Do you like to stay at home? Or would you prefer to be out seeing new places all the time? If the latter sounds like you, maybe you could be a nomad.

Nomads — sometimes called itinerants — are people with no fixed home who travel frequently from place to place. Many nomads move as the seasons change in search of food, water and places for their animals to graze.

The word “nomad” comes from a Greek word meaning “roaming about for pasture.” Although it may seem strange to you if your family has settled permanently in one area, there are 30-40 million nomads around the world.

Some cultures around the world have traditionally always been nomadic. In today’s industrialized countries, however, nomads are few and far between.

Nomads can usually be divided into three categories: hunter-gatherers, pastoral nomads and peripatetic nomads. Hunter-gatherers — sometimes called foragers — are the oldest type of nomad. They have been around since the beginning of time.

As their name suggests, they move about frequently in search of wild fruits, vegetables and animals that change with the seasons. All human beings were hunter-gatherers up until about 10,000 years ago.

As farming developed, the need to move about constantly was reduced. Today, there are very few hunter-gatherer societies, and those that do exist supplement their foraging with farming and raising animals.

Pastoral nomads raise large herds of animals. As animals eat all of the available food in a particular area, pastoral nomads must move their herds — and themselves — to new pastures, so that depleted pastures can recover and grow new food.

Although they don’t maintain permanent homes, pastoral nomads usually stick to a specific area. Depending upon the size of their herds, though, the area they roam can be hundreds, if not thousands, of square miles. When they choose an area to live for several weeks to several months, they often erect portable, wood-framed houses called yurts.

The only types of nomads you’re likely to find in industrialized nations are peripatetic nomads. These nomads travel frequently because they participate in or work for types of businesses, such as circuses, that travel from place to place.

You may have heard such nomads called gypsies from time to time. Gypsy is actually a name used to refer to the Romani people, which is a wandering race that exists throughout many European countries.

58 Join the Discussion

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    • Hi there, Laserdudle! We are SUPER glad you’re back, WONDERing with us today! :)

      We would LOVE if you and your Wonder Friends took a look at today’s Wonder on your own. It would be SUPER great if you shared what you learned with all of us at Wonderopolis! We would really enjoy hearing what you have to say!

      Keep up the great work, Laserdudle! :)

  1. We think it would be fun to always get to move somewhere new. We looked at pictures of Nomad homes, we even saw a Nomad bed.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about people that are forgetful.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Bayko’s class! We would love to join you on your nomadic journey! We bet it would be a COOL and different way of life for many of us, but we bet it would be quite the adventure! :)

      We enjoyed your guess for tomorrow– we always love your guesses! Thanks for sharing and we’ll find out what tomorrow brings! :)

  2. I think the video was interesting because it showed people in the desert who survive in the wild and move to different places. I learned a new word today!

    • Great point, Third Grade Wonder Friends! We are glad you learned about a nomadic lifestyle today– we’re so proud that you’ve learned a new word (or two or three), too! Thanks for sharing your WONDERful comment today! :)

  3. We learned several interesting facts about Nomads. We learned they move around from place to place in search of food, and there are 30 to 40 million nomads. This fact surprised us.

    We are predicting tomorrow’s wonder is a mystery or a treasure hunt.

    • Hello, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Karr’s class! :)

      We are so PROUD of all you have learned today– we bet learning about a different culture can be interesting, surprising and fun!

      Thanks for sharing your COOL guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder… we can’t wait to dig up what it will be! :)

  4. I feel bad for them because we have houses and they don’t. It’s bad that they have to travel. I would go give them food, water, clothing and maybe a bath! I wish they had a permanent home and that they didn’t move from place to place. I would let them stay at my house for a year or a few months. I hope the ones in the circus are happy.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Panthers3! We think it’s very kind of you to want to offer nomadic people shelter, food and clothes! We bet there are many people in this world who would appreciate it! Just like you enjoy the comfort of your own home, we think that nomads enjoy traveling from town to town. Some people enjoy the freedom of moving and meeting new people along the way, while others enjoy staying in one place! We are SO glad you joined us at Wonderopolis today! Great work! :)

    • That’s a great point, Diva! We have heard of a yogurt treat called “Nomad”, too! Today’s Wonder is about the origin of the word “nomad”. You can learn more about it by checking out today’s Wonder video and article! :)

  5. HI WONDEROPOLIS. Hi again that was logan <.< :D

    WE love this website it has a lot of cool facts on it, it helps people learn new things.

