Modern Bohemian Lifestyle – Why is it becoming popular?

The modern Bohemian lifestyle
During times of crisis, society always sees the rise of various countercultures. Today, we are constantly blasted with news about a new problem from around the world every single day. This never-ending stream of global pessimism has led to a resurgence of a 19th Century anti-establishment way of life called the bohemian lifestyle.

Based on simple living principles, frugality and free love, the modern Bohemian lifestyle has opened its arms to young people in western society. There is a sudden realisation of the cruel reality of living in a hyper-capitalistic society among these young people. Whether through necessity or desire, these young people have adopted a lifestyle that seeks to provide happiness and contentment in a time where both are increasingly difficult to find.

What is a bohemian?

Before the 19th century, the French used the word ‘Bohemian’ to describe the groups we call ‘Gypsies or Romany’. Back then, this group was known famously for their vagabond lifestyle and their disregard for money. They were also known for their pursuit of music and art of all forms. Often vilified in French literature, these bohemians were seen as outsiders and inspired disdain from mainstream French culture. 

However, by the 19th century, this group went from being vilified to being thoroughly romanticised. The most famous instance of this switch in perception was through French playwright Murgier’s play Scenes de la vie de Boheme. Through the play, Murgier describes the Bohemian love for art and complete devotion to art itself. 

Every man who enters on an artistic career, without any other means of livelihood than his art itself, will be forced to walk in the paths of Bohemia.

Scenes de la vie de Boheme - Murgier
Bohemians and music
The traditional bohemian lifestyle heavily incorporates the arts.

How do you live a modern bohemian lifestyle?

Almost a century after the French obsession with bohemians, the modern bohemian lifestyle has evolved once more. One of the key hallmarks of the modern bohemian lifestyle is attire. The boho-chic look worn by models and actresses such as Sienna Miller and Kate Moss has become more popular. 

However, more importantly, the ideology of the 19th-century bohemians still remains a core tenet of the modern bohemian lifestyle. However, the resurgence of the bohemian lifestyle in the 21st century is not centred around media romanticisation. Instead, its revival is deeply rooted in the failures of Western governments to provide for younger members of society. The impossibility of home ownershipgruelling increase in working hours, and a decrease in social mobility have all forced young people to turn towards the bohemian lifestyle. 

The bohemian ideology encompasses 3 things, all of which are becoming more prevalent in our somewhat dystopian development of Western society. 

1. Anti-establishment and unconventional living

Easy access to information through the internet continues to reveal the atrocities committed by governments that were elected to help humanity move forward. Without a doubt, anti-establishment rhetoric has taken centre stage across the whole political spectrum. All political discussions today seem to end with an agreement that the economic and social engineering put forward by successive governments have caused more harm than good. 

This disdain for modern governments has made anti-establishment thinking almost second nature. Similarly, advocating against the ruling classes have also made its way into mainstream thinking. If you find yourself standing in opposition to the conventional social, political, and economic principles of a society, your ideology likely matches with that of traditional and modern bohemians. 

2. Frugality and poverty

Traditional and modern bohemian lifestyle adopters are adamantly against materialism and consumerism. This hatred for material wealth came from necessity at first. Bohemians are well known for their interest in arts and historically artists were amongst the poorest in society, particularly after the industrial revolution. 

Today, frugality and poverty is quite common amongst younger people. According to the UK’s New Policy Institute, the poverty rate among 20-24 year olds grew by 6 percentage points in the last decade, more than any other age group. Now poverty amongst young people has reached a high of 30%. You don’t need to be an artist anymore to live a life in poverty. If you are a young and not living with your parents, the frugality of the bohemian lifestyle might already be at your fingertips. 

3. Flexible and nomadic lifestyles

Nomads living a modern bohemian lifestyle
The unfortunate reality of the modern bohemian lifestyle: More people are being forced to live in mobile homes.

Mingled with the frugal lifestyle of modern bohemians is the nomadic lifestyle. Nomads are members of a community without any fixed living arrangements and often move around. Nomads are also going through their own period of being romanticised by media. The 2020 Oscar winning movie Nomadland poetically documents the life of a Nomad who lives in their own van after being displaced during the 2008 recession. 

Unfortunately homelessness is a reality for many adults across the US, especially after COVID-19. The 2021 estimate for homeless persons in the are expected to reach 1.5 million people which would easily make the US the worst affected industrialised country in regards to homelessness. With the homelessness crisis only getting worse, you may not be far from living the nomad lifestyle.


Living a modern bohemian lifestyle today may not be a voluntary, fun and freeing experience for many. Poverty stricken young people across Western society are being forced to live the same experience as some of the poorest members of society in 19th Century France. Though the idea of the bohemian lifestyle has been romanticised, we are one more economic crisis away from the unconventional lifestyle of Bohemians becoming conventional. Will we still romanticise this lifestyle then?


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