The Misnomer of Nomadland

Robyne Stevenson
6 min readMay 28, 2021
Lake Easton, WA by author

I watched the movie Nomadland. It won an Oscar for reasons that escape me. Frances McDormand won the best actress award for obvious reasons. The movie seems to want to pair the romanticism of travel with the gritty underbelly of economic woes. The itinerant van and camper dwellers are the Greek Chorus to Fern’s spotlight.

I am Fern in better economic circumstances and living not in a van but in an Airstream. While the travel equipment makes for good movie visuals, it’s not the whole story. It’s the people who are the story. Not everyone who travels as a nomad does it willingly or well. I found success in living the nomad mindset.

A retirement party and heartfelt goodbyes to colleagues and friends were my sendoffs from a 30+ year career to being a nomad. With no husband, no children, and no ties to keep me where I was, I was free to hit the road. I am not a country-hopping, beach-partying, twenty-something nomad. I’m retired and live on social security and a bit of savings. I had no idea what I was doing but I sought the romanticism of adventure. I sought freedom to escape, what, I didn’t know. I wanted to see places that I had only flown over going from job to job and conference to conference.

I pulled onto the highway with my new 25-foot house in tow and pulled into my first campground with great anticipation. I was exhausted having spent the last three days moving my life into this house on wheels. I was completely out of pocket. I didn’t know how to live like this. I was alone — really alone. There was no cell signal in this campground. Welcome to nomad travel. It’s not a life I knew and as I tried to make it like the life I did know, I failed.

I had to learn to live the nomad mindset.

  • No patterns, no expectations, and infinite choices.
  • Experiences are what matter.
  • Spend time with people you’ll never see again.
  • Experience nature.
  • Learn to love solitude.
  • Live by what you value.

It took me some time to get a handle on traveling as a nomad and it was painful and frustrating. I kept trying to use the old rules of my life to guide my new life. It was a mismatch. Traveling as a nomad is not a permanent vacation and it’s not…

Robyne Stevenson

I travel the country in my Airstream meeting people and enjoying life. I’m a writer. I was a Professor of Politics. Things change.