Nomad No More: After 2,700 Days Of Wandering I Have A Home

Every professional nomad eventually gets burnt out. Long-term travel, while being undeniably rewarding, is also extremely tedious. Country-hopping like “normal” people change TV channels takes a surprising toll on a person. And unfortunately every nomad eventually hits that point where they are tired of being a nomad. Especially digital nomads because we are essentially mixing a full-time career with full-time travel — a tough combination that eventually wears you down. For me it took 7 years, 4 months and 21 days. Exactly 2,700 days from the time I quit my job to travel the world until now: NOMAD NO MORE!

Not tired of traveling, just tired of being a nomad. Big difference.

Hong Kong skyline at night

Make no mistake, this does not mean I am done traveling. In fact in less than 24 hours I leave for Hong Kong. After that it’s China, Hong Kong again, Cambodia and India in a series of conveniently-timed back-to-back videos projects and press trips.

Haven’t even unpacked yet I’m already leaving the country. HA!

How Long-Term Travel Changes People Forever

Nomad no more….but why?

Although people always talk about the freedom that comes with living out of a backpack, it also comes with limitations. Like a backpack. It may surprise you to realize but backpacks were designed for backpackers and long-term travelers, not photographers/videographers traveling with lots of heavy, expensive and fragile gear.

As I focus more on building my career as videographer and opening a media company, I need a base. Somewhere to store this gear I am not using, instead of random hotels and friends’ houses in various countries — as I’m currently doing.

Phantom drone, Song a7Rii and 4k phone

Then there is the drone. Let’s not forget that within a week of purchasing this drone I made headlines by getting arrested again, this time in India. (Full story along the video of the “illegal” Khajuraho drone footage that got me arrested can be found here.) Some countries its just better not to travel with a drone. Plus because I bought the biggest toughest drone suitcase I could find, it’s a mandatory piece of check-in luggage. And everyone knows that nomads are highly allergic to check-in luggage.

Derek Freal arrested in Khajuraho, India for flying a drone over the temples
Front page but below the fold, damn

I may have a home now, but I’ll rarely be here.

Over the years my travel style has changed. First party. Then adventure. Culture and local life. Off the beaten path destinations. But always slowly, spending months in each country. Now I am finally tired of being on the road 24/7/365. I’d rather start flying in somewhere new for a project, spend an extra week or three exploring it on my own, and then flying back to a home base to do any post-production or follow-up work — not slaving over a laptop while still on the road instead of enjoying what’s around me.

View from my private villa in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

View from my private villa in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka. Just myself and a female friend — well, and the private staff to cook all our meals and tend to our every need — yet I’m stuck spending half the time on my laptop. I am not doing this anymore.

Now that I have a home, I’ll actually be traveling more.

Sounds strange but it’s true. I’ve been doing slow travel for years and don’t get me wrong, it’s been great. Taking your time to truly learn a country instead of just visit it for a couple of weeks is a very different way of traveling. Much more rewarding, humbling and educational. But like all good things there comes a point when enough is enough.

As a nomad, you have to either pick warm or cold climate and commit. You cannot carry around two completely different wardrobes. Rather than give away the brand new winter jacket I bought for trekking in Nepal, I can now save it for skiing in Afghanistan the following winter or dogsledding in Canada.

How Being A Nomad Ruins Your Life

Nomad no more: this deserted beach in Thailand is my new home
A few Bangkok locals come by on the weekends, but during the week the beach is mine.

Where are you living?

Thailand — but NOT Chiang Mai or any other tourist hotspot. Earlier this year I discovered a nice, quiet little beach in the eastern side of the country not far from Cambodia that is free from tourists. Came here originally for one week, ended up sticking around for six. Ever since I have been coming and going and I have gotten to know the locals. They’ve been teaching me Thai little by little and now know me well enough that people wave at me when I pass by on motorcycle. And just a few days ago I met a guy here I can speak Indonesian with.

After being a stranger in strange land for so many years it’s weird to have somewhere that although I’m still an outsider, the land feels like home.

Nomad no more: my view of the Gulf of Thailand
Flying the drone out into the gulf

My condo is 50 steps from the beach with a great view and I was able to get fiber internet installed for $25/month — 100MB/s down, 100MB/s up and no bandwidth caps. Already I’ve uploaded over 500GB of videos to my cloud storage. (Any of you digital nomads get sick of all the tourists in Chiang Mai, come on down here and join me!) ๐Ÿ˜‰

After moving in I went grocery shopping and bought kitchenware and cleaning supplies and various basic household accessories. I got a nice big desk and fancy desk chair, a new couch and shelves and hangers to organize my clothes. And I actually kind of enjoyed it. Then I realized the old me would have slapped the shit out of me for thinking these dangerous heretic thoughts.

