I’ve Been a Nomad for Eight Months. Where I’ve Slept This Year.


Last October, I ditched my apartment in Waikiki for a renewed stint of vagabonding. Most people just don’t get it.

  • “OK, but where do you live?” It’s equally true that I live wherever I am at that moment or nowhere.
  • “Where’s your home base?” Nowhere.

I’ve learned that I like to stay in a place for at least several weeks to figure out its rhythms and my favorite restaurants, sports activities places to go out, and new friends before I move on. That’s why I spent three months in Buenos Aires, a month in Madrid, and plan to spend a month each in Belgrade and Bucharest.

But I’ve also had short trips to Arizona and California to play in tennis tournaments; to North Carolina to watch basketball tournaments; and to Hawaii, Georgia, Florida, and Virginia to see family and friends. I counted up all my 2015 nights through June 12, 2015 when I leave Madrid to see where I’ve actually slept in 2015.

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Camping: 2 Nights

I wish this number were 10 times higher.

I trekked and camped from December 29, 2014 to January 2, 2015 in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, so that was one night this year.

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I camped a night in Maui at Oheo Gulch with a friend.Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 7.26.32 PMThese were two of my favorite experiences all year, so I would like to incorporate more camping and trekking into my life in 2015 and beyond. I don’t travel with a tent, but that would start making more sense if I were to camp more.

Hostel: 7 Nights

Eight years ago, traveling meant hostels for me, ideally for $5 a night.

Hostels are my back up, back up plan at this point. I only like to stay in them if I will be in a town for 1-2 nights–making Airbnb not a good option–and there are no chain hotels for which I have points–making hotels not a good option.

I can still enjoy hostels in small doses, but they bore me quickly because they are the same everywhere, and I consider meeting other travelers usually less interesting than meeting locals.

Airbnb: 6 Nights

(I’m only counting stays of under two weeks in this category. I also found the 90 nights in apartments on Airbnb, but I consider stays of over two weeks to be of a separate character, and both were actually rented outside Airbnb.)

Renting on Airbnb a place with a kitchen in the part of town where I want to spend my days is the ideal way for me to travel to a city for three days to a week.

These stays in Buenos Aires (while my regular apartment was unavailable) and Bogota were top notch, and I expect to Airbnb on my weeklong trip to each capital in the Baltics in June and July.

Apartments: 90 Nights

If I want to be in a place for a month or longer, I want to be in one apartment with a kitchen where I can cook my specialties and with space to entertain guests. I search Airbnb, Craigslist, and Google for apartments, but I always try to transact directly with the owner to save cash.

These 58 nights in Buenos Aires and 32 in Madrid were perfect. I had an apartment exactly where I wanted to be at a lower average nightly price than a hotel or a short term Airbnb stay.

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My apartment in Madrid

Redeye Flights: 3 Nights

Buenos Aires to Greensboro, Honolulu to Seattle, and Washington to Madrid all involved sleeping on planes.

Hotel: 3 Nights

A friend and I enjoyed Westin Maui for two nights on points, and I used an expiring Hyatt free night certificate at the Grand Hyatt in Washington.

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Grand Hyatt, Washington

I don’t stay at hotels often because I can get a cheaper, better place with Airbnb, but I do like my occasional stays in nice hotels on points. They’re a fun treat.

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Westin Maui, Ka’anapali

Motels: 13 Nights

When I was watching basketball and heading to reunions on the East Coast, I was burning Choice Privileges Points for stays at Econolodges or booking similar $40-a-night motels that are frankly gross. Still I’d rather save the money over a nicer hotel if I’m going to be rarely in the room.

Friends: 8 Nights
Family: 23 Nights

I love visiting friends and family, and I’ll sleep on whatever surface is available from a spare bed to an air mattress to couch cushions on the floor because the couch isn’t long enough.

I especially love that home cooking I can’t replicate myself in foreign apartments, and the extra tennis and golf that family visits entail.

Casas Particulares: 7 Nights

Every night in Cuba, I stayed at a casa particular, which is just Spanish for “private home.”

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Although I had my own entry at both casas, it is still different from a standard Airbnb experience because the homeowner is living on the premises and offers to cook.

Going Forward

The mix should be pretty similar, I see three weeks of Airbnb stays coming up in the Baltics, two longer apartment rentals in Serbia and Romania, and bouncing for a few weeks in the US in the Fall. I’ll post the year end stats as Recap of 2015 post.

