An Empty Seat

1 November 2012. Filed under category Nomad.
An Empty Seat

I’m writing this blog post mid-flight somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. I meant to write about my two weeks in Hawaii, but I can’t focus. There is an empty seat next to me. I keep looking over at the empty space, at what is not there. I move on, and on, and on. Always moving, pressing on, living the life I chose for myself, exploring the world and marvelling at its beauty, and for the most part, I am happy. But these empty seats remind me that I travel alone.

I try to focus on Hawaii and all the wonderful things I did there, but right now, that is not what I need to write about. Right now, I need you as a surrogate friend to fill the empty space next to me. Someone to talk to, to tell you that sometimes I really fucking miss having someone next to me that I know, someone that I trust, someone I love. I long for a shoulder to lean on, to rest against. I want an arm to pull me into an embrace. I want to return a smile. I want my hand to search the darkness for a hand to hold, to feel the warmth of someone who welcomes my warmth, my breath, my closeness and affection, needs it, reaches out for it. Hell, I’d even take an angry argument over this empty seat.

I’m often asked if I don’t get lonely, if I don’t want someone to share my experiences with. I answer that I’m never alone and that I share my life with the people I meet on my journey, and it is mostly true. But there is only so much I can share with people I’ve known for only a few days or weeks. Some things—important things—are left buried within me.

I’m afraid that along my journey, I’ll always have an empty seat next to me. Who could ever fill it? I had a hard enough time finding a partner in my previous geo-static life, and now it seems all but impossible. And no, I can’t stop. I don’t want to. I like my nomadic life. Most of the time, I’m happy. Most of the time.


It is a few hours later, and I’m reading what I wrote above. They were honest words, and I don’t want to edit them or hide them from you. Still, it is time to reel in the self-pity.

It is true; I have no clue how to make relationships work as a nomad. Conventional relationships don’t seem to fit. Fine. So be it. I’ll deal with this as I dealt with other aspects of my nomadic life: I will forge my own path, and I’ll bend any god damn rule of convention that stands in my way.

It won’t be easy, but what other path could I walk but my own?

Mission Statement

Writing this post reminded me about my mission statement to “explore how a nomadic life can best be geo-independent, sustainable and eudaemonic.” If you haven’t read it, I suggest you have a look. The question of relationships is something I have to figure out if I hope to reach eudaemonia.

Travel Updates

I’ve spent the last two weeks in Hawaii. I’ll write more about that soon. After Hawaii, I spent two great days in Los Angeles and now I’m on my way to Auckland, New Zealand. I have a couple of great friends there that I’ll stay with initially.


Can you imagine a nomadic relationship?

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  1. Dan Garner says:

    You give up too easy. It would take a special kind of person, but it’s possible if you want it. You’ll figure it out.
    Dan @ ZenPresence

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      My final comment was a resolution not to give up. I will make it work. It might be an unconventional relationship(s), but I’ll make it work.

      1. DJ Yabis says:

        I have found my guy while being semi-nomadic in Sweden! He’s also very nomadic and we’ve now been together for 2 years. I couldn’t be happier. I’m sure you’ll find yours Gustav. He’s just there somewhere. ;D

  2. Neeta says:

    Hello Gustav. A relationship is a relationship … a nomadic one would take a bit more work, a teensy bit more. But if you’re with the right person(s) – everything is worth it. Best of Luck and Good things come to those who travel. Hugs, a Diehard Romantic – Neeta

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Welcome to The Modern Nomad; I love die hard romantics!

      My worry isn’t so much the work (all relationships take work) but rather how few people there are out there that are nomads. The pool of potential matches is pretty shallow, and I even had a hard time finding a fish in the deep sea of London! But, that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. As I said in the post, I have no idea how to make my nomadic lovelife work, but I will make it work, one way or another. Die-hard romantics unite!

      1. Jack says:

        So what are you looking for, except a person who is ready to go on the road? I wouldn’t hesitate one sec, in fact I am preparing to live that nomad life myself (my Romani friend said “fuck, you are more gypsy than I am anyway, so get going!” lol).
        I am in Sweden for the moment, if you are heading here anytime soon, let me know. I would love to meet up. I am planning to uproot towards the spring.


