“Nomadism”, “Drifting” or just hustling without a label

While living outside of my “home country” many people ask me what do I actually do there. People always like to give titles, and talking to somebody actually means juggling with different badges and keywords. Sometimes however It’s actually pretty difficult to explain to some people what you are actually doing somewhere, especially if there is many reasons for you to be there and none of them is  the very main one.  Usually the easiest way is just to say that you are  a student, run a business, work etc. as long as all these things are kind of true. Sometimes it’s really disadvantageous to say that you don’t really do anything but take welfare, live off savings or simply have enough passive income to survive without doing much. There is many sides of everything but what “freethinkers” like this have in common , is the fact that they rather rarely live in their own countries.  Boredom and judgment of their native places and opportunities that living in prospective destinations bring will usually push them out. What I mean is that “hustling” or freelancing in some smaller native places are either more difficult or frowned upon. There is no surprise that traditionally “hustling” was associated with outsiders in societies like Gypsies or Jews in medieval Europe. It’s a bit like picaresque novels without adventurism – at least nowadays. So while living in for example Thailand you can sell let’s say Greek feta cheese and spending really little time you may be able to make enough money to pay your bills and buy food. You may be also teaching English online (or any other language) design cheap logos in Photoshop, be a student or even work a part-time office job that you find to be a joke. All these things however are usually not going to make up the core of your identity. You usually won’t be thinking of yourself as “Cheese trader”,  “Teacher”, “Student” etc. since these are just temporary activities and labels, social fronts that you pick up along the way  and maybe use them as you see fit. Of course it happens that people make up long-term labels for themselves which with time may unintendedly become their habitual way of thinking.

Nowadays this has become a broader phenomenon of “Alternative social tourism”, “Nomadism”  “Drifting” or “Hustling” etc.(pretty much they mean the same thing to me) which I don’t mean here to frame as negative phenomena. It creates identity problems since our construction of social reality is in its essence very role based but at the same time  “Nomadism” is the way of life for millions of invisible people who are just trying to get by in their lives by doing something slightly  more interesting than their means actually allow them. It’s of course all without actually fulfilling traditional roles and for people who have little or no chances at “hitting it big” and retiring while still in their youth.  Myself I have a few prepared stories about what do I actually do (which are actually true) since it’s pretty hard to explain why did I go to 4 different universities in 4 different countries, had multiple seemingly unrelated jobs that I’ve been frequently changing and many micro business I’ve been inventing and pulling off (something like selling cheese etc.). Of course you cannot mention that you aren’t going to settle down or get married either because that can make people think that you are an oddball. I’ve been meeting many people in similar situations not fully realizing that we actually have a lot in common. What stopped me from realizing this at first, was actually these different keywords that everybody use associating himself with the kind of activity he allegedly does. What characterizes most of “Nomads” is getting by adventurously, possibly most comfortably as well as poor level of adjustment  and conformity to some social norms. You can meet more nomads in big agglomerations and if we see it as another version of white privilege – in the emerging Asian countries where being white can help you a little bit . Most of travel bloggers will probably fit in this category – these are usually random people who lived in peculiar locations and who simply learned a way to hustle a few bucks online. If you look at the demographics it’s pretty clear. It’s usually white middle-class youngsters from English speaking countries. Similarly to Expat-immigrant dichotomy – Nomad-bum opposition is white middle class versus the real poor kind of thing.

The case of an interesting “Nomad” or simply a homeless

Peter, British 50 y.o.~

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That was a really interesting experience meeting Peter. He was surfing my place in Germany in 2013 and at that time he was really one of a kind in my eyes. Imagine a homeless, middle age English man with Oxford accent hitchhiking through Europe and claiming to be a Phd student in his everyday life. He also had no phone, didn’t wanna spend any money and avoided talking much about himself. He even said that he wants to keep the name of the city where he lives for himself.  From the scrapes of information he gave me (squatting and hitchhiking at multiple locations in Europe, living in Asian countries etc.) I realized that the guy doesn’t talk about himself much since his identity doesn’t fit any usual brackets. He used to collect plastic bottles and walked around in very cheap clothes that haven’t been regularly washed.  He tried to get everything for free complaining on bus tickets while having no phone or anything else that costs more than sandals.

Well everybody would agree that Peter seems to be too extreme however my point is that there are many such “Peters” out there who maybe don’t go overboard but still live as nomads and escape labels and normal life. Some of them crazy, some of them libertines, some of them unwilling to adjust and some of them choosing between low level corporate/service/factory job with family responsibilities and life of constant travel, choose the second.

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