They say moving is one of the most stressful life events, but I’ve come to quite enjoy it. Last year alone, I lived in six different houses and moved across Wales, England, Scotland and the Channel Islands. So it’s really a good thing that the thought of packing up my belongings doesn’t give me palpitations. I’d be long dead if it did.
As the world descends into a bleak new year, with recessions looming and nothing mildly positive to look forward to, more and more people are adopting this lifestyle. Some are not doing it out of choice. Sofa surfing and moving back in with parents are their only options to escape the multiple crises: cost of living, energy bills, housing, war. For others, there’s an air of “what’s the point?” If you’re going to be broke and depressed, you might as well get to move around a bit and see what’s out there.
Britain is particularly bad. Stories spread of workmen walking into churches and taking food packages after a twelve-hour shift, passing up fresh groceries for something that doesn’t require turning on the gas. The weather is wretched: stormy and wet, stormy and wet, and mud, mud, mud, deep in all the streets. All the bleakness of a Dickens novel without the charm. Many of my friends are waking up to the fact that they’re living in squalor in central London for eye-watering rent, when they could be hopping from one Airbnb to the next in a European coastal town for half the price.
There are, of course, problems with not having a fixed abode. I’ve been waiting on a check for my tax return since June but haven’t stayed at the same address long enough for it to actually reach me. My own fault, maybe, but also the result of a wholly inefficient civil service. You can forget trying to send birthday or Christmas cards. I’ve resorted to politely telling people not to bother because, by the time they get to me, I’ve usually moved on.
My hoboing began with enough stuff to satisfy a small country. A pretty intense shopping addiction throughout my teenage years resulted in probably six or seven suitcases of polyester pants and the same pair of shoes in every color. Admittedly, my fast-fashion consumerism alone has likely seen the earth get a few degrees hotter. But the good thing about moving around is that you begin to realize those $10 shorts you bought at that one sale five years prior probably aren’t worth lugging 100 miles. You learn the art of letting the crap go.
America is a nation of vagabonds. Unlike in Britain, it is rare for the average citizen to stay in the same state throughout their life. People get up and move; most wouldn’t be here in the first place if their ancestors hadn’t done the same. Americans embraced the ditching of “sticks and bricks” homes long before the British did. And surely at least part of the American Dream is traveling that vast continent, working how and when they want.
This is most visible in the #VanLife phenomenon. Over one million Americans have now traded in thousands of square feet for RVs. This was true before the whole world was in crisis, so it often was done through choice. The allure of a nine-till-five office job and a two-up-two-down with a yard finally wore off. More families came around to homeschooling their kids as they traveled from one state to the next.
The testimonies from the self-proclaimed “modern nomads,” tell you everything you need to know. It saved their marriage; it made them feel free. It turns out that working from your dingy, stifling office may not be the route to happiness after all. The work-from-home era, ushered in by Covid, has allowed you to log on from Paris one day and Prague the next.
“It’s a phase,” I’m often told, and reminded that there is no better feeling than being “rooted.” Maybe they’re right, but for now I feel freer and happier than I ever have. Of course, don’t take my word for it. But if you have the desire niggling around in your brain, do it. End the lease. Sell up. Throw the hole-ridden sweater in the bin to make space for the bare necessities. It’s the year for it.