Different Types of Nomads

Different Types of Nomads

The nomadic lifestyle is unique: unlike most people in today’s world, nomads are constantly changing locations. However, the nomadic lifestyle allows you to choose from wide subsets of modes and methods of travel.  Listed below are some of the more common types of nomads that I have come across while on the road. If you are making the decision to become a nomad, hopefully this will help clarify some of the advantages and disadvantages of each lifestyle and help you decide which one might be the best fit for you. You can read more about my nomadic lifestyle here.

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Digital Nomad

A person who is constantly moving and exploring new destinations, but is dependent on technology to make a living while traveling. Digital nomads travel while working for their clients or building their startups. Working online while traveling usually requires digital nomads to work on weekdays and spend the weekends traveling. This lifestyle can be very rewarding since your revenue source is disconnected from where you are living, but at the same time it can also be a bit limiting since you may spend most of your days with a laptop, searching for a good internet connection.

Spiritual Nomad

This is a nomad with a deeper purpose to their travels who change locations while searching for a meaning or enlightenment or teaching it to others. I often consider long term backpackers as rather spiritual nomads, since they embark on the most interesting task of them all: Learning more about yourself while interacting with everything new in the world.

A spiritual nomad finds inspiration and insights from being on the road and usually teaches those insights to the people they meet. In that sense, this type of nomad can be considered the highest goal, as a spiritual nomad seeks to reach a greater understanding of how the world works. Some great examples of spiritual nomads are Buddha, Zen Monks, and Indian Sadhus. The downside is that usually these nomads are quite poor and at one point or another, the constant focus on spirituality in our material world can become overwhelming.

“Quick Time Out” Nomad

This type of nomad is one who is able to make an arrangement with their employer to have many extended breakout vacations throughout the year to go traveling. My friend Lisa was able to do this by taking a week off of work every two months just to travel. The advantage here is that you see a lot of the world in intense and focused time periods. However, the disadvantages include high costs of travel/transportation per travel-day due to the short time spent in each place and pressure to get the most of your destination before you have to get back to work.

Corporate Nomad (Remote Work Nomad)

This type of nomad is able to be constantly on the move, while at the same time working for a big corporation. A friend of mine has an agreement with her company that she doesn’t need to physically be in an office, and can work from home (remotely). Needless to say, those nomads can move between different bases while keeping their secure jobs. In a nutshell, this lifestyle is much more interesting than your daily office routine, but can also be exhausting since you are not really free while roaming the earth.

Half-and-Half Nomad

This type of nomadism allows people to create cycles between work and travel. Generally, a person might work for six months in a seasonal job, as ski instructor or something like that, and then they might travel for six months when the season is over. This allows you to focus on work in-season and then have a pure travel period that digital and corporate nomads will envy. Many people are able to sustain this type of travel for years and it can be an incredibly interesting way to live (not to mention that it will reduce your tax bill which is calculated annually).

Offline or “Classic” Nomad

This is the most classic type of nomadism, where a person travels from place to place, working a job that sustains their lifestyle in that place.  A common example of this would be an artisan that produces their art to sell in the street, or an English teacher/cook/diving instructor who keep on changing locations. The downside to this lifestyle is that this type of nomad is generally working for low wages as their salaries are linked to the purchasing power of the local population.  Richer countries usually have strict regulations against tourist work permits, therefore this lifestyle can be tricky to maintain legally. Classic nomads can be at risk for deportation or getting ripped off by their employers, who exploit their inability to get a visa. The biggest advantage here is the total immersion found by not only being in a place, but working in it, making you a part of the local community.

Volunteer/House-Sitting Nomad

This is relatively new concept born from Internet based platforms such as TrustedHomeSitters and HelpX. The idea is that, unlike with classic nomadism, with volunteer nomadism there is no exchange of money. These nomads get accommodation and food (on sites like HelpX) in return for volunteering or taking care of someone’s house while they are on vacation. The advantage here is saving money and not requiring a special work visa. The disadvantage is losing a lot of your flexibility and freedom due to the obligation you have undertaken. You are also unable to bring in cashflow for your services.

Rich Nomad

Generally, this is the type of nomadism everyone aspires to, but only a few ever achieve. A rich nomad is someone who has a lot of money – usually from the lottery, inheritance or from a very successful career. The Rich Nomad enjoys a lot of freedom and flexibility while traveling. The downside is that sometimes having it “too easy,” without work, can be rather depressing.  For many of us, work is not only a revenue source, but also a way to build nice things and make ourselves useful in the world.