        1. Hogarth says:

          Aha! Gusty, a willing companion already, why not travel together and see the world! 🙂

          1. Jack says:

            Oh, I wish. He never got back to me. I am dumped even before I got on the road..! lol
            Relationships are hard indeed.!


            1. Hogarth says:

              Heheheh, that’s our Gusty. Try again in the future?


  3. par3182 says:

    An empty seat next to you on a trans-pacific flight? That’s a reason for celebrating (silver lining/missed point, etc).

  4. Pat Nomad says:

    You “just” have to find a fellow nomad. Just like the nomads of the desert, you need a tribe to be part of.

    It sure is difficult to find someone like that but on the other hand, your lifestyle allows you to meet an incredible amount of people all over the world.

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      That is a good point; I do meet a lot of people. Few of them are nomads though. Who knows, maybe I can uproot someone and bring them with me. Although, wow, that would be a lot of pressure! “I gave up my whole life to be with you!” That would end pretty much any argument…

      1. Rich says:

        That’s never a fair argument. Feel free to answer with any of the following:

        1) And you’re welcome to go back to it at any time.
        2) It’s more that I brought you out and showed you a new world.
        3) And boy did you get the better deal out of that one!


        In all seriousness though – don’t let it turn into pressure for you. If someone likes the life you live, and loves you, enough to join you and do the things you’re doing, that’s THEIR decision only.

  5. Hogarth says:

    Well you could just come for a while? See friends and family, and spend time with people that actually know you.
    The Nomadic life is romantic, but remember most Nomadic people’s were so, because they needed to find fresh pasture for their animals. If I remember correctly your not travelling with or grazing any animals?

    Humans can only be ‘unconnected’ for so long, ‘wandering’ can soon turn into just feeling lost? Remember that all Nomads ‘return’ to their lands. What will your ‘lands’ be? If you circumnavigate the globe, then yes, that seat will stay empty, it’s just life. But if you settle somewhere for a bit, maybe you can find someone who is like minded to travel with? There must be other Nomads that would like to travel with you? 🙂

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Hogie! Glad to hear from you! I am coming back to Sweden and London from time to time and it is always great to see friends and family. London and Ljungby are places where I feel I have really good friends and that I love spending time at. And perhaps a solution to the relationship issue is to have geo-static boyfriends in various ports that I visit from time to time during my travels. I’ve thought of that quite a few times, and I like the idea. Unconventional, but as I said in my post, I’ll bend any rule of convention to make the world fit me.

      As for coming back to London for a long time … I don’t think so. I have no interest in ending my nomadic experiment. It’s worked out well so far, and on another point, I don’t think I can afford London anymore without picking up a ‘proper’ job, and then I will never know how far working for myself would have brought me!

      1. Hogarth says:

        I had a feeling such an idea may arrive in your head. It would be fine for yourself, but not so fair on the geostatic man, who will effectively be functioning as a concubine?

        Your issue is a complex one, not easily remidied, although the sailor approach of ‘a partner in every port’ has been in use as long as ships have been invented. What is it, or who is it that you really, really want? What does it require to make that thing happen? Even with a partner in every port, you still have a problem of the empty seat next to you as you travel around. What you need is a travel companion, with a similar outlook to yourself? Try turning it around and put the focus on that person instead of yourself, where would that special person have to be in order to find you? If someone like minded to you, wanting to travel with a companion and wanted to meet and get to know you, how should they do it?

        Solve the answer to that question and then you are half way there.

