For example, imagine a student who goes to an international university where he studies for 8 months and then comes back to his home country for 4 months. And he has to do this for 4 years, and then an additional 2 years in Grad school. Maybe he also studies in another country for one semester as an exchange student.
Therefore, every time he wishes to - let's say - buy something big (like a car or furniture or appliances), he says to himself something like:

"I'm ___________ [only going to stay here for another few years]; there's no point spending that much money".

Also, since he stays back in his home country for only 4 months every year, he does not really feel like it's his real home either.

  • 2
    The hypothetical student you mention seems to live a transient life. Does this fit for you?
    – user227547
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 19:10
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    It depends a lot on how positively you want to spin it an how much you want to convey about personality on top of movement. A "drifter" would convey a bit more aimlessness, a "gypsy", a "leaf in the wind"/"rolling stone" convey "free spirit". Wanderer, might emphasize curiosity.
    – Tom22
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 19:31
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    Someone who moves continuously moves incrementally - no discontinuous jumps in location. Someone who moves continually moves many times.
    – Drew
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 20:42
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    what about "vagrant"? Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 22:42
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    Give us a sample sentence please. Peripatetic. Divides his time between A and B. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 4:32

4 Answers 4


Peripatetic is a word for someone always moving around, not living in one fixed place. "Perpetual tourist" is a phrase in use (see Wikipedia) for the class of wealthy peripatetic people avoiding becoming tax resident anywhere.

  • Properly, though, peripatetic in English doesn't deal with simply 'walking about' but with Aristotle's style of instruction. Teachers and some scholars can be paripatetic, but its extended senses as simply a synonym for nomadic are originally and largely ironic.
    – lly
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 14:49

As a noun, nomad.

As an adjective, nomadic.

That said, there are many synonyms or metaphors you could use: unsettled, rootless, peripatetic...

  • 4
    I wonder if peripatetic works best here, since the moves are for academic reasons. The reference to Socrates will be lost on some, however.
    – user227547
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 19:28
  • @Palizsche If he were the teacher or prof moving about, absolutely 'peripatetic' is the best word. (In reference to the school of Aristotle, nothing to do with Socrates at all.) Not the case here, though, so using that word—at least to the people who grok it—would be taken as insulting.
    – lly
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 14:40
  • @Ily, oops! Thanks for the correction. You are absolutely right that Aristotle was the official peripatetic one. Socrates walked about a lot too.
    – user227547
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 4:02

As both adjective and noun, itinerant:

Adjective: Travelling from place to place.

Noun: A person who travels from place to place.

At the risk of offending the politically correct, I would also add gypsy:

A nomadic or free-spirited person. ‘why should she choose to wander the world with a penniless gypsy like me?’

  • There must be a German word for this. That's what the students did in Germany in the 19th century, but between German universities, isn't is?
    – David
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 19:37

A frequently used idiomatic expression (often as an exaggeration) for this situation is: living out of a suitcase.
See the example sentence below from ODO.

"I'm living out of a suitcase; there's no point spending that much money (on a relatively immovable asset)".


live out of a suitcase

Live or stay somewhere on a temporary basis and with only a limited selection of one's belongings.

‘Her parents told her she had to think about buying a home instead of living out of a suitcase.’

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