Elia Locardi met his wife Naomi when they were teens in the Florida Keys. Today the Locardis have no home. They’re perpetual nomads, traipsing around the globe taking photos and videos, writing about their experiences and leading tours.
This March will mark the fifth consecutive year the 30-something couple has been on the road. They’re the subject of a new travel documentary by SmugMug Films, the video wing of the photo storage and sharing site SmugMug. The videos tell the behind-the-lens stories of some of its most interesting photographer users, and the Locardis certainly fit that bill. Check out the documentary below.
We caught up with the Locardis to learn more about five years with the world as their home.
Independent Traveler.com: Do you have a permanent home at all? An apartment? A mailbox?
Elia Locardi: The easiest answer is: “It’s complicated.” Selling nearly everything we owned, packing the remaining things into a five-foot-by-five-foot storage unit and leaving our permanent address behind in 2012, we relied on close friends to collect our mail for us and let us use their home address.
Naomi Locardi: To ease the burden on our friends, last year we set up an account with a family-owned shipping store in Central Florida. They now send, receive and hold shipments and mail for us, no matter how many months it takes for us to pick them up.
IT: When did the “travel bug” first hit you?
EL: We’ve always wanted to travel. It’s just that for most of our young adult lives, we focused so much on our work life and careers. In the process of trying to live the “American Dream,” we always dismissed world travel as something that we’d never be able to afford. My entire outlook on life changed during a trip to Italy in 2009, and we decided to make both photography and travel our highest priority.
NL: That trip to Italy was the first time I ever left the U.S., and when our plane took off for Rome, it was quite emotional for me. My entire life I had dreamed of visiting Italy, and that dream finally becoming a reality moved me to tears. That’s just one of the many reasons Italy means so much to us.
IT: How has technology made this choice of lifestyle possible? Do you think you could have done this 20 or 30 years ago, for instance?
EL: Traveling the world in the past would be much more intimate, and a lot of destinations would still be relatively untouched and pure. That being said, that very same intimacy was largely due to the lack of global communication. Remember, it wasn’t so long ago that we were using payphones and calling cards. Simple things like staying in contact with family was extremely difficult, so along with that intimacy with a place, you would have to also accept more isolation.
NL: These days we really tend to take technology for granted, especially when it comes to personal communication. Now, at any moment and no matter where I happen to be in the world, I can easily send a text or Facebook message to my mom and dad.
IT: What is the hardest thing about living permanently on the road?
NL: Simple things, like staying connected. Sometimes a reliable internet connection can be very hard to come by. Other than that, you’d be surprised how quickly you can adapt to this lifestyle.
EL: When you boil it down, it’s not home that you miss, it’s the feeling of home. And those feelings can be replicated no matter where you go.
IT: Traveling as a couple can’t be a bed of roses all the time! What advice do you have for other couples or groups to ensure they maintain peace and happiness on the road?
NL: When you travel full-time, you’re basically always together and most often you’re sharing a small hotel room or apartment. Since we also work together, it can be a challenge to give each other the space we may need. It really takes being able to communicate to each other when those times are and respecting one another’s varying needs.
EL: This type of lifestyle requires a strong relationship and the ability to be very courteous and understanding. If you want to travel perpetually long term, try to find ways you can both spend time together, and have revitalizing activities apart as well.
IT: Tell us about an interaction you had with a local that made a big impact on you and has stayed with you.
NL: During our time in Bhutan early last year, our guide helped arrange a photo shoot with a local woman who was a nomadic yak herder. We were photographing her in the morning as she went about gathering milk from the herd. After she finished, she ran along with the herd to guide them out to pasture, and I followed.
As we started back toward the rest of our team, she grabbed my hand and we walked hand in hand all the way back to her shelter. As we approached, they asked why we were holding hands, and I replied, “When a local Bhutanese woman grabs your hand, you don’t ask questions; you simply take her hand back and enjoy the moment.” It was a special moment, and a reminder of the beauty and kindness of the human spirit that unites us all.
IT: And now let’s talk destinations: What were the favorite places you visited in 2016?
EL: In Bhutan, it’s hard to describe how wonderful it is to be there. It’s unique to the world, and the people there are so genuinely kind that you can’t help but feel welcomed at every turn.
Greece stands out because we spent five weeks working on multiple projects there. We celebrated Naomi’s birthday with a candlelight dinner on the beach in Serifos, a gorgeous little island in the western Cyclades. After that much time living the Mediterranean island lifestyle, it was hard to leave!
NL: This is always one of the most difficult questions to answer! Every place has its wonderful aspects, and I seem to fall in love with just about everywhere we go in some way or another. It always comes back to the people in the end for me, though. Sharing trips to Bhutan, Japan, Italy, Greece and Iceland. We had the incredible pleasure of traveling with some truly wonderful people for several professional projects and also during some photo tours we were leading.
IT: Which destinations are you planning to visit in 2017?
EL: I’m looking forward to visiting northern India to photograph wild tigers and Patagonia in Chile to photograph the stunning landscapes.
NL: Aside from the ones that Elia mentioned, I’m also hoping to make it to Morocco, Cuba and Norway.
Check out more travel interviews!
— interview conducted by Elissa Leibowitz Poma