What brought you to the decision to become nomadic and how long have you been living this lifestyle?
Cherie: We started upon our nomadic paths separately, so the story is different for each of us.
Chris: My first encounter with modern nomadism (and the word technomad) was when I arranged for Steve Roberts to come speak at Washington University while I was in college in the mid-90’s. Steve had been pioneering combining travel and technology on an incredibly geeked-out recumbent bicycle, and he became both a friend and an inspiration. Fast forward a decade, and I was ready to leave traditional Silicon Valley work behind. I evicted myself from my San Francisco apartment in April 2006, and set off to explore living on the road in a solar powered 16′ clamshell trailer.
Cherie: I had been running the family software development business out of my home in Florida, but I had structured my work to be fully location independent so that I could integrate travel into my life. This allowed me to spend extended time working on the road – whether visiting clients, or friends on the opposite coast. I had first encountered Chris online (in a Prius forum!), and discovered that we had friends in common in California. During one of my trips west we arranged a rendezvous to meet in person, and over the course of our extended first date I got a taste of life in his trailer and for running my company remotely via solar power.
Chris: Cherie returned to Florida, but it was quickly obvious to both of us that our life paths could be merged. We did an extended trial run in the summer of 2007 together in my original clamshell trailer and discovered just how compatible we were in such a small space. We then spent some time designing our next mobile home, in in the summer of 2008 we moved into a larger custom built Oliver Travel Trailer. We have been on the road living together in our Oliver ever since.
A lot of people now choose to nomad to foreign countries but you have chosen to roam your own country by car and camper. Can you tell us how you made this choice and what you think the pros and cons have been?
Cherie:There does seem to be a lot of emphasis on nomadism equaling traveling the world, and it sometimes feels as if “global nomadism” is the holy grail of being a ‘real’ nomad. And while we both have lots of international travel experience and intend to do much more in the future, we’re currently choosing to stay domestic.
Chris:We’re not attempting to travel before settling down somewhere, but instead we are creating a lifestyle of full time travel that could be unending. International travel is fabulous, but there are extra challenges that can decrease the sustainability of it. Domestic full time travel has given us the freedom of mobility, while keeping us accessible to family, friends, work, and easy and affordable wireless bandwidth.
Cherie:We both are blessed with awesome families and communities of friends, and we wanted to be able to incorporate more quality time with them. Our form of nomadism has allowed us to have extended visits that aren’t compressed into ‘vacation mode’ with friends and family across the country, as well as rendezvousing with loved ones when they travel for business or pleasure. As a result, we’ve not experienced some of the isolation from community and deep relationships that we’ve heard from many full time global nomads.
Chris:And as we’re not independently wealthy, we do have to incorporate working into our lifestyle. Traveling internationally introduces a lot of challenges that would make it hard to keep up with our current clients – such as time zone differences, work visa considerations, and maintaining regular communications.
Cherie:We do however intend to scratch our global travel itch in the future, but for now traveling domestically is keeping us quite abundant in experience and variety. That’s the great thing about being the playwrite and director of your life story, you can adjust the script when you want to change the plot line.
Have you ever driven out of the U.S. into Mexico or Canada?
Cherie: Not yet. We keep intending to, however we keep finding too many inspiring and awesome things within our own borders that keeps us distracted. It’s amazing how much amazing stuff there is if you take the time to explore it.
Chris: Spending an extended time in Baja is definitely something I would like to do, and also the road trip north to Alaska. But were in no rush – we will get to all of these places soon enough.
Are your travels at all weather dependent? I mean, do you try to avoid winter weather or does it matter?
Cherie: We keep seasonal weather patterns in mind, but we don’t let them completely drive our adventures. We’ve been known to roast in the desert (without air conditioning) in summer temps of 110, and to head to snow prone areas in the winter. Our travels are much more based on people we want to see, events we want to attend and work opportunities. We’ve designed our home on wheels to be rugged and able to endure a variety of weather conditions so that we don’t have to keep weather as a primary consideration. Being adaptable helps a lot too.
Chris: We’ve just spent over a month in Kansas and Missouri in the middle of winter for work and family opportunities, but in another week we will be heading down to Florida to spend the rest of the winter out of the cold. It is really nice to have that sort of geographic flexibility!
Of the other campers you meet along the way what percentage would you guess are roaming full time like you? Is there a community that forms among full time campers?
