After almost 7 years straight of living a full-time digital nomad lifestyle abroad, I've finally decided to head back to the US and establish a home base late last year in a new state.
The main thing that got me thinking about it was the pandemic. I'm glad things are back to normal now in most places, but in case some new pandemic or emergency comes up again, it would be nice to have a permanent home to ride it out and not have to worry about overstaying visas or getting stuck somewhere under strict lockdowns and other restrictions.
With this new setup, I'm basically home in the US most of the year and just travel multiple times per year for 2-4 weeks at a time.
I narrowed down my new location using the following criteria:
- Freedom (unlikely to enforce strict lockdowns or mandates due to some new virus or "emergency")
- No state income tax
- Low crime
- Very walkable and I can get most of what I need within walking distance (don't want to own a car, I can just rent one occasionally if I want to do a road trip)
- Close to an international airport (since I'll be traveling a lot)
I won't mention here which state and city I ended up choosing, but there are a bunch of places that meet these criteria. I'm very happy with my choice so far.
The main downside of this of course is higher cost. My expenses while living abroad as a full-time digital nomad are easily half my current expenses. Plus when I travel, I still have to keep paying rent on my apartment even when it's not being used.
In my current situation, the extra expense is worth it as I find it really convenient to have that permanent home to go back to that's set up just the way I like it, in a location that I really like. I live downtown and there's a big supermarket within a 10-minute walk, a nice park within a 5-minute walk, plenty of coffee shops and restaurants all over within a 1-mile radius, and the airport is just a 20-minute Uber ride away.
I've made a bunch of international trips already since I moved back to the US last year and I find the sweet spot for me is to travel 2-3 weeks every other month. After about a month at home, I start to get the travel itch. Then after about a couple of weeks of traveling, I start missing my home base (both my apartment and also the city).
I'm actually currently in Europe and have been here for 4 weeks now. I got a few more days left, but I'm already looking forward to going home at this point. I planned a longer stay for this trip as the ticket was quite expensive and I wasn't able to visit Europe last summer.
Earlier in the year, I visited mostly Latin America where the flight time is much shorter and also much cheaper tickets.
Here's what I expect my typical travel schedule will be each year:
- Multiple trips to different countries in Latin America for 2-3 weeks at a time (easier to justify due to much shorter and cheaper flights)
- 1 trip to Europe in the summer for 1 month
- 1 trip to Asia in the winter for 1 month
With this schedule, I expect to be home 7-8 months total in the year and abroad for 4-5 months.
The other benefit of having a home base for me is it's easier to have a more healthy lifestyle. When I'm home, I very rarely eat out or buy takeouts; I almost always cook at home (gotta avoid those seed oils). I do go to coffee shops a lot, but I only have coffee or tea. I also exercise more regularly and have a more consistent sleep schedule. So over time, I'd probably have better health for having a home base. And improving my health is something I think about a lot more now that I'm older.
While the downside of higher cost is pretty big, I do feel the upsides outweigh it and I might just stick to this setup in the long term.