, you are on a journey too in this lifetime.