Saturday, May 21, 2005

Loneliness and the Road

by Skald

Longterm traveling isnt always easy. There are many rewards, as Matt and I continually point out. But there are difficult challenges as well.

Perhaps the greatest challenge comes from loneliness. When you stay on the move it becomes difficult to keep a social network. Im facing this problem now as my longterm travel partners consider a return home.

But this problem effects non-travelers as well. Modern life makes "convivial gatherings" (to use Hakim Bey's term) quite difficult. We become increasingly separated. Work, economics, media, and mobility serve to isolate us.

Most of my adult life since college has been spent in a continual struggle with isolation. My hometown had few economic opportunities... just a large university... and so my friends always moved away. Lately, Ive been the one on the move. In either case, Ive found it damn hard to keep a vibrant social life.. especially as Im not a particularly extroverted person.

But Im not alone. Most of my friends have the same struggle. Most adult acquaintances over age 28 complain of the same challenge. There's a larger societal process going on here, one which hits the nomad and the stationary wage-employee just as hard.

The esteemed Mr. Bey, in fact, identifies loneliness at THE big weapon of corporate power, "Capital", wage-slavery, etc. Convivial gatherings outside of work/authority (ie church) become rarer and rarer. People plug into TV to fill the gap. They consume to soothe their dissatisfaction. They plunge into the virtual reality of media because their real lives feel so disconnected, lonely, and boring.

Mr. Bey urges us to fight this trend.... to make spirited efforts to establish convivial social groups... ones which do not revolve around work or consumption... but rather around play. He calls these Immediatist groups.

My questions....

Can neo-nomads establish such groups too?

Is it possible to live a nomadic life with other people?

Or is this nomadic (vagabonding) life inherently a lonely solo undertaking?



CuriousDragon said...

I TOTALLY agree with this post. I feel that way all the time. I live at an apartment complex by school and don't know ANY of my neighbors. What's sad is that I try to know them a little bit. I'd bet money they're lonely and bored most of the time, but they still have this fear of getting out and find me odd if I want to say "hi" or talk when randomly seeing them. We're all so antisocial. It's odd.

I feel it's grown so big that people basically ignore other people unless they see a potential for the ONE exception to this antisocial nature: sex. Maybe it's just people at my age (just graduated from school), but I think MOST random conversations and meetings are driven by sex. Sad that we're not just social naturally.

I think the nomadic lifestyle could be social, but has the same problems society has.

AJ said...

Social life

Its strange, isnt it. Im guilty of exactly what you write about. Though I may feel lonely, or want more friends,.... Im likely to feel strange about approaching people out of the blue.

And when someone does so with me, Im often quite standoffish at first. This is probably a defense triggered by the large number of Christian evangalists who approach me under the guise of friendship or socializing. Right away Im thinking "what does this person want from me?" or "when are they going to mention Jesus?".

A lot of people are similarly guarded, I imagine.... so the trick is to create situations in which that guard can be let down and socialization can occur more fluidly.


itrimble said...

I agree with both the article and both comments. I find that alcohol helps in party situations. It is just hard in general. I am not sure if this this is isolated in the US or a worldwide thing ? What are your thoughts on that ?