Retired Nomad

Starting late is much better than never starting at all. Some people start living as nomads when they are older. This can happen due to few main reasons. Either the retired nomad heard about the nomadic lifestyle at a later stage of their lives and decided to go for it. Or, they might have always had the intention to live as nomads, and were waiting to save enough money, and get free from their family obligations as their kids grew older, so they could start living as nomads when the time is right. The retired nomad usually relies on pension so they don’t have to work while traveling and can dedicate all their time to exploring their new found freedom. I have interestingly noted that many retired nomads are using RVs to travel, usually with their partner, or a group of those RVs (this is especially common in the USA)

Thanks Sarah from the comments for letting me know I am missing a category.

Home Nomad

This nomadic lifestyle is all about perception. People who succeed at this lifestyle are able to establish a meaningful and self-conscious life without traveling. They are basically able to harvest the advantages of increased awareness and feeling alive that nomads receive from changing locations, without the need to move. For them, every day in their home country feels like an adventure that awakens and stimulates them. It is not yet clear if anyone has really managed to achieve this while remaining in one place but it is something to aspire to for sure!

Do you know of any any other types of nomads ? Please let us know in the comments! (We will add in the future sections about nomadic people/tribes and nomadic salespeople/sailors)

28 Responses so far.

  1. Madhava Murthy says:

    I think my Nomad category falls in between ” Haf-Half Nomad ‘ and ‘ Home Nomad’ I am small time businessman & my staff can take care of my business & I have wonderful family to come back to share & enjoy my Nomadness.

  2. Shay says:

    Great reading, thanks for making this site. 🙂

  3. Martin says:

    I feel like my path is through that of a spiritual nomad, I want to see and learn from this beautiful planet, and generally live with little to no finances, I feel only then may I truly have an understanding of what my life is to become, do u think such a lifestyle is achievable.

    • elid1979 says:

      Thanks for the comment Martin.
      I totally understand what you mean, however I personally don’t think it is achievable. We received needs such as sleep safely, eat, drink, find shelter, and for me all those needs indicate that living a life that is only “Spiritual” is living in frustration. The way I see it, you should combine the material with the spiritual for a good balance. I hope it works for you!

  4. Hector says:

    After reading this I’m not sure what type of nomad I am…?
    Can you give me some advise please


  5. I suppose we’re lucky enough to be “Rich Nomads” though it’s all relative.

    We planned and retired early (15 months ago), selling our home and everything else and now spend our time travelling around Asia (very slowly).

    It’s everything we hoped it would be and, when we get bored we move on.

    I understand that It’s not for everyone but we love it and can’t imagine settling down for a long time.

    We’ve been in Hue, Vietnam for 6 weeks and are moving on to Hoi An in a couple of days. Depending on how much we like it will determine how long we stay.

    Great post and really enjoy your site.

  6. Ibrahim says:

    Nomadic education has another type in my observation that is fulani nomadic education

  7. Ashley Swyers says:

    My sister, my friend, and I all decided a week ago that we are having our own nomadic year. My friend already quit because her boyfriend won’t do it with her. My boyfriend wouldn’t do it with me and i believe that it would be harder to do this year for finding myself and not only achieve my goals and stuff. But i want to exceed my goals and i don’t think i could do that with extra baggage. This year will set me free. I am 19 and my sister is 28. But so far i feel a lot better than i did a week ago. My ex fiancé from last year told me that my entire life every since he met me, I’ve always put others before I put myself. It feels amazing to put myself first for once. It’s so refreshing. I can now feel that i was suffocated by all the stuff i was doing. I’m breathing now. And it smells amazing. The smell of freedom is truly sweet.

    • Eli David says:

      sounds great. I don’t have much experience in going nomadic with someone, always did it alone, so i can truly put myself first like you are now learning to do. all the best!

  8. Daniel says:

    Found this article by searching for ‘spiritual nomad’. It’s the closest thing I could find to describe my lifestyle over the past two years. This lifestyle is liberating and aw-inspiring. I learn more than I could have dreamt. I constantly learn about myself and push myself into new places of discomfort that ends up alleviating the dark places within me. And yet I searched for this term because it’s also an extremely lonely and isolating lifestyle. I have met so many beautiful people, but to each of them, I have said goodbye. I wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for a single thing, but I do wish I could find some community of others doing this who I could talk to. I guess it begins by labelling and categorizing who we are. Spiritual nomad seems fitting, but spiritual is always confused with religious. Who else is travelling this way? Who else is seeking more, but feels so alone on their journey? These are the people I’d like to find.

    • Eli David says:

      Great comment Daniel. I see much similarity in your ideas. Me personally love the fact that I am on a nomadic path without necessarily being surrounded by a nomadic community. Community is stability and the nomadic life is all about constant change. That means a change of location, a change of the people around you, and a change of yourself. We have a few articles in the site about mitigating loneliness and finding friends as you travel. All the best and keep on enjoying life.

