Justify Your Roots

29 March 2013. Filed under category Nomad.
Question Your Roots

Everywhere I go, people ask me why I have chosen to live a location-independent life. It’s a valid question. I diverge from the geo-static norm, and it’s reasonable to expect a rationale.

But for a moment, I want to turn the table and ask two questions about the geo-static norm. I’ll keep my own writing intentionally short to leave plenty of space for you (yes, you!) to help me explore this norm of living in only a few places during a lifetime, and why it exists.

Please leave your answers as comments below. I am genuinely interested in your answers, so don’t be shy! First time commenters are especially welcome!

  1. Did you actively choose to live a geo-static life? (If so, when did you make that decision and do you ever revisit it? If not, why was the geo-static life ‘a given’?)
  2. Which are your reasons for living geo-statically? (What do you get from it? How does it enrich your life?)

Travel Updates

I’m writing this on the plane leaving New Zealand, where my parents and I have explored pretty much all of the South Island. I have plenty of photos and adventures to share with you, but it will take a week or two to sort it all out. (Subscribe and you’ll be notified when that article is published!)

My destination is the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, where a random reader of this blog (and a fellow Scruffer) has invited me to stay with him for a few weeks. Thank you Mark!)


My definition of a geo-static life is one where your work, relationships and social life centres on one place for an indefinite time. If you think that you will move home a few times in your lifetime, usually triggered by a job offer or a relationship, then you fall under my definition of geo-static. (Going on more than one holiday a year does not make you location-independent.)


Leave your answers in the comments!

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  1. Bryn says:


    I love your blog! I think its wonderful you’ve taken it upon yourself to enrich your life through travel.

    As a child, my fathers job took us all over the U.S. and abroad as well. I have never “hailed” from anywhere, and growing up we moved about every 3 years.
    I am 24 now, and I have not stopped moving, my mother refers to this as having “itchy-feet.” ( She and my father currently live in Munich. They’ve never stopped moving either)
    Personally, I do not consider myself among the Geo-Static. In order, I have lived in:
    -Darmstdat, Germany
    – Colorado Springs, Colorado
    – Augusta, Georgia
    – Augsburg, Germany,
    – Stutgart, Germany
    – Baltimore, Maryland
    – Ellicott City, Maryland,
    – Kalamazoo, Michigan,
    – San Antonio, Texas

    As it stands, I am enlisted in the U.S. Army. I am leaving for Basic Training in a few weeks, and once I have completed that, I hope to be stationed somewhere I have never been before.
    Although I am not as frequently nomadic as you, I really do not consider myself geo-static. My parents were already traveling in this fashion when I was born, and for me, it is normal. Although I do usually take some time staying in each place I live, I have no immediate plans to settle down, and to be honest with you, I’m not sure I ever will.

    It has never appealed to me to stay in any of these places. I am currently in Texas, and I will only be here for a few more months. I find that discovering a new city is a merit all its own.

    1. Hi! Thanks for your story. I guess there are, of course, a spectrum between the the geo-static farmer who live and die in the same place and the hyper-nomadic man who runs from interpol for a crime he did not commmit.

  2. Frankie Spada says:

    (Excuse my terrible english)
    These are the same questions I ask myself.
    I always wanted to live my life like you, but I can never find the courage to depart.
    Can I ask you a question? how do each time to find a home? how do you earn enough money to live?

    Thank, I love your Blog!!

    1. Those are very big questions, and I hope to answer them to the best of my ability in the articles of this blog. But they are too big for the comments, and, too important as well. Look through the existing articles and you’ll see that I have actually written a fair bit about both of those questions.

  3. Craig Bown says:

    Because of my benefits as a flight attendant, I have the option of a quasi nomadic life. I commute to my base (Chicago) from home. Rather than return home between trips though, I could go visit friends or see someplace by myself. When I have not chosen to do this it has been for one of these reasons:
    1. I wanted to accomplish something that required that I be geostatic. This was the case for years as I got a degree, and masters, in atmospheric science.
    2. Family obligations. This has been the case now for a decade.I constantly re-evaluate this. But it is complex. There was never one moment that I decided to do it. I feel inextricably involved, yet I know that existentially I have a choice. I suspect many people feel this.
    3.I like a nest. As much as I like adventure and exploring, I also like a nest. I’m a nest builder of sorts. I recharge my batteries and pamper myself in an unpampering world. I have the serenity of solitude in a place that belongs to just me.

