Global nomad

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Global nomad is a term applied to people who are living a mobile and international lifestyle. Global nomads aim to live location-independently, seeking detachment from particular geographical locations and the idea of territorial belonging.[1]

Origins and use of the term[edit]

Nomad originally referred to pastoral nomads who follow their herd according to the seasons. Unlike traditional nomads, global nomads travel alone or in pairs rather than with a family and livestock. They also travel worldwide and via various routes whereas traditional nomads have a fixed annual or seasonal pattern of movement, and although pastoralists are also professional travelers, they move relatively short distances mostly walking or riding donkeys, horses, and camels.[2] Air travel and the proliferation of information and communication technologies have afforded more opportunities for modern travelers and also engaged a wider range of people in itinerant lifestyles.

In addition to location-independent travelers, the term has also been used for backpackers, lifestyle migrants and third culture kids (highly mobile youth and expatriate children) for highlighting the range and frequency of their travels.[3][4] The term is a neologism rarely encountered before the year 2000.[5]


Global nomads' lifestyle is characterized by high mobility.[6] They travel from one country to another without a permanent home or job and their ties to their country of origin have loosened.[7] They might stay in their destinations from a few days to several months, but at the end they will always move on. Many of them practice minimalism in order to support their frequent moves. Rather than on money and possessions, they focus on experiences, happiness, and well-being.[8] Most of them work only when they have to. Their jobs are location-independent[9] such as IT, writing, teaching, and handicraft.[10]

Most global nomads come from Western countries. They are privileged having the financial resources to move (either they have savings or get a pension), or they have the talent needed to work on the road. Global nomads also hold passports that allow them to move more or less freely.[11]

Global nomads' lifestyle challenges many of the dominant norms and ideals in Western societies including home ownership, accumulation of wealth, nationalism, and the idea of being rooted in one place. However, their lifestyle also depends on the current world order as only the state can issue them the passport that they need for their travels. Global nomads are, therefore, in a paradoxical situation: to practice extreme mobilities, they must retain a home territory.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Richards, G. & Wilson, J. 2004. The Global Nomad: Backpacker Travel in Theory and Practice. Clevedon: Channel View Publications.
  2. ^ Khazanov, A. M. 1994. Nomads and the Outside World (2nd edition) [1983], translated by J. Crookenden. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press.
  3. ^ Benjamin, S., & Dervin, F. (Eds.). 2014. Migration, Diversity, and Education: Beyond Third Culture Kids. London: Palgrave MacMillan.
  4. ^ D’Andrea, A. 2006. Global Nomads. Techno and New Age as Transnational Countercultures in Ibiza and Goa. London: Routledge.
  5. ^ an early reference to backpackers in Philip L. Pearce, The Backpacker Phenomenon: Preliminary Answers to Basic Questions, James Cook University of North Queensland, 1990.[page needed]
  6. ^ Elliott, A., Urry, J. (2011) Mobile Lives. Cambridge: Routledge
  7. ^ Kannisto, P. 2014. Global Nomads: Challenges of Mobility in the Sedentary World. Tilburg: Tilburg University Press. Available at
  8. ^ Kannisto, P. 2016. Global Nomads and Extreme Mobilities. Ashgate: Farnham.
  9. ^ Elgan, M. (1 August 2009), Is Digital Nomad Living Going Mainstream?, Computerworld 
  10. ^ Kannisto, P. and Kannisto, S. 2012. Free as a Global Nomad: An Old Tradition with a Modern Twist. Phoenix, AZ: Drifting Sands Press.
  11. ^ Korpela, M. 2009. More Vibes in India: Westerners in Search of a Better Life in Varanasi. Tampere: Tampere University Press.
  12. ^ Kannisto, P. 2016. Extreme mobilities: Challenging the concept of ’travel’. Annals of Tourism Research, 57, 220–233.