Home-Less: Confessions of a Quasi Nomad

by Chris on May 22, 2011

My house is sold….and I couldn’t be happier. Why buying a home isn’t right for this quasi-nomad

House is Sold

“I’m as free as a bird now…and this bird, she will not change.”

Yep, I’m quoting Freebird. Or Free-biiiird!, which is probably how we all say it aloud in our minds. I’ve been playing that song in my head like bad air guitar ever since last week, when I received word that my house – no, not the one in Seattle, not the one in DC, the one in Philly, and yes, I know it’s confusing – finally sold.

I could talk about the market and depreciation and how the housing bubble sold us all a bill of goods, but that’s not why my heart leaped a few hundred times after the sale went through. You see, I’ve realized that I’m a quasi-Nomad, and home ownership doesn’t do it for me in the way that I’ve been told it should.

Admitting your problem is half the battle, right? Even when what you truly want goes against the advice of financial professionals and Money magazine and what constitutes the trappings of an adult life. And what I want to do – what I dream of doing until I’m too old to do no longer – is spending significant amounts of time in cool cities around the world….and then leaving for the next one.

It’s not rational, really. And I’m not this flighty about the other things in my life. I love one man. I’ve known my best friend since second grade. I talk to my parents several times a week. I own pets and furniture and even crystal, for God’s sake. No, not flighty.

But yet, evidence that I’m a flight risk is all around me.  I’ve lived in 10 states and several countries; most Americans live in 3 or less. I have three favorite sports teams, each from a different city. I’ve  followed jobs and followed men and followed dreams that did and didn’t pan out. And I know that I’m nowhere near done.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to throw on a backpack and hit the road. I read all kinds of travel blogs about people who do just that, and while I find their stories entertaining and enlightening, I’ve been there, done that, and have no desire to do it again.

The quasi-nomad doesn’t skim, she burrows. I’ve gone deep on the cities I’ve loved, figuring out what makes them tick and why the people there behave the way they do. I’ve made close friends, the kind that you keep long after you’ve left their immediate orbit. But no matter how much I’ve felt part of a community, an even bigger part of me wants to leave that circle behind and see what’s over the hill.

Buying a home doesn’t make sense for me. Er, us, as I’ve picked up a husband since the last time I bought a place. He wasn’t in the picture when I bought my Philadelphia rowhouse back in 2003, and even if he was, I probably would have purchased it without him anyway.  That’s a bit how I was back then – a little more headstrong, a little more absolute in where life was going. I spied the For Sale sign on 919 Christian from the Italian Market brunch hotspot across the street and thought, Wouldn’t it be cool to live THERE?

And so I did. I bought a house that was over 100 years old. Which means I tackled plumbing and installed air conditioning (well, I didn’t install it, I hired people who did) and replaced sub-flooring and handled lots of other crazy ass chores. I can tell you an inordinate amount about replacing sewer pipes. Or dealing with boilers. Or repointing bricks. God, repointing bricks sucks. I hope you never have to do it.

And that’s just it. I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to enjoy my life in Seattle knowing that we can change it at any time, that we can pursue opportunities and keep our options open. Luckily, Don feels the same way. We’ve spent most of our marriage fixing up houses to rent or sell, and we’re ready for a break. One where someone handles the the problems.

In the meantime, we’ve nested quite nicely in our rental home, and just signed a lease for another year. It helps that we found a place with a view to die for. Seriously, it’s ridic. Come visit us and see.

Yet even as I drink my lattes and stare at the Olympic Mountains and watch the sun set over Puget Sound, I know that our time in Seattle won’t last forever. And maybe for this quasi-nomad, that’s what makes it seem all the sweeter.

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Spencer Spellman May 22, 2011 at 8:49 am

I, er my wife, bought a house and got married, and then got divorced. I did this in my early 20s during a time when I was doing things that I thought I was “supposed to do”. After months of traveling and living as you put it as a “quasi nomad”, I’m somewhat settling in San Francisco, but still don’t know if that becomes a “home”. I don’t know if I’ll ever have something so permanent that it’s like a long-term home. I like to live and travel too uninhibited.
Thanks for writing this Chris. Could definitely relate.

