What is an Urban Nomad?

Urban Nomad n

1. A small but diverse section of society that lives and works in an urban area, yet does not rent, own or otherwise reside permanently in any one location. “Nomad” suggests a chosen lifestyle, as opposed to “refugee”, and it also suggests that nomads feel they have a home, as opposed to the “homeless”.

2. A new generation of worker/travelers, they transplant themselves to new cities across the globe following the next big career opportunity.

As many of our readers know I travel a lot for work and for pleasure.  Many of my friends and family ask me, ‘aren’t you tired of traveling?’ or ‘When will you finally get to stay home for a while?’  These questions assume that I do not want to travel and wish to get some time ‘off from traveling.’  Besides a two or three week break I actually love to transplant and seek out new opportunities to travel.  I stumbled across the term ‘urban nomad’ recently and found it a perfect definition of my lifestyle.    I travel so much, I began to wonder if home was a destination and the destinations were my home.

The more research I started doing and the more destinations I visited, the more I realized that many teens and young twenty-somethings are creating or craving the same lifestyle.  I wanted to write a post about it for our parent and adult readers to see the next generation of globe trotters.

I also believe that part of the urban nomadic lifestyle is about being green.  As I leave a large global footprint with all of the flying, I wanted to do my part in a way that was more than just recycling cans and bottles.  This year I have been greening up my act and I becoming more mobile.

How to be an Urban Nomad:

Phase I: Get Rid of Stuff

1. I canceled all paper magazines and newspapers

I love reading my Vogue on the beach and my Wall Street Journal over coffee, but I decided it was producing so much waste even when I recycled it.  So, I have canceled all subscriptions and do not plan on buying anymore disposable paper reading material.

2. No plastic bags (grocery and fruit)

I have been using canvas grocery bags for a long time, but I was using a lot of the fruit plastic bags for my fruit and veggies.  These are not really needed.  I have now begun using a canvas bag for them as well to use less of those plastic baggies.

3. I don’t buy books in paperback/hardcover.

I have transferred a lot of my reading to my Kindle. I also have stopped buying paper books and am now only reading them from the Library (if I want the feel of the book in my hand) or on my e-reader (soon to be an iPad). I have also stopped getting review copies for the website and only get email versions or on my ebook.

4. No More Water Bottles

I drink so much water and just bought a few cases.  Every time I open my closet I feel guilty and have decided those are the last cases I will ever buy.  I am now the proud owner of a reusable bottle for my car and Brita filter for my office.

5. Clothing Swaps

I am now hosting a clothing swap every 3-4 months.  This gets clothes more use and helps us buy less.  I am hosting my first in April and have a ton of clothes I am going to swap or donate.

6. I am selling my car

Yup, you read that right.  I am selling my car and going to try to make it work walking, biking, sharing rides and sharing my boyfriend’s car. My boyfriend and I both work mostly from home and since he has a hybrid, I decided there was no reason we should have two cars.  It is terrible for the environment and even though I live in Los Angeles I am going to make it work. (I am terrified, but think it is the right choice).

Phase II: No Location Dependence

7. We are getting rid of our apartment

My boyfriend and I decided because we have such flexible work and travel all the time, our apartment sits empty about 2 or 3 months out of the year.  This is so incredibly wasteful.  especially when there are so many empty apartments all over the city.  We are going to attempt to spend the next few years as we travel so much house-sitting and doing short term apartment rentals so as not to be so wasteful. (If you know anyone who needs house-sitters in a cool city we are up for it!)

8. All Electronic Bills

I realized I get quite a bit of mail.  I have started to request only online statements for my cell phone bill, bank statements and credit cards.  This has already saved a ton of waste.

9. Short-term rentals, House-sitting, Living on the road

For the next few years we will be doing house-sitting, living on the road and getting short-term rentals in ideal areas.

10. A Sample Urban Nomad Itinerary (ours for the next few months)

For example:

Shanghai Apartment: We are getting a short-term rental apartment in Shanghai for the month of May.  It is way cheaper than an LA apartment and we get to really experience the city in a central apartment just like a real Shanghai-anese.

