My sea sickness has finally subsided after being in the middle of the ocean, hanging over the side of the boat next to author Liesbet Collaert. Plunge left me ‘feeling all the feels’ of nomadic living.
Through 2020, I could not settle my mind to actually read a book. Call it anxiety or being unsettled by a global pandemic, my mind refused to still itself enough to concentrate on more than a page or two.
That is until I began reading Plunge. So intriguing and honest in its telling, for the first time in 10 months I enjoyed reading again.
Looking at the glorious photo cover of turquoise water, white sand beaches and the author swimming blissfully with her dogs, one might assume the book will tell tales of paradise woven together like a mural of travel ecstasy. Instead Liesbet vividly shares the challenges of her insatiable quest for adventure along with the joy and freedom of nomadic life.
I invited Liesbet to tell readers more about the ups and downs of nomadic living.
In your book Plunge you are refreshingly honest about relationship challenges while at sea. What suggestions do you have for partners considering a nomadic way of life?
My husband, Mark, and I are in the unique situation of having been together 24/7 pretty much since the moment we chose each other in 2004, because of our lifestyle – sailing, house and pet sitting, camping. Sometimes, I think our partnership comes naturally but other times, the desire for me-time and the curiosity about how we’d do in a settled situation gets the better of me.
To answer your question, there are certainly factors that are important if you want to share a small space and a relatively challenging lifestyle with someone full-time. Compatibility is one of them, but if you have been a pair for years already, I assume that has been figured out. At least in a general sense. While you don’t have to be on the same page with everything, sharing similar interests when on the go is important. This includes agreeing on your travel style, means, duration, and comfort levels.
Being patient and respectful about your partner’s feelings, thoughts, moods, and priorities, being grateful for his/her abilities, and being flexible when it comes to plans and ideas are other qualities that will make your relationship last. Communicating about each other’s needs is important. Even when you know your partner really well, do not always assume the next step. Talk about your differences and make sure there is enough me-time.
Each month you publish your living expenses which often are under $1,300.00 USD. What are your top five tips for inexpensive nomadic living?
Over the last eighteen years of my nomadic existence, costs have gone up, which I blame on inflation, technology, and the need for more comfort. Our biggest expense has always been maintenance on our floating and rolling homes, which partially contributes to our safety as well. Ever since my husband and I moved aboard in 2007 – and then on the road – our yearly average expenses for two adults and one or two large rescue dogs have been between US$12,000 and USD$20,000 with a steady US$ 16,000 average on land.
Because we have both been frugal our entire lives, we don’t really have a budget – we usually just spend money on what we deem necessary instead of desirable. I especially like my life to be simple. The more gadgets you have, the more care and time you need to invest in them and the more they cost to maintain and fix. We are aware of the prices anywhere we shop (and ask or scan the product when there is no tag), buy produce that’s affordable, and scan our receipt upon check-out to make sure the bill makes sense. These habits might not work for everyone.
My tips for inexpensive nomadic living?
- Figure out your priorities and stick to them – you can’t have it ALL and buy it ALL
- Keep life, travel, and modes of transportation simple – basic comfort is required, luxury is optional
- Buy generic products in the grocery store and stick to “sale” or lower-priced items – tasty and healthy does not equal expensive
- Use an app like GasBuddy for fuel and shop around for plane tickets, land transportation modes, parts, or anything online really – “time is money”: by spending more time researching (or waiting for the desired item to drop in price), you can save a lot
- Occasionally splurge on eating out, buying ice cream, treating friends to a drink, cooking a fancier dinner – it makes these events more special and appreciated
What are the top three experiences you have had over the years of travel?
This is a difficult one as each of my life’s experiences is enriching in one way or another, but here are three highlights, which are combined culminations. And, I totally appreciate the term “experiences” instead of “destinations” in this question!
