“A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places”. Isabelle Eberhardt
This word is thrown around a lot in this day and age (sorry for sounding a little too much like a grumpy old man). It’s a word that’s as popular as avocado on toast on Instagram, thrown around as a hashtag next to pictures of people holidaying in a huge tourist resort in the middle of an overpopulated destination. It has become trendy to describe yourself as a nomad; although we are very much in the market of, if it makes you happy, then go ahead. But here, this safe space, we can examine what it actually means to be a nomad, what it meant in the past and how some of us purist travelers affiliated with the term and its modern day connotations.
Nomad, nəʊmad/ the noun means, “a member of a people that travels from place to place to find fresh pasture for its animals and has no permanent home”. However, interestingly, the adjective- nomadic, nəʊˈmadɪk/means, “living the life of a nomad; wandering”. It’s that slight difference in the essence of the meaning with we find so inspiring, something that we will touch on briefly here.
Let’s first take a closer look at the original Greek word, Nomad. Nomad referred to groups of herdsman, tribes who moved around seasonally, going where there was food, water and a safe and comfortable place to raise their livestock. The Nomads who roamed the earth thousands of years ago had a deep affiliation to the land, adapted to infertile regions such as steppe, tundra, or ice and sand and seek to move their families and kindred with the seasons to places that offer more of what our basic humans needs require in abundance. There are between 30 and 40 million modern day nomads in the truest sense, still to this day; those who have no post code and still abide by one of humanity’s oldest subsistence methods.
There is a really curious juxtaposition between the original meaning of nomad and what it means today, the necessity to move to survive, finding new and exciting pastures to raise your family, livestock (many still live by this very principle out of necessity) versus how modern nomads (those who make the decision to live off-the-grid from desire). Then if we consider the meaning of the adjective, living the life of a nomad- wandering, it’s something that many of us travel lovers can affiliate with. That idea that we want to wander, aimlessly, not without purpose, to discover something meaningful about ourselves, the world around us and in some cases, see nature’s infinite glory before global deprivation destroys what we hold dear, the wild.
We cannot say that our desires now to travel and discover are the same of the nomads of a thousand years ago and the extreme nomads of today. Many of us don’t live on the tundra, many of us are not forced to relocate when the tides change or when the sun rises for fewer hours. The necessity to move to survive is the same, the term, survival become ambiguous or at least subjective. From survival of your tribe and animals to the survival of your soul. Not to succumb to the pressures, constraints and down right idiocracies of modern day society; survival of your soul and desire to be free. That’s what is comes down to arguably, a deep cultural and traditional method of seeking freedom like the literal nomads, to us, those who wish to be free from society.
However what divides us from the traditional nomad’s is less than what unites us. We are united with a sense of greater understanding of nature. Understanding how the change in the seasons means a change in lifestyle and location. All nomads are kindred with the earth and the stars, away from the city lights, closer to what makes us fundamentally human- access to food, water, sanitation, comfort and warmth, if these factors are accessible, then nature- the wild- the unknown- home- ultimate freedom- can be just about anywhere.