        Its good that you are happy to keep moving, and yes staying in London now for the long term (without the sacrifice) is probably off the cards, but maybe stay a couple of weeks and chill out? 🙂

  6. crys klier-hoffman says:

    my first reaction is to try to reach out to you and hug you, tightly. my second reaction is to acknowledge we all are going to have an empty seat next to us at some time in our lives. a seat no one ,ever , will be able to fill.
    I don’t have a nomadic relationship but I have one with a ghost, his seat will always be empty. it feels about the same though. I just tell myself he is out, living free and happy, exploring the world with you, Gustav. that makes me smile through my tears.
    when those moments hit, when that seat is physically empty, remember those of us who love you and will be hugging you, even if you don’t feel it. <3

  7. Rich says:

    Gustav – you know I’m on my way to a similar lifestyle to the one you’re living. I’m taking a longer route there, but it’s the same goal. And you know that I’ve found a partner who is both willing and able to share it witn me. If I can, so can you 🙂 And if it’s company and friendship you want, on a longer-term basis, you know we’ll be there with you in a while. For the romance and intimacy side, you’ll find someone eventually.

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Hmm, perhaps we should do some nomading together. And if the night grows too cold, I could always wear a Kimera mask and come visit; you’ll hardly notice the difference I’m sure!

      1. Rich says:

        Hmmm, I think I might a bit more these days…

        * mysterious open-ended comment… you’ll have to wait till next time we see each other for more details! *

  8. Allan says:

    We all feel like you did on the plane Gustav, at some point(s), whether a nomad or not, as of course you know. Although not remotely in your league, I have traveled alone quite a lot in the last few years, but just for short periods. I must admit I always like getting home and seeing loved ones, so that feeling for you must be x1000000. I am not sure you know but Junior and I have broken up, ending a 14 year relationship, and the adjustment to ‘being alone’ and the ’empty seat’ is tough. Re your empty seat, have you thought about seeing if your family or friends that you have known for a long time could join you for periods here and there? I am sure plenty of people would very much enjoy spending their holidays sharing your experiences, me for one. Allan

    1. Hogarth says:

      I’m sorry to hear that Allan, goodness 14 years is a very long time. Of course adjusting must be very hard, Commisserations. Gusty, within the comments here in response to your article there is some very good advice. Yes you of course can find someone to share the adventure with, but remember ‘the rolling stone gathers no moss’.

      It will not be a defeat to stay put for a while, and try not beat yourself up for feeling vulnerable. If I did what you were doing I would feel very lonely, and miss my family and friends too much (that is why I don’t do it) come to London for a while, stay with familiar friends, afterall true friendship and love is one of life’s greatest treasures! There us nothing wrong with filling your pockets from time to time. x

    2. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Wow, I had no idea you broke up; I’m very sorry.

      My mother and brother visited me in Buenos Aires, and that was wonderful! So yes, I have an open invitation to all my old friends to come and visit me wherever and whenever I am! So if I’m somewhere that tickles your fancy, Allan, come on over!

  9. J. says:

    I know it is not the same as flesh and blood arms, but if it makes you feel any better, you are never alone. Our metaphysical arms hold you tight. I pray that at the right time and place, someone will join you on your journey.

  10. Oby says:

    Hello Gussie, that was a touching and honest post. As a convicted diehard romantic I had to read your post, the ensuing comments and also post my thoughts.
    First, it’s OK to have those feelings and to think as you did from time. I think there is a problem if you flew through the world hardly noticing those empty chairs. So relax.
    Secondly, I think the need for a partner or some special constant person is a need for home. However I don’t mean home as in going home home or a geo static place(I believe that is what you call your former life?) rather home is much more; for me it is the anchoring for a fixed point in your life – this is love. I believe that this can be regardless whether you are hurtling through life (when dancers lurch into a pirouette they have to have a fixed place to focus on as the turn). You see when you are in love or have a special person you create this sacred/fixed place or point defined by your shared bonds, ideas, beliefs, trust, sex, intimacy, security. With this person you can be yourself in all your various shades and angles without performance or without the need to apologise.. You see when you are with that special person you can be home whether it’s 30,000 ft in a plane across the pacific or curled up in a motel watching foreign evening TV. My point? I don’t think your nomadic lifestyle will mean its impossible for you to be ‘home’, yes it will be much harder simply because of the smaller pool of people on the same journey as you or wanting to start that journey but not impossible. There are people looking for home too and everyone’s idea of home is different, so logic tells me there is a match for you.
    Lastly, embrace those feelings those empty chairs make you feel. The are a compass reminding of where you are in your life and why, where you have come from and also that life is not geo static or fixed but it is always changing as we grow and change as people, and as our realities and surroundings change.

