Imagine that you are living in another place and time. Your small community settles down into an area for a while, enjoys a way of life there and then moves on to a different location. On your travels, you get the opportunity to have new experiences and see parts of the land that you’ve never seen before. If you’re someone who feels stuck in the rat race of today’s modern society, this vision might appeal to you. And if you’re a forward-thinking mobile consumer then this type of nomadic lifestyle could be a reality for you if you choose to chase the dream.
The Modern Appeal of the Nomad
The nomad that we traditionally think of is someone from the distant past (although there are certainly nomads in various parts of the world today). However, the nomadic lifestyle has an appeal for the modern individual. The traits that make up the nomadic lifestyle are seen as beneficial in their contrast to the modern, more stationary, way of life.
Some of the reasons that the modern person is drawn to the idea of a nomadic lifestyle include:
– Change. Frankly, it’s really easy to get bored with our lives and we like the idea of seeking out constant change. Following the same routine day in and day out in pursuit of far-away goals like retirement can be a drag which causes us to daydream about a nomadic way of life.
– Freedom. Our urban lives restrict us in many ways. We’re limited in the number of days we can take off of work. We are limited in the distances that we can afford to travel. We are stuck with the same set of social circumstances every week of the year. The nomadic life represents freedom from all of these constraints.
– Sense of community. Nomads who travel together always feel that they are part of a close-knit community. Although it’s possible to achieve this in an urban society, it isn’t as common as it once was. We often feel isolated and lonely in urban lifestyles so the nomadic community is appealing.
Defining the Nomad
Nomads are historically groups of people who do not settle down for long periods of time but instead move from place to place, usually in search of food or work opportunities. Culturally, there are three different types of nomadic people:
– Nomadic Hunter-Gatherers. These are the people who moved around in order to follow the food that they were chasing (whether that was wild game or seasonal fruits).
– Pastoral Nomads. These are people who have several different homes and move between them throughout the year depending on where the best resources are at any given time.
– Peripatetic Nomads. This is the type of nomad that moves about from one place to another but is in search of work instead of food. Typically, these are tradesmen and they may travel together or individually.
Defining the Urban Nomad
Despite the appeal of the nomadic lifestyle, the reality for most of us is that we aren’t really suited to a lifestyle of chasing wild game or herding our sheep from location to location. However, there is a new type of nomad that has been emerging over the past several decades. The urban nomad is someone who refuses to settle down into just one home but instead chooses to live in multiple locations around the globe. In order to do this, the urban nomad relies on wireless technology to stay connected to a modern way of life.
Following are the modern twists on the traditional nomad:
– Hunter-Gatherers. There aren’t too many urban hunter-gatherers. However, there are some cases of this happening. Take, for example, Jan Chipchase. He has a job with Nokia through which he travels around to different parts of the world to research information about how people in different parts of the world use mobile technology. In essence, he is chasing information. The main difference from the old way of life is that these people do usually maintain a home base although they may only live in it a few weeks out of each year.
– Pastoral Nomads. This type of urban nomad is someone who has multiple homes that are used throughout the year. For example, the person may have a job in New England where he works during the warm months of the year. In the winter, he may move to a warmer home and telecommute to his job. Each spring, he may spend a month in a foreign country, maintaining his connections to his life through wireless activity.
– Peripatetic Nomads. This is the urban nomad who doesn’t stay tethered to one job (like the pastoral nomad would) but instead moves from place to place and offers services in new locations. For example, the freelance writer may move to different cities throughout the year, finding work on assignment in each new location.
The Community of the Urban Nomad
Some have argued that the urban nomad isn’t a true nomad because of a lack of community surrounding him or her. It’s true that nomads historically traveled together and urban nomads tend to travel solo or in pairs. However, there remains a strong community surrounding the urban nomad, a community which relies on wireless communication to thrive.
Step into any Internet café or coffee shop in the world and you’re likely to find at least one urban nomad there. These people flock to locations where they can mingle with one another. Even if they never see each other again, they frequently stay in touch through mobile communication. With increased use of mobile blogging and mobile social networking tools (such as Twitter), this community can easily stay close-knit despite being scattered across the globe.
The Urban Nomad and Materialism
The urban nomad has an interesting relationship with materialism. On the one hand, there are certain items that are of great importance to him. A great mobile phone with web capability is a must. A laptop may be considered important. A camera is usually desired. But the urban nomad typically doesn’t have a lot of material needs beyond these high-tech tools. He may or may not own a car. He may or may not keep a storage unit. Typically, he’d be content if he lost all of his belongings other than the things he needs to stay nomadic.
The Steps You Can Take to Become an Urban Nomad
If the nomadic way of life sounds appealing, there are certain steps that you can take to give yourself a more nomadic lifestyle. Here are the basics:
1. Determine which type of nomadic life suits you best. Perhaps you want to find a company which will allow you to telecommute as a pastoral nomad or maybe you like the idea of being a peripatetic nomad who finds work in new locations as the need for money arises. Knowing your goals will help you move forward.
2. Determine what level of nomadic life is right for you. On the one hand, you may be seeking to just implement some nomadic principles into your life (telecommuting during a month-long vacation each year, for example). On the other hand, you may wish to forsake your home and commit to the nomadic life completely. Know what you’re aiming towards.
3. Get the technology. You probably already have the basic technology that you’ll need to become an urban nomad. However, you might want to think about upgrading in order to streamline things. For example, if you have a mobile phone, an mp3 player and a laptop, you may want to look into upgrading to a single mobile phone with mp3 functions and Wi-Fi connectivity. The nomad needs to be able to keep all of his tools on his person so you’ll need to reduce the size of what you carry as much as possible. The goal here is to be able to access all of the information that you need without being bogged down by your gadgets. As mobile broadband becomes more ubiquitous, this is an increasingly easy part of becoming an urban nomad.
4. Research technological differences between different locations. Make sure that you know what kind of Wi-Fi connection your mobile phone has and how you’ll need to tweak it to access the Internet in different parts of the world.
5. Start networking with other urban nomads. The urban nomadic community is an important part of being able to make it as a modern nomad. Start networking with these people through online social networking sites. Get to know people throughout the world who are experienced in using mobile technology to free themselves from the constraints of a single home.
6. Adopt the nomadic attitude. The nomad is someone who doesn’t consider a single location to be “home”. He considers himself to be a resident of the entire globe. He approaches life with a sense of adventure and doesn’t let hang-ups and detours cause him any stress. Start learning about the nomads of the past and present and work to adopt this attitude. This is actually the hardest part of becoming an urban nomad.
Factors Limiting the Urban Nomad
Mobile technology is making it easier than ever to live a modern nomadic lifestyle. You can stay in touch with your office or operate your home-based business from anywhere that you can access your mobile broadband. However, there are some hindrances to the nomadic lifestyle which you should be aware of as you undertake this adventure.
One big problem is the cost of travel. To get from one place to another is not cheap in modern society, especially if you’re crossing international boundaries. Plane flights are pricey and the cost of fuel is on the rise. To limit this problem, most urban nomads get creative about their travel. They get cheap flights to off-season places. They take the train. They change their plans and go to different destinations because a ride is offered there. That’s the beauty of a wireless connection; you’re free to work from anywhere so you’re free to go anywhere.
The nomad is able to be flexible about things like travel. Fostering this attitude tends to be the biggest problem limiting most people from becoming urban nomads. You may have the right phone and wireless connectivity but if you don’t have the right attitude, you’re not going to make it as a nomad. Relying on your online and café-based community can make a huge difference in the impact of this barrier.