Here are five nomad books every long term traveler should read. As we interact with the Facebook communities devoted to long term travel, we see a lot of questions from hopeful nomads who aren’t sure where to start. They have practical questions about planning and budgeting, but they also have big picture questions that are hard to answer in a few sentences. They are skeptical that they can actually finance their travels sustainably. They’re afraid they’ll either spoil their children, or deprive them of a good education, or both. They want to know exactly what to do in that awkward impasse when you can’t explain what you need to a person who doesn’t speak your language.
This book appears on many travelers’ “books that changed my life” lists, and for good reason. Potts opens with a scene from the movie Wall Street, in which Charlie Sheen dreams about making a pile of money so he can ride a motorcycle across China. Potts reacts: “When I first saw this scene, I nearly fell out of my seat…After all, Charlie Sheen or anyone else could work for eight months as a toilet scrubber and have enough money to ride a motorcycle across China.”
In infinitely readable prose, Potts urges us to change our orientation toward travel. Rather than a luxury of the rich, or a reward for a lifetime of hard work, Potts wants us to think about travel as a practical shift in priorities. “The more we associate experience with cash value, the more we think that money is what we need to live. And the more we associate money with life, the more we convince ourselves that we’re too poor to buy our freedom.”
Spot on. I don’t know about you, however, but after reading so many “inspirational” posts on every social networking site I frequent, I’m a little tired of them. It’s much easier to encourage people to live their dreams than to help them do it. This book wouldn’t make the list if it didn’t have a ton of valuable, practical resources about financing your travels, choosing a destination, dealing with travel adversity, working and volunteering from the road, etc. Vagabonding is required reading on any nomad book list. AND: you can get it for $1.99 on Amazon, which is like a unicorn letting you pet it and then offering you a free donut from the stack of them on its horn. Pet the unicorn, eat the donut, and make this one of your nomad books.
In the spirit of useful books that are also a joy to read, Rita Golden Gelman’s book is for those of us who worry about all of the scary unplanned things, which is all of us. What if I take the wrong bus and it’s the last one and I end up stranded in a country whose language I don’t speak? This happened to her. What if I get a really weird sickness? Yep. What if I want to really get to know a local community, but don’t know how to go about it? Many times.
Gelman started her travels as a single divorcee with zero travel experience. If you think you’re too afraid to travel, read about how afraid Rita was. She takes you step by step through every hard, scary decision she had to make while alone on the road. It’s astounding when you get to the final chapters about how Rita ends up living with a royal Bali family, gets to visit one of the Galapagos islands that normally only researchers are allowed to see, and accompanies an orangutan study with the famous primate researcher Dr. Birute Galdikas. Go ahead, read Eat, Pray, Love. I think you’d be better served reading this book first.
I love the sheer number of times you can ask yourself what you would have done in Rita’s shoes, and see how her unfailing trust in other people (no matter the nationality) always worked out in the long term. Tales of a Female Nomad shows you exactly how to travel in spite of fear.
This is THE handbook for raising a nomad kid. Digital nomad families must read it, but so should every other long term traveler, because it’s the best treatment I’ve read of the emotional and psychological impacts of a mobile existence. Our national, stable identity is a huge part of who we are. Wherever I go, I still think of myself as an American. That might not be true of my son, who will have the unique neither/both identify of knowing that he’s an American by passport, but a hybrid in terms of culture, education and values.
This kind of upbringing presents unique advantages and challenges to which nomad parents must pay close attention as their children grow up. TCKs will be advanced in some ways like global awareness and self-sufficiency, but may suffer delayed adolescence in other ways without a single, stable peer group from their home country. TCKs (along with their parents) will also experience grief for the countries and identities they leave behind, at the same time that they will be extremely well-positioned to survive in our increasingly globalized world.
Third Culture Kids covers each of these areas in depth, with a view toward helping parents raise well-adjusted, happy third culture kids by preparing and guiding their children through the disadvantages at the same time that they maximize the advantages.
The question of education is one of the biggest decisions a nomad parent has to make, and this book has the best comparison of all the available options I’ve ever read. I’m going to be coming back to this book many times.
I deliberately put only five nomad books on the list, though I include a longer reading list below. I wanted each book to be one I’d read cover to cover, and one that changed my life. I had to choose between Taylor Pearson’s The End of Jobs and Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week. Because the latter is such a widely read traveling classic and Taylor Pearson’s book is relatively new and with new ideas about entrepreneurship, The End of Jobs wins out.
Basically: your white collar job is going to be harder and harder to keep, because global education rates will continue to rise while the technology that allows remote work does also. You are now in a global job market, in which automation is steadily slurping away at the other end of the white collar job pool. This is all actually GOOD news, because according to Taylor Pearson, entrepreneur, nomad, and podcaster, we are entering the age of the entrepreneur. It is now easier, cheaper, and more profitable than it has ever been to start your own business.
One of the little gems in this book is a discussion of the mentorship model for young entrepreneurs looking for an alternative to a pricey college degree. If you’ve ever wanted to start your own business, read this book now.
What? Okay. By including A Wrinkle in Time, I mean that every traveler should keep a piece of home close to her heart at all times. This book didn’t just shape the way I think about the world–it shaped the way I feel about the universe, and the fight to do good, the despair of loneliness, the frustration of being wrong, the preciousness of parents who will literally go the end of the universe to protect you, and the infinite flexibility of ideas. It turned me into a lifelong reader. Thanks Mom, for putting a battered copy of this book into my hands. I can read a single line of it and immediately feel safe and hopeful. No traveler should go without the instant spiritual comfort of a favorite book.
Other Nomad Books for Further Reading
The nomad books below are all touted for their practical helpfulness to travelers and entrepreneurs, and their authors are well known and respected in their fields. The list is by no means exhaustive, but these books represent major areas of thought, and are surrounded on Amazon by other books of similar natures. I’ve separated them into major categories of applicability.
Business and Finance Nomad Books
- The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
- The 7 Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch by Dan Norris
- Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
- Purple Cow by Seth Godin
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
- The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, Change the World by Chris Guillebeau
- The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand
Travel Memoir Nomad Books
- What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir by Kristin Newman
- Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew Pham
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
- When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa by Peter Godwin
- No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Benson
- A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Inspiration and Productivity Nomad Books
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
- Rising Strong by Brene Brown
- Quiet by Susan Caine (for you introverts out there)
Amazing Travel Movies
If you know us personally, we’ve definitely forced you to watch one of these at some point.
- A Map for Saturday (What it’s like to give up your job and travel)
- 180 South (Great interviews with the founders of Patagonia, great soundtrack, great surfing)
- Into the Wild (Heart-breaking story about the spirit of the wanderer, based on the book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer)
- The True Cost (How our money contributes to poverty and death in the fast fashion industry)
- Tracks (Crazy camel trek across Australia)
- In America (Not really travel, but one of my favorite movies ever about an Irish family of immigrants to America in the 70s)
- Crossing Borders (Eight students travel together in Morocco)
- The Way (Martin Sheen at his best)
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Amazing and hilarious)
- The Motorcycle Diaries (Che Guevara’s journey, English subtitles)
- Bread and Tulips (Beautiful, funny, romantic, English subs)
- Stealing Beauty (Sexy coming-of-age travel with Liv Tyler and Jeremy Irons)
Other books or movies you swear by? Let us know in the comments.