Three Months as a Nomad

DSC01720At my high school graduation my teacher/mentor/now long-time friend gave a speech to our class instructing us to sell everything we owned and travel. At the time that seemed an exceptionally good idea. Just over a year after that I moved to Italy for 8 months bringing with me only one suitcase of belongings.

Now ten years later I find myself once again in Europe, this time having sold just about everything we owned, and keeping only the most precious and useful things.

We have been in France for three months and in that time we’ve been living out of our suitcases and a few boxes as we wait for official paperwork to go through. It has been an eye-opening few months, changing the way I want to live. This past weekend we moved yet again to another vacation rental. (It’s hard to find a vacation rental for more than a month!) This time we’ve moved into a home that is being rented only for the summer. It is more like house sitting. The people who live here really love this house and you can tell in all the fine details. It’s a well organized house with lots of room for hanging out together as a family both inside and outside. The kitchen is a dream and already has all the things that I would want to get for a kitchen, which got me to thinking about communal living in which you could share kitchen things.


Moving from the tiny apartment in the village to this lovely home in the countryside was not too hard, but I realized that, for nomads, we have way too many things. It made me think a lot about my goal of simplicity and living with less. As I moved box after box of things, I thought: do we use this all the time, why do we have this? Is it because I feel sentimental about it? Have I kept it because I want someone else to see it and think of me in a certain way. From the apartment to this new house I made 4 car trips. Albeit our rental car is very small and two of those trips I had car seats in the car and couldn’t carry as much, but still.

I began to think about what is really needed for each of my interests right now. In the kitchen for example: can I get away with one chopping knife, one pan, and one pot? What about all my crafty hobbies? Maybe I need to think about the three most important ones and keep it to that, even though I would love to try out so many more. What about our homeschooling right now, art supplies, musical instruments, science experiments? What do we really need to have now that we have an amazing outdoor space? Can the girls be fine with just a pile of books and the fairy tale box? Do we have too many clothes? I been doing a lot of contemplation over this matter.

DSC01727I had no idea back in January how different this experience was going to be. Having no place of our own for over three months has changed my mind completely about buying anything. We have no space to bring things around with us so every purchase needs to be useful, or consumable. Easy to say and hard to do when you see lovely fabric or cool wooden toys or awesome handmade shoes, or new video game….

I’m aching to plant a garden again, but content to buy my produce from farmers markets and organic grocery stores for now. I’m ready to make lots of things from scratch again. (There is a food processor here!) I feel like I’ve lost the life I so eagerly started four years ago and I am so ready to get it back.

What I am learning though is being content in this moment, it’s slow and sometimes aggravating to wait or to just let go of the desire for something different. My ego keeps poking at me telling me I need something different. But I am seeing the benefits of this lesson and it is going to be good. Once again the theme for the year pops up “let go”.

Have you ever been a nomad? Have you ever sold everything you owned to start from scratch?

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11 Responses to Three Months as a Nomad

  1. eg salimbeni says:

    Lovely. And since I’m in the process of downsizing once again, I took some of your questions to heart. As I go into this last year of taeching, I find some books useful once again, but continue to weed out those I can get at the library or haven’t looked at for some time or that a new teacher can use. I’m still keeping once collection with an eye to future research and writing; but it’s amazing what I’ve managed to get rid of (well, I think so). I love it that you are bringing up the girls with a knowledge of what is necessary and what is not.

    Like you, I am dying to get back in the garden, but because of the drought, simply cannot justify the use of water–especially when there are good growers’ markets here. I am contenting myself with herbs this year, again.

    Keep up the good fight!

    from, your “teacher, mentor, longtime friend” –and honored to be so.

    • KC says:

      You know the interesting thing about books now is that I still feel the need to buy and keep books. I like to reference books all the time. But I have no where to store them of course in this moment of lives so I’ve started buying e-books and reading them on my ipad. That’s worked out wonderfully for novels and non-fiction books.