Well, I guess that’s one way to look at it, I guess. But I still feel strange.

Still craving more?

Here are some interesting reads — my past nomadiversary posts. Enjoy!

Now, I have to go book a flight to Hong Kong, find a hotel and get packing — cheers!

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." ย  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

44 thoughts on “Nomad No More: After 2,700 Days Of Wandering I Have A Home”

  1. So cool Derek!!! Awesome job “settling down” nomad style. I hear you big time. After five years I’m ready for this as well. Not sure where yet tho. Already lived in Thaialnd so thinking I’ll need to switch it up. Garrett and I will be around there in a few months so we may have to swing by ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks Nina, at some point we all have to. It’s never a question of if but rather where that urge to settle down will strike — even if it is just a temporary base and not a lifelong commitment. Let me know more about when you will be in Thailand. Already had a couple folks from CM come by for a visit and now that the condo complex has fiber and cheap renovated condo for rent short- or long-term, Xpat Matt and I want to get some other bloggers passing through here on a regular basis. Would be great to see y’all again ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Nice article mate and I can completely relate! We’re about to pick a place to settle down for 6 months or so as well. For the last 3 years the longest we’ve been in one place is 19 days. Sick of it, haha. Need somewhere to relax, get work done and be part of a community. Tossing up between Indonesia and Thailand.

    Looks like you’ve found a sweet spot. Stoked for ya! Those waves surfable?

    • Thanks Jarryd yeah my neighbor goes surfing just a cpl km down from where I took this photo when the waves are good. I’ve never given it a go here though. Did spend about a year motorcycling Indonesia, but never actually “settled” there but used Jakarta and Jogja as bases in between rides. Both countries have cheap and delicious food and plenty of beaches or jungles, whatever your calling may be. It’s kind of nice to slow your roll and get caught up on work for once too ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Derek,
    So if the old man comes to visit there is room for my CPAP and me? Hell maybe if there happens to be an extra condo available I might just hang a while. Looks like a little slice of heaven! BTW which airport do you fly out of and how do you get there? Happy for you young man! So glad you have another home! Take it easy my friend!

    • Always room for you son! Most of these condos are owned but not vacant, so there are always some freshly renovated ones sitting around waiting to be rented for less per month than you spend on food in the USA.

      Well I fly out of Bangkok but the airport that serves Pattaya is much closer to my slice of paradise, just never seems to have convenient flights…

  4. So happy for you brother. Can’t wait to visit some day! Enjoy Hong Kong and China. Hope you don’t have any long train rides in China planned. Those squat toilets on trains can be tricky! LMAO!

  5. Congrats. I was sold at 20GB of upload bandwidth. I always have 100s of GB of photos to backup to the cloud, but the typical speeds I get here in Latin America are almost always under 500kb. I’ve never seen anything over 4MB. Lucky you

    • That is one thing I do not miss about Latin America, you got that right. This is the fastest speed I have seen in a while and it is long overdue, as I would like to archive some of this stuff to the cloud and stop having to carry around these massive hard drives just because I might need this shot on this hard drive or that shot on that one…

      Internet speeds aside, y’all are having some fun adventures of your own. And congrats on your still relatively new drone. Those things are so damn addicting, aren’t they? Cheers! ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Thank you kindly young man for your response. Helpful information from the old man. Wil try to coordinate a vist! Get a little rest and relaxation for a change and enjoy life. I know you have earned it my friend! Seriously take care of yourself and be healthy. Your body will appreciate it when you get my age! Ha!

  7. Great to see that you’ve found somewhere to centre yourself when you aren’t wandering. A beach in the east of Thailand near Cambodia? Is that in Trat province? I’m coming back to Thailand this winter, so I’ll have to pay you a visit soon!

  8. Totally hear you! I’ve loved the home bases I’ve had over the years, like Grenada (Caribbean), and Peru. Unfortunately life has happened while I was busy making plans, and those bases turned out not to be home forever in the way I thought they might be.
    I’m back on the road, traveling slowly in search of the next base, and have (once again) reduced my worldly belongings to that which fits in a suitcase. But I’m excited to see where my next home base will be, and I wish you the best with yours!
    Out of curiosity, are you going to get residency in Thailand? Is it difficult?

