Hobos, Nomads, and Gypsies

I’ve always moved around a lot. At one point I lived in seven states in three years.

Partly because I have a tendency to solve problems geographically, and partly because I just like moving. There was something about that time between leaving a place and arriving at a new place when my life just sat in my own hands, waiting to be molded. I love that feeling. So now I live in a van and most of my life is made up of those in between times.

I’ve always thought this was kind of dysfunctional. Everyone says geography is not a solution and you’re supposed to stay in one place and be stable. I tell them I’m young, implying that one day I’ll grow up and get stable even though I have no such intention. I’ve been dissapointed with my own leaving, sometimes, thinking that I’d have to stay in one place all the time to be rooted. I don’t want to leave Alaska ever again (or at least not for a long time), but I also don’t really want to stay in one place.

The other day Davka and I were talking and she was lamenting the tragic loss of nomadism. When we were hunter gatherers, we were nomads. Now the culture tends to hold us stuck in one place. How could I have forgotten that it’s natural for humans to be nomadic? Of course natural nomadism includes visiting the same places every year, seasonally, and developing relationships with them. Ultimately, I think, one has a greater understanding of their ecosystem when they are intimate with the interlocking bioregions that it’s made up of.

So I think I shall be a nomadic barefoot alaskan stripper forever. 😀

Thinking back to everything I’ve read about the natural ethology of humans, I don’t think there’s been much about nomadism. Hunter-gathering and tribal living, yes, but seasonal travel, no. I think there may have been something in Konrad Lorenz? But I don’t remember it. It makes sense to me though that as much as humans need the identity and stable attatchments of a small tribe and a landbase, we also need the openness and possibility of constant change.

What do you guys think is best for humans? Wandering, seasonal nomadism, or settling down and sticking in one spot?


  1. A rolling stone gathers no moss…I say t’s best to keep on truck’in. I have lived in Portland OR for almost 3 years now and I am lose’in it. I haven’t lived anywhere that long in one place since I was a kid. So I got the van. I have a Thomas Road Atlas. I jut need a direction and a full tank and then I think I am out. Thanks for your blog.

  2. Tara… you have inspired me so much. I’m continuing my travels in December and going backpacking across Europe with a hindu musician i met here in portland. You are so real. I love it. I definitely think the best way to experience life is to be nomadic. Being tied down to one place is unfathomable to me. Humans are meant to be free!! We don’t need to be seasonally nomadic anymore because of technology.. I think it’s meant to be that we started off seasonally nomadic, then “evolved” to being agriculturally based.. and eventually we’ll be 100% nomadic. Hopefully. That’s how I’m planning on living anyways. peace

  3. Hard to say for everyone. I’m pretty much a stay put guy. I love my small town community, and if I die where I was born that’s fine with me. I do love travel, and have lived in several parts of the US, but home is where I am happiest.

    Now if I lived in Alaska, I think I would be a seasonal nomad and go someplace else for the winter.

  4. Tara,
    I do think that our culture has frowned upon the nomadic lifestyle that comes so naturally to a lot of us. (think serial killers, murderers, bums, hobos, migrants, freak shows) I have many friends and family that live and die in the communities they were born in. It’s great to have that option. But there are many people who somehow are made to feel abnormal because they don’t share that lifestyle. I have been slowly embracing my nomadic tendencies. To hell with the notion that I travel or leave a place to run away from problems or myself or others or anything! I leave because it’s in my blood. I feel the rhythm of the seasons. When the fall winds blow (as they are now) I can’t WAIT to get on the road. When the geese are flying, I want to fly with them! In the spring I can’t wait to head north, following it as far as I can. How wonderful it is to feel “at home” at so many places around the country, and how great to be welcomed back, to share stories of the past year, to be a reference to the seasons for people who otherwise have no seasonal cycles. Keep on traveling as long as you feel it!!! XOXO

  5. well an interesting subject tara and i agree with what everyone has to say that responded and therin lies my own problem. let me explain.being a lifetime harley rider( i was raised on them cause my dad rode) i often have traveled and moved around looking for the elusive perfect place to balance work living and the fairer sex while being able to ride my chopper year round ( i dont mind cold just no snow) two wheels and snow are a no go lol. anywayive come to my own conclusion texas is perfect for me ive been here 6 years now and for me its finding away to be self employed workin towards owning my own biker bar on the upscale side nice neat and clean so that i can take several months a year and go be a nomad and feel the wind in my face like my dog likes to do.so everyone is right its just whatever works for you the individual. so ill keep workin on my plan and if im lucky ill meet a cool woman stripper to spend my time with met one years ago and let her slip away silly me . any suggestions there tara for the austin area ? lol !!…….speed safely wyatt

  6. An intriguing question – was mankind meant to roam? I am sure there is an anthropological answer to the question, but there is a spiritual dimension too.

    Exploration certainly seems to be in our genes.

    Even people who settle into communities seem to have an inate desire to know what is just beyond the next horizon.

    Perhaps our purpose is to live life fully and to be fulfilled, to be the eyes and hands of the great God/Goddess. But we can only truly live when have explored, studied, and experienced our world and beyond.

  7. I like your questions, Tara. For this one my belief is that humans are adaptable. We aren’t completely like the animals who forever seem to graze and prowl the circle of life in Africa, and yet we ARE like them with the additonal of some “free will” and the ability to imagine another circumstances for ourselves. We can be nomadic or not as our needs dictate. I like traveling and I don’t like living in one place, but I will often stay put where the pickings are easiest. When I feel unhappy I’m usually recognizing the need to roam again and find somewhere else with easier pickings. It is much like your tendency to solve problems geographically. I find I’m solving problems by getting rid of excess stuff to stop all those noises in my head, the ones that are crying “knit me!”, “sew me!”, “organize me!”, “do something with me!” (LOL) I believe that a van that is outfitted in no particular way to start with would soon become outfitted as my actual needs evolve. As a human I find that I’m extremely good at acquiring stuff. And that seems to be the joy of being a nomad, finding new stuff!

  8. Can seasonal be 18-months? Because that certainly was my pattern before. Now I do constant small trips which seems to be having an effect, as I’ve been here in Spain for 5 years! 🙂

    I’ve now got Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves stuck in my head. :/

  9. I’d have to go with humans having evolved as an adaptable, travelling-as-needed bunch. My guess is that our great-greats would stay in a place so long as the food and water were good, then move on to other places once it started being harder to find food. In many cases, that may have resulted in a semi-nomadic existence, but I’m sure that there were other groups that managed to find the “prime” spots like certain river valleys where things were pretty good year round, and thus, would stay put for long periods, until a dry spell came along.

  10. The problem with me is that I am not very social. I do not network or make friends easily.
    I’ve had a bit of nomadism as far as jobs go though. After 4-6 months I feel I’m about to go crazy at this stable desk job I finally found. Too bad I am in debt. Yes, I am a wage-slave. And very aware that I am in slavery. Nope, I am not happy about it in the slightest. HELP!

  11. Cultural anthropology was a favorite class in college. I learned that women provided a lot of the tribes food, most of it in fact. Nomadic lifestyle still appeals to me. My sister said she wrote my address in pencil! But I’ve been a mortgage slave now for 13 years. Its not all bad, I have 6 horses on a 6 acre farm. If I pasture rotate the grass will feed them for half the year here in Michigan. I want to save up $ to make a minivan home though. So I can at least travel a little and more when I retire. I love your blog. I’m in a factory, not using the college degree I earned. Glad to have gotten the education though, and I’m learning herbalism and much more on my own, curing my own ailements and trying to help others with theirs.

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