Do Digital Nomads Have Home Bases?

by gigigriffis

Photo credit.

Welcome back to my digital nomad series, in which I ask 4 – 8 location independent professionals to answer a question about the digital nomad lifestyle. The point? We all do it a little differently. There’s no right answer. Our unconventional lifestyles are distinctly our own.

Today’s topic: do digital nomads have home bases? Or are we all untethered, free-floating hippies?

As usual, I’ll kick off the answers myself:

Gigi Griffis

Gigi with her Phoenix and Tucson guidebook

Hey again, it’s Gigi—a long-time (4+ year) digital nomad, architect of this little slice of the internet, book author, and content strategist/copywriter/coder. I travel the world with my pint-sized pooch, Luna, and my boyfriend, Chad. In my free time, I swoon over new foods, hike tough trails, take too many photos, and read a lot of books.

Where I hail from originally: Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA

Where I lived before going nomadic: Denver, Colorado, USA

Home base: None

Myself, the dog, and the boyfriend are currently untethered. In 2016, we wintered in Northern Arizona, road-tripped across the US then back across Canada, and spent four months in Vancouver. Next up, we’ll grab a series of flights to Sicily to end the year in vacation mode with an ocean view. In 2017, our indefinite travels continue in Sicily, Rome, and then Eastern Europe.

Have you ever had a home base during your travels?
Yep! In 2014 and 2015 I was a legal resident of Switzerland, making my home in the stunning, waterfall-laden Lauterbrunnen Valley while writing and publishing books about Switzerland and Italy. I was pretty settled (well, for me), especially that first year, with a long-term apartment rental and more possessions than I could reasonably carry in a backpack.

Even without a home base, is there anywhere you go back to again and again? 
Yes. I end up back in Paris (on purpose or by chance) once every year or two. Before I lived in Lauterbrunnen, it was a place I kept coming back to (thus I moved there). Italy is constantly drawing me back into its orbit. And while I’ve only been once so far, I have a feeling that I’ll be heading back to Slovenia again soon.

If you had to choose a home base tomorrow, where would it be?
If I literally had to settle down, at this point I think the top contender would be Slovenia. It’s beautiful. It’s got great food. You can go from towering mountains to ocean-front towns in very little time. It’s got easy access to the rest of Europe. And it’s affordable. We’ll also be exploring more of Central and Eastern Europe in 2017 and may come up with a favorite spot then.

Find Gigi at Instagram, Facebook, or, well, here on the blog.


Annette O’Neil & Brett Kistler

Though both American by passport, we met on the Wild Coast of South Africa in 2009. Our first date was a month-long road trip across Zimbabwe and Botswana and we’ve been at it ever since. Annette is a writer/producer and Brett runs a boutique web firm. Both of us have been location independent for about eight years, which has allowed us to deeply pursue our sporting interests–skydiving, BASE jumping, paragliding, speed flying, motorcycling, yoga, and slack lining–across multiple continents.

Where we hail from originally: Cleveland, Ohio, USA, and, well, everywhere.

Annette was raised in the U.S. Air Force, so she can’t really claim to be from anywhere. Brett is from a little suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, the same one that inspired the backdrop for the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. (He and his siblings are fairly sure their antics inspired the rest of it.)

Where we lived before going nomadic: Los Angeles, California, and Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Annette had been living in Los Angeles for the better part of a decade, working on the stressful pointy end of film production. Brett had been pretty much location independent for a couple of years when he met Annette during a stint in South Africa, splitting his time between Cleveland and coastal Mexico.

Home base: Salt Lake City, sort of.

The basement of loft we bought together in Salt Lake City holds most of our earthly possessions, but the rest of it is an Airbnb for 11 months of the year, so we’re not sure that counts.

Have you ever had a home base during your travels?
Annette considers the lakelands of central Slovakia to be as much of a home base as anything could be; Brett prefers to remain home-base-less.

The central requirement of the “home base” is that it’s sustainable cost-wise, stunningly beautiful, and sufficiently supportive of multiple sporting disciplines to keep progression driving forward. For Annette, Slovakia fits the bill perfectly. Brett’s favorite sport, however (wingsuit BASE jumping) requires bigger, steeper cliffs than Slovakia can manage, so he ranges further afield.

