Living the Life of a Modern Nomad

April 3, 2014 | Posted in: Psychology

Modern Nomad


“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Confucius

It’s been almost three years since I graduated from college and my partner and I sold nearly all our belongings. It wasn’t easy at first to let go of the furniture, hordes of clothes and shoes, old bikes, hardly used golf-clubs and skis, kitchen appliances and cooking ware, doodads and trinkets, all the needless items that always manage to accumulate (as though breeding) when you live in one place for a while. But this giving up of stuff, the sacrificing of material excess, made room for something better: unfettered travel.

Here are the necessary possessions that travel with me everywhere we go: macbook, one to two weeks worth of clothes, two pairs of shoes, toiletries, a rotating number of books, journal, drawing pad, pens, camera. Ah, simplicity!

For three years we’ve jumped from furnished rental to furnished rental, as far away as Europe and all over the United States. From Oregon to California, from Colorado to North Carolina, we’ve used Craigslist to find people who themselves are trying to cut loose from their furnished pads to go off on new adventures. The leases are generally short and flexible, the pricing much cheaper than a vacation rental would be. And this freedom to move anywhere at anytime is both glorious and occasionally daunting.

After all, when you can realistically go anywhere, where do you decide to go? What guides your choices and gives meaning to your wandering? How do you keep a sense of rootedness, of home, when geographically you have neither?

I ask these questions because from time to time when we’re in a limbo phase, when we’ve left one place and are waiting to discover our next destination (generally crashing with very forgiving and generous relatives), I feel eerily unsettled and lost. See, we don’t just travel from place to place, we do so without really planning or thinking through where or why. Often it feels as if the same forces that moved nomadic peoples in the past is what propels us from place to place: the weather, seasons, ecological diversity, food.

Sometimes, when we don’t have our next destination figured out, I feel fearful and confused, a modern nomad plagued with neurotic aspects of psyche. Old worries about what I’m doing with my life start plaguing my mind, and I struggle with how to find meaning and purpose in a world so filled with distractions and trinkets. And such are my thoughts today, as we land back in Colorado for the summer.

I guess you could say I feel a little lost right now: compass pointing every which way, on a journey, a quest, at the point where the trail is suddenly hazy, the fog coming in, the goal uncertain, the beast growling in the distance, confusion befuddling, heading somewhere for something, still walking strong, but beginning to wonder: where am I going again?

It seems that no matter what life is unfolding before me, a part of me can find a way to have a problem with it. So, I keep this fear of the future in check, acknowledging its freaked out whisperings but also recognizing that I am so grateful for our boundless ways, for the ability to flow anywhere within a moments notice. This is a rare and wonderful gift, that only occasionally I have to remind myself to be grateful for…

 Asheville ForestOther Paths

There must be other paths
More winding, tangled
Into sweet nothingness,
Sleeping hidden, overgrown,
Darker, deeper
Rock bound paths
Misted and rain drenched,
Where with one misstep,
You might stumble,
You might slip,
If you are lucky,
Into a real life.

–J.L. Stanley (c) 2005


Just one person out of 7 billion + on a journey to live a life that is vibrant, soul-fulfilling, useful to others, and consciously engaged with the ecological community that sustains all life, including mine and yours.