19 October 2011. Filed under category Nomad.
The Tarot card of overextending oneself and (in this card) a false impression of homesickness.

The Tarot card of overextending oneself and (in this card) a false impression of homesickness.

Think back to when you last had a long holiday. After weeks of roasting yourself on a beach, exploring ancient monuments, being robbed haggling at a bazaar and wearing out your body during long nights of glorious excess, yes, after all that you realize that tomorrow is the day of your return to normality. How did you feel?

If you are anything like me, you might have felt eager to go home. You’ve had fun, no doubt about it. (You have a brand new tattoo to show for it!) Despite the fun, you look forward to return to the comfort of your own bed, the privacy of your own home and even the familiarity of your work. This is a mild case of homesickness, and it is perfectly normal.

For two months, I’ve lost my heart at Burning Man, visited old friends, made a whole bunch of new friends, explored a ghost town, competed at a rodeo and much more. It was the perfect start of my nomadic journey, and yet I felt homesick.

But hold on – a homesick nomad? That can’t be good. The general cure for homesickness is to go home. But what do you do when you don’t have a home to go to? Homesickness for a nomad is like the phantom pains of an amputee, and it is equally difficult to scratch.

Did this mean that my decision to become a nomad was a terrible mistake? Have I quit my job and sold my flat only to realize that these sacrifices were rash stupid decisions?

I spent a couple of days I stressing myself out with thoughts of green grasses and fences, but when the initial panic subsided, I took a deeper look at what it was I really longed for. I daydreamed of my old life, one aspect at a time, trying to figure out exactly what I was missing. I realized that what I was yearning for was the simple pleasure of being alone in my room, watching TV or surfing the web. I wanted to take a break from the adventuring and do something simple, mindless and relaxing. In short, I wanted to slow down.

Therefore, during my stay in San Francisco, I have chilled out. I’ve spent long days at coffee shops working on my laptop. I’ve watched TV with my hosts. Most important of all, I’ve silenced the insane voice in my head ordering me to explore San Francisco or die as a failed nomad.

It worked. The phantom pains are gone. Tomorrow, I will depart from San Francisco, and I feel great despite leaving the city somewhat unexplored.

The take-away point is this. As a budding nomad, becoming homesick is scary. First instincts will be to question your decision to become a traveller. However, take the time to pinpoint exactly what it is you miss, and find a way to incorporate it into your nomadic life. If you need a slower tempo, then slow down. If you miss the privacy of your home, then find a bedroom with a lock. If you miss your friends, then send them webcams and instructions for how to use Skype. Be creative, but remember that the first step is to know what lies beneath the homesickness.

It is a crime in most countries to throw out babies with bath water.


What would you miss the most from home if you became a nomad?

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  1. MB says:

    Wow I would have just freaked out but I like how triple C you are (calm, cool, and collected).

  2. Bubbles says:

    Sitting on my own clean toilet seat. My two cats cuddling up besides me in the bed and on the couch would be first. Seeing the pictures of all my family members displayed proudly around my house. Looking into my organized closet deciding what to wear. Having many choices when reaching for a cold drink, snack or something from the refrigerator whenever I had the urge to eat or drink it.

  3. kimera azriel says:

    Thanks for the depth of your soul searching. I distract myself from self contemplation but am sometimes nagged by feelings of homesickness. The familiar, the understood. I am thankful for computers and social networks. Being across the globe from my son in another age would like being dead. But with fast post and internet I can video chat him in real time or send him a package in a few days. I miss what I had there but look forward to seeing how it works when I go back there with Rich to stay for a few years in the states. Change is inevitable and self inflicted. Get used to it, others wish they could be so fluid.

  4. Stay strong! I’m still jealous of how well you’ve taken to the Nomadism 🙂

  5. Knowing that by the time anywhere felt familiar, it would be time to move on again and you’d never have that sense of belonging. I think it would be great to give it a try though, but I’m not sure I’d want to go it alone; although that would probably be more rewarding, it would also scare me too much!