If you do have a home base, how often do you go there and how long do you stay?
Annette has burned out her EU tourist visa in Slovakia two years running, exploring outward from that basecamp, and doesn’t plan to stop.

Even without a home base, is there anywhere you go back to again and again?
We’re constantly returning to South Africa, where we met seven years ago. There’s so much there to dig into.

If you had to choose a home base tomorrow, where would it be?
Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia, for sure. The answer might be different next year, though. Who knows?

Find more from Annette and Brett at Sustainable LunacyRunning Exit, and their respective Instagrams: Annette, Brett.


Srajan Bhagat

Srajan Bhagat

Hi, I’m Srajan! I was born in Bulgaria. My family is from India. And I’ve grown up in Austin, Texas. I lead customer success over at Recruiterbox, a distributed team helping companies get better at hiring. I’ve been traveling as a digital nomad for the past two years and am absolutely loving it.

Where I hail from originally:  India, Bulgaria, and, well, it’s hard to say…

I was born as an Indian citizen, but in Sofia, Bulgaria (my father was a diplomat). I grew up in five different countries before the age of 10 and have been in Austin, Texas, since then.

Where I lived before going nomadic: Austin, Texas

Home base: Austin, Texas.

If you do have a home base, how often do you go there and how long do you stay?
I chose to base in Austin due to the support I have here (family, friends, etc.). The summertime is my favorite time to be in Austin. I typically come here for those three months out of the year and then for a month or few weeks in between my other destinations.

Is there anywhere else you go back to again and again?
I find myself going back to Sayulita, Mexico, again and again (three times in the past two years). It’s a small fishing and surfing village north of Puerto Vallarta. I feel very much at peace there. I enjoy the fresh food, perfect waves, and now the fiberoptic internet (thanks to my buddy Chase and his new co-working endeavor).

If you had to choose a home base tomorrow, where would it be?
I’m sticking with Austin for now, though I do feel like I’m slowly severing the major ties I have to Austin, so I will not be coming back to it as a home for much longer, but rather a familiar and loving stop along my travels. If I had to choose another home base, it would be Santa Cruz, California.

Find Srajan on Twitter, Instagram, and his website.


Vanessa Runs

vanessa

Hey, I’m Vanessa. I’ve written two books on the road: The Summit Seeker: Memoirs of a Trail-Running Nomad and Daughters of Distance: Stories of Women in Endurance Sports. I ride shotgun alongside my hubby and senior dog Ginger.

Where I hail from originally: born in El Salvador; raised in Ontario, Canada

Where I lived before going nomadic: San Diego, California, USA

Home base: None

Have you ever had a home base during your travels?
Nope! We have never had a home base in our four years of travel so far.

Even without a home base, is there anywhere you go back to again and again? 
We definitely have some favorite seasonal spots. For example, we’ve spent the past three summers in Colorado. We don’t have a home base there, but travel within the state according to interest and weather. We are mostly interested in long trails, the more climb the better.

If you had to choose a home base tomorrow, where would it be?
I would split the year between Nicaragua and the Yukon (Canada). Nicaragua because the living is cheap, I love the culture, and I speak the language fluently. Beaches and volcanos sweeten the deal. The Yukon because I’m in love with it. It’s a wild and rugged Canadian territory where moose outnumber people.

Find more of Vanessa at vanessaruns.com.


Stephanie Pelser & Celine Chan

kimchi-1

Celine and Stephanie have been living a nomadic lifestyle as mixed-race lesbian couple for over a year. Celine grew up on Hong Kong and London and is a former civil servant turned English teacher. Stephanie is German but a self-proclaimed Londoner and has been location independent as a translator and writer for over five years. We both prefer to travel to non-touristy places (think East Asia over South East Asia, the Middle East over the Mediterranean). Somehow, most of our time is spent on islands famous for being somewhat eccentric. Japan and Ireland are among our favorites. We erratically and unprofessionally blog about our experiences at queernomad.com.

