Most little girls played house, cooked for their teddy bears, and made Barbie marry Ken every single day. Me on the other hand—I was probably dropped on my head as a baby; I played Spanish conquistador, brought my teddy bears into secret tree forts and made Barbie – who was actually a Princess Jasmine – marry a Power Ranger in my neighbour’s sandbox.
While all my friends dreamed of growing up to be beautiful debutantes, waltzed about and wooed by dashing gents, I had serious plans to either become a pirate on the seven seas or join a camel caravan in the Sahara.
Luckily for me, we might just be in the second golden age of exploration. What about you? If you took a time-travelling career test, would your results be along the lines of Roman Officer, Middle-Ages Priest and 18th Century Magistrate, or would you get a title more like: Explorer/Gypsy/Camel-Caravan-Leading/Pirate/Cowboy?
History tends to go in cycles, and since its beginning there have been two types of classifications that span race, gender, ethnicity, culture, location and time. Every individual and every civilization has one of two directions: either they want to build Roman-strength empires or they want to pitch tents. Our grandparents were certainly of the first sort: building lasting empires intended for generations to come. Our parents perhaps didn’t build these empires but settled in them. But then there’s us.
What did we grow up to be?
By and large, Generation Y is of the second sort: we’re a nomadic, tent-pitching generation. According to the Office for National Statistics, approximately 23 per cent of young adults move every year and the U.S. Census Bureau says over 65 per cent move at least every five years. Additionally, the ONS says that, largely due to students, 70 per cent of short-term residents in the U.K. are in their 20’s. It’s becoming more and more common and accepted to take a year off between college and uni to travel or volunteer and young adults are commonly moving not just to different cities but even countries. We’re becoming perpetual travellers.
It’s easy to say it’s a young adult thing – and that may be true to an extent. But this is not a modern concept. Peoples throughout the ages have been doing this since the days of Columbus and Magellan and once again the priorities of society as a whole are shifting. The age of working, marrying, domestic-empire-building and dying in one place is over. We collect experiences now, not things.
Man was not meant to live alone, though, and how do you build any sense of community if you’re constantly changing locations? What does community even mean in a modern sense? Now, many of us know people from multiple cities, countries and continents, and in this age of social media and instant contact, keeping in touch with a vast community has never been easier.
You build relationships by interaction. You connect by sharing and communicating. By simply being a friend, you are being a witness, and this is true for everyone you come into contact with. This means our possibilities are nearly endless.
So, what does this lifestyle mean for our generation of Christians? It means we have the opportunity, now more than ever, of becoming modern day apostles – a word meaning “one who is sent away”; a messenger or ambassador.
Take the Apostle Paul. His ministry spanned modern day Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Syria, Jordan and some say as far as Spain. He went from city to city, sometimes staying for a year or two, sometimes even less. He arguably built one of the biggest and most far-reaching communities in the entire Bible, by linking all sorts of separate churches into one connected church. Or what about Moses — the ultimate traveller. He literally trekked through desert and sea.
On the other hand, Jesus, God in person, stayed in one general area for the entirety of his life. So how can we say one path is better? Is one better?
Maybe there isn’t an answer. Maybe it varies by person.
The builders would say the nomadic life is restless and impulsive; alternatively, the nomads would say the builder life is mundane and ordinary.
Trust me, I get it completely — the draw of a traditional community is so understandable and, in many ways, there is nothing I love more than the comforting image of home — after all, it’s where my family and dearest friends are; where home cookin’ and hugs abound; and where childhood memories are stored along with rows of my favourite books and grandfather’s big, comfy chair. But maybe there’s something bigger.
Personally, I want my mind absolutely blown. There is so much out there — so much beauty and history and legend, so many peoples, stories, sights, and smells, so much to marvel at and inspire you. You can’t effect or truly learn from the world by watching it through the windows. During The Great Commissioning, Jesus told the apostles: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” It’s like the ultimate quest and can therefore sound terrifying, but it doesn’t mean YOU personally and alone have been given this task and the fate of the world rests on your shoulders. You don’t have to move to a remote village in Africa or go on some world evangelism tour. I myself was not made for this; I’ll never lead a mass revival in Cambodia, but I can step out of my comfort zone. God opens doors in so many ways and can use you in equally as many.
So, if you feel the nomadic life calling, how do you choose your next expedition? Would you rather, blind-folded, pick a spot on a map, or weigh the pros and cons? How do you know if your soul is bursting for new peoples and cultures and places because God is directing you or because you just fancy travel and adventure? If you know it’s direction, where do you draw the line between following your path or letting God lead you down his? God directed the Israelites to the Promised Land, but they decided to follow their own path and ended up wandering the desert for forty years. But Moses, their appointed leader, walked the same literal path, but used God as his compass, not his own desires. While his followers never saw what they were seeking, what did Moses see? He saw the brilliance of God.
While there truly may be no place like home for some, for others, not all who wander are lost.
This post is part of our Nomad series. Are we a generation of wanderers? Watch the new video from Ethos here and have your say.