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Tips for a Mobile Lifestyle

Updated on January 11, 2018
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Mary works on international development projects and writes about the interesting attractions in countries where work has brought her.

Life on the Worldwide Road

A Mobile Lifestyle
A Mobile Lifestyle | Source

Tips to a Mobile Lifestyle Adventure

For the last 17 years, I have had a mobile and footloose lifestyle. I have "migrated" through an endless succession of hotels, apartments, and guest houses in at least 15 countries and generally enjoyed each experience.

Since we left our regular 8 to 6 jobs 13 years ago, my husband and I have been contract consultants bidding on and winning (often) contracts requiring residence for several months at a time in emerging economies, mainly in projects to help leapfrog national education/learning/training systems into the 21st Century.

Friends keep telling us to retire and enjoy life but what we do is what we would do for enjoyment and "to rust unburnished" is just not possible. Not only are we engaged but are contributing. This engagement has brought new experiences, new friends, new places and new challenges. We thought at first that this would be just a temporary engagement before finally folding up and idling our time in the beaches of the Caribbean. But what this experience has done is open a whole new world for us. A whole new lifestyle. Life on the World-Wide Road.

Cycling Around the World

Life on the Worldwide Road
Life on the Worldwide Road | Source

1. Bring only what is necessary

It took us years to learn this. We used to have huge bags to pack everything we thought we would need in the place we're going. Once, a lady gave me a look of real concern as I picked up a huge bag from the luggage carousel and asked if I was running away from home. Like the turtle, we took the whole home with us as if we were going into the desert.

If you can fit everything you need in a carry-on you're better off. What my husband and I did was to buy only carry-ons. No more huge luggage for us. And you know what? This paid off. Each time a flight is delayed or cancelled, we can easily get on an alternative flight because we have no check in luggage.

Remember, you can buy virtually everything you need wherever you're going. It may take a few days to locate your Skippy Peanut Butter or free range frogs but they'll be there.

Checking in Luggage

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2. Stick as much as possible to one airline alliance.

This way, you get a loyalty card. When you have enough points, the top card is yours. With this card, you go through premium lanes, access first or business lounge, priority boarding, upgrades, and free flights. No more long line-up for you. When booking with one alliance, you usually stay in one terminal which makes changing planes easy.

3. Have apps for airlines and hotels you often use

Having these apps in your phone or tablets. We found that because of the life we live, we often find homes in hotels, so we try to have a good relationship with the staff and this has always paid off for us. We often leave luggage for months in various hotels. Because they remember us , we get room upgrades and other perks.

Your hotel as your home
Your hotel as your home | Source

4. Have scanned copies of important documents on your computer

You'll never know what they'll ask for. Here's a list of scanned documents to prepare: passports; long term visas, marriage certificate; diplomas for bachelor's degree to Ph.D.; birth certificate or citizenship proof, health cards, insurance cards, and drivers licence.

5. Pictures of your luggage

This is always useful in case your luggage is lost. You don't have to describe it. Just show the dreaded lost luggage desk the picture.

6. Ways of transferring money

Find out all the ways you can transfer money. ATMs are fine for small amounts to finance your day to day purchases but when you have to put in deposits for apartments, then this becomes more complicated. Also, the wretched Banks limit your withdrawal amount so they can hit you repeatedly for the local bank fee. Ok, it is also for your protection.

Have a contact in your bank. Arrange this before you leave. You will be asked to sign papers to facilitate any funds transfer before you leave….. but this has been really handy for us.

We try to avoid setting up a bank account in the country we're working in. Opening one is a nightmare and closing it before you leave is a life threatening experience. We've closed bank accounts for friends who've finished their consultancy long before the shutting down process was completed. The complexity of the process was the equivalent of getting a British Driver's License.

7. Have portable hobbies and interests

I used to bring my sewing, craft and art materials only to end up giving them all away each time we moved on. It is often not worth bringing them back when others would benefit and even generate an income locally.

I still go for art but there are usually art classes and materials you can get wherever you are so I bring nothing but my interest. We have also developed computer based activities in research, writing, and photography. With Kindle, we no longer need the extra suitcase of books or the incredible expense of international magazines bought in emerging market book stores. We have also built a computer network of friendships.

8. Have a trusted person to take care of your communication

We are lucky to have our accountant do this for us. He opens most of it for us except the ones marked personal.

9. Get the right attitude

If you don’t like travel and uncertainty…stay home and retire. It is important for your own sanity to expect the unexpected in this kind of lifestyle.

Never get angry in public or lose your cool. Never raise your voice. Whatever credibility you have, you'll instantly blow out the door. My husband, Grumpy, has an event usually with a tuktuk driver about once every 5 years and in most cases, we try not to return to that country.

Hold the anger till you get home, go into the bathroom, fill the sink with water, put your face in the water and scream until you shutter the sink. This is forgivable. Yelling isn't.

Love of Adventure

The Right Attitude
The Right Attitude | Source

10. Have a place to always call home

This helps for stability of the mind. We have a summer cottage…but when life gets a bit ragged, you can close your eyes and picture a peaceful corner.

As you get older, you need this more. You crVe for beating so do your worldwide adventure early in life. Not only will you be able to do much more given your health but you also have more appetite for it.

A Place to Call Home
A Place to Call Home | Source

11. Stabilize quickly

When we arrive, we set up camp quickly and try to build a little neighbourhood that feels like a home community. Food shopping. We quickly find a market and once set, we go to the same stalls. Each time we come back the smiles are bigger and the prices are a bit better.

We use the same taxi or tuktuk or three wheeler and build a bit of a relationship with the driver. Soon he's helping us in all kinds of ways.

Within the first day, we get sim cards with a telephone number and a functioning internet system. As soon as we are unpacked, it feels not like another hotel room or another apartment but a new home.

The faster you settle in, the sooner you're comfortable and productive.

Local Markets

Local market in Bangkok
Local market in Bangkok | Source

And some parting words

Unless you have a capacity to enjoy a mobile lifestyle, don't embark in it. It is not tour groups. You solve your own hassles. The stress is not worth it if your attitude is encrusted. But if you really love the adventure, buy one good carry-on, pack the minimum and hit the world wide road. The adventure is amazing.

© 2015 Mary Norton


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