Digital nomads? You may have heard this term popping up a lot recently as a wave of independent freelancers and entrepreneurs have taken to doing work not only when they want, but where they want.
Just like the latter half of their name implies, digital nomads travel through different cities, towns, and even countries at their leisure as they make a living by doing their work online. Hence, the digital part.
The foundation of the digital nomad movement has been the ability to do ‘remote work’ -- that is, work that can be done from any location; usually via the internet. For many jobs that have been traditionally done on a computer at a desk in an office in person, modern technology actually now allows much of this work to be done from anywhere. What’s different about an excel document that’s made with a keyboard and monitor inside of a cramped cell in a dingy office building compared to one written on a laptop while you enjoy the sandy beaches of Morocco?
Many savvy salary-people have already picked up on this idea, and have quickly turned to freelancing or even working out arrangements with their typical 9-to-5 bosses to do work from anywhere else they’d like. Better yet, their travel is being directly funded by their work without the ties of rent or utilities, as long as they can find a hostel or make a house-sitting arrangement.
Traveling like a nomad
For many people who take up this lifestyle, traveling isn’t a temporary stint for a few weeks or even months. Most people sell their homes and all the possessions they can’t fit into carry-on bags so they can leave their former homes untethered.
Without having to worry about rent or utility bills, digital nomads will have significantly more money to spend on their travels. Often able to find places to live as house-sitters, hostel guests, or even by using vast networks of “couch surfers”, many nomads are able to make a living for themselves without worrying about new bills in whatever place they happen to be staying in. This makes the cost of living so much more affordable.
Too good to be true...?
While the prospect of a never-ending adventure on your own terms, traveling the world like a modern-day explorer sounds like a very attractive life for many people, it’s not for everyone -- including some people who think it’s at least for them.
Many people really suffer when they don’t have a comforting, permanent home to go back to. While it’s not impossible to give up your nomadic lifestyle even after giving up everything else, it can still prove very difficult for many people.
There is also a lot to be said about the insecurity and uncertainty that not only are inherent in the travel itself, but the lack of a promise that this new place is going to be right, or this check is going to come in, or this client is going to leave you… All the stresses of normal work life combined with the stresses of travel inexorably intertwined into one can be incredibly overwhelming. On top of that, many places do not have reliable internet access -- whether their infrastructure is poor or there are just too many people using the wi-fi at once in a crowded place. You might not even be reasonably able to get work done at all.
Plus, there’s the burden of travel visas, international health insurance coverage… There are so many seemingly minor details that are easy to forget about, but they really are a big deal and can be harder to sort it than it might seem. International travel is complicated, and there are a lot of different aspects that must be addressed in order to travel safely, and legally.
...Maybe for others. But for some, the nomad life is a dream come true!
Some people just have a calling for this lifestyle, though, and this is the perfect way for them to travel the world at their own pace and on their own terms. Vacation time from traditional jobs doesn’t allow for enough time to truly appreciate being present in a new place, and neither really does backpacking. You get a chance to really live like a person in that area in a very real and true sense -- and to some people, that’s going to be an amazing experience worth just about anything.