Nomad: The Real Meaning - Stephen Munson, World Traveler

Nomad The first documented use of the word nomad dates back to 1818, although the word’s etymology has a much more fascinating background.

Etymology of the Word Nomad

The word nomadic stems from the Greek word nemein, which meant “to pasture.” Many nomadic tribes followed migration routes that were integral to their culture and often based on finding resources to fulfill the basic needs of themselves and their livestock.

From nemein came the Latin nomas and the Greek word nomas, which boasted a definition meaning “roaming in search of pasture” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. In the late 16th century, the French nomade transitioned into the new spelling “nomad”, which entered the French lexicon through Latin roots from the Greek base words.

What Does It Mean to Be A Nomad?

What does that all really mean and how does it translate to today’s use of the word nomadic?

The history of the word nomadic shows how deeply entrenched these location independent ideas are in our culture and our history. Long before the development of megacities and metropolises, nomadic peoples scoured the planet in search of work, food, and basic supplies. They moved from one place to the next constantly looking for more fertile soil, new grazing lands for their livestock, and more abundant crops.

In today’s world where we no longer have to roam the world to make sure our basic needs are met, people still embrace the nomadic life in search of freedom, independence, and a sense of adventure.

Modern nomads view life as a great rendezvous, crisscrossing the planet in search of new cultures, new lives, and even new employment opportunities. No longer relying on sheep and livestock to make a living, today’s nomads rely on business ideas and freelance opportunities to support their quest to explore the world on their own time. These pseudo time travelers take control of their day-to-day businesses and embrace location independence in favor of seeing the world.

Our nomadic family consists of business owners and home-based entrepreneurs, also people who have found freelance remote jobs that allow them to work from anywhere on the planet.  A Nomad is someone who may enjoy distant travels or the safety of working from home.  When your work is location independent, the possibilities are endless as long as you have a steady Internet connection along with tools to keep building your business and legacy.

I love this piece by Jeff A. Benner titled “The Nomadic Lifestyle of Ancient Hebrews

Many Biblical characters, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and others, lived a nomadic lifestyle. A nomad lived in tents and traveled from location to location in search of water and pastures for their livestock.

The Wilderness

The home of the nomad was the wilderness, often dry and arid, but with an occasional oasis, river, water basin and pasture. The nomad was at much at home in the wilderness as we are in our own environment. He also knew the area which he traveled very well. He knew where all the water sources were, where pastures were located at different times of the year and all the landmarks which directed him on his travels.

Rain is the most important element to the nomad as without it, he, his family, his flocks and herds cannot survive. Each area received rain at different times of the year and in different locations. It was the tribe’s chief responsibility to ensure that they were at the right places at the right times. The rains may be local, providing water and pasture, but may also be very distant. These distant rains would flood the rivers causing them to overflow and watering the grounds near the rivers within their areas of travel.


The nomad lived a very simple life and because of their constant travels they could not carry a great amount of supplies and equipment. His major possession is the tent made of goat hair, the poles, stakes and ropes for supporting the tent, a curtain to divide the tent into two parts (male and female sides) and a carpet for the floor. The nomads wealth was measured by the size of his flocks and herds which supplied him with most of his needs including milk, meat, skin, hair for tents, horns for trumpets and liquid containers and many other odds and ends.

His cooking supplies and equipment consisted of bags made of skins for carrying food reserves such as grains and dried fruits, a few utensils such as spoons, knives and bowls and a grinding mill for making flour out of grains. He also carried some harvesting supplies such as sickles and mattocks to gather crops when available. For defense he also carried weapons such as the bow and arrow, spears and knives. Many of his weapons were used for other purposes such as butchering knives, mattocks and the tent poles which were sharp at one end for spears.


A nomadic camp consisted of about 25 to 50 members. Any less and it would be difficult to protect the family and any more would be difficult to feed. Usually the oldest member of the family was the head, or chief, of the tribe. The remainder of the clan would consist of his brothers, sons, nephews and grandsons as well as their wives and children. Each clan was an independent entity with the chief as judge and ruler. He had the ultimate authority in all manners including where they go, discipline, management of the flocks and herds and the daily tasks of the camp.

When a clan became to large to support, it was divided and separated with all of the clans belonging to one tribe. The name of the tribe was generally that of the original family patriarch and each clan of the tribe carried the name of its original patriarch.

Foods and Medicines

The nomads diet consisted of breads, fruits (when available), milk and cheese and meat. Grains, such as barley and wheat, were gathered and ground into a flour and mixed with water and placed on hot rocks to make bread. Some of the fruits available were grapes, pomegranates, olives and dates. These were often dried for later use and sometimes mixed with flour for a cake type bread. Milk was taken from the sheep and goats and also used to make cheese. Animals from the flock were occasionally butchered especially for special events such as when guests arrive but, not on a regular basis.

Olives were not only used as a food source but for medicinal purposes as well. It was drunk for stomach and intestinal problems and applied to wounds as an antiseptic. The fat of animals were made into a soap for washing.

Social Activities

The men would often gather together, usually at meal times, to discuss past events, needs, locations and other details of operating the camp. The women gathered together to prepare foods, make clothing and make tent repairs. Storytelling was probably one of the most important forms of entertainment. The older members of the clan would tell the stories of their history to the children in order to pass on the experiences of the tribe and clans to the next generation.

One of the major responsibilities of the clan is to provide hospitality to anyone who comes to them. This may be a member of a related clan or even an enemy of another tribe. In both cases it was the responsibility of the clan to provide food, shelter and protection as long as they were within their camp.


The religion of the nomads is very different from our understanding of religion. The whole of the nomads life was his religion. As his very existence was dependent upon rain, he understood that his life was in God’s hands at all times. The nomad saw the power, justice, love and mercy of God in all things and in all of his activities, such as eating, making shelter, working, etc. was seen as a service to God. The nomad lived in harmony with his surroundings and understood as being one with God who created all things. In short, his life was one long prayer to God.

With all that fear, it’s much easier to stay at home in our comfort zones
than to break out and travel.

Learn more in related article: Staying with a local family on Bali

Stephen Munson Digital Nomad #NomadMastermind Thailand

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Stephen Munson Digital Nomad #NomadMastermind Thailand Work Remote

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