    Questioning our assumptions about what is possible in our life is a good thing. People should know that the geostatic/nomadic choice lies on a spectrum and their choice should be conscious. Of course, there are other lifestyle choices/specturms too. Like celibacy to being polyamorous. What about you Gustav? Becoming nomadic took a certain amount of commitment. You surely feel invested. What things could alter this choice for you? When I have spoken of you I have sometimes been asked how long you plan to do it. I always answer that “I don’t think he knows…as long as he finds it fulfilling I guess!” Someone told me that most nomads only last two to seven years. I guess that would be two to seven interesting years.

    1. Those are three common and understandable reasons for remaining in one place. But as you mentioned, being a flight attendant gives you amazing opportunities to travel.

      You were not lying when you said that I don’t know how long I’ll be nomadic. For as long as it is conducive to my eudaemonia. I don’t question my decision every day. That’d take too much energy. But I do really challenge my choices every New Year Day. For smaller things like the kind of work I do and where I go, I reevaluate those choices every few months.

      1. Craig Bown says:

        To blog readers who don’t know Gustav…he doesn’t think he’s religious…but he belongs to the church of eudaemonia! Quite the prosyletizer too! Find his post on that topic when you find yourself questioning your lifestyle choices.

        1. Guess I should give the address for the Mission Statement post where I first mentioned Eudaemonia.

  4. Robby says:

    1. No I didn’t actively choose a geo-static life. I fell into it I suppose because it was the only way living I knew of. I spent about 5 years in Hawaii when I was in the Army but that is about as nomadic as I have been.

    2. I chose to be geo-static in the beginning to be with my children. Now that they are grown I would say that biggest reason is that I do not know how to make a living on the road. I dream of living a geo-dynamic life, and even joked with my Daughter that once she was on her own she could send my mail to Somewhere USA. That in itself is telling as I would love to see more of the world than just the USA.

    1. I think those answers are quite common. I can’t ever remember growing up and ever having nomaidic living as an option. The options I had presented to me were all around the kind of education and work I could have. Oh, and what hobbies to adopt. All good choices of course, and there are many around the world who don’t have them. Still, I wish someone had said, “Hey kiddo, you know that you are in a position to bend the parameters of your life beyond what is considered normal, and it is OK.”

  5. Antoine says:

    This is a very interesting topic for me, as I find myself at the crossroad between a geo-static and geo-independent life.

    The last few years, I have been lead to live what I would call a semi-location-independent life. I would not consider myself fully location free though, as I still have a place that I consider my home, which I visit quite regularly and where my close family and friends are.

    That said, my studies lead me to live in several cities abroad, in the UK for the last couple of years, and in the US next year – and probably somewhere else afterwards!

    I put a lot of thought into what this lifestyle meant for me, and I am still trying to figure out if it is the right fit for me. From what I gathered so far, I can say that as much as I like the idea of being geo-independent and discovering new places and cultures, the reality isn’t quite as simple and idealistic. I find being geo-dynamic very much enriching at many levels, but something is missing. It doesn’t make you whole.

    Concretely, I believe I have one main concern with the nomadic lifestyle. From my experience, even when spending six or eight months living at the same place, building strong and lasting relationships is quite hard – and then, you have to leave somewhere else and go back to square one! This can be very daunting at times.

    In a nutshell, as much as I like living in different places and countries, I still find myself longing for the day I will finally settle.

    1. You, nail and head – bam! Yup, I’d say that the relationship angle, both romantic and friendly, is the hardest aspect for me to ‘like’ about my new nomadic life. There, I can see very clearly the benefits of the geo-static life and I think it makes a lot of sense to justify the choice to live geo-statically with that argument.

      There is enjoyment, however, in meeting so many new people that you do as a nomad. But yeah, this post wasn’t about why one would chose the location-independent life but rather the opposite.

