Should you sell everything to become a digital nomad?
Please read this before you put out the for sale sign.
When I first decided to become a digital nomad (aka a full-time global traveller who still works to earn money), I read blog posts and listened to podcasts that had lots of great suggestions for getting started.
Most were created by people who were travelling the world, exploring exotic locations and having wonderful adventures.
I wanted to be doing those things, so I listened carefully to their sage advice. Interestingly, most of them suggested similar steps to prepare for this adventure into a globe-trotting lifestyle.
One common thread was to sell everything that you were not going to take with you.
I could not get comfortable with the concept of selling all my worldly possessions before I stepped onto the plane to my first destination. Perhaps it was my career in finance, or maybe just a sentimental attachment. I am not really sure, but I opted not to follow that piece of advice.
Now, as I sit in my 36th country, I think it is time to write my thoughts down and share them in case you decide to become a digital nomad, and all you read or hear is suggesting you should sell everything.
One of the biggest questions was whether to sell my home. In Australia (where my home is), advertising plus agents’ commission can amount to more than $20,000. That is a lot to lose straight out of the gate.
Inflation and historical house prices are also worth considering. The value of your home now versus the cost of buying a home in 5, 10 or 20 years is unknown, but history suggests that it is highly unlikely to cost less.
House for sale sign. Source: Canva
Five years ago, the median home price in my suburb was $343,000; now, it is $505,000. [Source: realestate.com.au].
That is an increase of about 50%. If that continues, in 5 years, it may be around $750,000. I know that I will not want to borrow that amount of money at my age, and unless I want to work more and save extra hard between now and then, I do not see my savings grow to that.
A house is not only a home, it is a source of revenue. Like many places in the world, my city has a housing shortage.
Our home has become their home and that makes us all happy. Photo captured by us!
I love opportunities to experience coliving myself, so I decided to make it a share house and rent out three bedrooms to three couples (interestingly, they are from 5 different cultural backgrounds, which makes me happy). This provides them a safe and affordable place to live and instant friends in this new community.
The income that I earn from the rent covers my mortgage repayments and outgoings like rates and insurance. In a few years, when the mortgage is fully repaid, that income will become savings, or if I decide I want to stop working, it could contribute to my living expenses.
Compare that to selling the house and investing the profit in a savings account that is currently paying almost no interest, and it isn’t hard to see the financial benefit of keeping the house.
If your home is like mine, it holds a lifetime of memories. Little trinkets and treasures. Dents in the wall from that time the eldest child decided it would be fun to ride their scooter into the bathroom. Pencil marks showing their heights on the wall beside the kitchen.
Some things that you own only mean something to you. Other bits and bobs can provide inspiration to others who see them, to explore and go on adventures of their own. I never bought a lot of souvenirs when travelling occasionally, but still, the walls are hung with paintings and carvings from around the world.
If you are anything like me, you already find it hard to remember some moments you thought you would never forget. Imagine the sadness you would feel when you are much, much older and have nothing to help you remember that time when… We take too many photos now for them to hold the same mental trigger as one small framed piece of newspaper that hangs on the dining room wall.
Photo gallery wall in our living room. Photo captured by Joy Taylor.
All that stuff
If I really had to clear everything out, it would be a complete waste to put it in storage and just sad to see it end up as landfill. I am definitely not an advocate of disposing of perfectly good items just because I do not need to use them at the moment.
I am a fan of minimalism, but not at the expense of the environment, and certainly not if it means just going out and buying the same thing again in the future when you do eventually need to use it.
Renting out the rooms in your house provides another benefit. The people who move in can use all that stuff, which means they do not need to buy it, and it doesn’t have to be disposed of.
You are safe here. Source: Canva
Mental safety net
Deciding to do something life-changing is scary. Taking action to sever your connection to your previous lifestyle in such a permanent manner is terrifying.
Why put yourself under that stress if you do not have to?
If you decide to become a digital nomad, it does not have to be forever. You will not be a failure if you change your mind in a week, a month or five years.
Full-time travel is not for everyone. You can not possibly know if it is really for you until you have experienced it.
You are not a failure if you change your mind and want to come home.
Talking to people who have been through the stress of trying to find a place to live while ill, injured or mourning quickly highlights the value of always having a base to return to.
Retire from travelling
Having a place to go home to that feels like home could give you the time to make fresh decisions or simply be the exact solution you need.
Perhaps, during your many adventures, you fall in love with another place in the world and want to settle yourself there for the foreseeable future. Well, then you can decide whether to sell everything and relocate your home base permanently or keep your original home for the revenue and use the equity or your savings to buy something new. Either way, you will have options.
Family + Christmas + Summer, three good reasons to travel home occasionally. Photo captured by Joy Taylor.
In the meantime, having a home base near those you love most in the world makes it easy to return for visits.
For me, Australia is an awfully long way from most of the rest of the world, but still not so far that it is not achievable at least once every year or two.
Maybe I am a lucky one. I love my home and all that it represents. It is not something I feel the desire to distance myself from permanently.
Plus, an added bonus of actually having a home base is that it makes it much easier when you need to fill in forms or when you are over-tired from a long-haul flight and you need to answer questions by a worn-out immigration officer who wants you to state where is ‘home’.
There is no rule book
When it comes to being a digital nomad, there is no rule book. There are so many nomads with completely different approaches. Some things work for them, some do not, they are testing and trying all the time. It is possible that their way might work for you, but it also might not.
My best advice is do not rush your decisions. Review your options and find what feels right for you. If you still are not sure, pick one option and see what happens.
A digital nomad lifestyle is about adventures and exploring, meeting people, learning about cultures and environments, and experiences that are different from what is familiar.
None of that requires you to sell everything and abandon your past, before you even begin.
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Joy has been working her way around the world with her kids, solo and with her partner for over 20 years. Her motto is ‘travel cheap, travel deep’. She built a green house and tries to live a green life. 36/196
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