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Sunday, 31 May 2015

You Are Now Entering Nomad's Land

Since I came to Europe after India I became completely and totally absorbed by the nomad lifestyle. It had the appeal of a no boundaries, unconventional way of travel that happens to be cheap and not as bad for the environment.
Above: hitchhiking towards Montpellier, France; Below: my last dumpster dive, Dublin

I discovered an awesome Facebook group called "Nomads", which opened a small window into an amazing online community of low budget long term travellers and wanderers, sharing stories and advice.

The Intelligent Nomad

A post on the group shared an article about how nomads have higher intelligence. Well, of course, I am subtly (well, not so subtly) hinting something here! But I do agree that my travels have been one of the most intellectually and emotionally challenging activities I have ever undertaken. No doubt a better education than university (though not necessarily more practical) as it has taught me a lot about myself, about not regretting things, and what freedom truly is.

Travelling has exposed me to wildly exotic and stimulating new cultures and environments and, at my carefree pace, provided me time to open my mind, absorb these experiences and ponder about them. I have consistently noticed these traits in other long term travellers too.

Now with a broader understanding of what a "nomad" is, and how it is interpreted by people in this community, I would say I rank about a 7 or 8 out of 10 on the nomadic scale. That is, my travel lifestyle is highly nomadic, but not completely.
India - nomad beginner level
India is not a breeding ground for nomads because I, like most foreigners lived like a king on a menial budget. In fact, it's rather unfair and my conscience felt the tension of dealing with the inequality that existed. India is good practice for travelling under adverse conditions, but I much preferred the true nomad life in Europe. In 3 months in Europe I paid for just a few days of accommodation, mostly hitchhiked and occasionally dumpster dived for food. I did spend money more freely at times, especially when I was in Italy and Ireland. But, for the most part, I only purchased bare essentials, avoided costly attractions and mostly walked around cities and got spoiled by friends, returning their hospitality in exchange for my time and stories.

Throughout my travels I met those extreme nomads who got by almost completely without money, relying solely on hitchhiking to get around and playing music on the streets for cash just so they can afford their next meals. These people are the 9 and 10 out of 10 nomads.

Believe it or not, the digital age has done wonders for nomads, who you think would typically abstain from modern technology. In another article I read on the FB Nomads group, nowadays, nomads and hobos alike tend to own a smartphone and use free Wifi spots to go online and exchange useful information, such as hitchhiking, dumpster diving and free camping spots.

It seems that some modern nomads are not meant to live in isolation and need community after all. I, for one, find solace in the FB Nomads group, because it can be rare to meet travellers on the road like myself. I have even met up with a few people through the group!
Wen, the journeyman Malaysian from FB Nomads group, Dublin
The Suffering Nomad

My own journey into nomadism has been really eye opening. I've thought a lot about the concept of suffering, how people fear it, and are constantly gratifying their needs to avoid it. When waiting on the side of the road while hitchhiking I felt a mix of sensations. One of them was suffering - from waiting outside for long periods, feeling hungry, and experiencing rejection from passing driver, losing faith in humanity. Sometimes that waiting was like a meditation. But whenever it became too long, it was very difficult to deal with.
A throwback to my meditation days
I felt kind of like the Buddha, who gave up his princely life for one of suffering to attain enlightenment. My own journey has been very enlightening and I feel like I have grown tougher, more humble and appreciative of life's simple things.

Now that I've concluded my second long term travels, I'm at the point in my life where I'm ready to settle back into a bit more of routine. But I'm afraid (though not really afraid) I will always be a nomad at heart, and a wanderer in my soul.

I still want to cross an ocean by boat, go farming in New Zealand, and my grandma talks about visiting distant relatives in remote SE China. I still hope to do all these things one day, and by taking the rough road.

This restlessness inside means I may never fully conform with the rigidness and rules around living in a big city and working a full time job. My next challenge will be to find my own niche, a life that provides space for routine but allows flexibility for me to take off when the next case of wanderlust arises.

3 Months in Europe (2 Months, not including Italy)
Distance hitchhiked: 3500 km (3300 km)
By train, bus, rideshare: 4500 km (1500 km)
Paid for accommodation: 5 nights (2)
Average daily expenditures: $27 CAD ($23)
Welcome back, Canada!
Oh, by the way, I'm brewing beer today! This is me brewing back in Feb 2014 (and with short hair)

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading this, Andrew. I much admire your willingness to get out there and feel the edge of traveling in this way.