Confessions Of A Seasonal Nomad: Sometimes You Just Gotta Go… And Then Go Again

Freedom has a rhythm that doesn’t follow convention. It doesn’t care about popular opinion, social expectations or the structure of the calendar or clock. Freedom ebbs and flows with the cycle of seasons and knocks of opportunities.


Kernville, California. Photo: Shelbie Ebert

words :: Kanami Anderson

And for over a decade, so have I. My entire life fits into two suitcases, my biggest annual expenses are plane tickets, and I don’t plan further ahead than season by season. I am a seasonal nomad and what I lack in possessions I make up for in experiences—overhead powder in Japan, whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon, rock concerts in Paris, or van-living along the Baja coast in search of secret surf spots.

article continues below


Niseko, Japan. Photo: Echo Widmer

I never intended for my life to turn out this way. Growing up, I always knew the 9-to-5 life was not for me, but it wasn’t until I discovered the whitewater rafting world at the age of 21 that I learned to move with the seasons. Working as an outdoor guide turned the whole world into my playground. I’d line up opposing seasons and adapt my plans to fit weather cycles happening on the other side of the planet. The unusual schedule of a seasonal nomad can push you to work straight through a whole season, and just as suddenly, provide unexpected time off to accept last minute adventures as they pop up.


Powder Yoga Studio, Japan. Photo: Ran Akutsu

The most valuable asset of a seasonal nomad may be freedom, but with it comes a darker side that is easily covered up by happy-looking social media photos. Meaningful relationships take time to grow roots, and moving every season can make this difficult. Finding a long-term companion who follows the same transient lifestyle is complicated. With freedom comes the price of periods of isolation and loneliness. It can wear you down.

My entire life fits into two suitcases, my biggest annual expenses are plane tickets, and I don’t plan further ahead than season by season.

With the right attitude, however, this can be an opportunity to dig deep and challenge yourself. Alone time pushes you to come face-to-face with, and befriend, your one constant companion – yourself. It also gives you the time to reflect on who you really are and what you want to do with your life. And it gives one a greater appreciation for awesome people when they do come into your life.


Kern River, California. Photo: Nina Purcell

Sometimes I daydream of what my life would have been like if I had stayed in one place and never heard the calling of the seasons. I imagine all the details of what my house would look like, how many kids I’d have, which job I’d be working, what kind of dog I’d have and car I’d be driving. So why did I go the total opposite direction? I don’t really know. This lifestyle just chose me and took me for a long ride around the globe. It may not be for everyone, but maybe everyone should give it a try. Answer that knock of opportunity, throw out your calendar and clock, and move with the rhythm of change. Even if only for one year. Keep in mind though, once you go, you just might keep going.


Kern River, California. Photo: Nina Purcell

Here are the five most important things I would never have learned without spending the last decade wandering, wondering, and hitching a ride with the cycle of seasons:


Stay open to the surprises life has in store. Planning a trip can be exciting and half the fun; but some of the best adventures arrive when you have little or no plan. That time you ran into an old friend on the other side of the planet and changed your plane ticket? Or when you missed the bus and it led to discovering a new secret spot? Being open and flexible allows travelling’s best ally to reveal itself – serendipity.

Whether found through sport, music, or art, sharing a joyful passion with another person is the easiest way to bridge cultural, spiritual, and language barriers. Some of the most meaningful friendships can be made through high-fives, smiles, and sharing a common joy.

When someone tells you not to go somewhere or do something, this can be a clue that you’re onto something really good. Survival instincts drive humans to fear things that we do not understand, and have helped us survive for thousands of years, but in the modern age, a lot of our fears are only perceived danger, not actual danger. Unless, of course, it is truly life threatening. The stuff that scares us can also be a wonderful opportunity for growth, change, and way more fun than you anticipated.

Stay open to the surprises life has in store. Planning a trip can be exciting and half the fun; but some of the best adventures arrive when you have little or no plan.

Freedom isn’t free. You still need to pay rent, fill up on gas, buy groceries, and hopefully have enough left for the next adventure. Sometimes this means tree planting all summer, snow clearing all winter, or teaching water aerobics at Club Med for an extra month in order to make ends meet until the next rafting season begins. Whatever it takes, you can handle it if there’s a goal in sight.

This old Australian aboriginal saying is the most valuable thing I’ve learned. Being constantly on the move has forced me to keep my “stuff” in check, and to resist the temptation of taking more than I need. I’m happiest in nature, and abroad, with just the bare essentials. Certainly, I still like to enjoy the comforts of modern life, but I feel the most alive when I pack only what I need and head out into the world with an open heart and mind.


Moiwa, Japan.  Photo: Chad Clark


You might also like:

When packing for multi-day mountain bike adventures, the key is finding the balance between weight and comfort that translates into speed and efficiency. Pat Mulrooney has spent years pushing his comfort level and spending 5-6 nights unsupported in the Chilcotins. Here is his perfect set up… Read more