There are so many women in my grief age group — those who lost their mates around the same time mine did — who are starting nomadic adventures, or who dream of starting them, that it makes me wonder how many of us rootless women there are roaming the world.
Richard Grant, author of American Nomads: Travels with Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers and Bullriders, estimates that 500,000 people travel the US without a permanent home. (Others estimate there are over a million nomadic Americans.) To be honest, I wouldn’t include people who travel around in $300,000 motors homes as “nomads.” They might not have a fixed address, but they do have a home, and a luxurious one at that. They just take it with them. Still, the nomadic life appeals to people at both ends of the financial spectrum, some because they have the means to live on permanent vacation, and others because they can’t afford any other lifestyle, so I shouldn’t judge on the basis of income.
A good percentage of modern American nomads are women. Some women simply want to see the world, so become rootless by choice. Other women started out looking for a different life after a divorce, a death, or other loss uprooted them, and so ended up traveling the world. (Being nomadic must be a popular obsession — not only is it a designer brand, there is even a perfume named “Urban Nomads.”)
It seems to me women are the ones who become nomadic after the death of a partner. Men generally stay put, and often remarry quite quickly. (This is entirely anecdotal, of course, gleaned from my interactions with other bereft, but the Census Bureau does estimate that 10 times as many widowers as widows over 65 remarry, though there are fewer older men than older women. And there are fewer widowers than widows. I couldn’t find remarriage statistics for younger people, or those in their late fifties and early sixties.)
Oddly, it seems that traditionally men were the cave dwellers while women roamed about, making me wonder if this male “cave” instinct, more than a need to be taken care of, is the impetus for widowers to remarry. By the same token, a nomadic instinct could be what takes grieving women out of the nest, leads us to adventure, and maybe helps us find a new life.
I have no interest in being a nomadic RV dweller. The upkeep alone seems more trouble than it’s worth, though I can understand the pull — wherever you are, you are home. To be honest, I don’t really have an interest in being any kind of nomad, but I have no inclination to settle down, either. For one thing, I wouldn’t know where to settle or why to settle there — without my life mate/soul mate, one place is the same as another. For another thing, settling seems too much like stagnation. It’s entirely possible that by the time I’m free of responsibilities, I will also be free of my disinterest in settling down, but I doubt it. It will be so much easier to put my stuff in storage and hop in the car or start walking, than to find an acceptable apartment somewhere in the country, move all my stuff into it, set up the utilities, get my computer connected, change addresses, and all the other necessities of moving. Nope. Too much trouble.
Either way, whether I take to the road or settle down, I’ll still be rootless. My life mate/soul mate was my home, and with him gone, the only home I have is whatever home I can find within.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.