When I was 23 I dropped out of university where I was studying philosophy to travel full time. My family was… um… less than stoked on this fact. But it was what it was, and they knew they couldn’t control me. Sure, over the years they’ve urged me to settle down, complete my university, and find a career. But they know their nagging with never work on me. Still, they try here and there. What’s a nomad? They didn’t even really know themselves, at least not in the modern day sense. And then I showed them.
But as the years have gone on, they’ve stopped nagging. They’ve sort of come to terms with what I am… to an extent. So my mom decided to write an article for my blog about how she really feels about my wandering ways. As you can imagine, it’s a bit up and down. On the one hand, she’s happy that I am happy. On the other hand, she worries about my future, not to mention the things that can happen on the road.
She’s in two mindsets, and I’ll let her take it from here to tell you – or your parents – what it’s like to be the mother of a wanderer.
What’s a nomad, you might be thinking… well my daughter is one… whether I like it or not.
When people ask me what my daughter Danielle (my one and only daughter) is up to, I used to have difficulty answering. This is because Danie has chosen a non-traditional path in life, and, to be honest, there is a part of me that wishes she would stoppit. Danie is what you might call a digital nomad. Except, you might ask me, “What’s a digital nomad, anyhow?” or, “What’s a nomad in the first place?” And Danie might say, “Mom, I really don’t think of myself as a digital nomad.” Really? Well, I can’t think of a better way to describe it. What’s a nomad? My daughter.
What’s a nomad?
First, some of you might wonder what’s a nomad. It is simply someone who has no fixed home, but instead wanders from place to place. Nomads move around without staying in one place for long. Originally, many human tribes were nomadic because we used to follow herds of food (called pastoral nomads) as they went from place to place grazing on different lands or following migration patterns that were seasonal and/or climate-related. They were hunter gatherers… a little different from the new nomads. There was and is another group called nomad who were peripatetic nomads, meaning they went from place to place selling their crafts or skills to the sedentary people.
As time has gone on, most of us now live at a fixed address because we are no longer following deer, antelope, or buffalo around the place. Some might say we have an easier life, and others might say we have lost our way. There are still nomadic tribes of humans in some parts of the world, but they are increasingly rare.
So what’s a digital nomad, then?
Interestingly, what is becoming increasingly common is individual nomads — people who are tired of the “rat race” and who choose to drop out of mainstream society and who, thanks to the internet, are able to find remote working jobs of one sort or another, so they can travel a lot, meeting new people, and move from place to place. These digital nomads make their living online and travel the world. Danie is one of this crowd of digital nomads.
Types of Digital Nomads
Nomad life varies from person to person in terms of how often one travels, where they travel, how much they work, and what kind of work they do. What they have in common is that their work has to be location independent (i.e. they can do it in any location that there is a good internet connection).
Some people have very high end digital jobs. For example, many are in the computing or software field who have built up a clientele have a substantial income, few expenses, and a large amount of freedom. Such digital nomads might set themselves up for life in a nice hotel or they might travel to a digital nomad hub such as Chiang Mai, Thailand, and rent a place for a length of time.
Because expenses are so low in such places as Thailand, a high end digital nomad can save a lot of money, which they can then use for further nomad living or travel.
However, not all world nomads are so high end. What’s a digital nomad – in the ordinary, non-high level sense? Many run travel blog sites like this one. Some are more financially successful than others. Danie, for example, takes on a lot of writing jobs, some of which pay better than others, and she squeaks by… squeak squeak squeak. For Danie the digital nomad lifestyle is more important than the money, which is frustrating for those of us who are her Mom.
What is Danielle up to these days?
I get asked this question a lot, usually accompanied by the old, “But what’s a nomad these days?” I have finally stopped looking like a deer in headlights and feeling like I must have somehow messed up her early childhood when I get asked that question. Now, I just worry that I messed up her late childhood. Just kidding. I mean, actually, I do still worry about that. Most parents worry about that, to be honest. Ask your parents. If they don’t worry about it, fire them. ON THE SPOT!
