The Nomad Experience



A Wandering Minstrel I ...

The nomad experience does not mean that a Gilbert and Sullivan  demeanor need be adopted. Tattered clothes, the singing of partly remembered songs and inducing others to sleep is not necessary. Life as a perpetual tourist is not for everyone but it is an alternative to permanent residence in one place. The idea avoids the difficulties of obtaining a permanent residence visa but it does present its own special problems. Those who have a firm allegiance to a particular country often have a strong moral objection to this concept. It is a perfectly legal lifestyle. W.G Hill who is thought to be the first to have used the term "perpetual tourist" wrote his book of that name in 1989. It is not now in print but reproductions are available for about $20. A "first edition" copy, when available, will cost over $100. Tied to the idea of living the nomad way is the idea of freedom from the bureaucracies which affect the lives of those who live in one place either by choice or because of accident of birth. There are a number of organizations which promote the "free" life of a perpetual tourist.

Promoting the Nomad Lifestyle

The nomad philosophy is supported by the Offshore Manual  and it provides assistance with most of the financial and identity aspects of being and international citizen. The philosophy of the site is provided on its "PT Philosophy" page. This organization charges for its services. The Wealth Report is concerned predominantly with asset protection but it is also concerned with matters of residence and citizenship. Like the Offshore Manual it charges for its services. The Lifehack site  is concerned mostly with lifestyle matters rather than with tools required to live abroad successfully.

What's the Next Stop?

The two large organizations in this field are Live and Invest Overseas  and International Living . Both offer free e-mail "tempters" for membership. The latter publishes a print (hard copy) magazine also whereas the former is an online venture only. In addition to reports of people, retirees and countries investment advice is provided online and at periodic conferences. Membership of neither bodies is cheap if all of the recommended publications are bought and attendances are made at all conferences although there are frequent "special offers" made. Both of these businesses favor settlement in one country rather than a nomadic existence but the extension from the former to the latter can easily be assessed from the information given. It is for individual retirees to evaluate the benefits of membership.

For practical advice the FreedomConfidential organization is very good. Its founder and principal has lived the life of a nomad for many years and knows a great deal about the practicalities involved. There is a charge for membership of FreedomConfidential, currently $97.

It is important to be aware that many similar sites and some of the above (other than the last mentioned) make charges for doing things that can easily be done personally. This includes items such as applying for an offshore bank account. With all such offered advice the watchword must be caveat emptor.

Nomadic Advantages

This Land is My Land

The advantages of the wandering lifestyle are easy to identify. The immediate benefit is that no residence visa is required and no complicated application is needed. Most countries offer short term visitors the right to stay for about ninety days. Where the period is shorter there is usually a simple way to obtain an extension even if this can be done only by exiting for a day and returning. Extensions without a "border run" usually cost a small fee. Georgia offers a temporary "short term" visa for 360 days but this is exceptional. Often a tourist visa can be obtained on arrival at an airport, port or border crossing. Some countries are more formal. If the U.S.A. visa waiver conditions do not apply (for visitors from a prescribed set of "friendly" countries) then attendance at an interview at the nearest U.S.A. embassy or consulate is necessary. Generally staying in a country as a short term visitor is easy and cheap to arrange. It is usually necessary to hold onward bookings and to have proof of sufficient means to sustain living for the period for which entry is sought or offered.

Better Get Going

Few countries allow short term visitors to work although in some seasonal working visas (e.g for fruit picking) are possible. There is therefore no problem with income tax and this is true even if business is done online within a country but earnings accrue elsewhere. Again the U.S.A. is an exception in this respect because it taxes its citizens and residents on worldwide income wherever and whenever it is earned.

Most countries allow visitors to use their "home" country issued driving license. Purchasing a motor vehicle is probably not part of a tourist's agenda although hiring or borrowing a vehicle may be undertaken. Carrying an International driving permit is useful as an identity document in the event of an accident because it carries a photograph and is written in up to ten languages.

Accommodation Varies

The ability to purchase land or a house varies from place to place. In some countries even a tourist can buy a house. In others only citizens may own land although non-citizens can sometimes buy a long term lease or hold title to a condominium. This is useful if many return visits are contemplated.

Some is Good

Visiting countries for short periods means that it is possible to enjoy only the times that are personally attractive or interesting. This may relate to climatic conditions or seasons or to activities such as particular sporting events or festivities. It may be possible to schedule trips to coincide with specific family events such as anniversaries or birthdays.

