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Why Do We Do It?

The Original Nomads

The Original Nomads

Dear Friend,

As I write to you a headache is building steadily in my temples.

My four kids have been jumping on my last nerve today.  My youngest in particular.  At six years old she means well, is quite bright, inquisitive and independent.  Yet she also insists on having her parents’ attention pretty much 24/7.  You can imagine how that goes over with the other three.  God help her future husband. 😉

My eight year old struggles with Aspergers traits that cause him to overload easily.  So several times a day I am defusing conflicts between him and the other kids.

The older kids are easier to deal with but they, too, need attention. And my older daughter is already doing the puberty thing.  Moody.  Occasional door slams. The usual.

If you are a parent of tweens or teens (or ever have been) then what I have just written probably sounds like any old family on any day.  And it is. Our family isn’t really much different than most.

However, all of this is going on aboard our 35 foot motorhome in the middle of nowhere, where we are currently “dry camping” in a front yard whilst my wife takes some time to visit her widowed mom.

Why do we do it?

In the past two years we have circumnavigated North America – twice.

From Stone Mountain, Georgia to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, we’ve toured a dark coal mine and a thousand foot deep gold mine, been charged by a black bear, stepped into both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, surfed down snowy-white sand dunes in 100 degree desert heat, peered into the Grand Canyon, touched a glacier, pet a “wild” deer, got stuck in a bison traffic jam, shot a machine gun, handled dinosaur bones, gawked at the tallest trees on earth, and much, much more.

But we’ve also had plenty of personal trials and mishaps.  Squabbles and conflicts. And we’ve seen lots and lots (and lots!) of corn fields.

We don’t have to live this way, of course.

Nobody is forcing us.  In fact, back home we have two houses – one for sale – that we could be living in.  Either of them is far more roomy and comfortable than our motorhome.

So why do we do this?

I admit, it’s hard to live in close quarters.  I think that the most common question I get from people is, “How do we live so physically close with our family?”  I think they assume that my kids must be different somehow.  Meek and quiet perhaps.  Or perhaps my wife and I lord over them like tyrants.  Otherwise they’d surely have burned down the RV by now and driven us to suicide – or murder. 🙂

Well, there are days, like today for example, where I ask myself “Why.”  So when I hear others say this, I sometimes hesitate to answer.

So, why do we do it?

I could give tons of reasons.

Discovering new people, places and cultures.  Experiencing the Earth’s mind-boggling beauty first-hand. Giving my kids a broad exposure to their world, and encouraging them to keep an open mind about things.  Avoiding boredom at home with the same old – same old.  Escaping the oppressive heat.  Or the cold.  Visiting the world’s only “corn palace,” or a treasured and sacred Native American site.

Any of these reasons would be sufficient.  And I often blurt out one of them to satisfy my curious friends.

But the truth is, I’m not sure I have an answer.

I really don’t know why we choose to live like this.

Perhaps it is because we can.

For me, there is this feeling I get when I can just take off for any reason, or for no reason at all, and go “somewhere.”  It’s a feeling of personal empowerment.  It’s freedom in its rawest state.

I can’t get enough of that feeling.  So maybe it’s just me.

I suppose, thousands of years ago, my ancestors in Western Europe lived this way. But not necessarily by choice.

Like the Plains Indians of North America they likely followed the wild herds on their annual migrations.  They lived off the land.  They went where they wanted to, when they wanted to.  They didn’t need anyone’s permission to live this way.  And they would defend their lifestyle against anyone who would interfere.

Yes, this all sounds quite romantic.

But, honestly, I suspect that my urge to move, and to take my family with me, this “wanderlust,” is embedded in my DNA.

I other words, I live this way because I have no choice. It’s just who I am.

I don’t have any other good explanation for it.

If you feel this way somewhere deep down in your bones, I urge you to satisfy this urge and go.

If you don’t, and you are like me, you will always have an empty spot inside of you.  Our ancestors lived this way for millennia.  And our modern way of life is only a few hundred years old.  As living, evolving beings we simply cannot change that fast.

So forget looking for practical reasons to justify your urge to live a nomadic life.  Just accept the urge as a basic, instinctive drive and dive fully into your natural passion.

I hope to see you on the road someday!

All the best,


{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Henri J September 6, 2010, 10:05 pm

    Good stuff, Hugh! I’ve been feeling this urge to be able to move whenever I want as well. It seems more people are embracing the location independent lifestyle!

    Even though you were talking about family stuff, and I don’t have a family, I could still completely relate to the whole yes, there’s bad stuff, but the good stuff makes it all worthwhile.

    Great blog and awesome writing. Keep rockin’! 🙂

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