It seems to become trendy among travelers to label yourself as a nomad. Strangely enough, those who’re really living the nomad life style don’t seem to bother about labeling themselves as such, but rather state what defines them as a person, with the frequent change of venue as a side effect of this. Examples are; scientists, missionaries, diplomats, political activists and spies, gypsies and other nomadic tribes, etc…In the context of this post, they’re labeled as the traditional nomads, while the increasing globalization and advances in technology are giving birth to a new category of nomads, here called the modern nomad.
Although more and more people are choosing to leave their home country to live abroad, they cannot for such reason be considered as modern nomads. To clarify this confusion, let’s consider what the nomadic lifestyle is not about;
- Lots of young people take a sabbatical upon graduating from high school, college or university to travel for a year on a RTW ticket. Their budget is based upon a credit card provided by their parents or some tuition money they’ve managed to set aside. This category spends more time on the airplane and at the airports than whatever else. Their travel experience can be resumed as “Got the T-shirt, took that picture (selfie), up to the next trophy”. A more accurate description would be to call them budget tourists. In case they’re not native English speakers,they master enough English to get around on international airports and most backpacker accommodations; native English speakers are mostly uni-lingual. After this year, when the money runs out, they become again sedentary citizens; marriage, kids, mortgage, 9 to 5 job, career …; a far cry of what defines a modern nomad.
- A second category of pseudo nomads are the boozers with the young wives who live in a third world country. This group is mainly composed by blue collar retirees or the occasional veteran who went to one war zone too much, ending up with a PTSD (or worse) and a small monthly pension. They’re motivated by the low cost of living, thus making more out their dime than would be possible in their country of origin. They’re commonly called expats and rarely travel to their country of origin. When they do, it’s mostly to arrange some detail regarding the social benefit that keeps them afloat.
- The winter birds are those with a second residency in a tropical region. They’re climatically motivated and mostly wish to escape the cold winter in their country of origin.They return home for the summer and important family holidays; sometimes renting out their houses for the periods they don’t need them. This group is mainly made up by corporate retirees. They’re temporary residents.
- And of course the scammers, who’re running from one place to another in an effort to remain one step ahead of the arm of the law or their debtors. Lots of them will design themselves as modern nomads, but they’re basically runaways. Be aware of them since they’re usually smooth talkers and prey on the naive traveler.There you’ll find the time-share vendors, the “mugged” compatriot, and lots more… basically everyone who wants to extract some money out of your wallet in an expat bar who’s not a bartender (even then it’s worth to remain alert;in some countries it’s recommended to keep a copy of your tab on the table or not running any tabs at all).
Most modern nomads are digital nomads.They’re mainly made up by software developers, artists and other categories of people who only need a good internet connection to be able to earn an income while satisfying their compulsive wanderlust (a strong desire to travel). They’re usually well educated (young) people, polyglots and travel slow. Even for the rare few who can live life without having a home, it is important to create emotional stability by staying longer in each location(usually 1-3 months) in order to establish routines and make meaningful friendships. Their nomadic lifestyle is more important than anything else,including career, relationship, or assets. A nomad will avoid any attachment which forces her/him to be tied to a specific location. Many of them find the Buddhist religion as a good fit, since it focuses on non-attachment and letting go of everything they have. As a consequence they travel light and have a minimalist mindset. It means that they consume experiences instead of accumulating Stuff.
4 thoughts on “The Modern Nomad”
I photographed some this past year who had signs asking for strangers to fund them so they could continue to travel….it’s a different way of exploring I guess 🤓
I call them the traveling vagabonds with little imagination. The usual traveler who’s down on his luck would be more inventive and just pick up a bartender job, teach English, make jewelry, pick up some seasonal job in a first world country and use his network to do some coach surfing. I general, I have little patience with young, healthy people sitting on the street, begging for money to maintain their habits.
Really agree with this view of modern nomads- I think it makes a lot of sense and the term definitely gets bandied about too readily when it doesn’t necessarily apply.
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To counter the abuse of the term was indeed one of my mayor aims with this post. Thank you for pointing it out.
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