Where we hail from originally: Hong Kong, London, and Germany.

Celine was born in Hong Kong but has lived in London since her mid-teens (that’s over 15 years now). Stephanie is from a small town in Germany, a few miles from the Dutch border, but escaped to the city before she even turned 18.

Where we lived before going nomadic: London, England

Home base: London, sort of.

We neither have a traditional home base nor do we consider ourselves free-floating, really.

We like the idea of a home base, but we haven’t really found the right place. London is too expensive to maintain as a place for living nomadically (seriously, it’s even too expensive for a settled life!), and the political situation there doesn’t make us feel very welcome at present.

That said, London is a home for us, though not a base. We stay at Celine’s parents’ house frequently, receive our mail there, and have a small storage unit. It’s also one of the best places to get cheap flights from and is connected to practically anywhere in the world. London will probably always be our home in some sense, even if we haven’t lived there in decades.

If you do have a home base, how often do you go there and how long do you stay?
When we’re in Europe, we pass through London for two to four days every two to three months. So far, we have passed through London at least once every five months.

Is there anywhere else you go back to again and again?
During Stephanie’s first bout of nomadic living, she spent a few months in Osaka, Japan, because she loves the energy of the place and considers it her second home. Then she had the genius idea of making Belfast, Northern Ireland, her home base; it’s in the UK, so easy in terms of taxes and admin, has decent flight connections, lots of culture and history, and is very cheap. She’s also always loved Ireland and the idea of exploring more of it from a home base. Sadly, the ghosts of the Northern Ireland conflict linger on and there is still a lot of hatred and sadness in this city. She moved on after six months.

In addition to London, we both have the places we grew up. For Celine, that’s Hong Kong, which we visit probably once a year. We also pass through Northrine-Westphalia, the region of Germany Stephanie is from, quite frequently to meet friends and family. Apart from that, Osaka, Japan, is a place we’ve been returning to a lot. Hamburg in the north of Germany is a city that we both feel very comfortable with.

If you had to choose a home base tomorrow, where would it be?
Hamburg, without a doubt! As EU citizens, it would be the easiest place for us to settle without having to worry about a visa (as no Asian country would recognize a civil partnership, even if we were married; otherwise there would be some Asian cities we’d consider). Even though Stephanie’s vowed not to move back to Germany unless she has to for health reasons, this is the one city in Germany she can imagine living in. It’s got everything; it’s cosmopolitan yet rough, full of history and nautical traditions yet many migrants, with a rowdy nightlife and romantic waterways. We both are more drawn to northern climes rather than finding our place in the sun.

Find Stephanie and Celine at queernomad.com.


Kit Whelan

Kit Whelan

Hi everyone! Kit here, member of the 7+ year digital nomad club and founder of 7in7, a conference for long-term location independent people. I travel the globe with my partner Nick and my trusty carry-on backpack searching out colorful desserts, waterfront sunsets, and nerdy destinations from Comic-Con to the Wizarding World.

Where I hail from originally: Washington, DC, USA

Where I lived before going nomadic: Los Angeles, CA, USA

Home base: None.

I haven’t had a home base since 2009. I store some cold-weather gear in a closet at my in-laws house, but that doesn’t really count.

Have you ever had a home base during your travels?
The longest I’ve been anywhere in the last seven years is when I spent three months in Playa del Carmen, but even that was punctuated with a short trip to Belize! As much as I say “I should slow down one of these years,” I really thrive on frequent change.

Even without a home base, is there anywhere you go back to again and again?
Oh absolutely! London and Portland are two perennial favorites of mine. I’ve also been to Paris multiple years in a row and Iceland is one of my most beloved places to take a vacation and get back to nature, both in summer and winter.

If you had to choose a home base tomorrow, where would it be?
That is such a hard question. Last year I seriously considered buying a home base in the Pacific Northwest but decided it just wasn’t for me. (Not yet, anyway.)

Find Kit at 7 in 7 Digital Nomad Conference and on Twitter.


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Do Digital Nomads Have Home Bases

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