I’ve been nomadic for about eight months, and I see that continuing for at least another eight more. I love never paying rent/mortgage on two places the same night which saves me a lot of money over renting an apartment and still traveling half the time, and I love having fewer possessions. Leave a comment if you have any questions about the nomadic lifestyle or my lodging strategies.

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    • I find it to be a hassle to request to stay places and deal with that uncertainty then have to coordinate the check in and check out at some places. I’d rather just get a hotel or hostel for such a short time when I almost certainly won’t be cooking.

    • I’m paying 1329 euros for 32 nights. I booked the day before I arrived, so I think I should be doing better but I can’t imagine paying less than 1000 euros this time of year for a decent place in a decent spot.

  1. You are going to Belgrade! Great choice – an ooff the beaten track destination, not expensive, great places to go out, amazing history and fabulous tennis AND basketball. If you have time, try and see some of the country’s interior – both north (Novi Sad, Sremski Karlovci, Subotica), and mountains in the west (Tara Ntl Park, Mecavnik).
    Feel free to email if you’d like more tips – I will be personally in town the second week of June and early September.
    And thank you for your great blog, have been enjoying it for three years now.

    • I probably won’t explore the rest of the country at all on this trip. It will take me out of the Belgrade groove. With only a month, I don’t want to lose any of that time that I could be spending figuring out Belgrade a little better. But if I really like Serbia, I’ll definitely be back to try to see it all.

      Unfortunately our dates won’t overlap, but thanks for the info.

  2. So you’ve stayed in an apartment, and crashed at family and friends for 75% of the time. It seems like your lodging strategies involve being a houseguest at family and friends….and renting an apartment….

  3. Let me start by saying congrats. Great post, I’d love to be able to do this. But I must advice totally against going to Bucharest. There isn’t much to do in that city and beeing a busy city, the people are not very welcoming. There are some other great cities, in Romania where you could easily spend a month, especially in Transilvania. Try to get some info on Sibiu, Cluj or Brasov, all vibrant cities, with great heritage and abundant opportunities for side trips. Safe travels. Cheers.

  4. How did you find the two long-term apartments (BsAs and Madrid)? The Madrid apartment is a steal, especially if utilities are included. You’re paying under 45 Euros a night, for your own apartment. Madrid is not cheap. How did you find it?? We’re traveling to Madrid in the fall and I have a one-bedroom for 11 days, but it’ll cost us 1,100 Euros, so I want to find something cheaper. Also, how do you manage the logistics of applying for credit cards and receiving mail when you’re on the road and abroad for such long periods of time? Thanks for sharing your stats!

    • Everything is included in all my rentals. I start the search on airbnb, then contact companies/people directly to save money. I get the mail sent to a family member.

      • I see. Thanks for explaining how you find long-term apartments. I’ve tried this a couple of times, but both times the airbnb host did not want to circumvent airbnb because it offered them certain legal protections and they were fine with paying the fees. I guess you got lucky, or maybe you sent a whole bunch of requests until someone accepted. I may try again… thanks!

  5. Can’t remember if you’ve spent much time in Romania, but the place is dear to me and I think it’s a great budget destination. In Bucharest, the Lipscani District is the happening place and a lot of fun, but think about Brasov for a sidetrip. Also, you can visit Mamaia even if you want to focus on connecting to Bucharest because that’s where all the young crowd go every weekend in summer anyway!

  6. Although having mail sent to a family member works, it does cause credit card companies to start mixing their “identification questions” between you and your family members. It also makes reporting “how many years have you lived at this address?” a more cumbersome question. At a mere $200/year, I’ve used a UPS box to avoid this. I always go there to pickup my mail, packages, etc and it also allows me to go without an address (I’ll move out of an apartment for a month or more and avoid the double rent). Receiving mail this way has vastly simplified my life and I’ve done it for 6 years now. There’s a post about maintaining a US identity I could dig up, that includes practical ways to manage phones, faxes, etc also.

    Instead of actually moving out occasionally, I’ve found a place that’s super cheap to live in. At $375/mo, it’s not worth moving if I want to take a month off.

  7. Hey Scott, really interesting post, good insight.

    As time has passed, I too have found that although hostels make it easier to meet others when traveling solo, they can also make you more distant from the locals. With all your travel experience under your belt, I’m just curious as to what you generally do to get more immersed with the locals and culture when on a short 3-5 day stay using Airbnb. I find it takes me a little while to warm up to a place…The couple times I’ve used Airbnb for short stays, although smooth, I found it to be isolating. Thanks


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