As I’m still being introduced at conferences as a digital nomad, and I often get questions on what this is, here’s my first take on being a digital nomad.
I’ve been researching this particular lifestyle for the best part of the last decade. While my idea was to create a documentary on the phenomenon (and I still might, one day), I ended up using lots of my research when COVID started to develop a management book, “The Suitcase Office, What digital nomads can teach us about location-independent work.” where I look at the differences between managing a team in an industrial setting on the one hand and working with a (partially) remote team on the other.
What are digital nomads?
You’ve probably heard the term “digital nomad” before, but what does it mean? A digital nomad is someone who uses technology to make a living and who can work from anywhere in the world. This includes freelancers, entrepreneurs, and remote workers.
A digital nomad works remotely using technology, typically while traveling. Early digital nomads primarily worked in consulting, writing, marketing, programming, and visual design. Since COVID, various information professionals have joined the location-independent workforce.
From happy few to mainstream
Before 2020 this was considered a somewhat unusual lifestyle. During the COVID crisis, however, many people discovered they could perfectly perform their job from anywhere, and the Location Independent community grew overnight. And while some organizations are calling their people back to the office, this is now the lifestyle of choice for many.
Nomads don’t only are those who travel to extremely exotic locations. You could start being a nomad by working from home, during workations, or just by taking a first trip where you test the waters.
Before 2020, most nomads were freelancers or entrepreneurs. Being your own boss makes it a bit easier to decide where to work from. During the Corona days, many employees in corporations found they could work from home, as they were forced to for a while, and discovered that their job would allow them to work from anywhere. And so, many ‘regular’ workers found the way to the location-independent lifestyle.
What’s in a name?
I did like the naming ‘digital nomads as it shows clearly what the movement is. However, as with all communities, I found that some people started to exclude other travelers or nomads, as they were not considered ‘real ones.’ For example, in a Facebook group, an engineer who lives and works while traveling the world started a harsh discussion with a traveling yoga teacher as the first claimed she wasn’t a person who got her freedom from the digital era.
To end these pointless conversations, you’ll see me talking about:
- Digital Nomads
- Location independent entrepreneurs
- Location Independent Professionals
- Remote Workers
- Digital migrant
Why become a digital nomad?
There are many reasons why someone might want to become a digital nomad. For some, it’s a way to escape the 9-to-5 grind and to have more freedom and flexibility in their work life. Others become digital nomads because they want to travel and see the world while still earning an income. And for some, it’s a cheaper way to live since they don’t have to worry about rent or a mortgage.
I’ve met people who told me they’d live the nomadic lifestyle while they hadn’t settled down to start a family; for others, it was a chosen lifestyle with no foreseeable ending.
How do you become a digital nomad?
If you’re interested in becoming a digital nomad, there are a few things you need to do first. First, you need to find a job or start a business that allows you to work remotely. Second, you need to save up some money to afford to travel and live in different places for extended periods. Finally, you must be willing to adapt to change and be comfortable living out of a suitcase.
What are the challenges of being a digital nomad?
Of course, some challenges come along with the digital nomad lifestyle. For example, it can be difficult to maintain friendships and relationships when you’re constantly on the move. Additionally, it can be hard to stay focused and motivated when you don’t have a traditional office space or set work hours. And finally, there’s always the risk that your internet connection will be unreliable or nonexistent in some parts of the world, jeopardizing your professional engagements.
How do digital nomads make a living?
While some digital nomads are self-employed, others work for companies that allow them to telecommute. They can make a living in several ways, such as freelancing, blogging, or working as a consultant. Many nomads are also creative professionals, such as writers, photographers, or graphic designers. The internet has made it possible for people to make a living without being tied to a specific location, and digital nomads have embraced this opportunity. Combining their skills with their love of travel allows them to live a lifestyle many people can only dream of.
What are some popular nomad destinations?
Any destination could be good if the internet is available and if you can access the country freely. But location independent workers often seek cheaper locations than their home country and where the climate is comfortable year-round. That’s why many of us often find ourselves in South East Asia. Thailand is one of the most traveled places for vagabonds like myself, as are Bali, Cambodia, and Kuala Lumpur.
Barcelona and Amsterdam are amongst the more popular destinations in Western Europe, while Croatia, and especially Split are rising stars in Eastern Europe.
When deciding on a location, it’s essential to understand the local laws on, for example, free speech and equal rights for Lgbtqi+. Recently, for example, Indonesia adopted new laws that would make sex between unmarried people criminal, which could affect you if you travel to Bali.
Nomadlist keeps track of the characteristics of hundreds of locations, helping digital nomads to plan their next destination.
One way to find out
You can read a lot about the lifestyle and talk to many nomads, but the best way to understand this life is to try it. If you’re thinking about becoming a nomad, remember that it takes some planning and preparation—but the rewards can be well worth it.
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad uses technology to work remotely, often while traveling. Early digital nomads typically worked in marketing, programming, graphic design, writing, and consulting. Since COVID, a more comprehensive range of information workers entered the location independent workforce.
What are the benefits of being a digital nomad?
There are many benefits to being a digital nomad:
- It allows you to live a location-independent lifestyle. This means that you can travel and work from anywhere in the world.
- Working remotely allows you to set your hours and work from home or any other location that suits you.
- Digital nomads often have lower living expenses as they do not need to pay for office space or commuting costs.
What are the challenges of being a digital nomad?
While there are many benefits to being a digital nomad, there are also some challenges. One of the biggest challenges is staying motivated and productive when working from home or in other remote locations. Additionally, it can be challenging to stay connected with friends and family when you are constantly on the move. Finally, digital nomads may need help finding places to work and live that offer reliable internet access and other amenities.
Koen Blanquart is an author, keynote speaker, and strategy consultant. Being a digital nomad, Koen operates worldwide, while he considers New York his home base. In his most recent book, Koen gathered tips and methods of digital nomads to manage a remote workforce and hybrid work. Koen explains how asynchronous and remote work is critical in creating a high-performance workforce in his most recent book. Whenever Koen finds a chance, he’s out and about with his camera.
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