    • Tobey says:

      Hello Daniel. How are you sustaining that kind of lifestyle? I do want to venture into that too and walk away from my laptop (I’m a digital nomad). But I don’t know how to actually do that without spiralling into poverty D:

  9. Bobbi says:

    I reflect the home nomaid
    i have lived this life for many years—-i embrace that peace of learning and the way of sustained life from the journey of my home space—i aspire to travel and wander more to learn more

  10. Tobey says:

    I’ve been digging into your website :> lots of cool stuff here. Thank you for writing them! What kind of nomad are you? I am a combination of digital nomad and spiritual nomad. I tried volunteering, but I didn’t like being tied down to the responsibility. I am starting to hate my laptop!! There’s another kind you missed, those who work as yoga teachers, english teachers, meditation teachers, etc. They just jump from one site to another that supports their field of expertise.

    I love traveling and immersing myself in culture, arts, and the outdoors. It can just get annoying how I must keep learning things on my own just to sustain this kind of addiction. Haha.

    • Eli says:

      thanks Tobey for your comment! I would probably be defined now as a digital nomad, although my long term plans are to be a all around general mix of everything. About your comment, I think they fall to the category of “Offline nomads” but I added your examples there. Thanks for contributing to the post.

  11. Hannah says:

    Great article, these types of sites have helped me to clearly define my goals. My husband and I have been travelling the world for the past twenty years, (as a teacher I get a lot of time to travel). Over the past ten years, I’ve been taking youth (teenagers) on international adventures, I’ve planned, booked, and guided over twenty youth tours. With my own daughter soon reaching adulthood, and my husband unhappy with his high paying job, we’ve decided to travel full time after saving up for another year and a half. Our plan is threefold: have a substantial savings coushion, use my Youth Tours as a business, (4 week-long youth tours per year would support us for the entire year), work odd jobs for fun while in the North American locations (were both dual citizens). We’d have a home base to come back and work and save if needed, while visiting our daughter. It’s a plan for ultimate freedom, exploration, and adventure while “retiring” at the age of 39. A small carry-on sized bag of belongings, a transit pass, a cheap flat, and groceries are all well need, free from the trappings of materialism.
    We plan on staying 1-2 months in each location with the criteria for our cities of choice being open-minded, diverse, good public transport, and lots of free activities, nearby hiking spots etc. Our list so far is London, Berlin, New York, New Orleans, Atlanta, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Chicago.
    I’m wondering how many people are pursuing this lifestyle in their 40s? From a lot of the blogs and vlogs I’ve seen, nomadic lifestyle seems to more common for people in their twenties. I feel so old, lol.
    Any other current or aspiring nomads in their 40s?

    • Eli says:

      Hey Hannah,
      good story, and solid plans. I think you are in a much more clear position than me on this lifestyle, congrats!
      Many people pursue it in their 40’s (including me in 2 years). The young people have more tendency to be noisy and publish everything, don’t take it as a sign that the 40+ age group does not exist, it does, and it grows. On a side note, having a partner will make much easier as well, since you can share your experiences with someone. Good luck!

  12. Latona Miller says:

    This is a great article…i see myself as a home nomads currently with the aspiration of becoming a nomad on the road.

  13. Darlene says:

    Hi all, many name is Darlene and I’m ready to start my life as a Nomads,I have read that you can find Travel buddies but Iam not e site how. If anyone can help me I appreciate it.


  14. I can only guess that this article was written by a relatively young person as there is no mention of the Retired Nomad who has worked throughout a long life, and is neither rich, nor a spiritual seeker, nor a volunteer, nor a half and half, nor a classic nomad, etc. Instead they are “location independent” because they don’t need to work or volunteer or barter anymore AT ALL, as their retirement or pensions can be collected WHEREVER they are in the world. Some of us seek “Intentional Nomadism” as a means for stimulating growth, expanding our world view, conquering personal challenges, fulfilling lifelong dreams, or creating a quality of life that our reduced incomes no longer afford back home.

  15. Stanton Morris says:

    Spot on Sarah!

    I hate generational labels. Let’s just say I’m part of the Europe-on-$5-a-day-generation and not the bungie-jumper generation ;-). I began gradually transitioning to full-time intentional nomadism when I retired in 2010. It took about six years to become a true nomad in thought, spirit and deed. I have slept in 56 countries and meet hundreds of fellow travelers. I can’t say that have met another true (location independent) nomad let alone a retired nomad.

    Happy trails.

  16. Abby Scott says:

    I’m half spiritual and half classic😄

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