TEN YEARS OF NOMADIC WORLD TRAVEL

Ten Years of Nomadic World Travel

This month, January 2024, the backpacking husband and I are looking back on ten years of nomadic world travel and we’re amazed at how fast a whole decade has flown by!

Ten years ago, in January 2014, we’d just enjoyed a wonderful Scottish family Christmas with our three grown up sons.

Then, having already sold the house and everything else we owned – our cars, our furniture, all our belongings – we moved out of what was then an empty-nest.

I remember, back then, we were both in our mid 50’s with a vague ‘ten-year plan’ and a mutual wanderlust.

We had decided to go off and explore the world as nomads and have lots of travel adventures.

Because if not now… when?

We'd decided to go off and explore the world as nomads and have travel adventures. The Backpacking Housewife.
We’d decided to go off and explore the world as nomads and have travel adventures.

And now what? After ten years of travel and adventure? What’s for the future?

Actually, we’ve no idea. But we do know that still want to continue to travel for as long as is possible!

Exploring new countries and returning to places we love has become a way of life for us.

I suppose, the two years we were grounded due to the pandemic – when we returned to Scotland to rent a house – only validated what we already knew. A nomadic lifestyle suits us perfectly fine!

Ten years on and we’re now travelling in our mid-60’s.

Although, we ‘ve noticed travel is certainly more exhausting than it was when we were in our mid-50s.

Janice Horton and husband at the great pyramid
Ten years on and we’re now travelling in our mid-60s

The hours spent in airports takes its toll and jet lag and travel fatigue takes longer to get over.

So, we’ve learned a few things over the past ten years.

We’ve learned to travel slowly and whenever possible stay in places for longer.

And now, in 2024, I see that’s becoming trendy.

Would you believe travelling slowly as a nomad is called ‘slomading’?

I thought I’d write this post in timely celebration of the past ten years.

To answer a few questions we often get asked about how we travel and what happens next?

All questions I might actually know the answers to now – after ten whole years of travelling around the world – as an ex-housewife, a travel writer, a writer of romantic adventure novels and a slomad.

TEN YEARS OF NOMADIC WORLD TRAVEL – WHERE HAVE WE BEEN?

The Backpacking Housewife - Lets Go See The World
Let’s Go See The World

Ten years ago, we set off on a quest to explore the islands of The Caribbean and we found one we loved best.

It’s a tiny paradise island just off the coast of Honduras in the Caribbean Sea called Utila.

The smallest of the Islas de la Bahia – The Bay Islands.

We’ve been back there many times since and often stay for either three or six months at a time.

I just did a quick calculation and our visits have amounted to two whole years spent on the island!

When we’re on Utila, the backpacking husband is scuba diving. He started his dive training there in 2014.

On the Caribbean Island of Utila
On the Caribbean Island of Utila
The backpacking husband scuba diving
The backpacking husband loved to go scuba diving

While he’s diving, I’m busy writing or editing, or spending time with my island friends at the beach.

While on route to the Caribbean, we have explored lots of North America, Canada, Central America, and Mexico.

We’ve spent a lot of time travelling in Asia too. Specifically, Thailand and Malaysia and Vietnam.

In Thailand, again over many visits, we spent a lot of time on Koh Tao – and island in the Gulf of Thailand.

The backpacking husband did his Dive Instructor Training and his IDC Staff Instructor course on Koh Tao at Bans Dive Resort.

Altogether, I guess we must have spent at least two years in Thailand, over the past ten years.

We’ve also explored parts of China, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, and in the springtime of this year we spend a total of a month touring Taiwan and Japan.

When we’re based in Asia, we get to visit our middle son and his family. We have a darling grandson in South Korea.

Right now, we’re housesitting in France. We’ve done this many times now and mostly at the same property in southwest France – The Dordogne – which feels like Scotland to me only in sunshine!

It was while I was housesitting that I wrote The Backpacking Housewife series of books published by HarperCollins.

Again, if I add up all the months we’ve been housesitting, that also comes in at around two years.

Housesitting is when you arrange to look after someone’s home and pets (if they have them) while they are away and in exchange you get to live in their house rent free.

