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Tips for a Mobile Lifestyle

Updated on January 11, 2018
aesta1 profile image

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

Do you check in luggage when you travel?

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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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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      9 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Mary you have shared interesting expriences of your travels and I do admire your work.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      20 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I used to paint, too, Denise and even brought my art materials with me but I was not consistent. I need to have a quiet place to do it. I love looking at your art work.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      20 months ago from Fresno CA

      What an amazing life. I think I would have loved that! Just the photographs would have been priceless. I love painting and the photos to paint from are tucked into my computer files. I can only imagine your photo files with all that adventure. Thanks for sharing.



    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Readmikenow. I seldom think that my stories are interesting.

    • Readmikenow profile image


      3 years ago

      Excellent story! Sounds like you've had some amazing adventures. Really enjoyed reading this article!

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      My husband wanted so much to do that but I can't as I don't have the skills. As we grow older, the cruise looks more inviting but as long as we are able to drive, it will still be our option.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 

      3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      This is a great article. I was a bit of a vagabond in my 20's. I had one duffel bag. I travel the Caribbean by signing up as crew on charter yachts. Now I seldom travel and when I do it is on a cruise ship. But I am learning to pare down on the luggage.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am glad we did it when we could because as we grow older, we get limited, too.

    • Li-Jen Hew profile image

      Li-Jen Hew 

      3 years ago

      Hey Mary. Thanks for sharing! You are resourceful, helpful, modern, productive and your love story is sweet. :) Good to hear that you enjoy your adventures. :)

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you. We travelled when we had jobs but it was mostly for work so we did not see much of the countries we visited. We retired from those jobs and became consultants, then, we had more freedom with our schedule and took on work that lasted months.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      I often wondered how you manage to visit so many remarkable places and tell about the local sights. What a wonderful occupation you have with the opportunity to visit a variety of places.

      I worked two different jobs that required a lot of travel but not for months at a time. Your great tips here are valuable and useful information.

    • gerimcclym profile image

      Geri McClymont 

      3 years ago

      A very helpful article not only for those with a mobile lifestyle but also for those who want to keep it simple when they travel overseas. Using only carry-on luggage is so liberating and having a place to call home in the midst of so much mobility is reassuring.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you so much. I am getting discouraged about it so I'm happy with the visit.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      3 years ago from North Texas

      Came back to review this excellent article with so many good ideas and such good advice for people who want to travel this life (and this world) light!

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Rachel.

    • Rachelle Williams profile image

      Rachelle Williams 

      3 years ago from Tempe, AZ

      You live a charmed life, Mary Norton!

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Nell. My husband and I do this together. It is not really pleasant when you do it on your own. It is better to have a friend. Thanks for the visit.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      3 years ago from England

      What a fascinating life you must have! I would love to travel all over and work in different places, but wouldn't want to go on my own.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you deandelionweeds. I see you are also from Canada.

    • dandelionweeds profile image


      4 years ago from Canada

      Mary you have so many beautiful and interesting hubs! Great pictures too. Thx for sharing!

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks pstraubie48. Each of us really has our own calling and the lifestyle follows that. Otherwise, we won't find meaning in what we do.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from North Central Florida

      Mary. This sounds awesome and your suggestions are spot on. If I could take my family in the worldwide road. Off we would go tomorrow. Angels are on the way. ps

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you so much. We each make our choice.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image


      5 years ago from New York

      These are excellent travel tips. Thanks so much for the contribution, Mary. How I envy your lifestyle! Pinned to my Travel Tips board.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Au fait. You're very generous in your comment. We do find that we seek nesting more now that we are getting vintage.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      This is without a doubt one of my favorite articles. How fortunate you are to be able to live this way by choice! Great advice here.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Phoenix2327. We just watched Harry Potter last night with the Phoenix featured. There is so much to explore in the UK alone. We sometimes go there and the museums alone are rich.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      This hub is incredibly useful. I use to travel quite a bit in my younger days but when the kids came along, I had to put the wanderlust on the shelf. Now that they're grown and can look after themselves I would love to hit the road again with my husband. I think we'll start off small by exploring the UK and go from there. Once again, great hub.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks favored. I'm glad to share what I have learned from experience.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      5 years ago from USA

      We learned to travel light some time ago, but you have given for great tips I hadn't considered. Scanning documents into the computer is a good idea. We like to use the same services also, that way they get to know you and are happy to help out when they can. This is especially true with taxi services. Good info aesta.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Lindacee, this year, we craved for nesting so we stayed in the U.S. As it is cold in our place in Canada. We are trying to look for the ideal situation for our retirement but there are so many things to consider. Anyway, I think we will keep on and as long as we make the place our own, travel still is more attractive.

