I’m drinking a glass of wine. I’m in bed. I’m in Santa Cruz, California and I’m alone. I’m here for two months working on a film project. After this, it’s off to Spain for a wedding and then Bangkok to see friends. And after that? Not a clue. This really is, as Michaelle says, a nomadic existence and while the idea of living without a permanent address is not for everyone – my mother is a prime example – the experience of living a modern day nomadic lifestyle can also be extremely rewarding.
I’m the least perfect human on the planet and I certainly have my hang ups. But being a nomad has helped me let go of my own expectations around how my life should be lived. It’s helped me to avoid strong attachment to physical things (everything I own fits in one suitcase), develop ‘street smarts’ (I could write a book on common street scams, ways to save money, healthy places to eat), adaptability to unforeseen circumstances (packing up and moving constantly makes change feel totally normal and necessary), and a deep appreciation and love of people from all cultures – that’s a really big one. But perhaps the greatest reward of all is that of ‘nomadic friendship’, that is, my international friendships with fellow nomads. Location and time zone is entirely irrelevant to the nomadic friendship I’ve built with Jennie and Michaelle, as well as so many other wonderful people.
You can argue that friendships don’t have to be ‘nomadic’ to transcend space and time. But what has been so wonderful about my relationship with Jennie and Michaelle is not necessarily the times we spent together in Bangkok, amazing as those days were, but rather the times we’ve spent apart. In fact, our nomadic friendship has only intensified since we parted and seems to grow stronger, as Jennie says, the greater the distance and the longer we are apart. What distinguishes our friendship as nomadic then is the fact that we are each simultaneously exploring new pockets of the earth, living in completely different time zones for about 95% of the time and I love the fact that not only is that irrelevant to our friendship, it actually seems to make us closer.
Even with facebook and other types social media, isn’t this odd? How do three women living entirely different lives in entirely different places feel so intensely connected? That is a mystery to me and I certainly didn’t expect this as an outcome of my nomadic lifestyle – I would have been happy with just the street smarts. What I do know is that we share common human yearnings for meaning and for love. And in many ways, our nomadic friendship challenges the presumed notion that romantic love is what we should ALL be searching for, because what we have is built not on some blinding, irrational desire but rather on some deeper, more mysterious and sustainable connection. Of course, romantic love teamed with friendship is an great combination in a relationship. But if I had to choose one over the other – and frankly, it most often is a case of one OR the other – our version of friendship seems hard to beat. As Andrew Sullivan says,
In almost every regard, friendship delivers what love promises but fails to provide. The contrast between the two are, in fact, many, and largely damning to love’s reputation. where love is swift, for example, friendship is slow. Love comes quickly, as the song has it, but friendship ripens with time. If love is at its most perfect in its infancy, friendship is most treasured as the years go by.
So here I am with my wine. Technically, I’m alone in this apartment, but I really don’t feel that way. I have a nomadic friendship that exists wherever I go and apparently the further away I am from my nomadic friends, the closer we become.