  6. Brad Pfaff says:

    Born and now live in Kansas City. Lived in Denver, Tulsa, and Sweden. Actually married to a girl from Ljungby that I met in New Zealand. Our daughter rode to a buggkurs på Bolmsö last weekend with your brother and his daughter so that explains how we heard of you.
    My wife Nina Pfaff Nilsson and I are preparing to, if we dare, live a nomad life at least for a while. We have been in Kansas City too long but my roots are here as well as family. So the reason to live in one spot for us is friends and family and of course a steady job.
    Maybe we will meet one day.
    Brad Pfaff

    1. Wow, a Ljungby connection! Very cool! Must say thanks to Henrik for introducing you and your wife to the blog. You are most welcome!

      Don’t know if you are planning to be global or national nomads, but if you plan to stay within the US, then I know a few nomads who live and work out of their motorhomes. That is a kind of nomadism I’d love to do sometime.

      Hope to meet up one day, who knows, maybe at this year’s Ljungby Storyteller festival? (I’m planning to go)

  7. Marianna says:

    Hi Gustav.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and putting so much effort on writting this blog. I am sharing this on my facebook page and I will also email a few friends.
    What you are doing is very brave and inspiring. Best of luck.

    Marianna from Fox Glacier- New Zealand. xoxo

    1. Thank you Marianna! I’m glad it is of some use/inspiration/entertainment to others.

      Do you mind replying to this comment with a link to your helicopter company, the one I flew over Fox Glacier with? Cheers!

  8. Jono says:

    Being “Geo-static” has a significant degree of efficiency for a society. Civilisation has time to develop. Build a port in a sheltered cove and it is generally going to be more comfortable living there than life for a nomadic tribe that has to keep moving for some reason (whether it is self-imposed or not).

    “Modern nomadic living” is entirely reliant on a modern infrastructure and people paying their taxes to support that infrastructure. Sometimes the blog does seem to be attempting to convince (“inspire”) its readers to convert to a nomadic life, but if everyone did then civilisation as we know it collapses.

    ….not that this is necessarily a bad thing.

    The bit you have right is the quest for happiness (“eudaemonia”, I had to look it up) which is what everyone has to reassess and make adjustments for at regular intervals.

    For most of us, staying in one place becomes the most plausible option when you have kids. I do like the idea of giving children new experiences by being able to move about…but that can be an unusally risky strategy if you don’t have a back-up plan. Our prime directive is to get our children into adulthood without them starving to death.

    In terms of lifestyle changes what interests me is the notion of finding a way which is sustainable and can be a plausible alternative to the culture of reckless consumption we now find ourselves in.

    So far I have thought of planting some carrots and having a wind turbine….in a commune. But then it starts to sound like I want to start a cult.

    …In answer to the questions:

    Do I actively choose a geo-static life? Yes, at the moment, certainly. It is the most logical use of the resources I have available.

    What are the reasons? See above.

    It is pleasant to be able to provide a stable environment for my daughter. That is what my parents did for me. To risk otherwise on the off chance it might be more exciting would be a bit selfish.

    Of course in an ideal world, robots would do all the donkey work and we would cruise around in our non-polluting hover caravans, philosophising on how significantly insignificant we are and listening to /writing music, or painting or whatever other creative outlets we enjoy most.

    1. Always a pleasure reading your thought-through comments.

      I absolutely don’t want to convince anyone to follow in my steps. I don’t want to inspire people to become nomads but rather to consider alternative lifestyles outside of society’s norms and then choose their life path with bravery and passion.

      I also want to describe the life I chose, the life of a nomad, because I think it is interesting and serves as and example of a norm-breaking life path.

      Since I do the two simultaneously, I can see why you might think that I’m trying to convince people to become nomads, but that is more of a failure in me being clear in what I try to communicate with the blog.

      On to the actual question at hand.

      Children. Yes indeed, they are a common and a very good reason for being geo-static. I know that there are nomadic parents who do well with their children’s upbringing, and I know adults who led early nomadic lives on account of their parents job or lifestyle, and they often say it was a great boon to their childhood. But I share your viewpoint here. If I had a child, I wouldn’t risk messing it up by forgoing the social structures there to help us raise our young. This nomadic lifestyle is stressful, and I wouldn’t subject my child to that either…

      Finally, I don’t buy your ‘society would break down if everyone were nomads’ argument. Society would break down if everyone became doctors too. Society needs a variation of individuals who all bring something to civilization. The question you should have asked is, “Do nomads contribute in some way to civilization.” That, as it happens, is the topic of my next article. Stay tuned.

