Jobs and social roles that lend themselves well to episodic storytelling show up a lot in fiction. There's a reason that noir is centered around private investigators, and that so many fantasy stories feature innkeepers and soldiers. There's a lot of opportunity to expose the character to new situations that lend themselves well to repeatable, serializable plotlines. In the interests of developing opportunities for this sort of thing in my fantasy universe, and expanding on the plotline of Stint, I did a little more digging into real-life travelers.
- Early hunter-gatherers moved from place to place looking for plants to gather and animals to hunt, which made them less likely to experience famine than settled agriculturalists.
- Jesus was just one of dozens of itinerant preachers in Roman Judaea in the first century CE. These practiced ‘Charismatic Judaism’ and many of them were believed to have also performed miracles.
- The Bedouin people have been traversing the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa for millennia. Bedouin tents are typically divided into two by a woven curtain called the ma’nad, with one side for the men and one for women.
- Before they conquered most of Asia, the Mongols lived nomadic lives on the Asian Steppe. They had a highly stratified society with the aristocracy called the White Bone (chaghan yasu) dominating commoners known as the Black Bone (qara yasu).
- For centuries, judges were largely itinerant and dispensed justice in countries like England by travelling from local court to local court conducting what were known as sessions of assize.
Although it’s hard for a modern eye to differentiate much between different monastic orders, mendicants were considered distinct from other monks mostly because they literally begged for alms. The men, at least. Mendicant women were forbidden from living itinerant lifestyles, and lived the traditional monastic lifestyle of living in an institution and being supported by the ownership of property.
German scholars often refer to the migration of Germanic and Asiatic tribes such as the Goths, Huns and Franks toward Rome as the Völkerwanderung, meaning ‘The Wandering of the People’. The Vandals made it all the way to Spain before crossing the Straits of Gibraltar and finally settling in North Africa. In 455 CE they sailed back across the Mediterranean and sacked Rome itself. Their name has been adopted as a word for mindless vandalism, although they did very little damage to the city.
George Orwell lived an itinerant lifestyle for a time in the late 1920s and 1930s when he was researching and writing Down and Out in Paris and London, an account of interwar homelessness, and The Road to Wigan Pier, a report on working conditions in poor industrial communities in the north of England following the Great Depression. He decided to publish Down and Out in Paris and London under the pen-name George Orwell to avoid embarrassing his family with his account of himself living as a homeless person. He once claimed a writer needs four things to be able to write: an ego, a sense of aestheticism, a historical impulse and a political purpose.
There are still many nomadic or itinerant cultures today. The travelling community of Ireland are a small ethnic minority, though nobody knows for sure how they first came to be in Ireland. Others include the Bushmen of Africa, the Sami of Finland and the Gaadi of northern India. There is a growing movement for people to become digital nomads in the modern world: over fifteen million people in the United States alone are digital nomads.
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