I’ve written a post about housesitting. How we do it to live like a local – and how you can do it too if you’re curious.

We did, of course, also spend the two years of 2020 and 2021 grounded by the pandemic.

The Backpacking Housewife. We spent the pandemic years - 2020 and 2021 - in Scotland
We spent the pandemic years – 2020 and 2021 – in Scotland

In early March 2020, we were in London at the airport waiting to board a trans-Atlantic flight, when all flights were suddenly cancelled.

Somehow, in the panic and chaos, we got our heads together and made some phone calls.

We are so fortunate to have had a friend with an empty holiday cottage in Scotland to rent to us.

So, that means, that in ten years we have been travelling as nomadic slomads we’ve spent:

Two years in the Caribbean: Two years in Thailand:

Two years in France. Two years in Scotland.

That actually leaves just two years for exploring the rest of the world.

And, those two years include our visits to South Korea and our occasional trips back to the UK.

TEN YEARS OF NOMADIC WORLD TRAVEL – HOW DO WE TRAVEL?

We travel slowly and we travel light.

We don’t own anything except for what we can each carry in a cabin bag and small backpack.

This past year, in fact, we travelled with only 7kg of hand luggage all around Asia.

Although, that time, the backpacking husband did leave all his heavy dive gear back in the Caribbean!

We didn’t start out travelling light! In 2014, we headed off with a whole load of travel gadgets and a heap of luggage!

I can hardly believe it now. Good grief… what on earth was in all those suitcases and backpacks?

Thankfully, we have now reduced our luggage to hand luggage only!
Thankfully, we have now reduced our luggage to hand luggage only!

We’ve certainly evolved over these past ten years and realised that a person really doesn’t need a lot of luggage to live well.

And, if you are like me – you’ll just wear the same few outfits over and over – anyway!

Thankfully, we gradually reduced our luggage from huge suitcases to large backpacks and then then to wheeled bags and now we’re at hand luggage only. I wrote a post on the merits of backpacks verses suitcases that you might find useful!

It’s such a relief not to haul so much stuff around and its cheaper too.

When we travel with hand luggage on budget flights – which we often do – we don’t have to pay to check bags.

If you are wondering what it feels like to not own anything of any material value, I can tell you, it feels like freedom.

Because, with no possessions, life feels uncluttered.

With no belongings, you can focus on living and experiencing and, importantly, being spontaneous.

TEN YEARS OF TRAVEL – WHERE DO WE STAY?

It’s true that we have slept in countless beds over the past ten years.

It’s also true that some are more comfortable than others.

If we stay anywhere longer than a couple of weeks, we will rent a house or an apartment.

If we stay a week or two, we usually stay in a small guesthouse or a homestay.

If it’s just for a few nights, then we might book a private room in a hostel or a budget hotel.

Or we might even splurge on a fancy hotel. We’ll often save up hotel points to earn an ‘upgrade’.

We mix up budget travel with a bit of luxury occasionally, especially if we are celebrating a birthday or an anniversary.

The backpacking husband and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary this year and we went to the Maldives.

It was a short and inexpensive flight for us to get to Male (Maldives) as we were already in Asia.

The backpacking husband and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary this year in Maldives
The backpacking husband and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary this year

As I already mentioned, we also do quite a bit of housesitting in between travels.

And that’s where we are right now – we’re in France (again) – on a fabulous housesit.

TEN YEARS OF TRAVEL – DO I MISS ANYTHING FROM OUR PREVIOUS LIFE?

Yes, I miss family and friends. But we do have family and friends all over the world.

I miss my mum and my siblings and our friends back in the UK. But we all keep in touch.

Being transient and missing people is actually a big downside to this nomadic life.

Our three sons are all aged in their 30’s now and they have family and careers and busy lives.

So, I don’t expect we’d see them all the time, even if we lived just around the corner from them.

Our eldest and his family – we have two darling twin granddaughters – live in Edinburgh Scotland.

The middle son and family – as I mentioned earlier – live in South Korea.

Our youngest and his fiancé live in England UK.

