The transcontinental tribe of wanderers is growing, global souls for whom home is everywhere and nowhere. Pico Iyer, one of the privileged homeless, considers the new kind of person being created by a new kind of lifeby Pico Iyer / February 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
By the time I was nine, I was already used to going to school by transatlantic plane, to sleeping in airports, to shuttling back and forth, three times a year, between my parents’ Indian home in California and my boarding school in England. While I was growing up, I was never within 6,000 miles of the nearest relative-and came, therefore, to learn how to define relations in non-familial ways. From the time I was a teenager, I took it for granted that I could take my budget vacations (as I did) in Bolivia and Tibet, China and Morocco. It never seemed strange to me that a girlfriend might be half a world (or ten hours flying time) away, that my closest friends might be on the other side of a continent or sea.
It was only recently that I realised that all these habits of mind and life would scarcely have been imaginable in my parents’ youth; that the very facts and facilities that shape my world are all distinctly new developments, and mark me as a modern type.
It was only recently, in fact, that I realised that I am an example, perhaps, of an entirely new breed of people, a transcontinental tribe of wanderers that is multiplying as fast as international telephone lines and frequent flyer programmes. We are the transit loungers, forever heading to the departure gate. We buy our interests duty-free, we eat our food on plastic plates, we watch the world through borrowed headphones. We pass through countries as through revolving doors, resident aliens of the world, impermanent residents of nowhere. Nothing is strange to us, and nowhere is foreign. We are visitors even in our own homes.
This is not, I think, a function of affluence so much as of simple circumstance. I am not, that is, a jet-setter pursuing vacations from Marbella to Phuket; I am a product of a movable sensibility, living and working in a world that is itself increasingly small and increasingly mongrel. I am a multinational soul on a multicultural globe where more and more countries are as polyglot and restless as airports. Taking planes seems as natural to me as picking up the phone, or going to school; I fold up my self and carry it round with me as if it were an overnight case.
The modern world seems increasingly made for people like me. I…