Volume 81, Number 19 | October 13 -19, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photos by Bob Krasner.

Ed Casabian with all his gear on E. Sixth St., on his way to his next nomadic stop — East Harlem.

A New Yorker goes nomadic

BY BOB KRASNER

A few weeks ago, Ed Casabian was living in the East Village. It’s his favorite part of Manhattan, partly due to the fact that it has “some of the best restaurants in the city.” Seventh St. between First Ave. and Avenue A is his favorite food block. Caracas Arepa Bar, Pylos and Luke’s Lobster are a few of the places that top his list. 

Beyond the exceptional fare, there are the community gardens and the park.

“I love the city, but trees and nature are important,” he said. “It feels like a real neighborhood.”

But he didn’t plan to stay long. His brief East Village sojourn was just one leg of an extended journey within the five boroughs. 

Casabian, 30, has been adrift since his seven-year relationship ended. He left the apartment that he and his girlfriend jointly owned for a life with no fixed address. How that journey began was the result of finding himself on a bicycle in Central Park, musing about the things that made him happy. As it turned out, one of those things was traveling. Not ready to leave his full-time job at an Internet startup, he decided he’d become a traveler in the city where he lived. 

Stuffing the essentials into a few (fairly heavy) bags, he became the “N.Y.C. Nomad.” Each week he unpacks his inflatable mattress for a seven-day stay in a different apartment, the guest of friends, friends of friends or complete strangers. Casabian strives to be “the ultimate houseguest,” making it a point not to be around when the apartment’s inhabitants get home from work and generally staying out of their way. 

One of the perks of providing the Nomad with space on your floor is a night out at one of the more interesting restaurants in the neighborhood. Momofuku on First Ave. between 10th and 11th Sts. was his East Village eatery of choice.

He spends each week exploring the community he happens to be in, talking to the locals and searching for the most interesting person in the neighborhood.

“It’s like a treasure hunt,” explained Casabian. “I’ve found people who have been there for a long time, seen the changes and know the history.”

Once he’s found the right person, he interviews him or her for his blog (thenycnomad.tumblr.com/), using an app from Soundcloud. In fact, Soundcloud is sponsoring the project, making him one of the five “community fellows” for whom the site provides funds to do audio projects. 

For a project like this, “technology is very enabling,” he noted. Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook are all tools that he relies on.

“No one has to give me directions,” he noted, “I’ve got Google Maps.”

It’s 43 weeks into the project and, despite the challenges of moving every week and living out of a suitcase, he’s thinking about going beyond the original 52-week end date.

“I think I’ll keep going until I run out of places to stay,” he said. “You know, people get on a plane for two hours to see a new place. You can get on a subway and see new places right here in New York. Before I started this project I had never even been to Staten Island. There’s so much to see in New York.”

Before this venture, Casabian liked living in the city but didn’t really understand why people loved it so much. 

“Now,” he said, “it feels like home — even though I have no home.”


Casabian reclines on a couch while checking out interesting neighborhoods to inhabit next.

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