      I agree about not wanting to garden with a drought. Each summer in Tucson I felt terrible every time I had to water the plants in the summer. If I were to live there again and own my own home I would install a grey water system that would water the plants and garden. As well as buy used water tanks and set up rain barrels to catch the monsoon run off. The Native Seed Search organization out of Tucson has been doing some really great work towards making desert gardening more sustainable.

      As for that speech I remember it like yesterday and I remember that I couldn’t look at you at all otherwise I would have burst into tears. :) I sold everything and moved to Europe twice! How’s that for following through?

  2. Ashley says:

    Thank you for writing this blog – I just discovered it last week and am already impressed. For this post, I agree it is very difficult to let go of material attachment. Especially with a kid! There is always another toy she “needs” to not screw up her whole development. As a single earner family (with a stay at home dad and a sweet 18 month old), it’s not the nomad or space reasons but thriftiness why we triple question any buying decision. Trying to squeeze out every last drop of an item or food is tiresome and stressful, but necessary. It leads to some eye-opening realizations on how little we are willing to live on. For us, it turns out that organic foods, books, and some technology are important, but forget exotic vacations, travel, 2nd car, restaurants, big house, or first-hand clothes! And in the end, it’s all ok.

    • KC says:

      Thriftiness is always a good reason to question your purchases. It sounds to me like you have your priorities straight though! I’m so happy you found my blog and are enjoying it. Thank you for the compliment.

  3. Meryl says:

    I haven’t, but it’s an interesting question. I always find it fun to think about the things we take when we travel. Which toys does K pick? Which clothes can I not live without? It’s like a documentary.

    • KC says:

      Funny side note on this last trip to London I thought I had packed like a boss until D asked me to get him a shirt so he could change out of his travel clothes and I had forgotten to pack him any shirts!

  4. Melissa says:

    The closest I was ever to being a nomad was in college – moving in the dorm, out, in, out, apartment…you get the picture. I held onto a lot less then and it was easier. I think having kids made me more sentimental and clingy to “things.” As odd is this sounds, I use the things to remind me because I fear my mind will fail me….this comes with age, you’ll see :)

    • KC says:

      I take pictures to help me remember. With out pictures I feel like I wouldn’t remember so many things. Like the first six months of S’s life. I was so sleep deprived.

  5. Sara says:

    I think I like your blog so much because our lives are so different. Right now, I live in the house my husband grew up in as a child. My life could never be nomadic; its so packed with the lives of 4 people. Its interesting, because my family history lies here in New Mexico for hundreds of years (one of our relatives was one of the Conquistadors that traveled with Coronado). As a family, we never leave. We stay put, close to our mothers and cousins. There were some brave members of the family that ventured to California, but even then, they all live near each other and never leave California.
    So I love reading about your traveling European life. It will never be my life, and I am okay with that. I do love traveling and can’t wait to go back to England, but my heart would ache if I didn’t have a house waiting for me when I got home.

    • KC says:

      My life is very different right now from the one I had imagined. A good chunk of it is not in my control right now and I am just going with it. One day I want to have a home to come back to, a place we’ll never move out of again. There are a million ways to get there and this just happens to be one of them I suppose. I am way ready to settle down though. Tend a home of my own, have a garden, build things, maybe have a pet. I’m glad you are enjoying these travels though. I am glad to know I am bringing some adventure to peoples lives!

      Your family history sounds really interesting!! I would love to hear more about it. My grandfathers side of the family owned a tavern in Germany in the 1600’s and you can still visit the same tavern (or rather building). Maybe I’ll go there one day. :)

  6. Dawn Suzette says:

    Love to hear about your lesson and process with all of this KC. I did not clean out enough in this last move and now I find myself wanting to clean out more.
    Consumerism really has me down so I have no problem not buying stuff, it is just the managing and culling of the stuff we do have!
    I have no dought we will be moving again. The next one is going to be light. Light. Light.
    I feel you on missing the life you created. I miss my big garden, chickens, and wild gathering. xo

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