    Die hard romantic
    Oby x

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Everybody, I’d like to introduce Oby, a dear dear friend and a man who will wipe the floor with Romeo and Juliet when it comes to being a diehard romantic.

      What you wrote really rung true to me. I think I might have found someone like that, in some weird twisted way, and what you said about a fixed point… Yep, I can buy that. It’s hard when you are not physically together, but it is an enormous privilege nonetheless.

      PS. I’ve just moved in with Michael, from LoST! Let the board-gaming begin!

    2. Well Oby, what a corker! Gusty, there is your answer in a nutshell.
      I will reiterate what Oby says about it being Ok to have these feelings, you would not be human if you didn’t? Its natural, and I would be more worried if you never felt lonely travelling by yourself for so long.

      I still think you should visit London again to recharge your batteries, and dose up on some love and friendship before going off again. People are having babies!
      With the romance, it is possible, but also very tricky. The vast majority of relationships to work do require some form of consistency? Constant travel has ruined the strongest of relationships, so it must be a fellow Nomad… is there not some international Nomad dating site of some kind?

      Getting the balance right of course is up to you, but remember ‘to choose is to renounce’ and a Nomadic life imposes change and sacrifice. This is true of any life lived honestly, but the Nomadic life has more of the extremes, both highs and lows. Maybe you should do the obvious (but maybe not so?) and advertise for a travel buddy? It could yield unexpected results?

      Hogie :)x

      1. Levin says:


  11. DM says:

    One major advantage of a nomadic lifestyle when trying to find a partner is that you are meeting so many people. Fellow travellers are likelier to understand or approve of your lifestyle. I think you’ve a better shot at a nomadic relationship than you know!

  12. Craig Brown says:

    There is a lot of wisdom in these responses, not surprising when you make such a vulnerable and universal human statement.
    Yes, at some point we all see an empty chair next to us.
    Crys, above, lost her intelligent and passionate son to suicide and his chair is empty and her house is too quiet.
    For most of my life, my mother was my best friend. We traveled together from Venezuela to London to Calgary. I could tell her anything. Today, she is mentally ill and physically handicapped. I moved home to take care of her for ten years now, and there she is in her chair…but it feels empty. The friend she was is gone and is not coming back. I am living as a gay man in a small midwestern town and there has also been an empty space next to me in my bed for too long. I also “really fucking miss having someone next to me that I know, someone that I trust, someone I love… an arm to pull me into an embrace.”
    Yes, indeed, empty chairs. You are right though, if you are imaginative and willing to think unconventionally, to look in an unexpected place, love will find it’s way in.

    1. Joseph says:

      Craig what a strong person you are. To loose someone so close in such a vial way is not easy. As a gay man I lost my first partner to an drunk driver 10 years ago it was a very deep and life changing event for me, even though I have had other partners since it has never been quite the same. Trying to forgive the murder of a loved one is never an easy thing and it is something I have battled with for so long and then one has to let go.

      Being alone and not having someone in the seat alongside you or in you’re bed at night is something which only certain people can take for so long.

  13. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

    By the way, everybody, it means so much that you take the time to write me these comments. They help enormously. Knowing that you are out there, seeing what I do, write, think and feel, and that you care, well, it really helps me a lot and I wanted to say thank you.

  14. Brother Henrik says:

    Helloooo brother lots of preparing for My 40 years party so i will do a longer writing here Soon.
    And Skype is prepared for the evning 🙂

  15. axsd9id says:

    Really touching post. I am a kind of nomad myself and as much as i love this lifestyle. I do miss out on all the interactions with friends and potential soulmates I could have in the so called conventional lifestyle. Anyway as you said forge ur own path 😉

  16. Emelie says:

    Nomad or non-nomad finding a relationship is hard. The thing with a relationship is you need to find someone that cherishes you and respects you and above is willing to go the distance. The thing in a relationship it goes two ways…you have to share each others passions and desires. The person has to like what you do. So if the person likes traveling or going places they won’t mind uprooting so often and see the world. And I am confident you will find that person someday. Anyways came about this blog and figure it was something I kinda relate too so I thought I would leave a comment and say this is a really interesting blog. I really hope you find that special someone someday soon!

