no – mad
definition: a person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer.
They say impermanence is the only constant. This is an ideal I struggled with when I was 11-12 years old and thought every decision I made, down to which tee-shirt I wore, would affect me for the rest of my life and forever. Of course it sounds silly now, but in the moment it felt like the uncontrollable truth.
Going through life, especially as a punk-rock pre-teen, with the idea that permanence would find it’s way into every step that I took was a very stressful thought, yet I also found comfort in this misunderstanding. A small part of my brain praised this idea that nothing would change from today to tomorrow to ten years from now. It took a couple slaps in the face and a few eye-opening experiences to be incredibly grateful life didn’t work that way. Otherwise I would probably be seen walking down the street still in my terribly ripped up jeans, red hair dye on my forehead, and my mind milling about unimportant nothings.
The positive side of impermanence brings peace to think that the dead flowers will bloom again when the weather brightens and the not-so great grade I got on one assignment won’t matter next semester. Of course it is our responsibility to help this endless change move forward positively by learning from our mistakes and giving the sometimes not so easy forgiveness, to others and yourself.
Now that brings me back to 11 year old Syd and how much she would have worried about life moving here to there and the next place every few months. After some learning and expanding comfort zones, 17 year old Syd on the other hand, can’t imagine a life without the constant packing and hopping around.
A nomad truly lives the life of impermanence. Some people (or google images) might picture a nomad as a un-groomed wanderer going about the world on camel or horseback. I have begun to picture a girl with a trekking backpack half the size of her body and a notebook flooded with drawings and revelations. The 21st century nomad.
I have been contemplating when this change from girl with notebook hiking around mindlessly to nomadic wanderer happens, and I am sure this “aha” moment is different for each traveler. For me, it was when I was no longer “homesick.” Not to say that I didn’t find myself missing my family or my friends, but simply accepting the fact that I will make my way back to them.
Pictures and journal entries used to be my emotional support to “relive” these times where the grass is seemingly greener. I still take a walk down memory lane from time to time, but I have stopped living in the past. Change is the only constant and I am grateful I am not the person I was when I was 11 or 13 or 15 because if I was, it means I wouldn’t have learned much. It’s apart of growing up – and I see now how we never truly stop growing.
It is easy to look at where the grass was greener and have this internal desire to return to that patch of green. But, the nomad inside of me has grown stronger and has the desire instead to keep exploring. Not to forget these green patches, but to accept that these green patches will always be there once we have made them.
Being a nomad, a wanderer, a vagabond isn’t about going through life and going away forever. It’s about traveling from here to there and back again. It’s about making connections throughout the world and throughout the local community. About leaving green grass everywhere and living the life of impermanence.
What a gift you are, dear Syd, to us! Watching you “all wrapped up” as a child to the “unwrapping” process that takes place as you grow up has been both exciting and full of wonder. You are an amazing young woman!
Hey Syd, I was just wondering how you make those “connections throughout the world and throughout the local community”? How would you ensure that you aren’t just a tourist sweeping through travel, but rather a true nomad?
Hi Paul, glad you brought that up! This sounds simple, but just talking to people will make a world of difference. In the past I have made friends from collaboration of school magazines and in the Kouri forest I spoke one on one with the guide about how the trees are affected and what has/can be done to protect them even more. Putting yourself out there and being the first to start the conversation is the best way to get the “real” story. Tourists see only the tip of the iceberg, the other 90% of the ice is hidden beneath the water. Travelers and nomads swim in the ocean to see the whole glacier. I think it is also important to leave your own mark. Now I don’t mean cut into nature and make a new path or carve your name on something, I mean to impact the community you are visiting in a positive way. It doesn’t have to be this grand influence either; this interaction could simply entail picking up trash along the street, grabbing a coffee with a local, and sharing stories. In other words, leave with memories, not just photos. Traveling isn’t to see the world, it’s to experience the world. However, take this with a grain of salt, but this is what I try to do to make connections when I travel.