Who isn’t tempted by the idea of becoming a modern nomad? That’s if you aren’t already testing the waters. The Nomad hashtag on Instagram has almost 2 million posts (and Wanderlust has 44 million), so clearly there is a trend towards mobility.
By textbook definition, a nomad can be considered anybody who doesn’t pertain long-term to any one place. Its traditional understanding brings to mind hunter-gatherers, or tribes that move around in search of pasture. But few of us know what this really means today apart from a lifestyle that sounds like a perpetual holiday.
Modern nomadism can be traced back to European feudal society where travel was a luxury, unless you were in war or on a pilgrimage. It wasn’t until international trade began that labor also began to get mobile. With international jobs also came leisure: the tourist was born. Since then the allure of travel has transcended all cultures and social classes.
Nomads have always existed within subcultures, but now there is a mainstream shift towards this lifestyle, and even formal organizations are shifting to cater this the new phenomenon.
Today the modern nomad (or Neo-nomad) is a true non-conformist. A person who opts for a nomadic life is someone who doesn’t fit into any existing schema, whether it’s a 9-5 job or the urban hustle. The restlessness that comes with discontent is a preliminary requisite, especially as most of us aren’t born into established nomadic clans but come from a sedentary upbringing. This person will be drawn by the idea of freedom and expansion and may shift into a more fluid state.
The dynamism of a nomadic life is similar to a hotel lobby, which is constantly in flux and a reliable source for unexpected encounters.
Once on the road, the modern nomad may stay in one location for an extensive period, but they differ from locals because they don’t put down roots. Expats or migrants will install in a new location to re-create a permanent lifestyle (with bank accounts, car, etc.). When a nomad engages in a new culture, it tends to be in services rather than objects. This allows them to experience the benefits of a culture while not being tied to it. The modern nomad mirrors traditional nomads who would move seasonally, staying in one location as long as they could benefit from the environment.
Freedom & Self
Once a location has depleted its resources – in terms of food for thought, cultural stimulation or business opportunities- the Neo-nomad will typically move on. The time in any location may be days to months, or even years, but it will be transient while the wandering continues. The Neo-nomad holds personal freedom as the highest value. This state of wandering is actually accumulating knowledge. The Neo-nomad uses this information primarily not for work or an external skill, but to continuously redefine themselves. To be a modern nomad is really a pilgrimage of the evolving self.
Technology & Communication as the New Ecology
In their book “Nomadology”, anthropologists Deleuze and Guattari talk about nomadism as the “smooth space” the symbolic space of a nomad, depicted by the desert – flat smooth, and open.
They believe that living under society is self-limiting, as cultures form to control human flow and their life path. If this is true, then the modern nomad is the ultimate life hacker. Instead of using ecological resources for survival , neo-nomad utilizes technological and communication resources to create a life with no limits.
New Global Culture
So if the world is evolving towards rootless living, what does this nomadic movement mean for the future? As the number of highly mobile nomads is on the rise, one potential result is a global network which can be leveraged for collaboration. For example, social networks have expanded to an international scale. The same way the sharing economy revolutionized travel, a global sharing economy could change the world by making it far more accessible. It might not be long before nomads are officially recognized as a “citizens of the world”, and a new global culture emerges without geographical boundaries.