  6. Craig Brown says:

    A few separate comments here..
    To answer your question, I want to say privacy, or better, the vague term “my nest”, which is a place where Craig’s energy lives. But I also have to say that a part of that is not having to keep finding a new place to stay. This is where I can always come back to.
    Other comments:
    1. I would love a blog dedicated to SKYPE LESSONS! Like the GTD blog. Not all the people you want to keep in touch with, and even SEE, have the tech savvy to feel comfortable using skype. I have a cam on my computer but no microphone (that I know of! I know that’s hilarious!) When someone calls me on skype, my cell phone rings, I have no idea why…though I like it since I’m not always at my computer. Which leads to the biggest hinderance to me calling someone on skype has to do with….don’t they usually have to be on the computer? How often are you logged on? Could people get in touch easily? This would help me a lot with a lot of people.The other problem is utterly vain. I look ten years older on my cam, LOL, and I bet lots of people feel that! I’ve even googled “good cam lighting” with little result. I totally admit it. ;-/
    2. Unrelated to your words, I love the tarot card symbolism above. I’m a very scientific thinker but both astrology and tarot cards hold a fascination of me unrelated to prediction or explanation of personality. They are systems of describing the human condition that have been filtered down through ages of time and across many cultures, so that all is left is the essential to human nature. I know a lot of astrological symbolism and, for me, it says something GOOD that a specific description could apply to anyone. I know nothing about tarot cards but the symbolism looks beautiful.

    1. Xavier says:

      Dear Craig,

      Once again, I am feeling “compelled” to reply to one of your posts again because it seems that your intuition is pointing you like a compass towards interesting directions. In the case of Tarot, the most intriguing and fascinating part is their link to symbols.

      – Without browsing on Wikipedia 🙂 – Tarot cards (especially Tarot de Marseille which is the most traditional one) are full of symbols inherited from Kabbalah, Greek Mythology, pagan traditions and a pinch of Christian beliefs to spice it all up.  What is important to remember is that until the late XIX ° Century, most of the population was illiterate and symbols were the only way to convey understandable messages. The irony of it all is that if we could compare ourselves to our XV° Century-ancestors, they would see us as symbol-illiterates… Churches throughout Europe are covered in symbols: this is partly due to the fact that people would attend mass spoken in Latin (aaargh!) and rely on images to decipher what the priest was telling them…

      Symbols are heavily used in paintings especially during the Renaissance era. So the same symbols that would find in Tarot, you would also find in such paintings of that era with same or similar meanings. Some of the most interesting artwork in that regard was produced by the Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch and the Italian master Botticelli. (Actually, did you know that the famous “Spring” of Botticelli is actually seen by some as a graphical representation of the astrological theme of Lorenzo de Medici “The Magnificent”, Botticelli’s benefactor? It gives a whole new meaning to the painting) Bosch in contrast uses symbols to depict apocalyptical visions of humanity. If you have a chance to admire one of his paintings – as in the Doge’s Palace in Venice – and if you are sensitive to symbols like you seem to be, you will find yourself staying in front of the painting for at least 30 minutes, examining every detail and time should go by really really fast etc… (Good thing that the paintings are located in a room of the Palace on the way out for tourists where they usually don’t stop so you will have plenty of time to enjoy the Apocalypse…)

      So what’s in it for us today? In a high-tech dominated era when we have been taught to become fact-oriented and mostly Cartesians, symbols are still known to us but mostly in subconscious manner. They appear in dreams (animals, colors and the like) and as I said before our intellect has lost track with their deeper meaning but not our emotional and intuitive sides. They relate to our collective human past so this is why they still break through our intellectual surface from time to time. Pre-school kids tend to connect with them better than grown-ups do. Advertisers rely heavily on the power of symbols: Apple, Nike, etc. : this is why finding the right logo is so important!

      On you can find the “Penguin Dictionary of Symbols” so start interpreting these weird dreams of yours, being the intuitive kind! 🙂


      P.S.: Like you say rightfully, you don’t need to believe in any of the divination stuff to enjoy Tarot. Just take it as a general knowledge needed to study artwork. It will help you decrypt some paintings more easily.

      1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

        Thank you for that piece of info. Symbolism has always been my poetry of choice. It indirectly conveys a meaning in a compressed format, but while spoken/written poetry usually just annoys me and feel pretentious, symbolism is beautiful.

        1. Xavier says:

          Master G. of this wonderful blog,

          Let me try to answer that.I guess that you would have to acknowledge the fact that poetry might hold a greater meaning than words written or spoken. I find you truly poetic for example: the ways you find to express your feelings are not far apart from the ones of a poet. In the end, it has less to do with the syntax and the verses but more with the interstices between the words: those make us “vibrate”. (slippery slope here, lol!)

          Poetry as a literary genre is also associated with a historical and social context that might exist less today. But rap singers and rap writers use “slam” for example: are they poets? Some of them are, most definitely. Poetry might appear less pretentious to you phrased this way.

