March 22, 2009

Roadtrip Philosophy - Vagabond vs. Hobo vs. Nomad

I call myself a vagabond, but how is that any different from being a hobo or a nomad? These terms are often used interchangably by travelers but I think there is a distinct difference. (And not just that I think vagabond sounds cooler, even though it does.)

The dictionary doesn't agree with me, however. They also use the terms interchangably. A vagabond is, "a person, usually without a permanent home, who wanders from place to place; nomad" or in less kind terms, "a carefree, worthless, or irresponsible person; rogue." Well, screw you too, Random House Dictionary of Random House, Inc.

I am not a nomad. A nomad is, "a member of a people or tribe that has no permanent abode but moves about from place to place, usually seasonally and often following a traditional route or circuit according to the state of the pasturage or food supply." I have no tradition to my travels, only a desire to other places. I have no tribe to accompany, only friends who sometimes tag along for the ride. The only real similarity between a vagabond and a nomad is our constant travels and moving from place to place. But the circumstances and meanings behind our wandering ways are completely different.

I am also not a hobo. The Random House Dictionary calls a hobo, "a tramp or vagrant" or "a migratory worker." I am none of those things. But I am mostly adament that I am not a hobo because there is a hobo culture that I am not a part of. The term "hobo" is derived from the phrase "homeward bound," and is based around a lifestyle with it's own social norms and even written language. If you are interested in learning more about the hobo cultue, I suggest you visit the National Hobo Museum website. You can learn about the museum, the hobo convention, and the meaning of different signs used along the way.

In conclusion: I am a vagabond, not a nomad or a hobo. Even if Random House Dictionary isn't clever enough to tell the difference.


  1. Wow. I only work and take classes. It's amazing that you do so much traveling. Please check out my blog at:

  2. Me, I’m part vagabond, part nomad and part hobo… A vaganomabo