Sunday, January 17, 2010

Romancing the Nomad

1. a member of a people or tribe that has no permanent abode but moves about from place to place, usually seasonally and often following a traditional route or circuit according to the state of the pasturage or food supply.
2. any wanderer; itinerant.

I’ve always been romanced by the nomadic life, yet I don’t live it nor do I want to. But I find it fascinating. I’ve met quite a few people who do live it in one way or another. I’m not talking about the more traditional sense of the word like the people of Mongolia or the Eurasian steppes. But those living here and there in the more industrial world. Many of them are in the same field as myself. They move from company to company, job to job. Many do not have a home or apartment and live basically on the job and in their vehicle, or couch surf with friends and relatives. They travel all over the U.S. and some travel the world. The other nomads I’ve met are people like the guides I had in New Zealand. They have lived in more countries than I have even visited, done more different jobs than I can count, work a job long enough to save money to go travel somewhere. And even though they may have a home base, they are never there for very long. I'm not making this sound very appealing, am I? It's an adventure.

In a way, I am envious. There is a sense of freedom that the life of a nomad has that someone like myself does not. They meet all sorts of interesting people, see amazing country, see and do things that I never will. I can’t even imagine the knowledge they gain and have. They live in the here and now. It seems care-free. Living in the moment. And although that excites me, it also frightens me. Perhaps it has been ingrained into my very being that only I am responsible for myself and my own well-being when I am old and can no longer work. Save save save because the government will not be able to support you. Save save save because you don’t have a spouse or children to take care of you. Save save save because you may loose that 401k. You get the idea. I’m always thinking about the future. What will I do five years from now when my sister and I sell the house? Will I have enough money to buy a place for myself? Will I be on my own? What about when I can no longer physically do the job I have now? I don’t have a back-up plan. What about when I’m 80 years old and can’t live on my own? Who will take care of me? And quite frankly, I’m scared to death about getting old and dying.

My brain is always pushing itself out to the future, trying to prepare me for what lies ahead. And this causes anxiety. But the future is not written. I worry and fret and put money away for an unknown life that may or may not need anything.

One could argue that I am a part-time nomad. 50% of the year, I am away from home traveling for work. Although six and a half months in Taft is not my idea of a nomadic lifestyle. But I do tend to travel to places in California, that many regular joe folk don't get to. My path is usually pretty set though. I get my assignment, I go do the job, and I come back. I always come back. But because it is my job, I don't really have much choice in where I get sent, and it is limited to central and southern California. See the six and a half months in Taft reference. The nomad however can pick and choose where to go, what to do.

Now I know I'm making this very simple. It's the "idea" of the nomad remember? So although the nomad gets my blood pumping and makes me giddy, I will not quit my job to walk the Pacific Crest Trail or take a road trip on Route 66 and stop at every weird sign, object, art, or motel. But those are things I would like to do. I think the nomads are a dying breed. Most are all very young, in their 20's, and are still able to rely on their parents for support (money and room and board). They will only be nomads for a short time and then will "grow up" and get steady jobs with retirement plans and medical benefits. Others are getting on in years and worry about what will become of themselves. One of my NZ guides said that while he enjoys what he does, he cannot physically do the job for very much longer and is uncertain about what the next stage of life and employment will be.

I cannot and don't want to be a 100% nomad, but a 50% one is okay. I am in a hotel room in the desert writing this, so that counts. But even this gets old after a time. And living with one would be just fine because I'm gone half the time anyway, so that there isn't time to get seriously annoyed by their strange habits and tics. Or by the time either gets a stick up their rear, one or both are packing and heading out for work out in the world. Sounds great to me.

Well, I am not all that happy about how this entry ended up. It didn't come out the way I had wanted, but I want it out of the draft box so I can move on to all the other junk in my head needing release.

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