Walking along the footpath in Johnshaven in Scotland I came across Susan sitting under a tree. Noting my surprise finding a 60 year old lady in a flowery shirt and beautiful pearls surrounded by a suitcase on wheels, a primus stove, sleeping bag and writing in a note book she greeted me with
“I have been camping.” “What here,” I replied. “Yes I am a Nomad”
An hour later I gleaned some of her back story. Born in Liverpool she had lived in London, had five children, left some of them because of a mental breakdown and now found that the best way to deal with her depression was to be on the road. She described herself as a Nomad and indeed she was ‘not mad’ in fact this way of life was guaranteeing her sanity.
“This works for me.” she says, “no housework, no chores, nobody expecting anything from me and cheap. I also meet lots of interesting people – look you stopped to talk to me. So much better than sitting alone in a house watching tv and not seeing anyone for days,” she said.
She defied my expectations because she didn’t look like a bag lady and indeed she wasn’t one. She was an independent woman solving her mental health issues in her own way. Using her bus pass she could travel freely around and equipped with all she needed; a tent, warm clothes sleeping bag and enough food to keep her going, life was simple immediate and clearly worked for her.
What particularly stood out were the pearls and clothes which were decidedly not shabby. Instead a woman who presented as a very positive and engaging person. Had I come across a shabby, dirty looking woman I would have probably felt sorry for her whereas I felt the opposite and I wanted to know more about her life. She had found something that was real and sustaining for her.
I came away with a profound sense of hopefulness. There is an alternative, another way of living – maybe not as extreme as this but for Susan it was a way of dealing with loneliness and depression and re enchanting by connecting with the world.