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Life on the road came to an abrupt stop

Nomad Life: On Hold

Did you know that there is not a true antonym for the English noun nomad? We learned this the hard way earlier this year, when we were unexpectedly required to “stay put” and stop living nomadically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

My boyfriend Sam and I left Thailand in February, 2020, over concerns about the new virus discovered in China that was quickly spreading through the southern islands. Unsure of our safety, we switched our flights and headed to the US, where we felt we’d be safer.

Missing home and my family, and ready to celebrate my 40th birthday year by traveling and exploring 40 new and old places, I flew to Puerto Rico to visit my family for two weeks. Sam came a week later, expecting to be here for one week. Now, five months later (to the day!), I find myself writing this blog…in Puerto Rico, where we have been ever since. Little did we know we would celebrate my 40th year with a very long quarantine, away from home.

Usually, home for us is wherever we park our Slacker Van—a 1988 Mitsubishi Delica that we purchased in 2017. Before the Slacker Van, we lived in a 1988 Ford Festiva. Together, we have been living nomadically for over seven years. Sam is holding strong at 10 years and counting! But, can we truly still call ourselves nomads much longer?

Nowadays our life is very different. We live in an apartment in Puerto Rico. We wake up late, take hot showers, have a garden, and stream way too much TV. We enjoy playing board games with my family, online games with friends, a few Zoom calls a day, having an oven, and the ability to live without constantly packing and unpacking. OH, and starfishing on a really large bed!

We do miss our stuff, our gear, and the comfort of living simply in 80 sq ft. The thing is, in our tiny little van we have everything we need or want! Mountain bikes, a road bike, climbing gear, a paddle board, running shoes for all weather and terrain, power tools and so on. Since we had only planned to be in Puerto Rico for two weeks, we didn’t really bring any of our toys with us. Luckily, we have amazing friends willing to ship packages full of gear and treats our way.

So far, the biggest lesson we have learned is to never, ever travel light. Next time we head somewhere for a week, we are packing absolutely everything, the kitchen sink, and a Yakima box.

All and all, we think it has been a blessing to once again follow our intuition and take a last minute trip to visit our family. We appreciate the stability that living in one location has brought to us in these uncertain times: a pandemic, a sensitive political climate, an economic crisis, climate extremes, and the lack of work opportunities. Throughout these, we have had the time to sit down, read, study, and explore in detail topics such as systemic racism, activism, non-violent communication, consent, and even gardening. I have had an amazing time reconnecting with my family, the land we live on, and with my personal practices. But, we still dream of being in our van, of traveling to hidden mountain biking trails, and of moving from place to place within a week’s notice.

We are living proof of the reason there isn’t a true antonym for the noun nomad. Because true nomads – regardless of how long they stay in one location – are simply waiting for the next chance to leave, to travel and live freely, and to call each and every place they visit home.

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