The Life of a (Temporary) Nomad

ICYMI, John and I spent the past 3 months living in different cities, and it’s something I would recommend to absolutely anyone. It all started one day in Oakland- John and I were feeling particularly bored and angsty after a year of lockdown. Things were starting to open up a bit more, and it hit us that this whole ‘WFH’ thing might not last forever. We wanted to seize this opportunity and do some traveling (safely, of course!).

John and I at the Tulip Fields in Seattle

John and I own our home, and knew we couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage plus rental fees as we traveled. We decided to list our home on Zillow as a short term rental and see if anyone was interested. If nobody was interested, we were going to let it go. Luckily, someone was interested and we had our home rented within 2 days. That meant we had 3 weeks to pack up, find an Airbnb, and start our adventure.

Those 3 weeks were some of the most anxiety induced weeks of my life. John was working full time, and I was working part time, which meant it was basically up to me to pack up our entire home, find the Airbnbs we would be living in, and start packing for our adventure. We were also confined to our little 4-door VW, which meant we had to pack light (not great for an influencer, lemme tell ya).

We started searching for Airbnbs, knowing that they had month-long discounts. This slightly limited us, because to be able to afford this trip, we had to commit to one city per month. We didn’t have our sights set on any particular city, and just wanted to find a place where we could spread out and experience something new. We were also limited by our car- since we wouldn’t be flying anywhere, we knew it had to be within driving distance (next time we definitely want to do some East Coast living!).

Pit stop at the Grand Canyon on our drive

We were drawn to the PNW for our first stay- the idea of living in/near a rainy forest for a month and being fully in nature sounded perfect after a year inside. We ended up in Seattle, so we weren’t entirely living in nature, but definitely got our fill. I was also drawn to Seattle because one of my best friends lived there, and I thought it would be amazing to spend time with him after living in different cities since middle school.

For our second month, we were drawn to Albuquerque. Abq is a place that neither John or I had ever been, but my other BFF/ Maid of Honor moved there for her PhD last August, and she fell in love with it. This would also be the least expensive stay since rent prices are notoriously low in that area. It was an easy choice.

Beautiful Abq from the Summit of the Sandias

Our third month was a bit more difficult to decide on. We really wanted Denver, but the Airbnbs were not working within our favor there, and we found we unfortunately couldn’t afford anything too spacious. We also looked at Salt Lake City, but decided against it. John suggested Palm Springs, and I was sold- we took a look at Airbnb and there was only one option that would work for us, so we snagged it.

Absolutely living for Palm Springs

Within the course of a couple days, our trip was booked and we were feeling our empty pockets.

Let’s do a cost breakdown:

Since we own our home, we decided to rent it out. In Oakland, it was easy to get a pretty good rental price. Our mortgage is around $1900 and we rented out our house for $2400. We then tried to find Airbnbs around the same cost.

Seattle was definitely our most expensive city, and we paid $3200 for our Airbnb. It was definitely over budget, but the pros outweighed the cons (amazing neighborhood, dog friendly, dog beach nearby, in the city etc). We splurged on Seattle for sure!

The PNW was a dream!

Albuquerque only cost us $2200, so it was nice to be a little under budget. The food in Abq was also incredibly inexpensive, so this was our least expensive month.

At White Sands in NM

Palm Springs came in at $2400, so just about on budget.

Worth every penny

What I like about Airbnb is that all the fees are included, so we didn’t have to pay any extra for utilities/ cable/ trash etc.

We also had to factor in the cost of gas (~$40 to fill the tank) as well as hotels/ Airbnbs during our drives/ weekend adventures. With all of that included, it was definitely more expensive than just staying home. But what would be the fun in that?

Since we spent the last year saving, and both had jobs, we decided it was worth it to spend a little more than we usually would. We tried to cook and stay in as much as possible, while also treating ourselves to the amazing food in each city. We both worked full time throughout the duration of the trip, with a couple days off for traveling/ exploring.

Overall, we received around $2600 (including utilities) from our renter each month, which was enough to sustain ourselves with our added incomes.

** Also note that we traveled with our dogs, which meant that our Airbnbs were more expensive than they would have been without our pooches.

What We Would do Differently Next Time:

Honestly, not a lot! It would be fun to try out a service like Hello Landing, where you can rent flexible, furnished apartments within 30 days notice. We found this service after we had already left, but would definitely give this a try next time!

I also wish I hadn’t underestimated driving time. During planning, 22 hours of driving didn’t seem that bad. But it was. I don’t necessarily think I would change locations because of that drive, but it’s important to know how much extra cost goes into a long drive like that.

I would have taken less things. I took plenty of items with me that I didn’t end up using at all, but still had to pack up and fit into our car every month. This felt like a waste of space and I would gladly have left those at home!

I almost wish I had more time to plan- I was so overwhelmed with getting our home ready, that I didn’t realize what a cool idea it would be to pitch this to brands I was working with/ hoped to work with. Next time I would definitely plan out my collaborations better!

Some brand work at White Sands

I would go to Hawaii. Cuz why not.

Personal Suggestions:

Thinking about doing something like this?? DO IT. It was such an adventure, and I loved being in a new place every month! If you rent, I would suggest putting your stuff in storage, packing up, and trying Hello Landing or Airbnb to live in a new city every month. Life is short. Have some fun!

Pit Stop at MOAB

Choose cities that fit your budget! Seattle was expensive for us, and we definitely splurged. However, there were a ton of ways we could have made that cheaper. Even if we had just chosen an Airbnb that was a little outside the city, we could have saved a lot. Don’t let your finances hold you back from doing this! (If there’s a will, there’s a way).

Be safe! Always get a hotel/ airbnb when traveling and never sleep in your car, especially if you’re alone. It’s not worth it!!

One of out hotel stops on our longest drive

Do a ton of research on the cities you’re going to. I loved scouring “Seattle Tik Tok” to find cool recommendations from the locals. Use resources such as Yelp, Instagram locations, Pinterest, and Tiktok to find cool things to do!

Have FUN!

If you have any questions about our trip, don’t hesitate to let me know!! DM me on @hannahleelifestyle or send me an email hannah@hannahleelifestyle.com.