I’m Moving! (Thoughts on Nomads, Wanderers, and Sojourners)

I’m moving again.

This does not come as a surprise to my parents, friends, or old colleagues whose first question when we catch up is always “and where are you living these days?”

But I am not sure I have the classic disease Wanderlust. Despite what my grandmothers think, I can stay in the same place for a while, and enjoy doing so. Turns out I am a bit of a homebody (as a travel writer, that is the writer in me coming out). But just because I don’t have itchy feet to always keep moving doesn’t mean that I don’t have a great desire to see the world, to explore and get to know new places.

So this week I leave behind the sagebrush-dotted deserts, the colorful slickrock, and the tall canyon walls of the American Southwest to head up to the oceans, forests, and rains of Alaska.

While this means my internet will be spotty (as will my ability to post on this blog), my food with have to be flown in in tiny planes, and I will likely be eaten alive from mosquitoes (Note: best part about living in a desert? No bugs!), it also means that I am getting yet another chance to explore a new area, and get to know a new place.

Utah Highway
Goodbye, Utah deserts, hello Alaska forests. On the road again (or, more correctly, on bush planes…)!

Why move to an area I’ve never been? The short answer is that I am incredibly lucky in that I work as a park ranger with the U.S. National Park Service and so jumped at the opportunity to work at a different park for the summer season. (To read the story on how me being a park ranger mattered to an immigration official, check out my post “Yeah, I Went to Colombia.”

But I also am moving to Alaska to get to know this world better, to find new areas to write about and take pictures of: in short, I am moving because of the same reason I enjoy traveling.

I consider myself a Traveler (not to be confused with a Tourist), which can go by many names: nomads, wanderers, or (my personal favorite), sojourners. Each person, and type, travels differently.

Nomads wander seasonally, spending little time in the same place. While few “nomads” today might be traveling around getting goat herds fed and watered in the different seasons, there are many people today who quit their job to become “nomadic.” Still, most modern nomads do have some sort of permanent abode (if for no other purposes than to have a permanent address for mail, a place to bank or to send tax forms to).

A wanderer could be a nomad, but perhaps has less of a pattern, less of a purpose. You know a great place in the mountains? Sure, let’s go! Just met some surfer who knows a cool beach? Already packed! Not planning to hit up Ecuador? Why not, it’s on the way to London, right? Because, as J.R.R. Tolkien wrote: “Not all who wander are lost.”

Sojourners, on the other hand, tend to stay in one area for a while. The official definition is something along the lines of someone who temporarily resides in a place. (This is how I love to travel—yes, I know I’m spoiled, but that’s what semesters in Norway and Tanzania and a year in Colombia will do to you). I love really getting to know a place well, as opposed to jumping off to a new city every other day.

I really just travel because the world interests me. I like the freedom, but like trying different regional foods more. I like the movement of trains and buses, but I like talking to people from all over the world more. I like experiencing a place for the first time, but I like experiencing the diversity of the natural world more.

One of my favorite quotes on travel comes from author Pico Ayer who wrote, “Travel is the best way we have of rescuing the humanity of places, and saving them from abstraction and ideology.” (I explain why I travel and have more from Pico Ayer in a previous post called, imaginably, Why We Travel).

So I head off to coastal Alaska to learn more, meet new people, and, of course, eat my weight in fresh salmon. I head off to Alaska with the memories of Colombia, Tanzania, Antarctica, and more in my mind, and a desire to continue to explore and learn in my soul.

The fact that I am again moving to live in a new place thus shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Check out some of my other posts on the why and how we travel here.


4 Replies to “I’m Moving! (Thoughts on Nomads, Wanderers, and Sojourners)”

    1. Happy travels to you as well! I have never been to Asia and central Asia and Mongolia are high on my list. Thanks for the welcome–I am looking forward to the Alaska life!

  1. Welcome from the Northern-most village in the state! I hope you enjoy it here, this place is amazing! I moved to Barrow without having ever been before, and I don’t regret it for one second, even though some days can be really tough.

    1. Thanks! I don’t think I’ll make it that far north this summer, but I hope to get to know Alaska as much as possible. (I won’t be doing the winter thing yet though… 🙂 Thanks for the comment and for reading!

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