How many people have you met who ditched the 9 to 5 lifestyle and went on to explore the world? There are thousands of people who share such dramatic life stories and encourage others to take a risk. But if you take a closer look at these people, you’ll see that they never knew what to do with their lives, so they’ve chosen the easiest path.
Then there are people who are incredibly passionate about their business and believe that they need to hustle to get results. People who live by this philosophy can be found in every city or town. But when you talk to them after years of hustling, you see that their passion was depleted of fuel. They are still the goal-driven go-getters, but in the quest for success, they lost who they truly are. Their goal has replaced who they are as a person.
While there is no data on digital nomads yet, in 2017 the New York Times featured data from a Gallup survey of 15,000 adults. They found that “43% of employed Americans spent at least some time working remotely” in 2016. While remote work isn’t exactly digital nomadism the finding is mindblowing. In the past you only had two options - immerse yourself in the world or immerse yourself in work. Today there is a third option. Digital nomads are building wildly successful businesses all the while enjoying everything that the world has to offer.
But this lifestyle has only become possible recently due to the shifts in technology and how people perceive and structure work.
Is digital nomadism the future of work?
There are two powerful forces that shape the future of work: technology and people who can be as efficient off-site as they are on-site.
Technology is replacing jobs but at the same time, it’s creating new jobs. The simplest example is task automation. By relying on technology people are able to accomplish more, hence one-man businesses are popping up every day. Additionally, technology creates millions of jobs that cater to the technology sector. Developers and web designers are two most prominent examples of such jobs. So, while Elon Musk’s negative “AI is the biggest existential threat” prediction raises some concerns, the real threat isn’t technology but the lack of skills to fulfill all the jobs created by technology.
People are changing the way we work the same way technology does. Thanks to millennials, the working environment and expectations are becoming more aligned with people’s innate desires and needs. Being the most represented and most capable generation in the US, millennials have the power to demand what they want from employers. And here are the main millennials’ needs: freedom, the ability to express themselves and an immense desire to participate in social issues. It’s not a surprise, therefore, that the workplace is becoming leaner, more humane, and increasingly remote.
Now combine the two trends: technology and the demand for a flexible workplace and you’ll get a breeding ground for a completely new lifestyle, that is more effective due to technology and more enjoyable due to flexibility. The advent of digital nomads is a response to overarching workforce trends.
Who are digital nomads?
There are numerous definitions of the term “digital nomad”. Until recently digital nomads were defined as people who leverage work as a way to travel. This term isn’t entirely correct, as it implies that travel is the priority for digital nomads. But it’s really not that simple. There are different types of digital nomads. Here are just some of them:
Business owners who run startups
Employers who work remotely
Freelancers and self-employed creatives
Each type of a digital nomad pursues their own goals. These goals are travel goals as well as work goals. Some people have more degree of freedom and can jump from one country to another every three days, others are less fortunate or they care more about the business, so they require some sort of a home base. Ultimately, digital nomads are people who embrace remote work and use technology to actualize themselves or make a living.
What are the benefits of being a digital nomad?
Digital nomads are motivated by a range of goals and motivations. Here are some of them:
The number one motivation that drives digital nomad is the desire to be free. Digital nomad’s path presents an easy way to escape the pressures of business regulations and social conditioning. Everyone dream of being able to do almost anything they want. Digital nomads have almost unlimited freedom of choice when it comes to countries they want to settle in, lifestyle options, money they want to spend, people they surround themselves with, and the ways they build their lives.
The degree of freedom varies greatly. The remote workers are likely to be tied to certain day hours, while business owners are free to choose when they want to go online.
Travel is another reason why people choose to become digital nomads. Being a digital nomad is an incredibly rewarding lifestyle choice that allows you to explore many countries and cultures. You can spend a month in the bustling city of Chiang Mai, then move to tropical beaches of Bali, and then fly to the concrete jungle such as New York.
Because they can make money wherever they are, digital nomads aren’t restricted in the choice of a country they want to live in. They use travel as an opportunity to see amazing sights, experience new things, and get inspired by cultures and people. They also can fully immerse themselves in culture, making the travel experience inherently richer and more satisfying. Couple that with the opportunity to give and share their own culture with the locals, and you’ll understand why travel is so high on the digital nomads’ priorities list.