    • Hey there, Will and Logan– we’re glad you’re WONDERing with us! We appreciate your comment– it’s so much fun to Wonder and learn new, exciting things with great Wonder Friends like you! Have a SUPER day! :)

  6. We thought it was an interesting wonder. We all learned what nomads are. Circus people can also be nomads. I really like gypsy nomads. We also learned that a yurt is a temporary tent that nomads can rest in and carry with them. So, we learned a lot today and liked the wonder.

    • Great work, Myaina! You’ve done a great job of pointing out the different types of nomads! Thanks for sharing your comment today, Wonder Friend! :)

  7. We leaned a lot of new things. Wonderopolis is very informational for lots of things you need to know and want to know, I think it is awesome. We learned that its VERY VERY VERY hard to be a nomad for Americans. We learned that they travel a lot. It would be bad to live like them, if we could introduce them to America, and so they can have better lives.

    • Hi and hello again, Wonder Friends Will and Logan! We are so happy that you enjoy Wonderopolis– using your imagination is so much fun! We are also glad that you shared what you learned today– we think you’ve done a great job, Wonder Friends! :)

  8. I feel bad for nomads and learned that they live in yurts. And that they are gypsies. I liked what I learned today. I love typing and having fun!!!

    • Hi there, Joseph! We are glad you learned something new about how some people live (in their own version of a tent)! We think you’re doing a SUPER job typing, too, Joseph! Thanks for being a great Wonder Friend! :)

  9. We think that gypsies are European hobos with fancy clothes and nomads travel too much. We learned that they move every season to a different location because of food and weather.

    • Hi there, Haley and Hannah! We are glad that you’re WONDERing about nomads with us today- how fun! We think it’s cool to imagine moving somewhere different as the seasons change! We hope you have a SUPER day, Wonder Friends! :)

  10. I don’t think I’d want to live in anything called a yurt. I think it’d be cool to be a nomad though.

    Thanks for posting all these wonders!

    • Hi there, CKapps, we are so happy that you’re WONDERing about nomads with us today! We appreciate your comment, it’s important to understand where you would and wouldn’t feel comfortable living, sleeping and spending your time! However, we think it’s cool that you are imagining yourself as a nomad, traveling around the world and meeting lots of new people. We bet you’d find some places of your own that few people have discovered before you! Thanks for sharing! :)

    • We’re glad you liked WONDERing about nomads with us today, BreBre! We are glad you’ve learned something new about how other people enjoy their lives… moving from place to place! :)

    • Great question, Marco! We think you might be familiar with an urban area– it’s one where there are lots of people. Often, urban areas are highly trafficked, and have lots of buildings, shops, businesses and such. The opposite of urban is “rural”– a rural area is usually pictured as lots of farm land or countrysides, where there is more open land than people. Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :)

    • SUPER guess, Jake L! We can’t wait to “find out” what tomorrow’s Wonder will be! Thanks for commenting today, Wonder Friend! :)

  11. I think this is a great article to learn about and it would be pretty cool to learn about some more and others types of nomads.

    • Thanks for sharing your kind comment about today’s Wonder, Andreyanna! We are oh-so-glad to hear that you enjoyed learning about the nomadic lifestyle! We Wonder if you can continue to do some research of your own and share what you’ve learned about nomads! :)

  12. I would travel the world to see the different Target stores. Is the dollar section the same at every store? My wanderings would allow me to discover this.

    • That sure sounds like a GREAT way to experience different places and cultures, Wonder Writers! We LOVE your creative ideas about visiting Target stores. We bet that the stores feature different items based on the locations. For example, the Seattle, Washington store might have sweaters and scarves in October, but the Houston, Texas store might have sunglasses and Cowboy hats. The seasons affect what the stores will sell! Keep up the SUPER WONDERing! :)

  13. Wow. That’s weird. Why do they move from place to place? I wish I was like that. I could see all over the world. That would be fun. But, I would like build a house so I had a place to live in instead of just like living in the forest.