Cherie: A lot of folks are surprised to hear that there are over a million full time nomads exploring the US. Most of them are retired RVers however. They’ve paved the way to making the logistics easier for all of us, such as how to handle mail, voting and vehicle registration when you don’t have a physical fixed address.
Chris: There are many communities that form – from a groups of full-timers caravaning together from campground to campground, private campground membership groups, and communities that keep in touch online and rendezvous at rallies and events. A lot of the communities tend to be centered around a special interest – such as volunteer work, spiritual leanings, RV brand/type, ‘workamping’ or simply formed friendships.
Cherie: The community of full-timers that we’re most aligned with is NuRVers.com, which is a group of other younger non-retired full time RVers, most of us who are also location independent digital nomads working as we travel. It’s a wonderful community of like minds and we enjoy rendezvousing with folks we’ve met there during our travels. Plans are coming together for a gathering in the first part of next year.
How do you support yourselves on the road? What has been your average cost per year or month to live this way?
Cherie: I continue to run the family software development business (my father works for me!) that I was involved with before I met Chris, but Chris and I also started our own technology consulting business. Together we do various market research and strategy development projects, primarily focused in the mobile technology industry. The projects we tend to take on are short term and intense. We prefer to work in bursts instead of keeping ‘regular business hours.’ We don’t really have an average cost per month, as our months can vary so much depending on what we’re doing – but we do keep a log of our expenses at technomadia.com/the-finances-how-to-afford-it .
Chris: We also occasionally take on other short term gigs just for the heck of it. For example, we joined several hundred other “workampers” hired to help out with the holiday rush working at Amazon’s largest distribution center. It was a lot of work, but a very worthwhile and rewarding experience to literally have our fingers on the pulse of the American economy. We also devoted a month last year to volunteer full-time on the Obama campaign, running a field office in rural Nevada.
Has your equipment turned out to be reliable? What about connecting to the internet? Is there any equipment advice you would give for people choosing to live a nomadic lifestyle in a camper?
Cherie: Our tech gear suffers a bit more wear-and-tear than if it were based in a stationary home, but probably a lot less than it would if we were living out of a suitcase or a backpack.
Chris: Currently, our primary connection to the Internet is via a Sprint Aircard and a mobile router which creates a WiFi hotspot in our trailer wherever we can get a Sprint signal. We also both have iPhones (AT&T), and can connect to the Internet through them as well. To help with getting a signal in fringe areas, we had a cell phone booster system built right into our trailer.
Cherie: Some other people go with satellite internet connections, but those have a lot of downsides to be aware of. Other people make due with tracking down free public WiFi hotspots.
Can you tell us a bit about Camp Nomadia at Burning Man and what that was all about?
Chris: I’ve been going to Burning Man since 1999, and the temporary metropolis of Black Rock City that emerges from the desert for one week each year has become my favorite city on earth. There is so much artistic and creative energy on display that it really is beyond words to describe.
Cherie: My first experience with Burning Man was during our first summer on the road together, in 2007. When you arrive it’s common to be greeted with ‘Welcome Home.’ While it sounds cliche’ at first, for many it’s an emotional connection that you just can’t grasp until you experience it.
Chris: This is especially significant for nomads – we really WERE at home during Burning Man. So, we set about gathering other nomads together to create a neighborhood of folks who were like us – really at home. Our first Camp Nomadia was in 2008, and it was fabulous. We repeated it in 2009, and it was off the charts successful – we had 70 nomadic minded folks in the camp, many of them full time travelers. We’ve had nomads who travel by RV, backpack, sailboat, hitchhiking and running join us.
Cherie: We will be hosting Camp Nomadia again in 2010, and we invite any and all nomadic minded folks to join us!
Any tricks of the trade that you’ve learned about nomad-ing by vehicle in the U.S.A.”
Chris: If you have no fixed home base, you have the luxury of being able to pick a state to be “from”… We picked South Dakota – a state that is particularly supportive of full-time RV’ers, and which has no state income tax. Other popular states to establish residency in include Texas and Florida.
Cherie: It’s amazing how much variation there is within one country – taking the time to stop and experience it is enlightening. We have absolutely loved exploring the US at a slower and more relaxed pace. You see and experience so much more when you are not rushing from one tourist hotspot to the next.