But we are in touch all the time using the internet. We have a family WhatsApp group so we message and post jokes and videos. The best thing is when we do see each other we spend quality time together.

Friends and family have on many occasions travelled to be with us in places around the world.

We do also get to visit family who live in other countries too. All my cousins live in Canada.

Whistler Mountain: Visiting family in Canada
Whistler Mountain: While visiting family in Canada

TEN YEARS OF TRAVEL – SOMETIMES IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS

I’m sometimes asked what it’s like when things go wrong while travelling. What if we get sick, stuck, or tired?

Yes, we sometimes have to deal with frustrations but life is always an adventure.

We’ve experienced delays and exhaustion and occasional sickness or injury, but luckily, it’s all worked out.

It’s true that its not good all the time. Sometimes I feel upset at the little nuisances of travelling life.

Like having to throw a favourite item away simply because I don’t have room for it in my bag anymore.

I occasionally get frustrated at airport rules about what I can carry in my cabin bag.

I can never carry a favourite product in anything larger than 100ml.

But I’ve lost count of how many pointed nail scissors I’ve bought and had confiscated.

And, not having a winter coat or shoes, if we find ourselves suddenly in a cold climate coming from a hot one.

It’s also absolutely no fun shivering in summer clothes and flip flops when it is snowing!

travelling with handluggage only
Facebook Update: Leaving a housesit in France and travelling light

TEN YEARS OF TRAVEL – NO REGRETS

We can honestly say that in ten years of nomadic midlife world travel we have no regrets and only the greatest travel experiences.

I personally get through tough times and uncertainty by simply having faith that things will work out.

And, usually, somehow, they do!

I do, of course, also realise that freedom comes at a price and that travel is always a privilege.

We fully accept there are compromises to be made and there are uncertainties in the life we’ve chosen.

TEN YEARS OF TRAVEL – WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE STOP?

There is, of course, the inevitable scenario that one day we will have to stop or curb our nomadic world travels.

Something to prevent us from travelling (as did the Covid Pandemic) and then we’d need to find somewhere to settle down.

Or maybe something to permanently ground us?

What happens if or when we simply get too old or too frail to travel?

Then we will have to face the questions: Where will we live? What will we do? How will we feel?

Again, I simply have faith that things will always work out.

And, a really important question, is how will we feel once we can’t travel anymore?

Well, I hope to have all our memories and endlessly fabulous Travel Stories to tell!

And, we’ll be very grateful. I’ll certainly be saying ‘thank goodness we travelled the world when we were still young enough and fit enough to do it and while we had the resources to fund it’.

North Borneo Railway
Top 10 Hong Kong
Japan Travel Itinerary
housesitting live like a local
Penang Food Fest with Friends
Click on the images to see the travel post
slow travel guide

We are definitely SKI’s – Spending The Kids Inheritance – but I’m sure they don’t mind.

Our boys are happy and successful in their own right and independent by their own means.

So, they don’t need us right now.

I personally believe that’s what good parenting is all about. Helping them to grow their wings.

So we can all eventually – if we feel life is meant to be lived in more than one place – fly the empty nest too.

WHAT HAVE I LEARNED IN THE PAST TEN YEARS OF TRAVEL?

I’ve learned that the world is incredibly beautiful and precious and fragile place.

I’ve learned a lot about sea turtles by volunteering at a turtle sanctuary on a tiny island off Malaysia.

I’ve learned about Orangutan conservation from seeing them in the wild in Borneo.

I’ve seen with my own eyes the most incredible sights and had Amazing Experiences in the most beautiful places.

Third Age Travel The Backpacking Housewife Janice Horton
Postcard From Utila Header
Click on the images to see the travel post
midlife travel sea turtle conservation volunteer

Thanks to modern day technology, the world seems smaller than it once was, as it’s now possible to travel across the whole world in just one day.

Did you know that time travel is possible? We travelled from Beijing China across the Pacific Ocean and the international dateline and actually arrived in San Francisco before the time we left Beijing.

I know from experience of travel that people of the world are more similar than they are different.

That strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.