I think Danie would prefer that I call her a digital hobo, but I refuse. What I usually tell people is something vague like, “She’s a world traveller.” And then they say, “Wow. That must be nice,” and I say, “Yes. It must be,” and then they say, “I wish I could afford that,” and then I say, “It’s cheap. She carries a tent on her back and sleeps in that and/or stays with one of her five hundred million friends and relations.” (I am making reference to Rabbit from Winnie-the-Pooh who had a ton of friends and relations — if you have not read the original Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, please stop reading this, go to Amazon.com, order it, and read it right now. I have linked to the Kindle edition so that you can read it online. I will wait.)
Did you read it yet?
It’s good, isn’t it? Even for adults. But, I digress. Where was I? Nomad life… nomad living… nomad travel… right, so people assume that Danie’s nomadic lifestyle is expensive because when they go on holiday, it is typically very expensive. Then I tell them she hitchhikes and sleeps on public beaches in Mexico and such. And I show them my prematurely grey hair.
Is it prematurely grey if I am in my 40’s? Maybe not. I really need to dye my hair. I have digressed again. However, my point, the point I am trying to avoid because it makes me anxious, is that Danie’s nomadic lifestyle makes me anxious.
Whoa… I would worry…
The next thing people usually say when I tell them that Danie is one of the world nomads, once they realize what it is, and that it is not a terribly safe lifestyle is, “Doesn’t that worry you?” Does the word “duh” mean anything to you?
I worry a lot about Danie’s life. When she started, I could think of nothing else. It stressed me out all the time. I cried about it. I told everyone who would listen about it. It was driving me insane. I even started trying to think of crazy ways to stop her from nomad living (such as, but not limited to, locking her in my mother’s basement).
However, after much reflection and soul-searching, I realized that there was no legal, ethical, and moral way that I could prevent Danie from this life. That is a cold comfort and I still worry about her, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
I am grateful. Thank you, World
Despite being horribly worried, one thing I noticed early on was that, for whatever reason, many people are exceptionally kind to Danie. I am so grateful for that. I am grateful to the people who have fed her when she didn’t have food, given her shelter when she needed a place to stay, and who have even given her a little cash when she had none.
To the people who followed her every night when she went out in Colombia, not knowing what parts of the city she was in were safe or not and not even knowing that she didn’t know. I am so grateful to them.
Overall, people have had her back. When they were not robbing her at gunpoint or otherwise randomly stealing her stuff.
I worry because there are so many different types of people in the world. I would kind of like for Danie to go to university or technical school and get some solid skill to fall back on like being an X-ray technician. Except I don’t think there are any nomadic X-ray technicians. Then again, she could be the first!
Danie is living life to the fullest. I believe in that. If I had been able to travel more when I was younger, I probably would have, and I don’t imagine that there are many people who look back on their lives and say, “Gee, I wish I had not traveled and had so many adventures and met so many interesting people — that was a real waste of time.”
There is part of me that envies Danie for her freedom in her nomad life. She has more friends than anyone I know. In a world where people seem to have fewer and fewer connections to others she has more. The other thing I envy is her authenticity in her writing. Danie bravely writes about her experience of the moment with complete candour.
Danie and Her Blog
Her raw, frank honesty is sometimes replete with swear words (which I imagine puts a few readers off), but that is her voice. Also, she writes about her experiences battling mental illness with complete honesty. There is so much stigma surrounding these things and I admire her for being able to say who she is without any feeling of shame or concern for potential repercussions.
I think Danie’s writing and her life are amazing. I think Danie is amazing. And, then again, often, I really wish she would just stay put, get a “real job,” etc. But what’s a nomad to do? It just isn’t her way. Anyways, there are no guarantees in life, and many people who follow all the “rules” of society end up with problems while just because someone chooses to follow her own path, that does not mean she will have difficulties. As you can probably tell, I am in two minds about this.
One of my favorite quotes is by Henry David Thoreau (did I inadvertently infect Danie with this idea?): “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” Regardless, it is something I believe deeply.
And, despite being in two minds, I am very proud of Danie and her nomad life. What’s a nomad? My very odd but lovable daughter.