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a nomadic existence has been a necessary way of life for numerous communities across many countries for thousands of years and can be traced back to humankind’s earliest and most primitive societies. by traditional definition a nomadic life is one of great hardship and endurance in the most inhospitable of environments. these marginal territories do not provide suitable areas of land that can be farmed so the people are forced to move from area to area to sustain life.
some nomadic communities are in search of appropriate pastures in order to successfully raise the livestock their existence depends upon without irretrievably
exhausting the land they are reliant on (pastoral nomads). peripatetic nomads travel from place to place trading what goods they possess and are more common in developed areas and industrialised countries. hunter-gatherer nomads track wild animals and vegetation as the seasons dictate and practice by far the oldest subsistence method of man. the life of a nomad is said to thrive during the summer and survive through the winter.
a difficult life of constant challenges and changing situations impart nomads with qualities such as resilience and mental strength that allow them to cope with their temporal existence. they are perpetual travellers both in lifestyle and philosophy and are great observers of their environment and surroundings allowing them to respond sympathetically and sensitively. leading a life of great adversity and simple necessities requires nomads to develop a deeply spiritual and philosophical outlook. traditional nomadic spirituality believes that natural phenomena and the living creatures that surround them have a great spiritual significance and that through music and sound-making they can invoke and embody the power of spirits.
a modern mongolian yurt. the urg pole to the left is for restraining livestock, cheese dries on racks on the roof. the basketball net in the background is a modern addition to the lifestyle paulo coelho’s book the alchemist tells of the life of shepherd santiago, a nomad of choice rather than circumstance. it is a fable about following your dreams and the great physical and spiritual journeys that must be endured to reach your destiny. the physical difficulties that he must overcome also serve as a symbolic journey of the spiritual challenges which are the true obstacles preventing santiago from achieving his goal. as with traditional nomadic spirituality santiago must learn to read his surroundings and follow the omens that they present to him, enabling him to speak the language of the world. it is a voyage of inward discovery of one’s capabilities and of spiritual enlightenment and ultimately we realise that our true desires shape how we perceive and respond to the world around us.
making yak-butter tea the application of the word nomad has evolved significantly over time and is
dependent upon the context within which it is placed. primarily it refers to a person who maintains the tradition of a transient life for periods of various lengths but many other connotations are inferred and new terms introduced. the rise of portable technology and our ability to always be connected to each other has led to the era of the nomadic worker and the ‘technomad’; ‘a person who remains connected through communications media such as the internet during travel, exploration and online living’. with the creation of practices and terms such as ‘hot desking’ it is now even possible to be a nomad within the same building or even room! many cultures have traditionally been nomadic but traditional nomadic behaviour is increasingly rare in industrialised nations.
as industrialisation spreads the traditional nomadic life has vastly diminished norma mccaig coined the term ‘global nomad’ and could be said to be the modern day equivalent of a traditional nomad. it is defined as ‘an individual who, spending a significant part of their developmental years in another culture, develops some sense of belonging to both the host culture and the home culture, while not having a sense of total ownership of either’. with the ease and extent of modern day transport the nomad has become an international traveller and even pan-continental but still the nomadic lifestyle consists of more than purely physical facets. each nomadic experience is individual to each individual and is not only dependant on external influences, such as location, but also internal factors such as beliefs and attitude. the travelling lifestyle of a global nomad is admired and respected by many who do not share the lifestyle as it is recognised that it requires courage and many strong psychological qualities, and also furnishes the nomad with many virtues that will aid them in life. global nomads develop skills that cross cultural boundaries such as flexibility, tolerance and respect. they question those who promote a singular belief system as the only way to nourish a spiritual existence, and rather than feel threatened by other beliefs or attitudes they tend to embrace the diversity of humankind.
those displaced from the rural land come to live in these impoverished suburbs of cities. here they can no longer support themselves in the pastoral tradition but while it may appear that a nomadic lifestyle is a noble one, it is not without its consequences. lack of a fixed abode or home leads to feelings of rootlessness and the lack of a sense of ‘place’ (compare the architectural difference of ‘space’ and ‘place’). conversely, during static periods, nomads feel restless and the requirement to move on to new pastures. this constant state of flux and upheaval also impacts upon a nomads emotional maturity and they may have issues with intimacy, commitment and relationships to other people, objects and places. the major pervading burden of a nomad is a sense of loneliness and isolation and how this is managed is dependent upon an individual’s emotional state and spiritual outlook. the only certain companion of the nomad is loneliness. exercise find examples of designs that allow the continuation of a nomadic lifestyle in modern societies, both physically and as an attitude/outlook. or 'to transcend rootlessness is to feel at home wherever you are' propose designs that could alleviate the negative spiritual/emotional hardships of being a nomad.