          Last, poetry is a way to look at the world and to welcome its signals. Human beings have this empathetic ability to express and imprint their emotions using their environment – a bit like a tide. I believe that these connections that we make to our feelings are the root of poetry.

          /hug /cuddle /peace

      2. Craig Brown says:

        I am so honored and humbled that you made such an effort in response to me. That was super interesting and thorough too! Are you a professor of Art History? You could be. Gustav says you are currently living in Switzerland I think? I go to Paris a lot (flight attendant)…if you happened to be there I’d drop everything to head to the Louvre or Orsay with you. I’m unsure of the propriety/wisdom of putting ones email out on a blog but I’m not paranoid: [E-mail removed by Gustav. “You don’t want spam crawlers getting hold of your e-mail. I’ve forwarded your e-mail to Xavier.”]

        I will definitely get that Penguin dictionary. G is helping me set up my own blog and one idea for a page is “Mandalas” which fascinate me. I love circles! I also have an idea for which I will need to delve deeper into lunar symbolism.

        G’s comment below is interesting because I was thinking of how much I love properly employed symbolism in poetry. I agree that most poetry is hogwash and is often written to be obscure so the poet looks intellectually superior. But if it has a well determined purpose, can be clearly understood, with the symbolism perhaps adding a double or triple layer of entendre, it’s very compelling.

        Thanks again!

        1. Xavier says:


          I am no art history specialist but I did take courses a long time ago with an excellent teacher and close friend as an “extracurricular” activity. I am an IT/software architect by training much like Gustav but like many people on this blog, I don’t define who I am by my resume/CV. Hence many many thanks for your comments back: they were really kind.
          Writing this response was exhilarating because you seem to be the kind of person who is looking for answers. Your intuition might be at work lately to make you discover new paths that you may want to explore. Good news! This is cool : don’t get scared. And you don’t have to rush. Each of us can set the pace of how fast we want to reinvent ourselves.
          I’ll give you some tips by email on where to go in Paris because there might be less known museums that you might want to try out.
          I don’t know Paris very well, just the good stuff 🙂

          1. Craig Brown says:

            Thanks again Xavier [and G}. I am indeed the kind of person looking for answers, my search for new paths to explore has been a lifelong process and I’m hardly scared at all! I think I’ve learned to be patient too. When I finally get some content to share and make the blog public I hope you’ll take a gander. I have two great friends who live in Paris…but they are exactly the types that would like lesser know museums if they aren’t familiar already 😉

  7. Steve Dison says:

    I’m so rooted in my home I can’t even imagine becoming a nomad. All my comforts and joys are here, my partner, my pets, my trusty office chair from whence my income flows, the Internet, satellite TV and radio, the garage that houses my two-wheeled trusty steed, even my own familiar bed. I can relate to the homesickness. Even on the best of vacations, after 2 weeks away I’m ready to go home to my comfort zone.

    Nomadism is so definitely out of the realm for me. Maybe that’s why it’s so fascinating to be a virtual participant in your journey. It’s like watching an astronaut or a race car driver doing the most amazingly courageous things.

  8. Sam Piper says:

    Awwww Gustie! We all miss you terribly too. But remember, you can always come ‘home’ anytime you like. Even Nomads can visit! S x

  9. PDragon says:

    Wah wah wah! Suck it up Gusty. You are out there on your own now. Don’t come crying to us!

    Bloody Nomads.

  10. Imogen says:

    This is all part and parcel of living a more adventurous life. Expect more highs and lows on the seas of your nomadic voyage. Your ability to look inwards for answers will keep you on course. (Clearly, I should’ve been an agony aunt!)

  11. Hogarth says:

    One cure of course is to periodically visit friends and family from time to time, but also try and anticipate the potential for these feelings in the first place… the nomadic life at it’s essence is moving around, and looking for new areas of pasture or grazing, and re visiting past grazing when it has recovered, so a periodical trip ‘home’ from time to time does not mean one is compromising a ‘nomadic life’?
    Another way is to re-engage with this journey’s purpose, why are you doing it? This should keep your mind focused on what is important?

    If I became a Nomad, what I would miss would be all my friends and family, and how all their lives and moments are moving on, and no longer being a part of that process, which is probably why Nomads travel as families?

    I look forwards to your adventures when you travel to places which are unfamiliar, and you are unknown? That will be quite a different journey? Good luck : )

    1. I agree with you Hogie. It would be more challenging for Gustav to move to a place where he knows nobody, but that’s exactly what I thought his intention was – to rent a place that would be “home” for a spell and then move on to the next place. That would be very brave thing to do, and maybe too independent even for Gustav?

