Everything I Thought I Lost

Another Nomadic Life Thought Piece

The reason animals survive in nature is because they are rationally risk averse. Only human animals have the capacity to be irrational. On the other hand, only human animals have the capacity to rationally take on risk—the sine qua non of human civilization.

In the status quo, civilization comes at us with a nefarious side—to place upon us norms, boundaries, limits, customs, societal and familial expectations, inter alia, all ahead of what we might feel or sense is better for us individually.

But true civilization requires all of these things and indeed, the hallmark of advanced civilization is to codify many standards of human social interaction into law, along with an uncorrupted court system to adjudicate both criminal and civil trespass upon the law.

The law is a rather blunt instrument, however. Ideally, it doesn’t play favorites—law for thee, but not for me—though we know that in practice it often does. It’s also a practice in governance by lowest common denominator. If the law sets impossible standards, then everyone is a criminal, rendering the law meaningless.

Often, the law is informed by culture, which typically subsumes a dominant religion. On top of that, we have religious, cultural, and familial norms where certain behaviors, while not illegal according to the lowest-common-denominator State, are nonetheless punishable by excommunication, disowning, and ostracism. And, being unfriended on Facebook.

On the surface, it’s a lot to lose for those who go full nomad, which means: no particular home. When asked my address I give the same answer: Planet Earth.

I’ve had my sights set on this sort of life for a good while, having lived outside of the U.S. for seven years in a past life, traveling a lot, imagining what it would be like to travel in perpetuity. But look at all I’d lose.

  • A way to make a living
  • The safety and security of being a native American in America
  • A company I built from nothing to 30 employees
  • The primary house and a vacation home
  • The marriage
  • The dogs
  • The regular face time (the literal kind) with friends and family
  • The car
  • All the stuff upon stuff I’m primary custodian of

…My first experience with so-called culture shock was my NROTC Midshipmen cruise in 1982, when I spent several days each in Pusan, Korea and then Sasebo, Japan. It was eye opening in the sense that we Americans tend to grow up in a sort of cultural isolation while being geopolitically adventurous—having the effect that Americans see America as per se superior, more advanced, and just plain better than anywhere else.

Well, America is a great country and I’m no America basher, but that experience caused me to tone down my American Nationalism. I would go on to take my first and second assignments as a U.S. Navy Officer in Japan, taking up five years, and then my third in France for another two.

And now, 28 years since leaving France and returning to the U.S., I’m fully nomadic, which seems to me a natural progression where, should I eventually decide to set down some surface “roots” again someday, it will be as an expat in a favorite place where they treat me the best.

…There’s nothing wrong with a preference for one’s own nation and culture. When you travel and actually experience a nation’s culture beyond an all-inclusive resort and guided tours, you come to see the obvious: they too love their nation and culture and are seemingly just fine with it. And such exists in thousands of worthwhile places to experience all over this planet.

Accordingly, everything you lost is countered by everything you gain.

  • New ways to make a living digitally
  • The novelty of out-comfort-zone adventure in a foreign land
  • Maybe a new, online-based company with contractors and freelancers instead of employees
  • A new furnished rental every few weeks to months instead of mortgages, taxes, insurance, utility bills, and yard work
  • New relationships that span the globe—and crossing paths again with the established ones
  • Enjoying the pets of others (dog and cat behavior seem to be universal)
  • Easy communication with those back home and the occasional visit
  • Rent motor scooters, cars, or use ride sharing to avoid car payments, insurance, and maintenance
  • No stuff to care for that you don’t absolutely need

So, for every loss, there’s a corresponding gain. Or, why limit one’s self to one set of experiences when you can have many differing ones at the same depths?

More posts on my recent nomadic project:

Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. The cost of two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance the travel to write, photo, and film from interesting places and share the experiences with you.


  1. Dwayne on January 31, 2020 at 09:29

    Thoughtful modern elder nomad guidance. I enjoy wisdom when properly placed alongside rigor and agility in service to a world filled with too-ready new insight.

  2. Arthur De Vany on January 31, 2020 at 12:46

    Richard, free now for the real journey.

    My best to you.

    Art De Vany

    • Richard Nikoley on January 31, 2020 at 22:12

      Hey Art,

      Thank you so much. What a coincidence that I should see this as I’m sitting down to break a 60 hr fast. Since the 40 hr gauntlet to get here, zero sleep, then a busy conference, much partying, getting used to eating as the Thais eat (double the protein plus 2 eggs on the side), pretty spicy, I was feeling inflamed, showing it, off my game. So I started a fast after my 59th birthday dinner and just kept it going, and it ended up a total reboot.

      Selfie taken just now. A few days ago, puffy, inflamed, bloated.

    • cob on January 31, 2020 at 22:18

      Art, wow! Is that really you? We miss you. Update us on your progress one day if you feel like it. Thankyou sir. I always remember you as the man who introduced me to the idea of lifelong fitness – aging well.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 1, 2020 at 01:21

      It’s really him. And it’s much appreciated. Really, I see this as the ultimate level and culmination of the “life way” I gleaned from Art 12 years ago, in 2008, done in my own life style.

      This is perfect for me.

      An animal should never feel trapped.

  3. Dr. G. Moore on February 21, 2020 at 08:54

    Koh Chang AQI yesterday was 220. So much slash and burn agriculture on the border in Cambodia, land mines are exploding. The border was a heavily mined area.

  4. Dr. G. Moore on February 22, 2020 at 01:08

    From my pal Ian (guest house owner) on Koh Chang yesterday: “The wind should change direction in a couple of days and blow from the south. Once that happens the skies will be clear again. This morning is better, can smell smoke but not as hazy sky.”

  5. Dr. G. Moore on February 23, 2020 at 23:55

    Koh Chang update: Bangkok Airways PG301 to Trat couldn’t land this morning due to the smoke. Flew back to Bangkok instead.

    3 hrs. AQI is crazy high. AQI = 379


  6. Richard Nikoley on February 24, 2020 at 20:43

    Thanks for the updates, G.

    Two more days here in Pattaya which has been pretty clear, far more than Chiang Mai ever was in the 5 weeks there.

    I’m heading to Samet for a planned 4 days, figure it out from there. Last time in Samet was 29 years ago and they didn’t even have shore power. Generators shut down every night at 10.

    • Dr. G. Moore on February 28, 2020 at 13:01

      Samet to Trat/Koh Chang was a fairly uneventful drive. Not ‘white knuckle’ like the Cambodia visa runs.

      Samet to Chanthaburi is about 2 hours, and then another hour or so to Koh Chang. The drive in Ann’s X3 felt comfortable. Of course, never let your guard down in Thailand.

      FB isn’t an option for now, so if something Thai related comes to mind I will leave you a note here. BTW, I thought your spoof on ‘Pride Day’ was hilarious.

  7. Banks Diesel on March 11, 2020 at 00:04

    Good read. This gives a good realization of life difference of domesticated animals and wild animals.

  8. Jim on July 7, 2020 at 17:57

    I hope our paths cross again, interesting adventures.

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