Ocean Hermit – sailing, solitude and stories

My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.

Are You a Nomad?

What’s your definition of a nomad?  Someone who travels from place to place?

Among the last remaining sea nomads, about 2 – 3,000 Moken live along the west coast of Thailand and Burma

I don’t think any definition can usefully include constant tourists – people who go places and then go home again.

I think a nomad is someone who takes their home with them when they travel – sea gypsies like the Moken, living on small boats, nomads of the desert packing up their tents when they move from oasis to oasis.

Of course, in a deeper sense, we are all nomads. We are born, we live and move, and then we die. No place is “home” in any permanent sense. All of us are only passing through – dancing our dance, nomads from moment to moment.

But why do some people feel the need to be always on the move, while others can happily live in the same house for decades?

For myself, I’ve never lived anywhere for more than a few months ever since I left school at the age of 18.  Even when I’ve had in a place for a couple of years I was always on the move every 6 to 8 weeks or so. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve stopped worrying what was wrong with me, that I had this constant longing to move again, and come to accept that always wanting to be on the move is just my own personal normal.

To try to understand what is a “nomad”, forget all the guff about loving travel and being adventurous:  I searched for  “nomad quotations” and got more than 5 million hits – yet almost none of them had anything to say about nomadism. Most sites were just selling the “glamour” of the nomad – as if this constant desire to move on can be turned on and off with your annual vacation schedule.

So far, the best definition of a nomad that I’ve heard is a quote from a BBC documentary by Richard Grant who was paraphrasing French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari. My thanks to Konstantinos Konstantinides for posting the exact quote from Richard Grant’s book, “American Nomads” on Quora:

The nomad does not feel stable when stationary.

To borrow Deleuze and Guattari’s definition, he only feels stable when experiencing velocity.

“American Nomads” is a fascinating  documentary by the peripatetic reporter Richard Grant who looks at the lives of that small group of Americans who are always on the move.

Americans in general must surely hold the world record for moving home the most every year – approximately 40 million Americans move from home to home every year (out of 230 million adults in 2009).

And Americans love to travel, most within the USA.  But that’s not what being a nomad.

The true nomads live in camper-vans (recreational vehicles or RVs), small sailboat, and occasionally in tents in the wilderness. The documentary lets us be voyeurs for a way of life that is surely not for everyone:


2 comments on “Are You a Nomad?

  1. Madla K
    February 11, 2012

    Very interesting, very clever how to find ways to examine the vast variety of humans.

    But how sad. When the Nomad arrives to the end of his earthly travel what will he find when he looks back? What does he see ahead?


  2. Ben Blech
    February 14, 2012

    Hi Dennison, how are you? I really loved this post. Found it fascinating and truly inspiring! Hate all the nonsense about nomads on the internet- I think Richard Grant’s definition is a great one and by it I am most definitely a nomad. I also think being a nomad is about an unmovable state of mind that becomes part of who you are. I have always accepted moving as a normal and expected part of my time here on earth. Many don’t. I think that makes one a nomad. As you rightly say, a nomad isn’t about travel, about jumping on aircraft every time you are temporarily freed from the constraints of consumerism and routine. Great stuff anyway…let’s catch up soon. Perhaps in Chiang Mai? Ben


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on January 30, 2012 by in Current Affairs, Hermits & Solitude, Life Skills, Sailing and tagged , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: