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Nola Studiola dispatch: Drea Knufken

NolaVie offers monthly "dispatches" from content partner Nola Studiola, a collaborative online platform where various artists curate the site with their content for month-long "residencies. The focus of this series is the artists’ reflections on their curatorial work at Nola Studiola.

This month's featured curator is freelance writer and editor Drea Knufken. She has published bylined and ghostwritten articles in Salon, WIRED, National Geographic, Backpackerand Natural Health, among others. Her book, “The Backroads and Byways of Colorado,” is now in its second edition. She’s also a reader for Narrative Magazine. Knufken spent her month with Nola Studiola exploring her nomadic existence, an alternative lifestyle known as technomadism. Or Airstreaming.

Nola Studiola curator Drea Knudken

Nola Studiola curator Drea Knufken

I was a little self-conscious before starting my shift as a curator. For one, while I love New Orleans, I don’t live there. I visit it, same way I visit everything these days, as someone who chooses a nomadic lifestyle. It felt a bit like being a party crasher.

The second thing is that on first glance I may look like a retiree, or a trustafarian. I’m neither, I work remotely, but I feared coming off like McSweeney’s The Hidden Rich nonetheless, like someone you just can’t empathize with. Someone who drifts past the communal standard of hardship, and thus loses the license to ruminate.

That’s the beauty of writing, isn’t it? No matter your station in life, you have words to grovel with. Once I surmounted my initial hesitations, I started to appreciate having an outlet in which to explore some of the nuances I otherwise habitually glaze over. The subtle mindshift that comes with knowing you don’t have a location to call home, or the way travel can mutate into a greedy collection ritual.

I appreciate my time at Nola Studiola because it carved out a rare window to reflect not on that thing that happened ten years ago, or the way a character should act in certain situations, but into the recent, real past.

Heres an entry from Drea Knufken's ruminations; read more about her life on the road here

Technomad (n): A person who forsakes full-time habitation in favor of frequent movement to new places, possibly but not necessarily in an RV. Like a retiree (n), but with a job (n). Characteristically accompanied by devices like the MiFi, signal boosters, ranging devices and other nefarious-sounding implements that are essential to job (n).

If you’ve ever had a panic attack because you can’t get a cellular signal, or you will live in a dry lakebed in the middle of the desert for a week because of good cell service, you might be a technomad.

If you work online and rely on good internet service to make money, you’re all tech, without the nomad part.

You could wander if you really wanted to.

It’s a good lifestyle if you love to travel, or if you staying in one place makes you fidgety. Best case scenario is both.

It used to be hard to work online and live on the road. People have been doing it for at least a decade nonetheless, pioneering twenty- and thirty-something online workers who thought—why do we have to wait until we retire? People like Aluminarium andTechnomadia.

They set a precedent for people like us. Nowadays, it’s a growing trend.

Living on the road forces you to simplify your life. You can’t hide from your surroundings. If you’re off the grid, you feel every gallon of water and bagful of waste. It’s liberating or alarming, depending on where you are and how much water you have left.

It forces you to be friendly. You rarely know who your neighbors are. Seeing what they throw back at you after “hello” can say a lot.

It also increases your burden of time spent making things work. Plugged into city water and electricity? That’s two worries gone. Got a washer/dryer, food processor, grocery store nearby? Ditto three.

In a way, it’s akin to living in a developing country, where resources are limited and you can’t just space out on life.

But that’s the core of travel, isn’t it? To avert habit, to stay fresh.