  9. Jenn says:

    I did not choose to live a geo-static life. I have not had the courage to do what it takes (yet) to live as a nomad, though it has appealed to me since I was a child. I have gone the safe route for most of my life and have not found satisfaction in it. However I am super-afraid to take the leap without a source of income, and as an American, since we are seen as such buffoons in many countries.

    I get safety from living in one place, but also boredom. I suppose it has enriched my life in that I have been able to grow friendships.

    I am 43, jobless, and about to be divorced for the 2nd time. I think life, Spirit, Karma, God, whatever you want to call it, is giving me this opportunity, pushing me to JUMP and take the leap of faith. I don’t really feel fully alive unless I am out experiencing new things- specifically in natural settings.
    But I have to be realistic as well. I’ve got almost nothing in savings. I have debt. I have an ailing mother.
    I want to be a nomad, and I think I can be one to an extent by at least travelling in the US. I’ve not seen a great many states and if I can start that way, I can still be close enough when mom needs me…

    1. Ah yes, those roots that bind. Debt is a big one. The nomadic life doesn’t have to cost as much as people think, but it is not free. The economy is one of those things that you should take seriously. But, it is not an impossible hindrance to resolve. It might be hard, very hard, but not impossible.

      If you don’t feel like you can go all-in straight away, how about making smaller steps? Live one week or one month somewhere else?

      I don’t have, and would never dare to give, specific advice whether or not someone should become nomadic. It is a very personal decision, and I am glad to see that you are taking it seriously.

      1. Jenn says:

        I have to leave Missouri and take care of my mother for at least 8 weeks. I did not grow up in the house she lives in now, so I will be slightly nomadic in this respect.
        I plan to purposely find a temporary, easily quittable job while I am there, and want to try out some “nomad-ish” things.
        I plan to read more of your blog and research more on getting my affairs in order so I can travel at will.

        Thanks for replying, happy adventuring!

  10. Mel says:

    First time visitor.. I find this question so fascinating. Thank you for asking the less-common! & I cannot resist to make my answer:

    I’ve made a conscious choice to stay put for the past 11+ years, in a small condo my soon-to-be-Ex and I took a mortgage on together. I always wanted to own my own home, and now, I sort of do, though I must find a way to keep up the payments once we dissolve our marriage. I hope I will be able as I love having a home and living my life in it, limiting though it be.

    I love the idea of traveling, yet find it so unnerving & difficult that when I do, it takes days before I can settle in to the rhythm of it, by which time I realize I’m dragging around about 4x as much as I need! I think this is partly because I fear flying, ever since I was in an airplane accident as a teen. But also I think because I did so much traveling when I was younger, that I grew weary. Due to the circumstances I was born into, I moved many many times – but I longed for roots!

    On my 25th birthday, as I fell asleep on a friend’s sofa, in an apartment I would be moving in to the following day, I realized, this was also my 25th move.

    Now, after years of working too hard to try and please a discontented spouse, and having it all fall apart anyway, I’m exhausted. I look forward to creating my own life in this home, just as I please. I’m already working much less (not really by choice, to afford this life I must find more work) but am also considering going back to school, which might tie me here longer or force me to move again.

    After that though? Who knows? I may return to the wanderlust I grew up with. The new career I’m contemplating would enable me to work almost anywhere in the world – not for a lot of money, but for a lot of fulfillment and meaning.

    I sometimes find myself dreaming of short-term engagements in all kinds of places – from the glamorous to the exotic to the rustic, to the very basic, even rough…!

    At any rate, thank you for introducing me to “eudaemonia”, & I wish you luck on your journeys! Best, Mel

    1. Thanks for sharing this summary of your lifetime movements. It sounds like your marriage has been something of a limiting factor in your life, and that you in some way look forward to what will come afterwards, although I assume it must also be a very hard thing to go through.

      Perhaps you’d like to read my article on Matryoshka Cages. It’s all about how we grow in spurts when limiting cages break.

      I wish you all the best, and welcome to the modern nomad!

