New age travelers — as the typically young, typically European communities of self-made nomads were initially called — began traveling through the UK in the late 1970s, and continue to survive as a sub-culture to this day. The idea was that individuals from mainstream English heritage (non-Gypsy, non-Irish Traveler/ Tinker) could drop out of the dominant social structure and form a migratory culture for themselves modeled off various nomadic groups of history within the context of the modern era. To various degrees of depth, they were, and are still, successful in these ends: there are still remnants and revivals of the new age traveller movement throughout Europe, and some communities have even entered into their third generation.
Now simply called “travelers,” which is also the designation the English use for the Roma or Irish Travelers, this subculture peaked in the UK in the late 1980s, but still exists to a lesser extent all around Europe. Though the methodologies, philosophies, and lifestyles of the various groups lumped together under the “traveller” banner greatly differ, the constant variable is that they move from camp to camp as communities in converted coaches, school buses, vans, trucks, or even horse and buggies. They tend to live off independent travel businesses, as roving tradesmen, artists, musicians, temp manual laborers, or receive government assistance. Generally speaking, modern travelers attempt to etch out a lifestyle modeled off of glory days of the traveling Roma, Irish Travelers, or other nomadic cultures of history blended within the modern hippie/ punk/ anarchist philosophical framework.
What is striking to me is that these modern travelers have taken a lifestyle that many people on this planet fantasize about — who hasn’t romanticized about living on the road in a community like Gypsies? — and have actualized it in practice. The first generation of these modern travelers were, almost invariably, born into sedentary society, but left it behind in pursuit of an idea that they could live a better, “freer,” way of life on the road. For many of these kids the traveling lifestyle isn’t much more than a youthful fancy to do for a while before going home and getting a formal job, but for others it is a substantial and full fledged way of life. The latter group has, in a very real sense, formed fully functioning nomadic communities which are currently spanning into their third and even forth generations.
The following three films are about new age travellers, which are the topic of this week’s community discussion. Please watch these films and tell us what you think of them, the new age traveller sub-culture, any ideas you have about them, or your opinions on this lifestyle in the comments below (important! please participate). Although I feel that none of the below films show the sub-culture very positively, they definitely show the inherent problems and difficulties that nomadic communities face in the modern era.
Please watch these films and tell us what you opinions on them. Be sure to reference the background information links below as well.
What do you think of the modern traveler lifestyle?
Do you think of their lifestyle in terms of legality?
What’s your take on how the police deal, or have dealt, with them?
What are your ideas as to the practicality, potential, or possibility of living as a nomadic community in the early 21st century?
New Age Traveller additional resources
Legal campsite in Brighton for New Age Travellers – BBC News
Photos of travelers
Photo exhibition of new travelers
Research paper linking new age travelers with nomadic groups of history
New Age Travellers Wikipedia