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Homeless Travelers Can’t Plan Ahead

Where should we buy your flight from? I don’t know, I’m homeless.

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RHODES, Greece- I was recently asked a simple question that I couldn’t answer: “Where should we buy your plane ticket from?”

I was invited to give a talk at the World Port Conference in Baku in May and the organizers need to get the logistics settled. However, I have no idea where I will be coming from.

I’m currently on the Isle of Rhodes in Greece. For the month of April I should be in Sofia in Bulgaria. But on the 8th of May … ? That’s just outside of my turn wheel of planning.

One of the biggest incongruencies of transitioning to doing more, let’s say, professional types of engagements has been the fact that I lack one of the fundamental things that most people are taken for granted as having: a home.

Time and time again I’m invited to give talks, presentations, press trips, interesting events, and other good opportunities to either do something fun or beneficial for my projects but the organizers require me to confirm my participation months or sometimes even a year in advance.

Who can plan to be somewhere a year in advance?

To put it basely, this blew my mind the first times it started happening — do people really do this? I was kind of mortified.

I’m a real headache for organizers. In the short-term I can pretty much be anywhere in the world at anytime — if you invite me to something that’s three weeks away there is a good chance that I’m going to be there. Call me up and say we’re leaving tomorrow and I’ll say, “I’m in.”

But invite me to something that’s two months away and I draw a blank. What will I be doing then? Where will I be? Asia? Europe? The USA? My ability to plan is overwhelmingly nearsighted and I’ve found myself saying yes to all kinds of engagements only to forget about them and get that surprise email one day saying: “Are you set to go?” and I’m just like, “Uhhh, yeah … What is this for again?”

But it all works out somehow …

When you’re hanging out in the traveler haunts of the world not having a home or a long-term base of operations is so normal and usual that there is often little reason to talk about it. But when I do my interviews or interact in the professional setting the question of where I live is, at best, complicated to answer, at worst it’s awkward.

“What do you mean you don’t have a home? But where are you based? What do you mean nowhere?”

“I travel full time.”

“But where is your family?”

“Traveling with me.”


I used to just make something up, often telling people that I was based in Xiamen. But then they’d start asking about the place and I’d be like, “I have no idea, I haven’t been there in years.”

“What do you mean you haven’t been there in years … ?”

It has come to the point where I just need to say fuck it, tell my story, and, in the cases of needing to provide a provenience for myself an extended amount of time in advance, just call out some place at random and make sure I’m actually there.

So for this World Ports Conference in Baku I’m going to tell them to get me a flight from …. Bucharest.

How does that sound?

Filed under: Perpetual Travel, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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