Why The World Needs Nomads (Part #2): The Global, Physical & Emotional Benefits

Editor's note: This is part 2 in a multi-part series on Why The World Needs Nomads. If you missed it, check out part 1, including the proper intro: Why The World Needs Nomads (Part 1): The Social, Intellectual & Environmental Benefits.

What benefits do nomads bring to society then? Do we really need them?

The answer is a resounding yes. As much as we need lawyers, doctors, and construction workers””we need nomads. Here’s why:

Global Benefits

My good friend Patrick Sweeney is a free-spirited California beach boy who survives on avocados, hot sauce, and beer. He often posts photos of his fruit and vegetable purchases””mounds of fresh produce at obscenely low prices. Sweeney hates the concept that healthy food is too expensive and unavailable to poor people who want to eat well. This argument, according to Pat, is an excuse that perpetuates the obesity epidemic in America.

I agree with him partially. I have learned from our travels just how region-specific eating well actually is. My idea of healthy eating has evolved from primarily raw vegan to whatever the locals eat, and what the region offers. Along the Pacific Northwest, I enjoyed mostly fresh seafood. Now in Alaska, I eat fresh game meat (mostly reindeer) and salmon that was swimming only hours ago. Here, I would go broke as a vegan.

The avocado issue made me reflect on how many times we make wide, sweeping generalizations about the world based on our own tiny regions.

Pink Sunset Over Petra, Jordan
Pink Sunset Over Petra, Jordan © Salim Al-Harthy

Nomadism infuses the world with people who can relate to different perspectives. We carry the message that there is more than one way to do things and we refute stereotypes wherever we travel.

Once in a while, every region needs a nomad to shake things up in places where everyone thinks the same, earns the same, and votes the same.

Every community seeks to bond over common ideas. This is human nature, and it makes life easier. But every once in a while, every region needs a nomad to shake things up in places where everyone thinks the same, earns the same, and votes the same.

We need nomads to reminds us that our rules do not apply to every inch of this planet. We also need nomads to experience our own regional truths and carry our stories off to places where our habits are considered strange.

The Bottom Line

Nomads fight stereotypes by collecting and delivering different world views across regional lines.

Wandering India
Wandering India © Nagesh Jayaraman

Physical Benefits

After watching the documentary Craiglist Joe, my boyfriend and I answered a Craigslist ad to pick up a brother/sister pair of backpackers hitchhiking their way across the country. Eddie and Charlotte turned out to be amazing company. We took them to the Grand Canyon and picked up great travel tips just by observing them.

One of the main things I noticed about Eddie and Charlotte was that they walked””a lot. I was used to viewing movement as exercise in the form of a training plan, or something you needed to schedule. But they walked as a way of life. In the months that followed, I came to redefine movement for myself.

In my pre-nomad days, I would log all my exercise on a site called Dailymile. It tracked my running, walking, hiking, swimming, or movement of any kind. I could record the mileage and at the end of the week, it would tally a grand total and tell me I was awesome.

After we hit the road, logging workouts on Dailymile became more complicated. Without a GPS surgically attached to my wrist, I had no idea how far I had moved that day. I no longer went out to do a workout. I just went out to play.

Instead of running a pre-determined route, we would pull over to the side of the road intrigued by a hill or mountain, and climb it. We spend time on the trail or in a pool, coming home only when we were hungry or out of water. This healthy concept of movement was a welcome change and we seek to share it with others.

The Bottom Line

Nomads help us see exercise and movement as a way of life, not an activity we need to schedule.


Gazing into the Grand Canyon for the first time © Vanessa Runs

Emotional Benefits

Michael Comerford was the second hitchhiker we picked along the side of the road. He was surviving as a carnival worker, traveling the country to work various gigs. He told me unforgettable stories about how much carnival workers loved making children happy, yet the irony that most of them came from abusive childhoods and were separated from their own children. He told of the shocking lack of education and illiteracy in the industry, and the hopeless abandonment the workers faced if they tried to leave their carnival families.

Nomads often immerse themselves into the margins of society. We see, hear, and feel those who have no voice, no words, no education. These experiences tune us into a full spectrum of human emotions that we can then share, speak about, or write about. They reveal themselves in our art, in our music, and inject themselves into the hearts of those we come in contact with.

Back in the “real” world, when I had a real job and a real home, it was easy to disconnect. Routine set in, and my emotions were dulled. There was nothing new or exciting, and nothing to make me angry or annoyed. I had tweaked my world for maximum comfort and slipped into a state of complete moderation.

Now in a world where anything can happen at any time, I have reconnected with the way I feel about the world. From intense joy to tremendous frustration, nomads experience a wide range of human emotions on a daily basis. We are good at feeling things in a society where emotional displays are often unwelcome.

The Bottom Line

Nomads expose us to a full spectrum of human emotions that feed our sense of humanity.

More to come! Stay tuned for the conclusion to this series tomorrow!

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