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Welcome to the blog, and thank you for your thoughts on relationships. I agree with that you need to cherish and be cherished, respect and be respected.

      One thing I’ve come to think is less required is to have things in common though. I learn that lesson when I met my absolute polar-opposite in Don Kendrick. The best thing he thought me was that friendship is based on respect and ‘cherishment’, not political ideas or shared religion. I wrote about that in the blog post Don Kendrick. You might like it.

  17. Even though I have only been traveling internationally (and quite frequently) I too have had many of the same feelings, of being alone. I sincerely hope that we will both find happiness along our (unconventional) journeys 😀

  18. Emily says:

    I just stumbled upon your blog, and this happens to be the first post I saw. This has always been my worry as well. I don’t know many people who would sacrifice the family life sort of thing to explore the world. I’m glad that I found your blog and can hear about your experiences. Though I’m happy traveling alone, having a travel partner that shares your overwhelming wanderlust must be even better.

    1. I’m not gonna say it is not a big sacrifice.

      When people hear that I’m a nomad, their first reaction is often, “Oh, I wish I could do that too!” But, … that empty seat is a real thing to deal with.

  19. Shelley says:

    Thank you for sharing with such honesty. As a fellow nomad who is sometimes hit with ‘the empty chair’ blues, your blog reminds me I’m not the only one who struggles with the downs of such an up/down lifestyle.

    1. Craig Brown says:

      Companionship in solitude.

    2. Writing this blog takes a lot out of me. It isn’t easy, digging into your emotions, then dress that tangled mess in words and finally to publish them for all to see. But comments like yours make it worth it, so thank you. And welcome to the blog.

  20. Eric Morrow says:

    Hey Gustav, nice post! I wonder about this too, since I frequently travel around, most for the fun of it. I do tend to mostly meet rooted people too when I travel, in fact I seek them out, since rooted people are what give any place its particular character. But finding a nice girl who also works remotely/nomadically is the dream!! Such a big world to explore, agree it would be much more fun with a partner.

  21. Emily W. says:

    Sounds like you need to set up a dating service! 🙂

  22. You should check out a game called “Journey” for Playstation 3. Just watch a video of it online, you don’t have to play it, but when I watched it it somehow made me feel better about nomadic interaction. I don’t know, see for yourself. Best, Johan.

  23. Anne says:

    Can definitely imagine one.. But the reality is Im not certain those geo-statical people(for which Im sure I kind of fit into), are doing better than you.. In fact Im sure many of them choose people to settle down with because their expected to(bit like the living in one location for the rest of your natural born life), the circumstance & the partners they choose aren’t necessarily someone that will love them despite their shortcomings or even someone that will like them for who they are. Is often about where one thinks they should be & from what I can see they often give up part of themselves to fit into situations that were never going to allow them to live the life they deserve..

    You may not have found the person of your dreams yet(yes, I am one of those hopeless romantics), but I believe their is someone out there that is perfect for each & everyone of us.. I also believe it is our job to be ready for them. By that I do not mean we develop ourselves to suit someone else but instead we do the hard yards & learn all we can about ourselves & develop ourselves in the ways that make us happy, so we can fulfil our own lives.. So that when that special person comes along we can say this is who I am & know that they are not there to complete us, but instead to share the journey of life together through mutual love & understanding..

    Yes this is my dream.. I am mostly happy with my solitary life but like you on odd occassions I dream of the person who would willingly walk my path with me & for whom I would be honoured to do the same..

    Hope the love of your life finds there way to you!!

    1. That is a beautiful description of love. I very much agree that we should not find people to complete us. That job is our own. We should be complete people in ourselves.

  24. Levin says:

    Hard to make a coherent comment – others have spoken much more lucidly. I can only say I understand completely – and empathise and send all my good vibes.

