Claire Polders, Daniel Presley, and the Sphinx
On Life,  Wander, Wonder, Write

How to Live a Life of Long-Term Travel

In 2019, my husband and I lost our apartment in Paris and began traveling around the world. Despite the pandemic and concurrent family dramas we managed to visit quite a few countries, more than I had time to cover on this blog. Fortunately, I made a lot of notes and photos, and the experiences linger. I will write a travel memoir in due time. 

Yesterday, Mark Hogarth, a person I know from Facebook only, wrote me a private message that I will quote here with his permission:

Hello, so Alison-partner- and the dog and I are lying on the bed looking at your FB and marvelling at how anyone can travel around the world as you do. My travel involves going to Tesco and back, and I now don’t even bother to take in the view en route. Anyway, solve the mystery for us. Fanx, M

Mark Hogarth

He caught me at a good time—I was writing my next post for social media—and I liked his tone, so I decided to reply right away. My answer ended up being a bit longer than intended. 

Because he wasn’t the first person to ask how to live a life of travel, and I had planned to address this so-called mystery in the near future, I’ll share my (edited, expanded) answer to him with you all. 

Hi Mark,

I see how our traveling around the world might appear as a mystery to you, because I hardly write about the practicalities of our nomadic life.

A full answer to your question requires a longer text that I should probably write as an essay at some point, but let me give you this list:

  • We are privileged to have passports (one Dutch and one American) that give us access to most countries in the world, often visa-free or with easy to obtain visas online or on-arrival. 
  • We are healthy and able-bodied. No longer in our thirties or forties, we do take considerable efforts to stay fit while on the road. Our life is not ice-cream and sunbathing. 
  • Our way of slow traveling is not as expensive as you might think. Our wandering life is cheaper than a static life for us would be in the USA. Westerners on holiday in Southeast Asia often overspend, paying $100 or more for a hotel room. They want comfort, ease, and book everything in advance through overcharging third parties. School holidays often force them to travel during peak season. We, on the other hand, stay in simple B&Bs that charge between $20 and $40 a night. We sublet houses from expats or rent apartments for two weeks or more. And when we travel, we have no double costs, no mortgage or rent payments for a place at home.
  • We apply to artist residencies and sometimes get accepted. Currently we’re guests of the Toji Foundation in Wonju, South-Korea—yeah!
  • We have generous friends in the USA, Europe, and beyond who will host us for a week or more when we’re around. We are lucky that people consider us pleasant or interesting to have around.
  • We can write wherever we are. We’re not bound to a location. We have freelance work and income from royalties. We had some savings before we began this journey, but have not dipped into these savings much. That said, it reassures me to know I have the finances to buy expensive flights in case of emergency. 
  • Because I’m Dutch we have excellent affordable health insurance with worldwide coverage. 
  • We’re minimalists. We live frugally. We don’t need much. We often cook at home. Lunch on the road can be carrots with a handful of nuts. The costs of flights play a role in our decisions when and where we go. We research which museums and temples are free or affordable. We don’t book expensive tours. We take a lot of buses and trains and only use private drivers in places where we feel unsafe, which means: never in Asia.
  • We have no kids and no pets.
  • We love long-term traveling so much that we’re willing to give up comforts and securities. We live out of our backpacks. We have no qualms about buying what we need second-hand or leaving stuff behind for others to use. We have become easy-going and accustomed to bugs. 
  • The hours I used to spend sitting on the couch watching series or documentaries, I now spend researching transportation options, lodgings, and sights. This never-ending work, I admit, can be tiring. 
  • We miss spending time with our family and close friends, but we get to spend time with people we meet overseas and who often turn into close friends. Although some might consider us irresponsible, most support our nomadic lifestyle and armchair-travel with us. It’s easy nowadays to stay connected.
  • We know we can always settle down again when we feel life has become too restless. 

Does this solve the mystery of us traveling around the world?



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  • fosse2fosse

    Love this! But I’m curious, when you say, “Although some might consider us irresponsible, most support our nomadic lifestyle and armchair-travel with us.” What is irresponsible about your nomadic life? Seems to me, you probably don’t have a lot of plastic in your lives and aren’t leaving a large carbon footprint. Go! Go! Go!

  • Claire Polders

    The irresponsibility lies in not putting down roots, not making mortgage payments, and starting over in every place we land. It is harder to advance our careers and collaborate with others when always moving around. But I’m hoping that the riches of our experiences compensates for the loss of stability.