Digital nomad’s life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. Some people simply look at the digital nomad lifestyle as a way to reduce expenses. It’s simply a smarter financial set up where you earn a lot more than you have to spend. For the monthly budget you spend on rent and basic necessities in the US you can get a much better deal in the less developed countries.
Same goes for running a business. With due research, you can open a business in a country that has a more convenient tax system and lower taxes. Trying to reduce expenses is certainly not the main motivation for most digital nomads as these people are usually driven enough to succeed financially, but nevertheless, it’s one of the reasons many consider digital nomad lifestyle.
4. Meeting new people and making connections
A lot of digital nomads use travel as a way to meet new people. After all, it’s hard to meet someone new when you’re out of college and go to the same office every day. As a digital nomad, you are presented with many opportunities for interesting encounters and also there is a greater variety of people you can meet.
People are wired to seek social interaction. But when you are surrounded by the comfort of your usual social circle, you’re reluctant to make new connections. Digital nomadism forces you out of this restricting mindset by thrusting new exciting acquaintances into you. Having a community of like-minded people is crucial to business's success. Similarly, if you’re a creative freelancer then seeking feedback and exchanging ideas are the keys to truly groundbreaking projects. Digital nomads encounter a wider variety of people on a daily basis, so it's easier for them to find their tribe.
5. Learning and growing
Travel is a great way to acquire new knowledge. Add the training you get at work and you get a highly nutritious cocktail bound to expand your brain. Many digital nomads are on the nomadic journey to grow professionally and personally. Remote work skills are incredibly important these days. The skills to work and motivate yourself whenever and wherever you are will make you relevant as an employee for many years to come.
The mere fact that you have to navigate a new country, learn the basics of the language, establish a routine all the while performing your best at work is a great personal development experience. But you’re also growing professionally as you’re able to acquire knowledge from the best people using technology and traveling to places where high-level people do business.
Constantly changing environment stimulates all five senses. Digital nomadism teaches people how to think out of the box. This has useful application for entrepreneurs as well as creative professionals and remote workers. Whether you’re solving coding problems or contemplating your next business endeavor, deliberately putting yourself into a different environment certainly helps with generating ideas.
Additionally, some digital nomads derive their income solely from travel. Travel and lifestyle bloggers explore travel destinations and shoot YouTube videos about their adventures. Even industries unrelated to travel such as self-help and business coaching resort to traveling as a means to add some excitement to their content.
Where do digital nomads live?
Best cities for digital nomads:
Even though digital nomads can travel freely, they usually try to settle in one place for at least 2 months, as work puts certain demands on their travel plans. Because so many people are willing to make a foreign place their semi-permanent home, a number of destinations started catering to digital nomads’ needs. These places usually offer a stable internet connection, thriving community of like-minded people, and a low cost of living.
Here are the best destinations for digital nomads:
Chiang Mai, Thailand, is known for cheap accommodation, amazing food, and reliable Wi-Fi connection.
- Canggu, Bali is a tropical destination with best spots for surfing and thriving nomad scene.
- Bangkok, Thailand, is another Thai destination on the list, that offers all the benefits of city living in an all-year-round summer weather.
- Barcelona, Spain, is great for those who want to be at the heart of Europe and enjoy the vibrant Spanish culture.
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is offering great nightlife coupled with affordable rent, reliable internet, and delicious street food.
- Berlin, Germany, is a hipster mecca of Europe with great coffee shops, good Wi-Fi quality and affordable cost of living.
- Medellin, Colombia, is one of the raising digital nomads’ destinations that boasts warm weather, friendly locals, and beautiful scenery.
Some people claim that digital nomadism is the future of work. However, digital nomadism is a result, not a cause. Digital nomad phenomenon was born out of two overarching trends that define the future of the workforce, such as technology and change in societal expectations. It’s still hard to predict if digital nomads will take over the world. But one thing for sure - most people want to be happier and more satisfied with their lives, and digital nomadism is a great way to get to that goal.