- The year that I backpacked by myself throughout Southeast Asia and down under. Such an experience! I learned a lot about myself, saw incredible (cultural and natural) sights, met like-minded people (this happens everywhere I travel), tried activities I wouldn’t attempt anymore at this age (like bungee jumping and sky diving), felt self-secure and strong, and realized being alone doesn’t mean being lonely.
- Interacting with wildlife – swimming with wild dolphins in New Zealand, snorkeling with manta rays and sharks in the South Pacific, hanging out with sea lions, turtles, rays, and penguins in the Galapagos, and interacting with grey whales in Mexico. Aaaah!
- Cultural immersions on the tiny island of Siberut, Indonesia, where I hiked and lived with the indigenous Mentawai tribe for five days in my early twenties, in the San Blas Islands of Panama, where my husband and I anchored among the primitive islands on our sailboat for almost a year, and in French Polynesia (South Pacific), where we were part of local festivities involving food, dance, and music.
What is the worst experience you have had in nomadic living?
I’d say when my husband was diagnosed with cancer in Tahiti in 2014 and we had to figure out what to do next (and where). This episode is closely followed by our beloved dogs passing away. My examples are not specific to being a nomad, but they reiterate that my existence is a way of life with aspects familiar to everyone everywhere.
Regarding travel, I’d say that my encounters with Homeland Security when flying into the US between 2005 and 2020 belong in the category “worst experiences of being a nomad.” As you can see – fortunately – nothing dangerous or extraordinary yet…
If you could wave a magic wand, what would your ideal nomadic life look like?
I love this question. I keep a digital diary and each day (when online), a new prompt pops up. Recently, it inquired about my three all-time wishes. None of them involved money or winning the lottery, haha. I believe we can all live life to its fullest, regardless of our financial situation.
Anyway, assuming that my freedom, health, and outlook continue to embrace a nomadic life, it would be more perfect by allowing myself more splurges, occasional breaks from the road in an attractive location, and the continuation of meeting interesting peers. Mostly, I’d use the wand to secure my nomadic status and fulfill my travel desires, of which there are many.
I enjoy our overland adventures with our dog, especially the promise of exploring South America soon, but I am also looking forward to international travel by plane in the future. Mark and I hope to house and pet sit around the globe one day and immerse ourselves into different countries that way – this method offers more comfort than any others. It might be an enjoyable multiple-year break from our more challenging pursuits, like embarking on camper trips in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australasia. The world is too compelling, I’m too curious, and life is too short!
Looking for a fascinating read? More about Liesbet’s book Plunge and nomadic living at sea.
Tropical waters turn tumultuous in this travel memoir as a free-spirited woman jumps headfirst into a sailing adventure with a new man and his two dogs.
Join Liesbet as she faces a decision that sends her into a whirlwind of love, loss, and living in the moment. When she swaps life as she knows it for an uncertain future on a sailboat, she succumbs to seasickness and a growing desire to be alone.
Guided by impulsiveness and the joys of an alternative lifestyle, she must navigate personal storms, trouble with US immigration, adverse weather conditions, and doubts about her newfound love.
Does Liesbet find happiness? Will the dogs outlast the man? Or is this just another reality check on a dream to live at sea?
Have you ever wondered how life could be if you had made different choices? If you didn’t marry early, commit to a large loan for the house, focus on your career, start a family?
Maybe you’re just curious about how a person thinking outside the box manages? A person without boundaries, striving to be flexible, happy, and free.
What you are about to read is how one such person follows her dreams, no, her intuition, and how she survives her naivety, life altering twists, and a relationship in close quarters.
Plunge is a story of what happens when you go with the flow, when you have a bright idea – or thought you had one – and ride the waves of the unknown.
Liesbet Collaert’s articles and photos have been published internationally. Born in Belgium, she has been a nomad since 2003 with no plans to settle anytime soon. Her love of travel, diversity, and animals is reflected in her lifestyle choices of sailing, RVing, and house and pet sitting. Liesbet calls herself a world citizen and currently lives “on the road” in North America with her husband and rescue dog. Follow her adventures at www.itsirie.com and www.roamingabout.com.