Some Not So Good

Spending much of the year in countries which have a low cost of living may allow a visitor to save funds for trips to more expensive places for short periods. Staying at an international ski resort will be expensive but it may be possible for what is often a short season if, say, nine months of the year are spent in Caribbean, South American or Asian countries.

Mod Cons en Suite Often Available

Many people enjoy the freedom from and lack of responsibility towards local administration and politics. Some frown upon this lack of participation but it may be considered to be far less reprehensible that the acts of citizens who do not take part in their countries democratic activities. This is a matter of opinion and it can be argued from both view points. In general countries do not turn tourists or short term visitors away. They cannot therefore be regarded as unwelcome or damaging to the local environment except in rare cases of deliberate vandalism. The benefits of the life as the nomad are clear and attractive to many.

Nomadic Disadvantages

The immediate disadvantage so far as many are concerned is that of "living out of a suitcase". This problem diminishes over time. Friendships are developed in the countries visited on a regular basis and items of clothing and other personal effects can often be left with acquaintances ready for use on the next visit. There is the initial expense of having a basic wardrobe in each place. To safely cover a year of traveling four or five places may develop as "usual stops". Only four sets of personal gear need be maintained because one set would travel as accompanied baggage. New items can be purchased in places where prices are cheapest.

This lifestyle may not be most suitable for travelers with children. It has been done. Self education or correspondence courses for more formal tuition can form the basis of a good schooling regime to which is added the experience of travel and the mixing with other cultures.

In the event of a natural disaster or civil strife or a state of war it may not be easy to look to another country, even the country of citizenship, for assistance. Very often travelers do not register their presence in a country with the authorities of their country of citizenship. Usually a traveler's whereabouts is maintained by providing a close friend with movement details.

Nomads Can Be Modern

It may be best at first to visit countries where the language does not present a problem and where the basic legal system is a familiar one. This may be on the basis of, say, English common law or Roman-Dutch law but there are others. It is always useful to keep abreast of current news and affairs so ease of access via newspapers, radio or television is facilitated if there is no language problem. A basic knowledge of and familiarity with the legal system means that immediate rights and responsibilities are known. It is never a good idea to be faced with surprises in legal matters. With experience travel to unfamiliar regimes may be interesting.

It can sometimes be more time consuming as a traveler to maintain control over financial affairs. A number of bank accounts may have to be established. This situation is eased by the use of debit or credit cards but a maintained knowledge of relative currency movements is needed. Most recently modern concepts such as "Bitcoin" may have proved useful to some.

There may initially be problems in maintaining a "permanent" mailing address. There are many companies that will provide this facility although the use of e-mail has reduced this problem other than for large physical items and some legal documents. This difficulty is becoming easier with passing time.

Health insurance will probably be a major expense. It is possible to choose to visit only countries which allow visitors access to local facilities on an emergency basis. For minor problems it may be economical and possible to rely upon local services. This would mean that an insurance policy as a guard against major incidents with a higher than usual "deductable" may keep premiums within tolerable margins.

The Moral Equation

There have been voiced moral objections to the nomad lifestyle. These come from those who have an allegiance to or preference for life as a permanent resident of a country. Most often this is residence in in the country of citizenship whether this be by naturalization or the accident of birth. The usual complaint is that a non-resident does not contribute to services, infrastructure or the financial needs of the country. The "gypsy" would contend that all applicable taxes are paid without complaint. These would be taxes on the consumption of goods and services. Visitors may consume less of the government services and infrastructure available and would pay what ever fee is demanded for any that are used. Often such services are accessed on a non-fee paying basis by local residents or citizens.

Everyone should expect to be entitled to live in a society ordered by appropriate laws and regulations. The need for the policing of such rules is expected by citizens and this is usually paid for from tax revenue via income tax. This revenue is a major component of most government revenue raising system. Visitors do not contribute to this revenue item but they also do not require the services of the police, armed services or civil service for more than a short period. Unavoidable indirect taxes, fees, fines and other penalties may well mean that on a per capita basis the visitor contributes more than the local citizen for the period that the former is in the country. It is also the case that almost all citizens take advantage of any tax minimization that may be available.

That governments do not usually accept the above objections to visitors is indicated by the fact that few regimes turn tourists away. Indeed most countries welcome them as a major boost to revenue both private and public. The retiree has no reason to feel guilty by adopting the lifestyle of the nomad.


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