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Chris May 23, 2011 at 8:47 am

@Spencer – When the road map goes out the door, that’s when there’s room for interesting things to happen, I think. I’ve enjoyed reading about your journey too.

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Sophie May 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I think there’s something very liberating in owning less.

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Erin May 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Oh how I dream of the day when I can sell my house! I’ve also been bitten by the travel bug and this 85 y/o pile of bricks is holding me back, physically and financially, from going where I want whenever I want. What’s keeping me from selling is the fact that I owe more than it’s worth, as so many Americans are dealing with right now. I think about handing the house over to the bank all of the time!

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Chris May 23, 2011 at 8:39 am

@Erin – I understand how you feel. We barely broke even on this house, even though I had bought in 2003. We did a little better a few years ago on Don’s house, but the days of recouping a big return from real estate are behind us, I think.

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Angela May 22, 2011 at 9:01 pm

You sound very excited in your post, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be. You have great plans, and not being stuck in a place makes it all together much nicer to experience. Enjoy your time in Seattle until you feel like unearthing another city!

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Carlo Alcos May 22, 2011 at 9:12 pm

I like this. I can definitely relate. I never did own a house, and may never will. I used to think I wanted to, because that’s what you’re supposed to do, isn’t it? But I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to be shackled down to something that big. From what I’ve seen and heard from many people, homeowning ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. Also like you, I’m done with the long-term backpacking thing (although I’d never say never). I’d rather live in different places for longer periods of time.

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Chris May 23, 2011 at 8:38 am

@Carlo I know, you don’t hear about that type of travel as much, do you? When I say longer term, I mean for a period of years. I spent seven years in New Orleans and about another seven in Philly, plus a few one-offs here and there (Providence, DC, etc.) I’d be thrilled to be in Seattle for about 3 years or so before moving elsewhere. We’ll see how it all works out!

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Pete May 23, 2011 at 6:53 am

Awesome news, congrats! We agree that it is great knowing that we can change our lives at any time and being a nomad allows you to do so. To tell you the truth, we don’t think we will ever buy a house again, we are too in love with this freedom. If we are ever in the Seattle area we will stop by, meet you guys and see that ‘ridic’ view ;)

Cheers!

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Chris May 23, 2011 at 8:36 am

@Pete You’re welcome to visit anytime, we’ll be sure to have a big plate of beans and rice for your wife :)

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Dalene | Hecktic Travels May 23, 2011 at 9:33 am

Awesome! I’m getting good at picking out the beans… :)

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Dave May 23, 2011 at 7:46 am

It’s always helpful to hear of others who turn away from home ownership. Given it’s part of the whole American dream I grew up with (as did my parents), the idea is ingrained in me that it’s the right thing to do…yet I had/have no desire to do it.

Glad you’re enjoying Seattle!

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Chris May 23, 2011 at 8:36 am

@Dave I’m not so sure home ownership should be part of the American dream anymore. It’s not as good an investment as it was before and it really inhibits people from pursuing opportunities. What I didn’t mention in the article is that we were paying both a mortgage AND rent for several months as we waited for it to sell. Not fun, and not good on the budget!

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Elaine May 27, 2011 at 6:55 am

This rings true. I went into public relations thinking it would be glamorous and that I would get to continue all the travel I did in college. Wrong. So after being at “the desk” for six years, I turned to tour directing. I said I would do it until I found the one. I found him and married him two years later. Now I live in one of the most gorgeous locations on earth – Grand Junction, Colo. – with its red rocks, monuments and mesas, but it never feels like home. I love the sense of belonging, however, I have the fire to travel and not settle. My husband may think I’m crazy at times, but he has a touch of the “modern-day nomad syndrome.”

Thanks for the post! I always look forward to reading about your adventures. Travel on!

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Andrea May 27, 2011 at 12:36 pm

How exciting! Congrats!! Any idea where you want to travel to first?

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