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Personal Finance FAQ

How Do You Balance Family Ties When You Are a Nomad?

I think I was a nomad in another life.
–Donna Karan

By the time that I publish this post, my wife and I will be one year away from the expiration of our current lease. Our dog will be 13 1/3 years old, and, while I’d love for him to live forever (and there is a new calculation for dog years which says that he’s younger than we thought he was), given his challenges during the previous summer, I would not be surprised if he wasn’t with us at that point.

We may find ourselves with no living dependents. Since my 20s, consumed with wanderlust, and we’ve certainly contemplated putting everything in storage and taking on a more nomadic lifestyle.

However, we’re blessed to have three sets of parents who are still alive (step parents are included). One of the reasons we moved to Texas when I sold my company was to be closer to two sets of those parents. Upping sticks and living out of a backpack isn’t conducive to seeing the family as often.

While I’m on boards, I’ll still have to return to the U.S. at least quarterly, so we could fit in trips to see our parents during those board trips. However, eventually, we’ll sell those companies, or they’ll grow to the point where there are better-fitting board members than I, so, then, if we are still living a vagabond life, we’ll need to figure out how to answer that question.

We’ve contemplated some of the following ideas:

  • 3 – 6 off (on…depending on how you look at it) / 1 on. In this scenario, we’d spend 3 – 6 months as vagabonding nomads, and then we’d spend a month in the U.S. visiting family.
  • Plan to come home once a year. This is a variant of the 3 – 6 off / 1 on plan above. We’d be travelers for 11 months out of the year and then come home for the holidays.
  • Encourage or pay for (finances depending) family to visit us. Some of our family have more restless feet than others, but I highly doubt that we’ll be able to get all of our parents to come visit us, both through desire and through health reasons.

Technology can also bridge the gap. Unlike when I was deployed to Bosnia in the Army in the late 90s, where we got the privilege of calling home from a “great” AT&T deal that allowed us to call home for 99 cents a minute (note to AT&T: gouging soldiers is not a good way to build long-term brand loyalty), nowadays, with the Internet almost ubiquitous, it’s quite possible to Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp (and, who knows…soon, telepathically communicate) with family members. We e-mail and call our family quite often, and I cannot see that habit changing even when we are traveling. I’m even trying out Google Fi (#aff) to see how it works on our upcoming trip to Poland.

That said, we haven’t even decided if we’re going to embark on becoming nomads, much less done it. So, I decided to consult with the Oracle of the Internet (aka Google) and check out how other nomadic bloggers whom I read have dealt with this challenge.

Here’s what I gleaned from their writings:

Unfortunately, and, somewhat unsurprisingly, the amount of bloggers who are:

  • Young enough to have parents who are alive
  • Are retired
  • Have taken up a traveler lifestyle
  • And who blog about how they keep up with their parents

is limited in number. At least, amongst the blogs I read.

I guess there’s a happy medium somewhere along the continuum of only using technology to keep in touch with parents and going home in the event of an emergency and never traveling to be as close to family (and friends) as possible. I don’t know what the answer is, and I think most people figure it out as they go.

Additionally, this conundrum applies to friends as well, although, admittedly, most of our friends would be more likely to take us up on an offer to come stay with us in [COUNTRY X] than our parents would be.

Any of you who are FIREd and are travelers have a good solution? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

By

Jason Hull, CFP®, was the co-founder of Broadtree Partners, a firm that acquires $1-5MM EBITDA companies. He also was the co-founder of open source search consultancy OpenSource Connections, a premier Solr and ElasticSearch firm. He and his wife FIREd (financial independence retire early) at 46 and 45, respectively. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a MBA from the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business.

You can read more about him in the About Page.

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