And, despite what the TV news might have you believe, most places are not as dangerous as they are portrayed in the media. Most people in the world are in fact good and kind and generous.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my post and my photos from our past ten years of nomadic world travel.

I also hope you’ll follow the highlighted text in this post to be inspired by our nomadic world travel destinations and experiences.

Please do bookmark and pop back to my website as I’m adding new travel posts all the time.

If you sign up to my mailing list you’ll receive my personal newsletter at the start of each month.

I promise I’ll never spam you and you can, of course, easily unsubscribe whenever you like.

From here in France, I want to wish you, wherever you are in the world, a very happy 2024.

I hope this New Year brings us all health and happiness and worldwide peace.

Janice xx

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10 comments

Suvendu Rout -

Hi Janice!
Your story is so inspiring!
We have been traveling since last 10 years with a full time job, and want to quit our jobs to travel better. But we haven’t been able to take that last step.
Reading through your story, I feel motivated to decide now. Thanks for the inspiration.

Reply
JANICE HORTON -

I’m thrilled to have inspired you to take the next step in your travel adventures, Suvendu. Happy travels! Janice xx

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Jane Frith -

Hi Janice. I loved reading your story and I identify with you in many ways. We too were living and working in Scotland in 2014 and both gave up work to travel. We actually ended up in Canada for a couple of years (that’s another story!) and whilst there we bought a motor home. We then travelled all over North America for the next few years living in the MH. In between times we returned home (Scotland and England) and travelled many other places too (Japan, Cambodia, China, South America…). We are not so extreme as you; we still have stuff! The pandemic clipped our wings too, but we are back travelling. Let me know if you land back in Scotland. One of my daughters ( I also have 3 grown up kids!) is still living in Edinburgh so we are there frequently.

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JANICE HORTON -

Oh wow Jane – we have so much in common! I do hope we can meet up somewhere one day to have a lovely travel chat. Yes, that quite possibly could be in Edinburgh. I’d love to hear your Canada story too! Thank you so much for reaching out and let’s keep in touch. I’m keen to follow your AbFab Travels. Janice xx

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Oli -

Slomading! Hehe i learnt something new. Janice, its awesome to hear about your journey. We left our jobs in 2014 to meet inspiring people like you!! Well would you believe it, we spent a combined 2 yrs in Koh Tao between 2014 and 2019. So possibly passed you on the street or in the ocean. Hehehe.
Anyway, we are slomading in New Zealand South Island now, so let us know if you are coming this way, if you’d like a meet up.

Reply
JANICE HORTON -

Hi Oli – thanks for your lovely message – oh my goodness I wished we’d been in touch back then on Koh Tao. We have so much in common that I’m sure we’ll manage a meet up someday somewhere. NZ is still on our travel list! Janice xx

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Debbie Campbell -

Hi Janice. I know Michael has been in touch – but I wanted to add my own congratulations for 10 years of travel. As you know, we celebrating that milestone in July of 2023. You’ve done a great job of capturing the ups and downs of the journey. I wish we could travel lighter, like you do. I know there are many advantages, but we are attached to our “lucky bed pillows” and I have my knives and certain spices, etc. And then there are all the games we play. All of which could be left behind, but we are so used to checking bags at this point, that I doubt we’ll change. But soon we will settle semi-permanently and I am sure will travel with just a carry-on and small pack. What a life we’ve lived, right? So blessed. Happy continued travels. I hope we can meet up someday 🙂 Debbie Campbell, The Senior Nomads.

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JANICE HORTON -

Hi Debbie – thank you for your lovely message and for visiting my website which is a passion project of mine. I’m delighted to get to know you and Michael and congratulations to you both on also celebrating 10 years of nomadic life. I’m also thrilled to have found Senior Nomads on FB and to discover so many – thousands – of people all over the world living nomadically and in so many different way. I find it interesting and wonderful. So thank you for setting up the group. I too hope we get to meet in person one day. Janice xx

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Donna -

Great article, and very inspiring. Am working my way through all the links too, so much to read and learn from.

Reply
JANICE HORTON -

Thanks Donna – for your lovely comment and I’m delighted you’re working your way through my links. Janice xx

Reply

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