words nadia degama

The other day someone asked me whether I would consider myself a nomad.

“A nomad?”  I asked myself. 

I had never really thought about it.  My response was somewhat vague, not because I wasn’t interested in having the conversation, but because in that minute I was put in a position to answer a question about who I was, and how I have spent the rest of my life….

”Umm, I guess so. I have been an expat my whole life, so I guess I am.” 

That was my response, and my friend seemed alright with it.  However, I wasn’t.  I felt that I had given a ‘half-assed’ response and I wasn’t satisfied with such a short and incomplete answer because I felt that the response somewhat reflected my life experience – and my experience is certainly not short or incomplete. 

At home, I felt the need to “Google” the term nomad.  A quick Google search generated many hits, including a men’s clothing line, and even a Hollywood blockbuster movie – neither of which I found very helpful.  Deciding that Google was perhaps not the best route, I decided to go onto Wikipedia instead. 

Trusty Wikipedia says that ‘nomads’ are “communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location”.  This definition automatically evoked images in my head of gypsies, travelling in caravans across the country.  However, I was surprised to see that the word ‘settling’ was hyperlinked to another Wikipedia page.  Continuing to feed my curiosity, I clicked on this link to find out that Wikipedia defines a “settler” as one who “has migrated to an area and established permanent residence there, often to colonize the area. Settlers are generally people who take up residence on land”.  Hmm.

I pause because not only do I feel this this definition of ‘settler’ is somewhat simplistic, especially since not everyone who migrates decides to colonize an area, but because ‘nomad’ is pitted in direct contrast to ‘settler’.  All my life I’ve grown up in a place where I’ve been considered an ‘expat’, and so part of me does feel slightly nomadic; however, I feel I have lived more of a ‘settler’ life than that of a constant wanderer.  I pause again.  Only this time, my pause comes with a sense of confusion:  “do I even know what a nomad is?” 

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