California Coast Roadtrip: Next we are coming back to LA for a few days and then driving up the coast of California for two weeks up to Portland staying in places that are the same cost as an apartment in a city. (We have more to spend because we do not pay utility bills, cable, parking, cleaning, etc).

Portland House-Sitting: Then we will house sit in Portland for the summer as we hear it is a great (and cheap) place to be in the summer months with the festivals, art openings and concerts outdoors.

National Park Roadtrip: At the end of the summer we will drive for another two weeks down the other side of California to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Death Valley, etc and see those areas without having the cost of an empty apartment ‘at home’ sitting empty.

LA Regroup: We will be back in LA for a few weeks as I have speaking engagements here and want to see family and friends.

????: We are currently hoping to either do a short-term rental in New York in October or do a road trip through Central America for research on my next book. We are also open to other countries if house-sitting opportunities arise.  I also often get freelance writing work or speaking events for teens and parents abroad and this chooses our destination for us.

Here you see how the lifestyle is shaping up.  It ends up being about the same cost as living in one place, but you get to see the world.  Amazingly, I know give presentations to teens and twenty-somethings about how to make this lifestyle work because it is in such high demand. I believe it will be the next ‘Peace Corps” option post college. Some of the green changes are small and relatively easy, others are harder, but I think it is sending the right message to our younger generation, my sisters, our interns and readers that sometimes we have to make the tough decisions for the environment!  Next I am going to work on cleaning products, cosmetics and electricity use.

If you have any destination ideas for house-sitting, speaking or book research, let us know! We are looking for adventure.

13 Responses to “What is an Urban Nomad?”

  1. Isaac Dudek
    April 5, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    Another option for dealing with paper mail is http://www.earthclassmail.com/

    Personally, I haven’t used their service yet, but I’ve heard good things about it and I intend to try it out once I begin traveling extensively.

    Thanks for the tips!

  2. Weston Gulini
    November 10, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    I found this post via Yahoo and can’t stop reading! I’m about to start a health care career and I appreciate all kinds of information! Thank you

  3. Ashley Blincow
    October 11, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Hi Vanessa :)

    What a great, succinct little video on urban nomadic life! This is exactly what I am trying to do so it was very helpful. I am a writer of music, novels, and scripts. My greatest wish is to be able to move about the world freely making guerrilla musicals with all the various musicians I have encountered and will encounter. Couchsurfing.com is great, even preferable for much of the time and I have had a lot of unforgettable experiences both hosting and surfing. But writing, especially music, often demands a more controlled environment. I have a lot of experience house and pet sitting for friends and friends of my parents here in Florida where I live and would love any advice and information you have on expanding and establishing my ability to do that more widely. I am interested immediately in the West Coast, esp L.A. for the winter months and Portland or Seattle for the warmer months.

    The website I included offers a free download of an early recording of one of my music projects called “The Damsels”.

    Thanks so much for your time and information,

    Ashley Blincow

  4. Nowhere Man
    January 3, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    Great read. You describe it well.

  5. Maria
    July 5, 2012 at 4:56 am #

    I found your post quite interesting and I can say I definetly relate to it, as I myself have chosen a life of travel… trying to make ends meet wherever I go. However I do have a little *complaint* to make. This travel life is only possible if you happen to have the right passport.

    I am a national of Guatemala and I notice that life as a nomad is much easier for europeans and north americans than it is for us travelers from the developing world. Not really because of money (for we can all be creative and find ways to make ends meet while on the road), but mainly because of immigration.

    A european overstaying in central america, or a north american getting entry visas to the rest of the world, is quite easy. but for me, I am currently in Europe, I encounter many restrictions to my mobility, not allowing me to chose freely where to go next. My choices are constrained.

    I would enjoy continuing this conversation on borders, and immigration issues, for people who consider themselves “citizens of the world”. I think it is very unfair that only certain people can be true citizens of the world. For the rest of us, the world is still limited.

    How would you feel if the rest of the world would close your borders to you? no more shanghai apartment, no more asia, no central america.

    I am curious about your thoughts.

  6. Vienna City Nomad
    August 8, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    Hi! Just found this looking for other urban nomads. I have quit my apartement and am living in an unsuspecting camper on the streets of my hometown. Quite a few points of your list totally applied to me, like getting rid of stuff etc. I also have a twitter account under the same name :)


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