Mobile Living: Modern Nomads

A Bunch

We’ve written about RV & Trailer Parks in our mobile living series, which have quite the reputation that we’ll dive into in an upcoming post (in a lighthearted manner of course). Let’s take a quick detour with a look at nomadic life past and present  to provide little context.

The History

Mobile living has been a thing, long before it was a thing. While it has become increasingly popular among adventure hearted North Americans and Europeans, nomadic tribes have existed around the globe since long before written history. From certain native tribes in North America to Bedouins in the Middle East to the Horse People of the Step, groups have thrived on the go. 

Those Who Remain

Many of the ancient nomadic communities still exist in some form today. According to Matadornetwork.com there are seven nomadic communities going strong. 

The Kocki people of southern Afghanistan herd sheep, goats, and camels.

The Bedouin roam the Negev desert (semi-anuually) as they have for thousands of year, although their numbers are drastically reduced. 

The Sami people of Northern Scandinavia (and a bit of Russia) rely on Raindeer and dogsleds to live and get around. Laws in place help them maintain their lands although modern life is encroaching. 

The Maasai people herd livestock in the Serengeti and Rit Valley of Kenya and Tanzania. 

The Mongols are famed for having once ruled all of China and giving birth to other other nomad conquerors like the Kasaks and the Huns. They still reside in and herd sheep, yak, goats, horses, camels and dogs inNorthern China and Mongolia. 

The Gaddi people are seasonally nomadic, choosing to winter in villages where the Himalayas meet India, then spend summer driving flocks of sheep, mules, and goats through grazing land. 

The Irish travelers, sometimes called Tinkers, or worse. Their communities not only move, but they’re spread out across Europe and even the US. Unlike most modern versions of ancient nomadic groups Travelers keep animals but not for their primary income. They are often skilled tradesmen who locate to regions where construction jobs are plentiful. Their language doesn’t officially exist in a written form, to learn Gammon (or Shelta) it might be easier to learn Irish Gaelic, Hebrew, Greek, and English first as they’re all present to some degree in the language. 

The Modern Resurgence

The primary cause of mobile living was scarce, or seasonal, resources. To a degree that hasn’t changed. The biggest employment trend identified in the last few years was the reality that most of us won’t keep a single career path for a standard 30 years, which means by default, a lot of relocating to seek a greener work pasture. 

Some folks pursue a career where frequent relocating just goes with the territory. The military comes to mind. Promotion opportunities come open and if you want the promotion you move. There’s another group of jobs that are often in demand in many locations making it easy to shift without leaving your field. Nursing and welding to name two. There’s a third type of frequent job-related mover that almost never gets mentioned in posts like this one–project experts. 

Project Experts

Project experts include CEO’s, consultants, even athletes and coaches, who take a position to fix what’s not working at a company or on a team. The authors once knew a phone system installation technician who became an expert at installing a new phone technology in large businesses and schools. This expert lived on a 35 foot boat and sailed it to a new part of the country every couple years, doing the same role just with different employers (all of which were near water of course.) 

Other Reasons to Live on the Hoof

Not everyone chooses a nomadic life for economic reasons. Some simply have a wandering spirit. Gypsies have a long tradition in the US and in Europe, where they are sometimes called travelers. Many of these groups refer to themselves as Romani. 

Gypsies are often associated with confidence scams and theft, which would explain the need to relocate often. Some of this reputation is likely our predecessors being suspicious of anyone new to town. 

Another group of modern nomadic people would be carnies and circus folk. These are again communities with a deep culture entirely unique from the society at large, despite near constant interaction with that larger culture.  

However, it’s increasingly true that some people like a complete change of scenery every few years and their choice of housing accommodates that preference. These are often minimalists who value making memories over acquiring objects. As the US and European infrastructure road infrastructure has grown more robust, many young adventurers have turned their “gap” year into a gap decade, choosing not to “settle down” until they find someone they really want to start a family with.

Joining these young wanderers at the many RV Campsites and truck stops on major freeways and minor routes are seniors who either choose to snowbird, or who realized they could retire a little sooner if they chose a mobile life over an expensive retirement center. These mobile communities exist informally in one place, and then another, only consistent in the fact that they move on when the weather changes or another opportunity pops up somewhere else. 

Amazon’s Company Towns

One famous example would be the villages of mobile trailers and RV’s outside small towns and cities where online retail giant Amazon locates their large warehouse and fulfillment centers. According to socialist website jacobinmag.com Amazon has brought on as many as half a million new employees during the pandemic. 

They often go on mass hiring sprees of temporary workers around holidays. Because these employees are hired quickly, local infrastructure often can’t house them in a traditional manner. Of course the holiday hires needn’t bother putting down roots as they won’t be staying long. All this has created a need for infrastructure that supports housing you can take with you when it’s time to move on. 

Amazon has created an almost “open ranger” working class of seasonal employees who will be unemployed a lot of each year. Though some employees are okay with that–at least for now.

10-4 Good Buddy

That leaves the biggest category of modern nomad, the long haul trucker. Only in the last few months have OTR (over the road or long haul) truckers seen the kind of praise usually reserved for first responders. The pandemic and economic downturn as well as supply chain issues at ports, have given Americans their first real taste of socialism with its inflation and bare shelves. That’s elevated the public opinion of truck drivers as essential workers. 

Anyone who drives long routes, whether for a major logistic company or as an owner/operator, is a true modern nomad. Semi trucks, or 18-wheelers as they are often called in the states (Loris in the UK) have an entire infrastructure of their own supporting their needs. 

The Trucks themselves come with a built in camper unit, called a sleeper. The roadways they travel have the modern equivalent of a watering hole every few dozen miles (depending on how busy the route is). 

These truck stops act much like a gas station that caters to cars, but they sell diesel instead and are designed for the wide truck turning radius, and due to a truck’s size, they offer extra large parking lots. 

They’re also sell food, both hot and cold, like a gas standard station along a freeway, but they offer a lot more. Sometimes they even have honky tonk bar, or liquor stores, for drivers who are going to stay for a while. Nearly all have showers and laundry facilities available so you can clean up while waiting for the next set of gigs to be assigned to you. 

Truck drivers are modern nomads that provide a much-needed service for our society and unlike many modern nomads that forgo having a family, many truck drivers are enduring long periods away from their families in order to be on the road. 

We salute you modern nomads, whatever your reason, and until your wandering comes to an end we wish you fun adventure, good weather and safe travels. 

One thought on “Mobile Living: Modern Nomads

  1. Pingback: RV Parks: New Uses & Abuses | The Kicker Blog

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