What is a Digital Nomad?

What is a Digital Nomad? 2018-06-19T19:55:37+00:00

A digital nomad is someone who is able to do his work from anywhere he’d like; the only requirement is that he is connected to a stable Internet connection from his laptop to work on. The digital nomad uses tools such as Dropbox, Skype and Trello to be able to do his working activities from a distance. (Groenewoud, 2015) However, not all jobs are suitable to be done as a digital nomad. For example, being a plumber makes it pretty much impossible to solve your client’s problem over the Internet. Luckily there are a ton of jobs that do make it possible to work remotely. Jobs such as photographer, videographer, designer, consultant, accountant are all jobs that are possible to complete through the use of the Internet and the tools and software that are used on the computer, or sometimes even on a phone. (Waliszewski, E Gofus, & Tripscout, 2017)

The movement

This nomadic movement started roughly 20 years ago as a direct result of the rise of the Internet. (Gilbert, 2013) Prior to the Internet it was simply not possible to communicate as effectively with partners, clients and colleagues to make this lifestyle work. Due to the publishing of many books about the subject, the movement has become increasingly popular amongst people. It is difficult to give the exact number of digital nomads currently travelling the world, but many sources report a strong increase (Mohn, 2017). One source even predicted that there will be 1 billion digital nomads by 2035 (TroopTravel, 2017).

Co-working spaces

The enterprising act of networking between digital nomads often happens in so-called co-working spaces that are mostly strategically placed in digital nomad hubs. These spaces are often community driven venues where nomads can pay for a subscription to use the space and Internet for working activities. These communities value the co-working mind-set and encourage sharing knowledge by collaborating and helping each other with problems. Depending on the type of co-working space, sometimes lectures are given amongst the nomads and members to give something back to the community.  (The Workplace Co, n.d.)

Preferred locations

Southeast Asia and South America are mostly the first choice of destination amongst digital nomads, mainly due to the comfortable climate, low costs of living and because the lifestyle in these locations generally connects pretty well with the wishes of the working traveller. But despite the popularity of Southeast Asia and South America digital nomads can be found anywhere around the world. If the business is thriving and doing well, places as Europe and North America can also serve perfectly for the nomadic lifestyle. (Waliszewski, E Gofus, & Tripscout, 2017)

Digital nomads and the law

As the digital revolution that made the digital nomad lifestyle possible is still relatively new to the world, some loopholes and problems in the law can still be found. So far no specific visas exist that are purely designed for people who travel the world and earn their money in various countries. The residual option is to visit the countries on a tourist visa, meaning you have restricted time of stay within the country, and often meaning you are not allowed to work there. When a nomad wants to stay for a period longer than the restriction of the tourist visa allows, some choose to leave the country and come back within a couple of days to regain a new tourist visa. This is called a visa run. (Youtube, 2017) Most digital nomads travel on this option, often for longer periods of time. Digital nomads that choose to travel on this visa earn their money illegally, since they are not allowed to work in the country they’re staying in.  (more on legal issues can be found here). (Youtube, 2017)

The advantages of digital nomading

Having remote workers could benefit a company a lot, it often has a cost saving effect as there is no need to rent office space with all of its additional costs. The corporate culture has also started to change and companies have started seeing the benefits of hiring remote workers or transforming regular employees to remote workers. Many of them proved a healthier and happier mental state of being after starting to work remotely, which benefitted the company because a happy employee generally works more productively. (Waliszewski, E Gofus, & Tripscout, 2017)

Companies can also benefit from hiring a digital nomad because the nomads explore lots of different cultures, and meet a lot of versatile people who all posses different skillsets and knowledge, which in term can strengthen the company’s own value by bringing in new information. This benefit is not only limited to companies, but also benefits the digital nomad himself. (Groenewoud, n.d.) The great power of this nomadic lifestyle while maintaining a professional occupation is that you will meet a lot of people that will bring growth to your network. These people can teach you something new, or you could help them with something in return.

Other benefits of being a digital nomad are, for example, determining your own working hours, having more control over your own life, and being able to travel while earning money. If you schedule your time wisely it can also mean a lot more free time for leisure activities. While travelling around the world you will meet a lot of people that might become very interesting for your personal or professional goals in life, and it can tremendously benefit your future to set yourself out there to enter into opportunities. (Michelle, n.d.)

The disadvantages of digital nomading

Every lifestyle has its negative sides, and being a digital nomad brings some struggles along the way that might ruin the experience. Loneliness is one of the biggest mental impacts this lifestyle could bring, because you will find yourself often spending time alone while travelling. And relationships could be hard to maintain as most of the times either you or a partner or friend will leave the country within a short period of time. Because of the travelling lifestyle, a steady rhythm in your day could also be difficult to preserve, possibly making it difficult to consequently work out or do other activities on the regular. Apart from that it could also be a challenge not to get distracted or tempted too much by all of the possibilities while spending time in paradise. Maintaining a productive schedule throughout your day could be a struggle that ultimately decides if you are able to live the nomadic lifestyle or not. Furthermore, having your office always close to you in the form of a laptop or phone also means that you always carry your work with you, and sometimes means that you do a lot of work in unbillable hours. (Beers, 2018)

In short

A digital nomad is a person who uses the Internet as his office and thus can travel the world while earning money. Digital nomadism is an increasingly popular and expanding branch. Networking is very important for the digital nomad and this often occurs in co-working spaces. Even though Southeast Asia and South America are preferred places for digital nomads, they can be found all over the world. As a digital nomad, one has to be careful with the laws in the country of residence, since a visa specifically for digital nomads does not yet exist. One of the biggest advantages of this nomadic lifestyle is that every place you go and every person you meet can teach you things and help you develop personally or professionally. But, of course, this lifestyle also has disadvantages, such as loneliness and the difficulty in maintaining productivity.