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What Nomadism Really Means

Mid-February was so warm that I said goodbye to the hiking season and hello to the mountain biking season for the next 10 months or so. I was biking down a dirt/gravel road in southeastern Arizona. Suddenly I felt misty-eyed.

How strange! I am not one of those modern 'sensitive' men who acts weepie and huggie because he has been told to do so. In fact, in all the years (19) that I've been in this racket, this is the first time this happened.

(Long-suffering readers of this blog know the formula by now: observe something odd or experience something unusually affecting, and then try to explain it by walking my way to the general and timeless.)

Perhaps I was affected by southeastern Arizona having some of my favorite balanced scenery, that is, grasslands in the foreground and mountains in the background. And oak trees! In contrast I have little interest in the pine monocultures that cover most of the mountains in the West.

Or maybe it was the realization that I come here every year. Having a friend in town certainly helps. Better yet, the woman who introduced me to my long-term friend was also in town. I went to visit her.  It was pleasing to both of us to hear gratitude. I feel at home here.

Home? That may seem like a strange thing to say for a full-time RVer. After all, aren't they supposed to be moving all the time? But in fact, I have never praised the 'channel surfing with gasoline' lifestyle that is so over-praised by newbie travel blogs.

'Home' to me does not mean "finding that perfect undiscovered mountain town" to settle down some day. I don't want to live in one spot, with crappy weather most of the year. Nor do I want to be stuck with endless house repair and tax expenses. But more generally, I don't want the pettiness, the constraints that eventually oppress, and the cloying domesticity of living in one spot.

Lately I've been reading about voyages of discovery, old-time trade routes, and nomads in North Africa and Eurasia. Some men are just not cut out to live the life of Cain, with its routine and sedentary drudgery. And the relentless over-concentration on such a small number of things!  They are meant for the life of Abel.

They need more variety, but that doesn't mean the geographical promiscuity of a first year RVer who begins to feel bored with any place before his engine even has a chance to cool off.

Awhile back I wrote about finding a better way to live without a generator that I seldom used: I fixed an inverter to run off my van's engine and battery, and sent that electricity to a battery charger in the trailer.

This is analogous to a pastoral nomad who learns to milk his herd, instead of just using them for transportation, clothing, cash, hides, bones, and meat. Seeing this analogy gave such a feeling of authenticity to my travel lifestyle -- it was much more pleasurable than, say, a free admission and camping ticket for 5 years to America's Top Ten national parks. 

A "pastor" from South America pursuing the lifestyle of Abel, in the high country of Utah'


The Bella Coola people of BC always talk about a place as being yet another piece of your home.
Now you've created a homework project for me: to read up on the Bella Coola people and see if they are nomadic.
Ed said…
I had to do some Google Searching to satisfy my curiosity and confirmed my first thought. The Bella Coola like all the other Northwest tribes that I have ever read about were settled 'home bodies'; no nomadic tradition after their ancestors made it across the Bering Strait.

Most of the Indian tribes in North America were 'home bodies' rather than nomadic. It was the noble savage, in literature and Hollywood, that created the nomadic view that we have of the American Indian. Even many of the Plains tribes were not very nomadic until they were introduced to the horse by the Spanish explorers.
The Noble Savage bearing the mark of Cain! That is disillusioning.
John V said…
You probably already get enough of the "pettiness, the constraints that eventually oppress, and the cloying domesticity of living in one spot" out of your long stay in Mayberry for Hippies every year. So there's no need for you to find a permamnent spot right now. However, none of us is getting any younger. What's the "Plan B" for the day when you just feel too old, tired, and cranky to be living the nomadic life out of a small trailer? It eventually happens to even the best of us. :-)
Who knows how the endgame will play out? But I won't ruin my life worrying about it right now. I tend to think the endgame doesn't matter that much, and the sooner it is over, the better.
John V said…
Planning isn't "ruining your life by worrying."
Planning is how you get to retire at 47. Planning is how you get to do everything you want to in life. Planning is how you sleep soundly at night. Planning is fun! :-)
Ed said…
I agree that planning is fun. But planning many times keeps me awake at night.
I'm afraid that it takes more than planning to get to do everything you want to in life - there needs to be some action and the plan needs to be a good one. Bad planning is probably worse than no planning.