  25. Damon says:

    I have been nomadic for many many years now. It has always been lonely and now it is getting to the point that I just can’t go on living anymore, if nothing in my life changes.

    There are few nomadic women(I think it goes against their social desire to bear offspring or something)

    Sure looking back now, I am wishing I could live this nomadic life with someone, but at the end. It may not be possible in the long-term. It just gets too isolated for the other party.

    It would be nice to have one last go around the globe with someone who is *really* grounded to their hometown. But gee, come to think of it, I would be willing to forego the nomadic lifestyle just to try to settle down and life within the “norm”.

    My heart is soooo empty!

    Hey! So what about this dating website that is nomadic friendly? Does one exist. Or does anyone know of one which is nomadic friendly?

    1. Sounds like you know what you want to do. Maybe it is time to stop travelling and explore life with a partner instead? If you really can’t find one who is nomadic as well. (which, btw, I know can be done. Amy Scott of Nomadtopia e.g. is nomadic and in a relationship, travelling with her husband.)

      But, listen to what your heart tells you to do and follow it. Actively choose how to live your life, and make the choice with bravery and passion!

  26. Hogarth says:

    Well Damon, I offer my consolations, but the Nomadic life is not for the faint hearted. You have great courage to have gone as far as you have with it. I commend anyone else that can do it, but there is a price for total freedom. That price is leaving others behind, and having to constantly form new relationships.

    The trouble is, is that we human beings are rather fond of companionship, and it tends to form the bedrock of our psychological, emotional, physical and spiritual well being, so going without it for long periods of time can have quite drastic effects upon the psyche as a whole.

    I suggest a compromise: base yourself in your favourite city, find some part time work, and save up for travelling adventures which last a few weeks. Have two or three a year if you can manage it? That way you can build a foundation somewhere but still enjoy freedom. I would suggest as fun as nomadic life seems, it’s not worth an empty heart, for it is in the heart where are true wealth and joy resides.

    Do what makes your heart happy. :))

  27. Kendal says:

    I feel the same. I know you wrote this years ago, maybe you found someone. I hope so. 🙂 I’ve been traveling, and dating as I travel, but still haven’t found someone willing to adventure with me… was just googling for a dating site for nomads and found your post. OK, now back to my search. 🙂

    1. Maybe I could create that as a subsection of the Modern Nomad. 🙂

      1. Kendal says:

        hey why not 🙂

  28. Eden says:

    Okay… Can I be the first to ask about the lack of online dating resources for nomads? Where are they? Seriously, if any person needs help finding love, it’s a nomad.

    Secondly i’d like to reiterate a point I’ve seen on several of these comments: that empty seat may be empty right now, but some days it will be full, and even when it’s empty you should know that your ’empty’ seat is more full and fulfilling than most people will ever have. You have the opportunity and drive to make lasting friendships with people all over the world, make connections and learn culture as many people will forever be barred from due to their own fears or self-imposed boundaries. Embrace that you are a connector for the world and a source of light and joy, and someday someone with a similar love of spreading love and seeing the world will come along.

    From all of us nomads out there to you, Gustave
    Many Blessings, love, and Light.

    1. Aww, thank you! What a beautiful thought, that I’d be a connector for the world. I like that! I’ll do my best!

      1. Eden says:

        I just had a brilliant thought. Someone should make a dating site for nomads (or wannabe nomads like me who haven’t had the opportunity to travel yet because they’re in school) and name it NomadlyInLove… get it?

  29. Miss P says:

    Hey, just came across this thread and wondered – have you found a solution yet?

    Are you familiar with the song by Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere? Your task is to find someone who identifies with those lyrics (ie. feels so strongly about you that they’d throw the idea of a conventional relationship out the window) and then take time out of your schedule to invest in keeping them!

    In my humble opinion, it’s hard for people in all circumstances to form successful relationships, but a nomad may more easily opt out when the going gets tough! Two nomads trying to forge something together is probably a disaster, but I’m willing to be corrected on that one 🙂

Can you imagine a nomadic relationship?

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