With little or no affinity for their home­land, and lacking in familial con­nec­tions to prod­ucts or ser­vices that would inspire nos­talgic good feel­ings in other trav­elers — the smell of McDonald’s burgers, for example, appeals to Amer­i­cans trav­eling in China— a new breed of world-​​traveler, known as “global nomads,” eschew such sen­ti­men­tal­i­ties and con­found those who would market to them, says Fleura Bardhi.

In her ongoing research on the emer­gence of global nomads in the inter­na­tional mar­ket­place, the assis­tant pro­fessor of mar­keting has noticed behav­ioral and atti­tu­dinal trends among people she says are “unmoored from con­sumer and national iden­ti­ties through global mobility.”

Global nomads are detached from place or cul­ture. They don’t want to stay con­nected to a par­tic­ular locale, but instead, they get in and learn what they need to adapt; for example, by devel­oping appro­priate social and cul­tural skills,” she says. “They’re often in a loca­tion for pro­fes­sional rea­sons, and once they’re done, they move on.”

These find­ings “advance our cur­rent under­standing of cos­mopoli­tanism,” she adds. “Global nomads expe­ri­ence being a ‘stranger’ every time they relo­cate. These unique shared expe­ri­ences allow them entry in the neo-​​nomadic third culture.”

Bardhi studied CEOs and other exec­u­tives, aged 40 to 65, who travel more than 50 per­cent of any given year. Unlike tourists and other busi­ness trav­elers, the global nomads she looked at were like islands unto them­selves, she says, feeling no affinity for their home­land, or for any con­sumer brands or prod­ucts that would remind them of home.

Her studies cen­tered on the most extreme cases of a pop­u­la­tion whose num­bers are still largely unknown. Although data exists about total num­bers of air­plane trav­elers and inter­na­tional tourists, Bardhi says it is unknown how many jet-​​setting nomads are criss­crossing the world.

But Bardhi knows some things about their nature.

Having studied CEOs, diplo­mats and all manner of con­sul­tants in fields including infor­ma­tion tech­nology, envi­ron­ment and busi­ness, Bardhi’s research con­cludes they are very dif­ferent than typ­ical trav­elers.
Often living out of hotels, or mul­tiple homes and apart­ments in major met­ro­pol­itan areas, their con­sump­tion tastes, as well as rela­tion­ships to people, and a sense of place, is unlike that of a typ­ical trav­eler and con­sumer, she adds.

Mem­bers of this new cul­ture, lacking in ties to a national mindset, often share a more global iden­tity influ­enced by shared con­cerns around issues, she says. For example, a global nomad working for an envi­ron­mental NGO would iden­tify most closely with fellow envi­ron­men­tal­ists, regard­less of nationality.

This mem­ber­ship enables them to main­tain detach­ment and relo­cate easier than other mobile pop­u­la­tions, she says. “They can pick up and leave at any point,” she says.

One female exec­u­tive whom Bardhi studied simply did not iden­tify with her home­land, Romania. Instead, she and her equally well-​​traveled hus­band main­tained a home in Wash­ington, D.C., and another in South Africa.

The woman was a rare example of a global nomad who main­tained a suc­cessful per­sonal rela­tion­ship. Most inter­viewed in her study were either single or divorced, she notes.

By com­par­ison, Amer­ican tourists on hol­iday in China for 10 days, whom she studied, were des­perate for the sights and sounds of home after day two, she notes.

By that second day, they were drawn to McDonald’s to the point that we started to call McDonald’s the U.S. Embassy of China. The smell of a ham­burger, or of pizza was reas­suring to them,” she says.

An exten­sive world trav­eler her­self, Bardhi was born in Albania and edu­cated in Norway, Eng­land and the United States. Bardhi plans next to study ways of mar­keting prod­ucts to global nomad, a group she sees as crit­ical in the glob­al­iza­tion trend.