There is something I love about nomadic life. It calls to me.
And yet… I also like having somewhere to come home to.
So the question in my quest – or the quest in my question – has been a lot to do with home and where to find it. That sense of peace that comes with having a place to belong. While also treading lightly on the earth, being less concerned with possession – reversing the drive to accumulate more possessions and then jealously guard those possessions that has caused us to do so much damage to ourselves and our world.
But how to do this without losing all sense of permanence? What about tradition, community, connection
Growing up, we moved house a lot – me, my sister & our mum – and I mean a lot. By somewhere around 2007 I had moved at least 26 times, and that’s when I stopped counting. A lot of the time we weren’t in any one house for longer than 6 months.
So I grew up used to change. And I’ve never quite known whether my life shaped my soul, creating in me this love of moving on and changing up. Or whether life blessed me with circumstances that actually suited the state I was born into.
Do I love change because that’s what I know, or do I create change because that’s what I love?
Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with it, either way. But a nomad-soul like me is also in danger of becoming a rolling stone. Rolling stones gather no moss, and can also end up not gathering any permanent friends, connections, or even beliefs.
I try to keep as far as I can from the other end of the spectrum – being so tied to place and tradition that there is no room for newness or growth.
But a life of permanent transience isn’t necessarily any better than a life of utter stagnation. Both are a way of protecting ourselves from the challenges of truly plugging into life. Both can lack the depth of meaning and purpose we are really all searching for. Neither are living life intentionally, if they are both always in reaction to what we are trying to escape.
The principles of minimalism and one-bag travel are very appealing to me, and they have grown in popularity with a lot of people, probably because of our collective growing sense that we are carrying too much baggage with us, weighed down by too much stuff. Shedding stuff is connected to shedding weight and burdens of all kinds.
But being permanently on the road doesn’t mean you aren’t still carrying too much baggage. Even if your physical bags are light, there are plenty of other ways we carry too much. And without some sort of touch point, without connectedness, without a sense of *home* in a way that is not necessarily physical — we often miss out on the opportunities to have this baggage revealed and shed.
Because true settledness comes not from a physical place — though it can be embodied in that — but in a state of being. Home is something we carry wherever we go. Just as freedom we carry within ourselves, even when we stay put.
Why is settledness important?
We all have a need to know our place in the world. To feel like we belong somewhere, and can leave our mark somehow. There is a peace in this stability we long for.
For a long time I thought that this was dependent on a location. I thought that my life of moving house so much and being without a physical home had caused a defect in me.
So, mostly unconsciously, I began searching with the idea in mind that the peace I was lacking depended on finding the right place, the right house, getting the right things, sticking with the right people. All these external things to anchor me to a life that I thought would give me meaning.
But being settled is not actually created through anything external. Turns out, deep roots start within yourself. And all the ‘stuff’ I was acquiring actually got in the way of this. The physical baggage mirrored the emotional baggage. And I couldn’t see around any of it. I was rooted to the spot, but only because I was stuck there.
And I don’t think I’m alone in that experience.
Because look at the life we have created by trying so hard to be settled, relying on the external — houses that are light on people and heavy on possessions, lives that are beyond our means (that of our own, and that of the world we are trampling on), imbalances – poverty vs wealth, sickness, overeating or under-eating. All symptoms of our attempts to control our environments and impose ourselves on life.
Life is meant to be much more responsive. We aren’t meant to clear space for ourselves and stamp ourselves on that space. You don’t need to have more and be more and do more to create your place in the world.
The fact that you exist means you have your place. That is a truth we need to really come to grips with. You deserve and have a right to exist and fully live, simply because you were born and do exist and have a life. And that right is as equal as the next person, from a king to an abandoned baby.
If we don’t realise this, life is not settled. Instead, it is a constant battle — within ourselves or with each other — for who has more or less right to self-expression. Who deserves more or less resources. Who has more or less of a voice, a place, a level of respect. And we trample on the earth, each other, ourselves in the fight.
