Black travelers are tapping into the joys of nomadic living more and more each year. And with such an encouraging catalog of Black travelers making it work, who wouldn’t? Whether it is the growing popularity of the ‘live anywhere’ feature on Airbnb or the sheer freedom of endlessly exploring the world as routine, there is something addictive about this vagabond lifestyle. In my experience as a digital nomad making homes in pretty Mexican towns, remote carless islands in Nicaragua or amongst the Jamaicans in Panama’s Bocas del Toro, the journey is full of things that simply can’t be taught.
Nomadic living by definition is freedom, choice and constant, often abrupt, adjustment. Even still, I’m offering all the insight of living as a nomad around the world (so far). From the beautiful, sun-drenched memories to the ones that left me unsure of myself, here is my nomadic advice. From one traveling nomad, to another.
The other day a friend mentioned how our lifestyles on the road really cannot lend to prediction. We are constantly in flow, constantly listening in, resisting the need to control, every single day. “It’s like the highs are super high and the lows are the lowest of your life, there is no limit to the intensity” she said in one of her essay-like voice notes. And she is right, of course after about a decade of nomadic living.
I think on my own short year in comparison, having issues with bank cards abroad or having to navigate impromptu visits to the hospital in the middle of the night in a small Mexican beach town and all the emotions and translations that filled my memory. While I would never give up the freedom to live in several parts of the world in one year (or month, or week), it can definitely be exhausting on the body and the mind. There are a few low lows that immediately spring to mind:
You stop ‘belonging’: Being nomadic means letting go of your sense of belonging the way you once treasured it. While I always eventually slip back into the rhythm of London when I return, I can’t shake that alien feeling. Meaning, I do not belong to London the way I once undoubtedly did. I don’t crave concrete and tube lines and cold the way I once tolerated. Forget fitting in – being a nomad essentially means that you belong to the world. The biggest lesson comes when you first head back to your home town and realise how much the world has influenced your personality.
Things go wrong: And when they do, don’t beat yourself up about it. Things go wrong seemingly more often than they did back home, this is because you’re moving around more, exposed to life, exposed to yourself and all the little aspects of living that are sometimes a little disappointing. This is the price you pay for choosing to live life with more excitement: potential hospital visits, often damaged luggage and loads of stories to tell.
Own only what you can carry: This is a tough one to learn for the over-packers. The art of a nomadic life is knowing that you can up-and-leave whenever you want, but only if you don’t have hefty luggage to drag around with you. While minimalism is cute and noble for a while, sometimes you just want to buy home furniture, gorgeous but useless artisanal pieces and name the plants. For some, this is a huge sacrifice that takes ages to maintain.
Be prepared to be forever new: Being nomadic means forever being new, it means holding space in your life for learning the language afresh, having to introduce yourself always and getting acquainted with streets, addresses and cities over and over again. While only a small inconvenience, it does mean not having an address while on the road or a place where people can trust you’ll always be.
On more gorgeous terms, your life will truly be lived according to you, and only you. This was one of my reasons for making the transition so immediately. Being a nomad or a long-term traveler or an Aquarius woman or a lover of every ‘Eat Pray Love’ type of Instagram vibe, I knew that for me, being grounded had nothing to do with being based in one fixed place. For me and many of the nomadic travelers that I have been blessed to befriend, the nomadic lifestyle provides you with a clearer view of yourself. I personally don’t think there is a rivalled feeling in the world. This is what I mean:
Living without plans means living without pressure: Often times, the unpredictability of life means that things never go to plan. The nice part of being a nomad means there is no rush. If you come across something magical a night before you thought you were leaving, you just stay longer. If you intended to travel further out into the coast but suddenly find a community in the city, you find a way to make the city your home a little while longer. The easeful life is the one you don’t have to rush your way through.
Freedom calling: Many across the Diaspora recognise that being able to freely move around is more than an added plus for Black travelers. Choosing to live where you feel free, safe and yourself is not a plus, it is a right. Being nomadic means giving yourself the power to exist where you feel affirmed, as many times as you desire. The added beauty is becoming aware of your privilege and never (ever) taking it for granted. Baldwin, Angelou and Lorde all did it: left their homes to offer themselves peace in their Black bodies abroad.
Attract your people: By far my favourite thing about being a nomad. Some of my highest moments on this journey have come from the people I have met, entrusted and learnt along the way. Living a nomadic lifestyle means that you develop a desire, in the absence of family and old friends, to connect authentically. Friendships without expectations and connections without real purpose; life on the road means being vulnerable and seeing clearer. Attracting people who represent who you have become along the way – that is the vibe.
Nomadic living is the fastest way to learn: Since there is so much to learn. Being a nomad means exposure to so much life that you absorb it and realign your life according to what you have learnt. The range of things that I have learnt is so vast, from saving water with my host family in Oaxaca, or language lessons on the balconies of my favourite Airbnbs to knowing which leaves to use to cure an upset stomach. The lessons are endless.
No longer on holiday: It always brings me joy explaining to people I meet that I’m not on holiday, but instead this is just my lifestyle. More, explaining how it could also be theirs if they desire and make some sacrifices as I did. If I want to wake up and meditate over the lake or if I want to take a weekend trip to a remote off-grid island without disrupting my life, then I pivot my travel plans to allow for that. Life as a nomad means easing into a life that is, by its very nature, founded on exploration. Being endlessly connected to the world in this way is dangerously addictive: a Travel Noire truism if ever there was one.