  11. Eric says:

    I don’t think I can say that im Geo-static. Since I was 18 I’ve found myself venturing off into different states. After six months I get tired of where im at and always go back to my hometown. Not because of my ties there but because of the familiarity of it. But im never there long. I get bored and find myself leaving again. Can I say im a nomad no. I don’t think im courageous enough to do as you do. Though I think if I could muster up the courage to do it. Id love it. Thanks for this blog.

    1. It sounds like you are attuned to hear the siren’s song of the nomad, yet have roots that keep you where you are at. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as you enjoy the life you choose. (Just make sure you live as you choose and not by default)

      In fact, from your description, it sounds like your roots are pretty long and forgiving, letting you leave and explore for up to six months, then come back. That sounds pretty good to me.

  12. Gemini says:

    Hi, nice blog and interesting questions!

    The past 7 years of my life have been quite nomadic although not at all with the same intensity or in the same way as you. I moved to China for a job and then to the US for three yrs to study and then back home to India for a year and now back to the US to work. So, every year has been different for me in the last 7-8 yrs or so. Although this is not nomadic in the way you define it, it has felt nomadic in the sense that every year I have had to move ‘home’, which is very minimalistic by the way. To answer your questions:
    1. No, I didn’t choose a geo-‘static’ life. Mainly because mobility was mostly determined by jobs and studies, rarely for leisure, certainly not as a lifestyle.
    2. While I certainly do enjoy the freedom and personal space in a relatively geo-independent life as well as the numerous people I meet and the different experiences I’ve had,I’ve had phases when I miss having a close net of family and friends and the intimacy that comes with routine. Also, of being out of the loop in terms of popular culture, of knowing the tidbits that everybody seems to know just by living there, of belonging. Being there for my family in terms of fulfilling caring responsibilities is also important to me, although being away also means caring but in a different way. My experiences in the last few years have actually taught me that I don’t need to go far and wide to have earth-shaking experiences. Many times we grow up in a city only experiencing parts of it. Just looking at the same place we live in with new lenses can change the way one experiences a place. Also, places are always changing themselves, they are not static. I’ve found that so much has changed going back to my home country in 3 years. Not only that, the way I see the place has changed so it’s a whole new experience altogether. Yes, that difference in perception has certainly come from my travels. But, I wonder if it is also because of changing careers. I’ve found that changing careers can change worldviews. Currently, I’m looking forward to learning languages, meeting people from different cultural backgrounds, and developing networks in a place where I’ve lived most of my life. That will be liberating and dynamic, not static, precisely because I can explore the place in greater depth. Having said that, I have no idea how long I’ll be in this city and I certainly don’t plan to buy a house there which means there is a part of me that still is commitment-phobic to any given place. I also do entertain the idea of this place being a temporary home. In short, I think I like the idea of leaving only to be back to my family, wherever they may be. That’s a mix of settling down and unsettling again. I’m hoping that being a ‘visiting professor’ will help me do that.

    1. Thanks for that honest and personal comment. For me, the important quality that you demonstrate is the ability to think and analyse what it is you really want, and then form your life to fit that ‘best option’ as best as possible. I think too few people do that. And your complex thoughts on what that is, in your case, shows the second ‘truth’ around this ‘active living’ which is that it is bloody hard to do! It isn’t easy putting one’s finger on what one really and truly want. It sounds like it should be easy, but it really isn’t.

      But still we must try!

      Thanks again for the comment and welcome to the blog!

  13. John Oliver says:

    Yes actively chose to live nomadically – I have a strong memory from when I was about 8 or 9 years old – I was the only passenger on a ‘mail delivery bus’ in the South Island of New Zealand – traveling home after staying with some relatives.
    The memory is of a deep and strong feeling of wanting that bus to just keep on traveling – around another corner over another hill – into areas not yet seen – unknown lands – new and different & exciting places. I had a fantasy that the ‘bus’ would take me around the world. I decided at that point – I would be a traveller – an explorer of this place in this time.
    Just after my 15th birthday I dropped out of school and runaway from home.
    One week after my 18th birthday I had my passport and was on a plane to Sydney Australia.
    I have a 7 year cycle that has generally helped to shape my life over the past 50 years – I move to a new place or country and or change my method of income (job) about ever seven years – I have learnt If I don’t allow myself to let go of the old self and change I become stale and frustrated with the daily grind.
    Now that I enjoy the completely nomadic lifestyle – supported by the random scattering of income with my casual employment arrangement – I am in a position to get off on that ‘bus’ and I don’t mind where it takes me.
    I may one day stop in a place that holds me longer than I imagined – and that is OK. There are no rules here. Be free to change – if your not sure what the next move is – simply stay still until you are compelled to go again armed with a knowledge of what it is that you need.

