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Here Today, Who Knows Where Tomorrow?

Americans are a footloose bunch. Always have been. We move a lot, chasing a job or a relationship or a dream. Even when it's time to retire, a lot of us try someplace new. Each year, according to Census records, about 14 million Americans change states or move elsewhere within a state.

Two groups in particular move over and over and over again. One is military lifers, as we call them. Their children refer to themselves as Army brats or Air Force brats and the like. Even if the service member is never sent overseas, the family bounces from U.S. post to post. Making new but temporary friends and attending different schools are a way of life. There can be no dream house. The family doesn't stay anyplace long enough to create one.

Others who never really put down roots are called relos. Often moderately wealthy, they are corporate or public executives and consultants. Their companies transfer them here, there, and everywhere, or they're off to better jobs in distant places.

As a lengthy New York Times story about relos pointed out, this itinerant lifestyle can produce loneliness and identity crises. As the Times put it, relos have traded a home in one place for a job that could be anyplace. Relo children do not know a hometown; their parents do not know where their funerals will be.

The International Herald Tribune calls these nomads America's domestic expatriates. Though far more prosperous, they share some of the psychological hardships of those who were forced from their homes in the 1930s Great Depression, about whom folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote,

I ain't got no home, I'm just roamin' round.
Just a wanderin' worker, I go from town to town.

And spouses and kids go along.