The Writer as a Modern Nomad

I sit down to write another thousand words in my work in progress, but my writing seems a bit more mehhh than usual. I'm having a hard time focusing. I think I'm getting sick or maybe my body is trying to recover from traveling so often the last six months.

It's hard to be back home, to be forced into a regular schedule. I miss being on the move, but writing while traveling is hard for me too. It takes a while for me to put an experience into words, because I don't realize how things affect me until long after I'm home. It's always the smallest things that end up sticking to my brain.

In Rambles: A Field Guide to the US, Eric Peterson writes that stories are about a man leaving home or a stranger coming into town. I think that's why I need to travel every so often, I'm happiest when I'm unsettled, because stories are about movement.

Life should be about movement.

If I stay in one place too long, I feel like a stranger in my own skin, like all the boxes we're supposed to check off in the game of Life become the only measure of a life well lived. It's a load of crap. I know this. What's on our business cards shouldn't mean more than who we are, yet I'm guilty of judging people and allowing myself to be judged. My family includes doctors, surgeons, pharmacists, lawyers, and here I am, just a vagabond writer, struggling to put experiences into words.

Traveling isn't only about seeing sights, it's about the experience of being a stranger in someone else's town. I'm a solitary traveler. Some people make friends easily, but I'm not one of them.

Being a nomad means not having a home. It means always moving and being unsettled. Hard to do because biologically and culturally, we're supposed to form attachments with people and places. I have my day job where I'm as attached as a house to its foundation, and then there is my writing where I feel the best when I'm unsettled.

There is a lot in common between traveling and writing. Our ability to create art expands our metaphorical horizon the same way our literal boundaries expand each time we travel to a new town. To be able to stand as an observer when we're strangers in someone else's town is to be able to witness what it means to be human: chaotic, unfathomable. To write someone's life, even if it's the life of a fictitious person, is to find a bit of meaning in that chaos.

On the side of Dog Bark Park Inn, a giant dog-shaped bed and breakfast in Idaho, there is a sign that reads: A Noble and Absurd Adventure. After driving a thousand miles, I stumble out of my car to stand beneath this sign. There's not much around me; I'm surrounded by fields of wheat. There's no reception, no wifi, and the nearest town has a population that's less than the number of students at my old high school.

I don't know why I drove so far out of my way or why I chose this place as my destination, but all it took were those five simple words to illuminate the thinnest thread of meaning throughout my life. Writing is like building a giant dog-shaped bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere just because you can. It's noble and absurd, and that's why I do it.