In a time where physical possessions begin to lose their once-crucial roles, where more and more live in multiple countries and spend much of their time traveling, where identity is becoming less rooted to a physical form and more to an intellectual, ideological and social basis, it seems to be a logical move for humans to begin detaching themselves from permanent dwellings and begin living as “modern nomads”. Being a modern nomad is not to become homeless or to abandon civilization, but to move towards a new form of living, based on social interactions instead of attachment to a place. This paper will attempt to elaborate on the concept of modern nomadism, offer viable plans for such a lifestyle by working to replace various roles of the “home”, determine the advantages and disadvantages of such a lifestyle and share possible social and humanitarian applications of the system.
What does it mean to be a modern nomad? A nomad, in the traditional sense, is defined as “1. A member of a group of people who have no fixed home and move according to the seasons from place to place in search of food, water, and grazing land; 2. A person with no fixed residence who roams about; a wanderer” by the American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Edition. While searching for this definition, something grabbed my attention. On Dictionary.com, when one searches for a word, a list of synonyms appears in the left-most column. When “nomad” was queried, the list of synonyms included were “hobo”, “rover”, “vagabond”, “wanderer” among others. Not all of them had negative connotations, but many did. Although this is simply a script, not necessarily what the social perception of “nomad” is, it is true that many have a negative view of nomadism in general; its ties to barbarianism, homelessness and the struggle against nature seems to go against everything that civilization has worked towards. But the concept to be expounded in this paper is not that. It is necessary to remove all preconceptions of nomads, to wipe clean the slate and create a new perception of the term.
Being a modern nomad is to have no permanent home, moving around according to need or to desire. Unlike the traditional nomads, modern nomads are not governed by nature completely, they do not have to search for food, or condition their lives around their herds. Modern nomads have jobs, they earn a living through any means necessary. They can be artists, businessmen or politicians, as long as they can support themselves and not fall into the trap of extreme poverty. Modern nomads are conditioned by technology, they have access to computers, modern food, modern facilities and everything that a “normal” person is entitled to. The logistics of such a lifestyle will be tackled later in the paper, but suffice to say, the modern nomad is an otherwise “normal” person living off social interactions, without a permanent home, but with adequate facilities to lead a fulfilling life. Modern nomadism can be seen as a cohesive movement, due to the complicated logistics, as communities are set up to support these modern nomads, much like planned communes from the 1960s onwards.
Being a modern nomad is not to be homeless, not to be a vagrant, not to be simply a wanderer. Modern nomads are fully functioning members of society, contributing through their jobs or community service opportunities. Modern nomads are not drug addicts, or hippies trying to escape the pressures of the world (although that is one of the aims of the movement). Like mentioned, modern nomads are normal members of society who simply choose to live in an alternative manner.
Before addressing the issue of leaving the concept of a permanent housing location behind, it is important to first understand the roles of a home and the needs that it fulfills, in order to construct a system which provides for these needs and offer a lifestyle that is viable as a replacement to the current living model. The blindingly obvious needs a home fulfills are the physical aspects of shelter and hygiene. A home offers a place protected from extreme heat and extreme cold, a shelter from natural occurrences like storms, snow or disasters, and sanitary, cooking and resting facilities. If we were to look at a home purely from this physical standpoint, it seems that it would be easy enough to replace the permanent home with temporary shelter-spaces with the necessary facilities. But that is not to be. Not only does the home provide these physical comforts, a home has a psychological and sociological significance as well.
A permanent home is a place where one always belongs, where one meets people and where one becomes the “lord” of the domain. The concept of belonging is a key aspect of the psychology of homes, as the ownership of a physical location where one sets the rules, and where one can be with oneself, is held as an important achievement by many. This leads on to another psychological need the home completes, ownership. Ownership, the act of having control over a certain object, is a desire held by a majority. Any time people say, “I want…”, they are expressing this desire. And the desire to own a physical plot of land, a house, a home, is a strong desire of ownership conditioned by decades of social interaction and perhaps a more primal instinct.
Another aspect of the home is a sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride, that can come from having a home worth showing off. A big house is a signal of success and much like a car, the home is part of the complicated social system of recognition and interaction, where it acts as a mark of social and economic well-being. That seems shallow, but is true for many. The opposite is true as well, the lack of a home is seen as a mark of failure, as society looks down upon the homeless. Of course, society disregards the homeless for a variety of reasons, from drug addiction to violence, but a key part of society’s perception of the homeless lies in their lack of a permanent home.
The home, in a physical and psychological sense, also acts as a point of contact for family and friends, a place where people connected closely can come together in a safe environment for celebration, mourning or any sort of emotional bonding. The place is a facilitator, meaning that the home is merely a conduit for this interaction, allowing it to take place because of the privacy and the familiar environment that is conducive to this sort of meeting. Think of the common holidays, many of them are celebrated in the homes of family or friends. Christmas is one almost ubiquitous example of a holiday that is celebrated at a close friend’s or family’s home. And to balance it out, the Chinese New Year holiday maintains a tradition where family and friends visit each others’ homes to bainian, to visit and wish well. As can be seen, the home is a vital point of contact in human interaction, that fulfills many psychological and physical needs at once.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the home is a place where personal privacy can be attained. Many might argue that with modern technology, there is no such thing as privacy, but for many, the home is a final refuge from human interaction and the outside. The home is where the most private things can be done and that is a necessary physical and psychological need that the home fulfills (although some believe that this is about to change drastically).
With the needs of the home defined, the next step is to define how the needs can be met in a situation where a permanent home does not exist. The basis of all this is the belief that social interactions trump any connection to a physical place, the belief that it is possible to maintain the same level of satisfaction and personal achievement simply by belonging to a group of like-minded individuals, not belonging to any physical location.