Bohemianism, often misunderstood to be mere happy-go-luckyism, in its most important sense is a project of self-discovery and self-assertion on the part of young middle-class artists or would be artists.
Bohemians rebel against the placid comfort that the middle-class aims for and the prudent endeavor by which middle-class comfort is achieved. Instead, they want a sense of grappling with real life, and prefer boldness to prudence, pleasure to restraint, ecstasy to pain, danger to safety, and the unknown to the known. Ostensibly they seek “experiences” in order to grow as artists, and their poverty demonstrates their commitment to be artists at any cost.
Bohemians typically explore the wild territories of the psyche – and are fascinated by the lives of the poor, the failed, the insane, the primitive. The hard lives of such outsider groups do have an authenticity often lacking in the middle-class, though Bohemians who admire them are liable to misinterpret what they see as projecting their own situation as voluntary outsiders on these no-choice outsiders.
Eventually, this passionate exploration of the possibilities of life bears fruit or not; the Bohemians become artists or they don’t, they settle down or continue to seek experiences, and a new generation comes along to go through the same process in their own way.