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Are We Not Nomads? Why We Have to Keep Moving post image

Are We Not Nomads? Why We Have to Keep Moving

What is that calling that tells us to keep moving?

I keep thinking about this scene from Lost: Jack–distraught and wearing a Jim Morrison beard– keeps saying “We have to go back!” He is haunted by the Island, it won’t let him go. I am the same way about the Road; sometimes I feel like running out of this room, climbing behind the wheel of a van or a homemade camper, and heading back to the desert. I see myself just wandering, no destination or goals aside from experiencing new places and seeing new things. I imagine evenings spent sipping whiskey in remote bars while eavesdropping on strangers. It is so vivid to me I can smell gasoline and taste the dusky burn of Jameson.

I am back in Portland now. I am here physically, but my mind is back in the desert — We have to go back!

Part of me is chiding myself for not buckling down and finding a real job so my girlfriend and I can get a place of our own. Part of me feels selfish that I can’t do what most of my friends have done: Get a career, get a stable place to live, and do all the other things grown-ups are supposed to do.

I also understand that doesn’t work for everyone and you can’t force it if it isn’t in your nature. Some people are meant to travel, living hand to mouth and sleeping in rest areas or on BLM land or cheap motels in obscure, little towns. I think about that sort of thing and I feel elated and then sad because I cannot do that right now.
Cannot mixed in with a healthy dose of should not: I am sharing my life with someone. I love her and want to be with her and she needs a stable place to raise her teenaged daughter. Being on the road does not work for my girlfriend right now, maybe never.

I am sharing this with you because maybe you understand what I am feeling. Maybe you’re sitting in a cubicle or standing on a work site reading this and completely relating to what I am saying. Perhaps you find yourself getting lost in Craigslist ads for RVs or reading about Bali or Andorra or Bolivia on line. You always rein yourself in because you have a car payment or a mortgage or your kid needs braces or maybe all three so you force yourself to buckle down and do what you think you should be doing.

It haunts you, though, doesn’t it–the road? All those places you’ve seen on maps or your iPhone or a news segment that you caught three years ago that everyone else has forgotten but has left you haunted.

We have to go back!

In a few minutes I will focus on looking for a job. Candy and I need to get a place by May so we’re both hustling to find steady work–I try to focus on that, I really do. She talks about things we should be doing here in Portland and asks me to come up things to do locally and I really try–but my mind is somewhere else. There are so many roads, so many towns, and so many places to see in whatever time is left I can’t stop thinking about them. I’ve seen pictures but I need to feel the chill of the air and hear the accents of the locals and smell the trees.
And I know you understand all this; maybe you understand it all too well.

What can we do? What is the right decision? What life makes sense both in our hearts and in our minds?

Are we not nomads?

Does this ever get easier?

I certainly hope so for both of us.

Filed under: Travel Psychology, USA

About the Author:

Izaak Diggs is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. He is currently at work on a book focusing on the deserts west of the Rocky Mountains. His website is here. has written 3 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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  • Mark May 14, 2014, 9:58 am

    Does it get easier? Hmmm, can’t help you with that one, I’m on the other end of that spectrum. In a few short days we head out on the road on our motorcycle; Newfoundland to Alaska, then down to Ushuaia in Argentina. We want to check out as many nooks and crannies in between as we can. Like you, I’m happiest moving. Whether hiking down some trail with everything I need in my backpack or on a intercontinental motorcycle journey.

    The amount of travelling my wife and I have done has increased over the last few years and yet we’ve been unable to fully satiate our appetite for adventure. I mean every trip does “fill ‘er up” for a time but then inevitably the hunger returns. For years all I would think about at work was being out there, somewhere. Staying still was becoming unbearable, only adding to that trapped feeling.

    Once you get a taste of that freedom, I think it’s difficult to go back. Like for most thru-hikers, the transition back to the previous “normal” is a difficult one, if not impossible.

    As people, our nomadic nature goes back a long way. For some of us, these roots run deep.

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    • Izaak Diggs May 14, 2014, 9:37 pm

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Izaak

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  • Lois Middleton May 14, 2014, 9:03 pm

    Oh, I am so right there with you! The road calls, sometimes softly, other times so very loud my head hurts. I’m also back in Portland – even though it’s only for a few short (long?) weeks, every day feels like torture, knowing I’m not back in the desert, or heading to the mountains this time of year, sitting on some BLM land somewhere, watching the sunset.

    Head on over to Lardo for their fries or Base Camp for their beer or Pix for a dessert or any number of other places in PDX that you won’t find anywhere else. At least, we’re “stuck” in a place with lots of things to do/see/eat/drink/be 🙂

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    • Izaak Diggs May 14, 2014, 9:36 pm

      Thanks for the tips, Izaak

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  • Eternal Nomad May 18, 2014, 12:38 pm

    HI. I have been wandering all of my life, certainly since I was eight or so when my family moved from Europe to Canada. I hit the road for the first time at 17, hitch hiked, then carried on again at 19, right across Canada.
    I have been traveling on and off since then, working as an expat in the Mid East, China, and SE Asia. Yes, it is addictive. I think it’s the novelty of places, people, situations. And I see no good reason to stop. Compromises are necessary if you have a partner, but you will find no happiness unless you can fulfill the Wanderlust in you. The trick is to find someone who needs to explore the world as much as you do.
    In the End, we all die, so why not live the life you choose, on your own terms.

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