  9. Congratulations Derek!
    I’ve only been following you since the summer, but I’ve read a lot of your previous posts. Hilarious stuff! Seriously though, good on yer!

    And yes. You’ll find that as soon as you have a comfortable base, you’ll actually be able to travel more. ‘Something to do with peace of mind, and a calmness, not borne out of bothersome weariness!

    I look forward to reading how you got arrested in India…!

    • Thanks Victoria, I appreciate the comments. I don’t blog every week like some people do (and often go two months without writing anything because I’m busy with other stuff) but hopefully this will work out for the best. But I think you are right. Having a base will allow me to travel more by improving my efficiency. Looking forward to the change. And I’ll promise to try and finish that Khajuraho video soon. It’s the only aerial footage in the world of the temples so I want the video to be top notch. Waiting on my animation assistant to have the time because right now I unfortunately do not.

  10. It’s very understandable to want a base somewhere after 7 years! It will be interesting to read about how it affects your travel life – I reached a similar conclusion about the pros/cons of being nomadic and am about to start a similar lifestyle next week (cheap base + frequent travel).

    It’ll be so nice to go to a place for a bunch of weeks, allow yourself to be 100% focused on the trip, and then return to a home with a desk/office, washing machine, etc. where you can process your photos and stories and recharge for the next expedition.

    Good luck!

    • Yup Marek, that is exactly what I am thinking. Thanks for the well wishes, hope it all goes according to plan. I hate editing videos on the road on a laptop when I could be out exploring my current destination instead. Feels like I’m cheating myself in a way. Sure, nomadic for 7 years but how many times did I stay 1-2 weeks longer in a destination just to sit on a laptop instead of explore? Not sure but the answer is not zero, which means far too many. Not saying that it is not possible to be nomadic and have a successful career, it just depends what that career is. Also, it’s a lot easier to already be running a company when you decide to become a nomad, rather than deciding to start a company from scratch while already living the nomadic life. Live and learn, right? That’s the beauty of traveling and of life.

  11. Ah yes, a base. Well, we had one, but that God-forsaken Brexit shit heap snatched it away. I’m actually quite looking forward to being fully nomadic again after a year of relative domestication. Might see you down there soon.

    • Hahahaha saya lupa kamu bisa bicara bahasa juga ๐Ÿ˜‰ You should come join us. I’m not the first travel blogger in the area — Matt G gets all the credit for inviting me there originally. We’ve had several bloggers come by to visit us over the last few months too (and a couple who said they would but never did) however I think Raymond is the first to be coming back again for a second month in our little paradise….might even be there already. He was already in Bangkok when I left for Hong Kong on Tuesday. Plus now that the condo complex is rigged with fiber its a videographer’s dream destination. Rent? Well I’ll put it this way….I spend more on street food per month than I do for my condo. And beer. And many other things. That’s the only reason I don’t mind paying for it while gallivanting off around the world lol. In terms of monthly expenses, condo falls at the very bottom. You’re missing out ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Good for you! You sound really happy ๐Ÿ™‚ 7 years non-stop on the road must have cost a crazy amount of energy – I think I prefer to juxtapose months of travel with months of being a settled expat and working…

    • You are right. Far too much energy. Especially towards the end as I was focusing on videos and amassing more electronics / gear. Airlines were starting to lose my bags. Hell I was starting to lose shit, not just gear but also my own sanity lol. It was then I realized that my days as a nomad were fun but they were starting to take the joy out of travel, in a strange way. It became so normal it was almost boring. Shit was starting to blur together. So I found my deserted paradise, spent two weeks moving in, then hit the air for what ended up being a 6-week, 5-country trip. Now I’m back “home” (still feels so strange to say that) for a couple weeks to work on the follow-up of all the stuff I just did.

      So yes, once again, you are right. Bouts of travel in between brief pauses to edit photos/videos and write about your last experience before the next one begins is much better than writing about where you were last week while in a new place this week. So much better. Cannot believe it took nearly 8 years for me to realize this……WTF?!?! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • It is pretty nice, not going to lie. So quite and peaceful. Except for Thai holidays, when the area becomes PACKED! Thai people know about my beach. But foreigners do not. And that right there is the recipe for a perfect, authentic getaway! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Come by anytime brother ๐Ÿ™‚


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