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“Are you a Traveler or a Nomad?”

May 8, 2008

The man in the center wished me peace and happiness. I, in turn, wished him the same.

Korean float used in the Lotus Lantern Festival, used to celebrate the birth of The Buddha

My friend Catherine posed this question to me as we were walking though Hongdae. She never ceases to amaze me. If I weren’t a traveler I certainly would not have photographs of Korean monks strolling near Jogyesa Temple, nor shots of the some of the chicest cafes I’ve seen thus far. More than this it really forced me to slow down a bit and think carefully about the answer, if there is indeed an answer.

We spoke about how some family members or friends may think that our lifestyle is a bit selfish. Or how some people think that we’re somehow running away from something. The latter sentiment irks me to no end. I mean, what am I supposed to be doing with my life? OH! Get married! Have 2.3 kids, buy a house (and pay the mortgage!) have a “career” and wait to travel when I retire at 65! Um, no, thank you. I’m in no way against marriage (I will believe in love until I die), children are a blessing (well, if you raise if right, Ha!) and I would like to have a home of my own, complete with a private and studio out back (must have a backyard) and housekeeper, thank you.

I believe that I am a world traveler because I dream of traveling, living and working in far away places but I also like having a place to call home. Whether that permanent home will be in the United States, France, Sweden, Korea remains to be seen. I am however getting to be at an age where I do want to stay put for awhile. I have a tendancy these days to romanticize about my life in The Fan in Richmond, VA. I also know that I couldn’t run to an ancient temple to give thanks to my ancestors, bow to The Buddha in a gulf of heat and incense, and have a green tea latte in a cafe where I met Tom Dixon and was subsequently hired by him for a oeuvre that he has now completed!

I travel because it is what makes me glad to be alive. New sites, sounds, tastes and colors are make life beautiful to me. Perhaps what I do is rather nomadic, but I do long for that place, that one place where I can hang my hat, stack all of my books and invite friends over for long talks, big dinners and peaceful sleep.

How about you?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2008 7:00 AM

    If you do decide on Sweden, do let me know. Will soon call it home within the next year or two.

  2. vernette permalink
    May 8, 2008 11:24 AM

    I feel the restless energy of being in one place too long. U do you girl.

  3. sdg1844 permalink
    May 8, 2008 4:26 PM

    You don’t need to explain or apologize. We are all unique and distinct individuals. I knew very early on in my life that I would probably never have the “American Dream” of house, kids, husband. I have no problem with that. I love L’amour” as well and want to find that special someone, but life is damn good.

    I enjoy what you are doing and it seems you do as well. Have fun with it. I’m planning a trip to Morocco and Egypt for my birthday this year and what others think of it is their business. Period.

    Happy trails to you!

  4. May 8, 2008 8:59 PM

    I can really identify, Felicia! I have been living my life as a mix of traveler, nomad and tourist in the last few years. Each of these states feels very different. A New Yorker friend told me off recently when I mentioned that I still love living in New York. She said: “But you don’t live here anymore! You’re always traveling.” Which is partially true, since the most I’ve been staying in New York is three months. But still having that as a base makes me feel rooted, somehow. Otherwise, I’d feel a bit lost in this big wide world that I love so much.

  5. May 9, 2008 1:45 AM

    Interesting question. I’ve only heard it as “i’m a traveler, not a tourist.” need to ponder longer…


  6. May 9, 2008 5:25 AM

    Me again..never ending ( actually I have some time to kill)
    Being a nomad vs a traveller …ponder ponder hmmmm

    It just depends on how much time you need, to find the answers to the questions you have developed.Travellers take less time to find the answers but nomads need longer. Although I think the reality is that for nomads, they find the answers long before they find the questions and they are really trying to find the questions.

    I don’t think it has anything to do with searching for happiness in your life I am sure you have alot of that going on. I think it has more to do with knowing that there is so much more to life than sitting in an office chair from 9-5 in a pin stripe suit. And you want to be a player in that life. Who wants to sit on the side lines…how dull is that?
    If you sat on the side lines you wouldn’t have started this blog. Now look where you are.

    There is something special about living in and experiencing a culture that you cannot describe to those who have never experienced it. No matter how much you try, they just never get it. Alot of the time they don’t want to as it falls in the too hard basket, because they have set limits around their lives and you haven’t. How free it looks and sounds to others when you talk about choosing which country to live in next. Some people will be downright jealous of you, they will never appear envious but its easy to see that they are because they are judging you. They need to judge your life in order to make their own lives seem better.

    It sounds cold but thats the reality. Unfortunately I have experienced that and you learn to rid yourself of the critical judgemental ones or at least minimise your time with them and filter the information. For me its a safety mechanism.Not everyone is going to jump for joy at what you are doing so you learn to gravitate to the ones who do.
    I would say to you to stick with your 12 month plan. You just don’t know whats going to come up in between now and then. If nothing happens then find a place to settle for a while. 12months is such a short time, we have been in Seoul for almost that now.

    On that note, a very strong americano is now needed.
    Call me if you are free this weekend

  7. thistimenow permalink*
    May 10, 2008 4:30 AM

    Catherine, Catherine!

    I thank you for being so intelligent and forthright with me. I really do appreciate it. You tell like it is and sometimes that is difficult for even me to take. All in all I don’t want to be on the sidelines of life, that kind of life ultimately and literally bores me to tears. I believe that traveling really is what I do in life, just like others are film makers, housewives, nomads or businessmen. It’s what I do and a large part of who I am. Sure, I’d love to love someone passionately again, perhaps even build a life of happiness and peace with them but they will know from the jump that sometimes I need and must travel for awhile, however long to be the best person, spirit that I can be. As long as I keep in mind why I travel then all is fine. I will stay close to those who not only like what I’m doing but also encourage it and stay away from the jealous ones who really don’t have the courage to realize some or just one of their dreams.

    Thank you, I’m in a good place right now and I can see clearly now because of your clarity.


  8. Nicole permalink
    May 24, 2008 1:47 PM

    I first traveled internationally at 22. I took off on a group university study trip to Ghana. I took a university course, participated in a number of the group activities with my American uni group (I’m not the group type) but mostly ventured off to make my own summer experience there. I returned to the US a much fuller woman, yes wiser and more aware, but too just having been in a place where I’d really “always” been. That was evidenced clearly by my “adaptability” that I heard mentioned a million times. Ok all that to say, some of us are born “into the world” and some of us are not. Some of us have no real choice but to roam. It is who we are. Asking us why we must roam is as futile as our asking others why they fear. I feel a freedom when I’m traveling that I don’t feel at any other times. (NYC gave me that feeling for a good part of my 8 years there, but I admit it sucked me into it’s hustle and kept me within its “world city walls” far too long.) We must be free, and those who strive to keep us in one place, well let them stay there.

    BTW I’m a public school teacher in South Korea too. I encourage you. We have traveled much of the same journey. We are always where you belong.

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