      Moving from place to place and staying with friends is still nomadic though; he doesn’t have anywhere that he can call his own space – but he does have companionship, and that must be a huge help. I’d struggle even to do that!

      1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

        Yep, that is absolutely the plan. In fact, on 30th October, I will fly to Mexico City, and I don’t have anywhere to stay. I’m hoping to find a short term rental or a similar living situation.

        I began the journey in a safe and familiar country to ease myself into the new life. But, there is a world to explore out there, so I am moving on. (Oh, and my VISA is soon out!)

  12. crys says:

    Aren’t we all nomads in a way? I venture out into the cyber world from the security of my home but I never know who or what I may encounter. I leave myself open and vulnerable so I can experience the unknown ,my own little adventure.
    Homesickness doesn’t have to mean you have left behind a ” place.” I can remember my mother, in her seventies, talking about her own mother, who died when I was four, with such longing in her voice and eyes. She talked about walking along a country dirt road as a child, the puffs of dust coming up between her bare toes. Homesickness.
    I can still vividly feel and hear the vibrations of her chest as I sat on her lap as a little girl as she talked. She has been gone over 20 years and I am still homesick for her.
    I love to be in Ca. and sit on a beach, the towering wall of waves thundering towards me, the fierce roar lulls me. I am homesick for it.
    Homesickness is not restricted to simply missing your own safe little abode. It is about missing a place, yes, but also a person, a time, a feeling. It is about where your heart lies.

  13. BrotherMichael says:


    This is my favorite posting of yours since you began your nomadic lifestyle.


  14. Thanks Gustav for your excellent post on homesickness! Although I left my “home” country nearly 15 years ago and lived in 5 countries, I haven’t suffered from homesickness since home is where I am and not where I come from. However, I would not be able to become a true nomad like you are, i.e. on the road all the time, as I would certainly miss seeing familiar faces and being in familiar places.(this is relative, I may have only known them a week but still…)

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      I put my sanity on the hope that I can stand the loneliness as long as it takes to meet people in a new place and establish those familiar faces and places. I’ve just arrived in Mexico City writing this, and it is tough but I’ve already made two friends. And in a pinch, be overly friendly with the hotel staff. Being greeted with a broad friendly smile in the morning really helps.

  15. Brother Henrik says:

    Gustav we hope you are coming home to Ljungby over christmas 🙂
    And sens you dont ned heavy stuff to cary around in the world we whouldlike to give you air ticket home and back to where you staying as an Xmas gift.

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Thank you brother! Mum has already been fishing for me to come home for x-mas. Most likely, I’ll be there, with jingle-bells on!

  16. MB says:

    How awesome is your brother, what a sweet gift!

  17. Xavier says:

    Back in 1997, I decided to leave my home country and accepted a job in the Silicon Valley, on the other side of the planet.I was living on the first floor of a condominium located on Elizabeth and Church, in Noe Valley.

    Quickly, home sickness became the ghost that would haunt me every day after 6 months or relocation. I was starting to feel depressed and getting ashamed of my own feelings that urged me to pack my things and go back. This meant a complete failure: haven’t I sold almost all my stuff before relocating to make sure that I wouldn’t easily change my mind?

    In the U.S. they call this “the immigrant’s syndrome or Ulysses syndrome”: basically one can never be at peace. You tend to miss the advantages of your home country and tend to see only the drawbacks of your new host land.

    One morning of October 1998, beams of “thick” light peering through the window woke me up. The light was coming in gently that morning with a very soothing touch. The callistemons – bottlebrush trees – were in full blossom on the street and their lantern flowers were swinging in the wind.

    Suddenly it struck me: I was damn so lucky to be here, to have that experience. I had never thought that destiny had that in store for me. I had been born and raised in the French farmland countryside by a traditional family and there I was, living the dream…

    And in an instant, my home sickness disappeared. Literally like that! I would eventually go back to Europe but from that day on the memories of my past didn’t hurt any more. I just accepted my new home and whenever I walked back back to Elizabeth Street, I coudl feel such an exhilarating feeling of pure freedom.

    Now it’s this San Franciscan October light that I miss sometimes. But maybe because I am still way too much a drama queen 🙂

    /hug /cuddle /peace


  18. Ad says:


    From what tarot deck came that 10 of wands?

    Just the most beautifull i’ve ever seen <3

    1. I’m sorry, I don’t know. It was a picture I found on Google image search.

What would you miss the most from home if you became a nomad?

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