The Nomadic Cruiser

posted in: Essays, Travel | 0

For our first million years as a species, humans were nomadic.  We descend from hunter/gatherers; transients who continually moved around in search of food, and to avoid becoming food.  Home ownership was virtually unknown.  Then, about 10,000 years ago, frustrated by the paucity of good dining establishments, fashionable cave persons began to practice farming and animal husbandry.  They built great structures.  They made tools.  Texting become popular.  They specialized in all manner of skills, each person knowing more and more about less and less.  They opened restaurants.

To be sure, the hunter/gather instinct remains fully intact today.  You must forgive my stereotyping, but in women this instinct manifests as shopping.  In men it manifests as a problem-solving, goal-oriented approach to life, how to get from point A to point B without asking directions.  The interaction of these two archetypes is itself an interesting story and usually best avoided.

This new way of life grew to dominate the planet.  Tribes formed villages.  Villages grew into towns, and towns became cities.  After a million years of subsistence hunting, the human species one day found their population organized into nations.  We settled down.  Money moved to center stage.  Fast-forward a few millenia: shoppers now fill our malls and goal-oriented males still go about achieving goals.  Ancient behaviors became expressed in new ways.  For example, after a million years of scarcity and the real threat of starvation, humans developed the impulse to gorge after a successful hunt.

In modern times this instinct, this ‘greediness’, shows up in the realms of money and buffets.  Greed became, as the character Gordon Gecko claimed, good.  Some clever people acquire vast sums of money, collecting far more than needed for a thousand lifetimes.  Most however acquire just enough to earn a living, while their greed heritage manifests in the buffet line, where we pile more food on our plates than is necessary or wise.  Alternatively some of us collect memorabilia or beach towels or hubcaps.

One theory postulates that since early humans did not live very long, they naturally wanted to party like there was no tomorrow.  Often there was not.  We generally behaved badly and were an unruly species.  So to solve this problem, some early agrarian communities developed the rule of law.  Along with creating new opportunities for corruption, such rules, along with religious dogma, came to dominate. Thus human intuition and instinct bred through the ages became suppressed, pushed aside.  As a species we have adapted more to our own inventions than to forces of nature.

Today, perched comfortably atop the food chain, we humans now have excellent dining choices throughout the planet.  Established authorities struggle to hold their grip on the minds of once loyal followers.  They are now forced to compete in the global marketplace of ideas.  An increasing number of us can work online and all of us can socially connect via the Internet – that vast and chaotic collection of equal parts information and dis-information.

So the nomadic way returns, 21st century style, or Nomad 2.0 as we might call it.  On our world cruise we’ve met some people who have sold their homes, cars, and all belongings save what can fit in a few suitcases.  They are houseless, not homeless.  When asked that most standard question “Where do you live?” they are unsure how to reply.  I live in the moment.  Or, hand to heart, ‘I live here’.  They follow summer around the globe like hunters followed buffalo migrations.

Some straddle both worlds – homebound AND wanderer – choosing to travel half the year and live the settled home life the other half.  Rapidly evolving services and technologies continue to blur the line between nomad and farmer and to enable new beliefs, new rules, the emergence of a new moral compass.  First transient, then settler; what next for our species? Perhaps free agent – the self-determined soul.

And so we continue our near circumnavigation of the planet, slowly revealing the wonders of both modern and ancient worlds.  Or as Brigit describes it, we sit on a boat and the world revolves underneath us.  To risk the obvious pun, our travels are just skimming the surface.  We don’t stay in any one place long enough to gain any depth of understanding.  Yet the rapid-fire exposure to 67 diverse locations in a short time informs in a more intuitive, less detailed way.  Onboard we enjoy the opposing modes of transience and stationary living.  We stay on our ship, nurtured to the core.  Yet from our mother ship, we wander, browse, capture impressions of once far away places, a new location every day.  We raise our awareness of the world a notch or two, celebrate our nomadic heritage.

All things considered, a worthwhile experience.

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