    1. It is reading comments like these that make me realize that the world is full of really awesome people who really truly live the devil-may-care kind of life and who just go for the stuff they are passionate about! You are a great inspiration.

  14. Not something I chose initially, thanks to medical problems as a child, and parents with very settled jobs. With my university life I ‘ran away’ as much as I was able (no funds for international travel, though), mostly to escape parental views and influence.

    Since university, I’ve gone where the work is, lately with my fiancee. This has meant moving every few months for the last 2 years, and so now I’m possibly looking for work again, I’ve told all recruiters that I want work in my current location. This is mainly because I’m sick of moving a houseful of stuff every few months (on occasions taking days on public transport with furniture in tow), but there are other reasons too.

    The main one being that I’m an introvert, and barely talk to people when given the choice. I need a lot of time to develop relationships (give me a year in one place and I’ll likely only have about three people I’d consider “friends”). Cut me off from people too much though, and I do start to go nuts. This happened during my masters, and it’s not an experience I particularly want to repeat.

    Secondly, I really enjoy being “of” a particular place. While I’m currently living in Basingstoke, UK and spent a year in Oxford, I didn’t (and don’t yet) really feel at home at either because I don’t feel like I know the place. When living in London and my parent’s village in Norfolk I got a good deal of contentment (if you’re going to go Greek, it’s probably more phronesis than eudaimonia) about knowing the small details of the place and people where I lived. The places felt (and still feel when I go back) “comfortable”, like a familiar piece of clothing. Traveling a lot means that is not likely to develop as much, as due to the first point it takes me time to settle in, so I’m potentially uncomfortable on two scores.

    Also, due to being such an introvert, I’ve grown good handfuls of imagination. If I’m not happy about a particular situation, I imagine some new ones in new places and different modes of being. I’m quite passionate about considering”alternative” modes of thought and existence (primarily historical ones, but ones that meander into the socio-political too), and I find exploring those as modes of thought is both the easiest and most convenient way for me to do so. Yes, this is limiting, but it fits in best with me as a person.

    1. Thank you for that awesome answer to my question. You seem to know yourself very well and choosing a ‘rooty’ existence for yourself sounds like the very best option. It sounds like a thought-through and active choice on your part, and I totally respect that.

      And I love it when a reader teaches me a new word!

  15. Levin says:

    Yes, and no … moved around a lot in my childhood, but with the opposite result to Bryn, above, that I really felt the need to finally settle somewhere and put down my own roots.

    Now I’ve lived in the same place – Switzerland – the longest I’ve lived anywhere and I love the feeling that I have a community around me, that I can bump into friends and acquaintances in the street if I go out …

    And like Craig, I like my nest. In fact I love my apartment so much I wish I could marry it, but our love is taboo, and we have to live with this feudal-S&M-owner/property situation …

    1. Ahh, to be owned like that, and inhabited and entered over and over again…

  16. Martin Genhede says:

    Hello Gustav.
    My first comment…

    I’ve totally fallen in love with your blog.

    Since I met you some weeks ago I’ve updated myself reading your blog until 2013 – I still have a lot to read but it’s getting more and more interesting. The post about your time at the Autumn Farm really made me curious about visitng New Zealand some time.

    1.Did you actively choose to live a geo-static life?
    I think I’ve never really thought about living a non geo-static life until i got in touch with you. And your way of living really excites me.

    2. Which are your reasons for living geo-statically? (What do you get from it? How does it enrich your life?)
    The first and foremost reason is my job. I really like it. Would it be possible to work as a CEO and not meet up with my managers in person on a daily basis? I don’t know. And the reason for not knowing might be the fear of the unknown.
    And that perhaps keeps me from really evaluating the possibilities…
    /Martin Genhede, Sweden

    1. I’m humbled and flattered that you’ve decided to read the blog, start to finish! Wow! Means a lot to me. It was great meeting you, and hope to do so again soon!

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