A nomadic home


In Australia, as in much of the West, there is an intimate and seemingly unbreakable connection between our design and our experience of home and the material world.

Home, as commonly understood in the modern Anglo-European imaginary, refers to a physical structure such as a house or apartment, as well as the territory on which it sits – the suburb, city or country. in its entirety.

Home, we often imagine, is a familiar place to which you inevitably and eventually return. Photo: Getty Images

An expectation of return is equally fundamental to this conventional conception of home.

Home, it is often imagined, is a familiar place to which you inevitably and eventually return, whether at the end of the day, vacation or time spent working abroad.

Taken together, then, home, as it is commonly understood, is something you necessarily leave behind as you travel and build a life on the move.

The use of arboreal metaphors as “roots” to talk about our countries of origin has certainly naturalized this territorializing logic often used to give meaning to our relationship to the world.

But people’s attachment to specific places is more normative than natural – more imaginative than innate – and it may be time to “uproot” this static, territorial concept of home.

In a world increasingly characterized by mobility and complex transnational connections, the attachment of home to territory fails to capture other understandings and experiences of home, particularly among nomadic communities.

In my ongoing work on digital nomads, I’m interested in how this highly mobile population employs a range of housekeeping practices and strategies to feel at home on the road.

Our world is increasingly characterized by mobility and complex transnational ties. Photo: Getty Images

More specifically, how do these itinerant people imagine, create and maintain a sense of belonging while continually moving in changing socio-cultural contexts?

Due to the novelty of this hypermobile lifestyle, little research exists in this area.

However, a recent study found that digital nomads had a more mobile conception of home that was not tied to a physical location and could feel at home anywhere in the world through the cultivation of certain mobile practices. .

This includes traveling with loved ones or with items of emotional value as well as using Skype and other forms of communication to stay in touch with friends and family.

Other nomadic communities, such as location-independent families, also demonstrate that the house can be mobile and multiple instead of singular and static, which can be achieved on the road through other house-making practices. mobile, such as the strategic use of routine.

For example, by sticking to the same daily schedule and engaging in the same wearable practices together while traveling the world — like working out, watching shows, and sharing meals — a thread of familiarity is continually woven across contexts. ever-changing spatial and cultural contexts.

It can provide the stability needed for a lasting sense of place across space and time.

How do these homeless people imagine, create and maintain a sense of belonging? Photo: Getty Images

In other words, routine, for these nomadic families, is used to foster a sense of familiarity and create a mobile sense of home no matter where in the world they are.

Other mobile individuals, such as transnational professionals, also use routine to cultivate a sense of belonging.

Paradoxically then, far from being incompatible with the idea of ​​home, movement, in the form of daily mobility, is fundamental to its realization. Through routine and repetition, unfamiliar places and people can slowly become familiar.

The viability of a mobile sense of belonging is, in part, a reflection of its conceptual ambiguity and multiple meanings.

Home is a deeply personal and multidimensional concept that can be understood and experienced in different ways, often simultaneously.

Thus, any attempt to capture its conceptual essence – analytically or descriptively – is problematic.

Along with a territorial understanding of home, for some people home is a feeling – as evidenced by the popular adage, “home is where the heart is” – or a way of living. to be in the world.

Yet for others, home emerges from the convergence of meaningful relationships with people and things in one place – wherever and wherever that is.

Traveling with loved ones or with items of emotional value can help create a sense of place. Photo: Getty Images

More often than not, a sense of belonging is felt from the interaction of all these components, although to varying degrees.

In other words, the house is both the place itself and the people in it – a spatio-social system – made familiar and meaningful over time.

More importantly, none of these elements need to be fixed in space or localized in territory, and can in fact be continuously explored and cultivated through mobility and specific domestic practices.

Traveling with friends and relatives, packing meaningful items in your suitcase or backpack, and engaging in the same routine across transnational borders can all help foster a sense of place on the go.

As the poet John Berger so aptly put it, routine practices, though transitory, often provide more permanence and shelter than any dwelling.

As the digital nomad community continues to grow thanks to the growing popularity of remote work policies and the introduction of digital nomad visas, the conventional definition and contours of home need to be seriously reconsidered.

What digital nomads and other traveling communities show us, however, is that the home is not necessarily linked to the territory, but can be imagined, cultivated and experienced in a mobile and multiple way.

Banner: Getty Images


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