    • Great job of WONDERing, Gina M! Some people enjoy the freedom and excitement of moving from place to place, while others enjoy staying put in one area. Sometimes, moving from place to place develops out of a necessity, rather than an urge to ‘hit the road’! We think it could be a cool way to see new places on our own terms, but it would take a lot of getting used to, as well! We are glad you’ve got your creative juices flowing today! :)

  14. We learned that nomads don’t have a permanent home and wander from place to place.

    There are not very many in the world any more.

    • Great work to our Wonder Friends in Mr. Thompson’s class! We are glad to see that you have learned something new today! We Wonder if any of our Wonder Friends in class would enjoy living like a nomad, or taking a few of their characteristics (like traveling) and adding it to your lifestyle?! :)

  15. Nomads are really cool I think in class every day our teacher goes on here and talks about each wonder, our class loves the wonders.

    • WOHOO, that’s great news, Gabby! Thanks for sharing your comment– we think you’re pretty lucky to have a teacher that likes to Wonder as much as we do! We hope to see you again soon! :)

  16. Hi, that was amazing!!!!

    Look at how many comments there are!

    I am so proud

    I wake up at 7:00 to do this.

    From laserdudle

    • Hi there Olivia– we are glad you’re WONDERing about tomorrow! We don’t know what tomorrow’s Wonder will be, but we have a clue…

      “We seem to have lost tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day! Can you help us find it?” :)

  17. I learned many things with wonderopolis today! Nomad is a Greek word.
    Today, there are very few hunter-gatherer societies, and those that do exist their society .
    Pastures can recover and grow new food.
    Although they don’t maintain permanent homes, pastoral nomads usually you may have heard such nomads called gypsies from time to time. Gypsy is actually a name used to refer to the Romani people, which is a wandering race that exists throughout many European countries.

    • Nice work, Jules! We love that you have learned so much today– we Wonder if there was something in particular about the nomad lifestyle that you would enjoy? :)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment about our Wonder today, Pie! We appreciate your thoughts and we’re sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy our nomadic Wonder. However, we have LOTS of past Wonders for you to browse… keep up the GREAT Wondering! :)

  18. Cool! We just finished learning about nomads and other things in social studies! My class never learned about peripatetic nomads. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about hide and seek. (I didn’t copy ANYONE!)

    • Hello, Missy, we’re glad you’re here today! We LOVE that you and your classmates have been WONDERing about different cultures in social studies– what a great connection to our nomad Wonder! We think tomorrow is going to be a water-filled splash, and we’re excited to read your very original guess! Thanks for sharing today! :)

  19. Hi wonderopolis I already knew what a nomad is but I learned more about nomads! I think I know what tomorrow’s wonder is I think it is about trick or treating.

    • WOHOO, you are doing a great job of WONDERing today, Paola! We can’t wait to Wonder with you again tomorrow, but we are so happy you learned something new about nomads today! See you soon, Wonder Friend! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your SUPER comment, Ninja Girl! It’s so much fun to hear that you and your classmates are WONDERing with us in school! Keep up the super work, and we hope to see you soon! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a nomad?
  • Why do nomads move around like they do?
  • Could you live a nomadic lifestyle?

Wonder Gallery

Camel train silhouetted against colorful sky shutterstock_91650728Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Are you a wanderer? Or is there no place like home for you?

Given the chance, most of us would seize the opportunity to wander around aimlessly for awhile. Whether it’s a quiet walk in the woods or a leisurely stroll around the mall, it can be quite enjoyable to spend some quiet time just walking around without a schedule or an agenda.

But could you wander the Earth without a permanent home for months or years? Would you make a good nomad? Take some time to think about it, and then put together a pro/con list of the advantages and disadvantages of being a nomad.

Possible advantages include being able to see many parts of the world and getting a lot of exercise. Possible disadvantages include lacking a sense of security and not being able to maintain many friendships. What others can you think of?

If you think the pros outweigh the cons, maybe you’re destined to be a nomad! If so, where would you like to wander?

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Nomads: Where Boundaries Move lesson, children explore nomadic pastoralism in Central Asia.

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