    • lindacee profile image

      Linda Chechar 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      Great tips and advice! We recently spent three years in South America and my husband and I move quite frequently in the States. Everything you mentioned about creating a comfortable environment as quickly as possible is so critical for successful assimilation. Love your lifestyle!

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Oh, I have to read Walt Whitman's Song of the Open Road. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 

      5 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      What an amazing lifestyle! Not everyone can adapt as easily to living in different cultures as you and your husband do. I think it is wonderful that you both enjoy traveling and living in different countries and I hope your adventures continue.

      This reminds me of Walt Whitman's 'Song of the Open Road':

      Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

      Healthy, free, the world before me,

      The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

    • monia saad profile image

      monia ben saad 

      6 years ago from In my Dream

      I like a lot trips and travel stories mobility .. great fun actually. Thank you for tips. I like that very No. 5 I mean Pictures of your luggage

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Alicia. We are also learning from them.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a great hub, aesta1. I love the fact that you and your husband are enjoying your lifestyle and that you're helping other people at the same time! Your travel tips are very useful. Thanks for sharing a very interesting article.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you. You do travel a lot, too. There are some sacrifices as well.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Boy does this sound tempting. I think I could do this. Great tips for hitting the road. I am envious of you and your husband. You are seeing more of this world than most people could ever hope to see.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Susie. It is good to do it when you're younger. I wish I had.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Blond Logic. You are right. I often just search in my email for documents.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      6 years ago from Brazil

      I think I could do this. My husband and I are planning on buying a boat and sailing.We have no idea where yet although I have some places I would love to see.

      One thing you mention about keeping your documents on your laptop, I would say email yourself copies as well. At least if your laptop goes down or gets stolen, you can still access them.

      You have some excellent ideas. I love the portable hobbies.

      I live in Brazil and you are right about the attitude, you have to go with the flow.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      I actually did live this kind of lifestyle when I was younger. Then, I was much more adventurous. Now, I would want to have a home on wheels to travel about in. Times have changed from then till now in the states. Safety first!

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      That is what we are doing now that we are old. I wish I have done this when I was younger.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      My online writing is my diary. I know what you mean. A diary would have been good but I just want to keep my thoughts to myself many times. I tried but I was consistent.

    • peachpurple profile image


      6 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      When i am old. I want to travel this way

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Mary, my husband has a cane but he won't be beaten. We can't anymore do many things but we just go for what we can still do. after a biopsy, I was on the plane the next day inspire what the doctor advised. I took care not to carry anything heavy and that was years ago so I suppose it was okay. I only started to travel at 40 so like you, I wish I had done it earlier.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      You two are so lucky! I wish I had done more traveling when I was younger. Most folks by the time they can afford to travel, they have health issues. Sounds like you both are still healthy and enjoy your way of life!

      Voted UP, etc.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I know that in the past on regular vacations, I packed too much and lugging it around was not fun. Just the tip of packing light is good.

      It sounds as though you and your husband have a very exciting life. I hope you are keeping a diary of your varied experiences. Certainly sounds interesting! Loved the photos!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Beautiful and so interesting.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 

      6 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      What helpful information, but of course, the most important is the attitude you have adopted.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      6 years ago from North Texas

      This sounds great! So good of you to share your experience and offer advice for success too. Traveling light is a good thing to do, I think, even if you never jet around the world, but stay pretty much in one place. I think sometimes we get bogged down with all of our accumulated junk.

      I think you have a great lifestyle and you're so lucky to be able to live the way you have chosen. Wonderful advice for people who would like to live a similar lifestyle, either traveling the world, or just a few states or countries.

    • Traveloholic profile image


      6 years ago from Colombo

      I love travelling and love your lifestyle! Nice article, very informative!

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Travmaj, it is fascinating in many ways but it can also be stressful depending on your attitude. Thanks for the visit.

    • travmaj profile image


      6 years ago from australia

      I love the way you portray your lifestyle. What a fascinating way to live. Travelling can be such hard work but you seem to have everything covered. I agree with you attitude is so important - some great tips along the way, thank you. Great photos too.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Tillsontitan and billybuc, Grumpy blows you a kiss for affirming our lifestyle.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm with Mary. I find this amazing, and I applaud you for it. I know I couldn't do it, but I love that you do it and seem to enjoy it so much. Well done, my friend. Simply an amazing lifestyle.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      I only have one word, amazing! Not just your tips but your lifestyle and life attitude. You have certainly learned to "go with the flow".

      I can't imagine the places you've seen and things you have learned. You're experiences must be legion!

      This is a very interesting hub and even just normal travelers can benefit from your wisdom and experience.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

      P.S. Love your pictures!


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