It can’t work that way. We will never get anywhere near what we are seeking — peace and meaning — until we learn to create space for each other. We have to be willing to lay down arms, to stop trying to make it happen, to acquire and defend, trying to prove we have a legitimate claim to exist.
And you know what, when you give up the fight, you find you have a lot more time and energy to actually focus on the life and world you actually want to exist. When we start letting go of all the excess baggage, we find we are freer to move and live the way we really want. And the way that really brings us the contentment we are after.
And giving up the fight is on small scales and large — it does mean stopping our overconsumption, stopping our severe imbalance of world resources and wealth (not just money), stopping the way we shit all over the very earth that is trying to sustain us (and is abundantly capable of doing so if we learn to live with her, instead of trampling all over her.)
But that is all very big, I know. Good news is, the change happens in the small stuff anyway. Letting go minute by minute of the chokehold we may be holding life in. Choosing minute by minute to stop looking to life to make us feel settled or free — not our money, our possessions, our bodies, our endless travel, our thrill seeking, our approval and status; none of these things inherently bad, but none of these things can satisfy until it is your soul that is settled and free.
And when we truly give up the fight to defend all of this stuff, I believe we will all naturally restore the balance to both the earth and to people.
So do I don’t have to be an actual nomad to be free?
Not unless you want to be. You can live in the same house your entire life and never travel anywhere, and still embrace the idea of intentional living and ‘travelling light’ and live out the spirit of freedom.
It could be more challenging for many people to stave off the dangers of stagnation this way, but I am definitely not about prescribing any particular lifestyle or way of living.
What I am about is heart and spirit — it is our spirits who need to be nomadic, whether or not your body follows. Meaning, we should stop building fortressed cities within one particular mind-set and defending that to the death, and never stepping outside to connect with others.
Because it is not in places that we find our roots and our settledness — it is in our connection with others. All others – not just the people who make us comfortable. They are not the people who will point out your baggage either – which we need from time to time!
Do not fear difference and change — embrace it. You will actually be MORE secure and settled within yourself, the more diversity you encounter. Your spirit craves this. You will suffer if you don’t let it fly.
And how do you know if your spirit is suffering? The symptoms of stagnation — possible even if you have been travelling physically your entire life: animosity, fear, intolerance, hoarding, stress, unsettledness, loneliness, lack of generosity, lack of peace, lack of love (both the giving and receiving of it.)
And any sense that life is too heavy and hard to bear. I promise you, joy is possible and it has much less to do with your circumstances than you might think,
So is it time to drop some baggage?
But what if I need the things I leave behind?
The first step of this journey is in heart, mind and soul. But it certainly does take a measure of faith to begin. Perhaps even scarier at times than giving up your actual home might be, is being willing to give up the ‘safe’ but imprisoning, disconnected places we have set up camp in within ourselves.
But it is a thrilling journey. One I have already begun, embraced and immersed myself in – and can attest to it being fully worth any pain.
Take only what you can carry — don’t be afraid of not having enough. We can share what we have if you need anything else.
I admit, I have a vested interest in inviting you to come along — but only because I know how much more fun it is to share the road. Some of the best parts of this journey are the people you meet on the road (literal or metaphorical) and the way all of life conspires to provide what you need, if you stop trying to provide it all for yourself by sheer force of will.
And when you unload, drop the heavy bags you’re carrying, that’s when you find the Spirit of Peace is right there to fill your empty arms. To be the anchor, to be Home, to be the deep contentment that holds us fast in any storm.
And truly, once you experience Peace and the true freedom it brings, nothing else you might have left behind can compare. That I can promise you.
But in case you are still afraid, I also offer you my hand.
In spirit and words, here through this blog — both in practical ways and inspirational ways — and if you contact me. But also in person, should we ever meet. And I hope we do.
Because I will remind you that life is beautiful and I will remind you of the connection that is to be found in every moment, if we only let our spirits be free to embrace it. Home becomes wherever we are. Family becomes whoever we are with.
If we let our lives be light enough that our arms are available to share each others joys and burdens both, then nothing is too much to carry.