The Eternally Homeless
“… Where everybody? Where life? I had my home to go to, my place to lay my head down and figure the losses and figure the gain that I knew was in there somewhere too.”
– On The Road, Jack Kerouac
“And the road becomes my bride
I have stripped of all but pride
So in her I do confide
And she keeps me satisfied
Gives me all I need”
– Wherever I May Roam, Metallica
I am a nomad. It doesn’t mean that I live in a desert in a tent or ride camels and dive behind sand dunes to escape the evil gaze of the white man. I live in a bustling city with lots of people, in a building with electricity, running water and other amenities. There’s a TV here too. I own a smartphone, a laptop and all sorts of trendy gadgets. I dress in jeans, not a white dish dash. I am educated, well read, attend music concerts and have a rich and busy social life.
I also do not have a home. I suppose I had one many years ago. But I left it before it I could legally drink, smoke, vote or do a lot of other things. And now after 9 years living by myself, I find home to be an abstract concept rather than an actual constant physical point on the map. Home is traditionally where family is, where parents and siblings live. I have such a place too. Going there is always nice; it’s a good, warm feeling. And after 10 days, I’m itching to get away, to get out and be by myself again. Because the traditional concept of home now represents boundaries, it represents calling people and telling them not to worry because you’ll be late. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just something that I now haven’t done for so long, it has become alien.
I’m not alone. There are others who feel the same way. Many of the other nomads I live with don’t enjoy being nomads. They have kept home a real place, not a memory. And they always make plans to get back there. To settle down.
Then there are some like me who have been bitten by the bug. We are plagued by the wanderlust and we can’t settle. It doesn’t mean that we need to keep moving cities every 6 months. We may physically stay at the same place for ages. And we may really love that place and be very happy there. But there are no constraints. We aren’t tied down to it and we can move when duty demands it. Or if we just feel like it. We often have a place that we can return to in times of distress. An oasis in the desert where we can rest for a brief period. Someplace that offers comfort, someplace to just recharge your batteries before the bug takes over again. It’s our safe place, something that resembles a home.
There’s nothing to state that this bug only afflicts the MBA grads. I have known many who have moved the length and breadth of the country to look for new challenges and experiences. People who were shipped off to boarding school as kids, and have therefore received thorough grounding in how to be a nomad. People who started late, but can’t stick in the same place for more than an year or two because they have absorbed everything they liked about it and want something new to feed their souls.
I have spoken to MBAs who did sales stints in the most far-flung corners of the country for years. The kind of work that often involves you having the 4 meals of a day in 3 different states. The kind of work that people consider a stint in purgatory before they move on to the relative constancy of marketing. And I have heard these people tell me about their experiences on the road with deep longing and nostalgia. As Pablo Neruda wrote, “My thirst, my boundless desire, my shifting road!” They were nomads for a time too.
The bug isn’t incurable. Many times it gets travel worn and leaves by itself. In many instances it comes and goes. Many a nomad has finally found something that he finds worthy enough to bind him down. Many appreciate the value of constancy. Many just get tired. Some never learn.
Is it easy being a nomad? Certainly not. Eschewing boundaries also means letting go of a lot of other things one normally takes for granted. There aren’t family members always around to look after you and bail you out of sticky situations. You need to form your own network and learn to do so many things that you never gave a thought to previously (that also includes washing your own socks).
But is it all worth it? I definitely think so. The road has had its ups and downs as every road does. I have enjoyed some brilliant times (super-late night adventures), and missed out on a lot of things (delicious home cooking and being taken care of when sick). But for the most part, I have loved it. I may not be a nomad forever, but I will definitely make the most of it while it lasts.
Nadeem is currently trying to make sense of Life, the Universe and Everything coming to the end of his first year at XLRI, Jamshedpur and working very hard at his summer internship. He’s also a music lover, master of 3 musical instruments, undiscovered singing prodigy, class jester, wordsmith, and the secret identity of Superman all rolled into one charming package. You can follow him at nadeemraj.insideiim.com
He’s an amateur storyteller at 42shadesoctarine.wordpress.com