The next has been edited for length and clarity.
What caused you to undertake such an ambitious project?
I saw black goat-hair tents once I was a youngster traveling within the Middle East and even then, I spotted that although I had studied history, I had heard almost nothing about nomads. But in places like Syria and Jordan, they were still a part of on a regular basis life. My book got here into focus years ago, around the identical time as hundreds of thousands of individuals were fleeing the Middle East, when Britain was voting to shut itself from Europe, and once I was trying to vary my very own life. I wanted to write down something that might tell one other side of history and that might also have a good time movement, open borders, a more open world.
Besides your journeys to the London Library and the Bodleian Library in Oxford, where did you travel to do research?
Within the Nineteen Nineties I stayed in Kenya with Wilfred Thesiger — his whole life was spent amongst nomads. Since then, I’ve had conversations about and with nomads in lots of places on this planet, and I wrote different sections of the book on the move around Europe. But crucial journey I made specifically for this book was to Iran, where I stayed with the Bakhtiari, a nomadic tribe that winters on the Mesopotamian plains, near the Iraqi border. In late spring, when all of the grasses dry up, the nomads take their flocks, families and tents up into the Zagros Mountains, and that was where I first found them, on a high plateau where the snow had melted and the valleys, carpeted with irises and dwarf tulips, had excellent grazing for his or her sheep and goats.
Within the book you write that “nomads are necessary to the way in which we settled people live, just as the way in which they’re crucial to the way in which we understand ourselves.” Are you able to say a bit more about this?
Humans began to settle and learned to domesticate crops and animals around 12,000 years ago. The method took a protracted time, but has been immensely successful given that almost all of the eight billion of us at the moment are settled and over half of us now live urban lives. That success has now turn out to be problematic — our cities, like much else in our world, are in crisis. The necessity for a latest way of life and of pondering has never been more essential. Yet most of us are entirely unaware of our nomadic heritage, since it will not be in our history books. How can we all know who we’re — and who we would turn out to be — if we don’t know where we now have come from, who we now have been? And people of us who find it difficult to live in a single place, or at the very least find that settling down makes huge demands on us, can find solace within the knowledge that they may still be “wired” to continue to exist the move.
How did immersing yourself so thoroughly within the lives and histories of nomadic groups change your philosophy of travel?
I wish I could let you know that I even have learned to travel flippantly, but unfortunately that didn’t rub off on me! However the journey of writing this book has modified me in some ways. Perhaps crucial is the popularity of my dependence on, and my place in, the natural world. It’s easy to forget if you live in a city. So now once I travel, I look and listen and even smell harder, forcing myself to pay more attention to where I’m.
Are you able to elaborate on how traditional nomadism pertains to modern-day travelers and digital nomads?
The nomads I included within the book are and were obliged to obey three rules. All of them had to acknowledge their dependence on the natural world — they’re nomads who move because they need to seek out fodder for his or her herds of sheep, goats, horses, whatever, and out of that comes a respect for his or her environment. They’re all forced to live flippantly, to take with them only what will be carried. And so they are only in a position to succeed in the event that they are flexible of their pondering — the nomad world is continually in flux and at all times depending on the shifting climate. Their lives are shaped by these three obligations. They usually are not to trash the land they rely on, to not overburden themselves or their animals, and to maintain an open mind about what happens next. Modern travelers and digital nomads will recognize the necessity to travel flippantly and to be nimble of their pondering, flexible of their assumptions.