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Your gods are deaf.
Sometime during the 4th century, a fugitive princess led her people south towards a better life.
Her name was Tin Hinan, which translated literally meant “Queen of the Tents”; a reflection of the way her people chose to live an untethered nomadic existence of freedom. Where Tin Hinan and her people came from was a mystery, but before long they would be known for spreading far and wide throughout the north-western parts of Africa.
For centuries, her people thrived in the region. Untethered to cities, and unrestricted by borders, they plied a life of absolute freedom as nomadic merchants, traders, and craftspeople, producing and procuring valuable commodities like salt, gold, jewellery, and slaves.
Over time, empires in the region would rise and fall. Invasions, uprisings, and political power-plays would cause borders and ruling families to change. But Tin Hinan’s nomadic people were always able to avoid the empty larders brought about by pestilence, or the destructive effects of war, by simply picking up their tents and moving somewhere new.
In this nomadic culture, men were known as Amajagh, women as Tamajaq, and collectively they called themselves Imuhagh. But all three titles were roughly translated to have the same potent meaning: “Free-men”.
However, the non-nomadic local peoples of the region called them by another name altogether. A cultural slur, designed to mark the Imuhagh as a lesser tribe, who had no roots, no stable homes, and who were late in the adoption of Islam. The title meant “those abandoned by God”, and in Arabic was pronounced something like “Tuareg”.
The history of Tin Hinan and her people the Imuhagh may have begun over fifteen centuries ago. However, these African nomads have endured through the ages, and still thrive in the region today. And apparently, so does their insulting title.
In the modern world, Tuareg is the most common name you’ll see these nomadic Berber people referred to by media outlets like the BBC, and the Encyclopedia Britannica. And Volkswagen even named a car the “Touareg”, apparently in reference to the hardiness of its premium SUV. But despite the name inferring an ancient insult, I believe there’s little to be ashamed about when it comes to living the life of a nomad.
Like those who hurled insults at the Imuhagh, I believe we’ve also been abandoned by our gods.
Our gods in parliament who accept lobbying money to write laws that benefit corporations over people. And our gods in leadership positions who hand out multi-billion-dollar contracts to companies, while the general quality of life languishes for individual citizens.
Our gods are blind, deaf, and dumb to anything apart from that which serves them.
Time and time again, I find myself talking to people who are disparaging of the political or living situations in their home countries. Inevitably, I usually offer them the suggestion that perhaps they should just go and live somewhere else—but when I do, I’m often looked at like I’ve just sprouted a hand out of my forehead.
And to a certain extent, I can understand that reaction.
For many people, the idea of finding another nation to call home seems like a huge task. Visas, paperwork, travel plans, organising accommodation, and selling or storing everything someone owns. But trust me when I say that it’s not as daunting as it sounds.
For the best part of a decade, I lived my life as a nomad. Sure, maybe not in a romantic desert-wandering sense like the Imuhagh do. For me it was a more modern globetrotting way, with nothing more than a small backpack filled with clothing and toiletries, and the laptop I needed to run my business.
Sure, you may have to give up certain comforts when choosing this kind of existence. A comfortable home of your own, a predictable routine, or people who speak a familiar language. But with these sacrifices, come an incredible array of potential gains.
For a start, being a full-time nomad is usually cheaper than staying in one place.
Take Portugal, for example. To apply for the nation’s one-year digital nomad visa, you only have to prove a measly €705 in monthly independent income. If you can do that, you can live in a place that has some of the world’s best food and climate, as well as some of Europe’s most affordable living costs.
Or Morocco, a country that I’ve personally spent considerable time in as a nomad. In the city of Marrakech—one of the world’s most ancient and stunning places—you can rent out a room in a beautiful riad for as little as a few hundred US dollars a month, sometimes with breakfast included.
Or what about Georgia, the country that literally invented red wine? Where Tbilisi was recently named the third most-affordable capital city on the planet to live in, that offers a very modern European lifestyle, for around the same price as living in a place like Tunisia or Zambia. And as an added bonus, Georgia will also allow you to legally lower your tax bill to only 1%.
But financial benefits aside, it’s the mental benefits I love the most about living a nomadic lifestyle.
As a full-time nomad, you won’t have to think about an electricity bill, a heating bill, an internet bill, taking out your garbage cans once a week, or even owning a car. Beyond maybe organising a cheap SIM card every time you enter a new nation, there is very little life administration you’ll have to worry about.
And when you’re a nomad, who cares if a political party you hate gets elected at home? Or if new taxes are implemented that will take an extra few percent out of your monthly income? You won’t be there to deal with any of it.
Instead, you’ll be in a city like Istanbul, Ipoh, or Innsbruck, focusing solely on experiencing the local culture, and expending your valuable mental energy on your remote business, and the direction you choose to take your life in.
And these days, you don’t even really need to apply for a special visa if you want to live as a nomad. For example, I personally spent years living between nations like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam solely on tourist visas, just skipping to the next country whenever my visa-on-arrival was about to run out.
I will admit, I haven’t personally called myself a nomad for almost a decade now. I have all the trappings of a settled life here at home in Iceland, including an apartment, a summer house, and two cars. And looking back on the way I used to live, I can’t help but look at this as something of a devolution.
But I have a feeling this will change over the next few years. Because I miss the truly life-changing freedom that being a nomad affords. Because as a nomad, you don’t have to settle for any of the negativity that would impact your life at home.
You don’t have to settle for high taxes, expensive living costs, or an overcrowded city you despise. You don’t have to settle for a long commute, or a failing economy that’s negatively impacting your business. And you don’t have to settle for a corrupt government that only cares about serving the interests of the powerful.
In fact, the whole point of living a nomadic lifestyle is that you never need to settle at all.
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