Digital Nomads: What Are They and How To Become One?

Blog   / Digital Nomads: What Are They and How To Become One?
05 October 2018 Natalie G

More and more people are leaving the offices behind and becoming “digital nomads”. The concept of “digital nomadism” accompanied by descriptions such as “location-independent” or “flexible schedule” sounds like nirvana for those who wades through stressful daily commutes, finds working from office boring and non-productive, or just needs more flexibility to take care of family needs.

This concept seems to suggest a solution to the ever-present dilemma: how to achieve ideal work-life balance. But is it the right fit for you? Below, we’ll talk about benefits, job opportunities, and realities of this alternative lifestyle.

What are Digital Nomads

Digital nomads are successful specialists in various fields who work online and, therefore, are not tied to a specific place. They embrace a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely, anywhere in the world, in coffee-shops, public libraries or co-working spaces, and move around whenever the feeling takes them.

With 34% of remote employees working 4-5 days a week out of the office , the digital nomad lifestyle could be an exciting possibility to break free from the chains of 9-5 life

What Kind of Work Digital Nomads Do

With the rapid development internet technologies and employers rethinking the 9-5 work day, there is a growing number of professions and jobs, that do not require sitting at a desk in an office. The overwhelming majority of digital nomads are professionals that work in IT sphere: developers, designers, copywriters, etc. But careers that can translate into nomadic work are not only for tech professionals, there’s a lot of different industries and roles for digital nomads. The most common roles that can fit into nomadic lifestyle are Design, IT, Project Management, Marketing/Sales /Customer Service, Software Development, Recruiting & HR, Virtual Assistant, Writing & Editing etc.

Depending on a type of work digital nomads are divided into three main categories:

  • Freelancers (work on a project by project basis)
  • Entrepreneurs (create and develop startups)
  • Remote workers (hold full-time jobs at a company)

No matter whether you are going to work for a company or yourself, becoming a digital nomad doesn’t mean following one particular profession, or pigeonholing yourself in a certain role. The great thing about digital nomadism is that you can constantly challenge yourself to learn and develop new skills.

Where Digital Nomads Live

Nomads love to travel, but this does not mean that they constantly live on the road. Yes, they usually have to work at train stations, airports, cafes, on beaches and in city parks, but most of the time they spend in one place, renting accommodation just as their “sedentary” colleagues.

The difference is that the nomad has more freedom to choose where to live than a city dweller, and changes his place of residence as often as he wants. Newbies move every month in search of new experiences; seasoned nomads prefer to rent housing for a period of three to four months to several years.

According to Nomad List , the popular destinations for remote work are South-Eastern Asia, Latin America, Eastern and South Europe.

The nomadic lifestyle has grown in tandem with the growth of coworking. Coworking is not just a cool office near the sea, urban jungle or countryside, where nomads work, it’s also a hub full of creative people, innovative ideas from startupers, IT gurus, or solo entrepreneurs that can be beneficial for the growth of your career.

According to statistics, coworking improve productivity, with 71% of workers saying they feel more creative in a coworking space and 68% saying they are able to focus more. The number of coworking spaces are projected to to total more than 26,000 by 2020.

Advantages of Digital Nomadism

There are estimations, which assume that by 2035 there will be 1 billion digital nomads in the world. Let’s see what are the benefits of embracing nomadic lifestyle.

Being more productive and motivated

Location independent workers are more productive and motivated as they are free to choose their own workspace, schedule and tasks. They do not need to wistfully count down the minutes till the end of the working day or days until they jet off on that holiday booked months ago. The freedom and independence create a sense of ownership since they are responsible for their own life and luck now. Moreover, a lovely mountain backdrop, a tropical beach scenery or ever changing surroundings inspire much more than the office environment.

Producing more creative ideas

Neuroscientists have unearthed surprising facts about our brains and how they can boost your creativity. Mashing seemingly irrelevant concepts together helps to form a new idea. The more irrelevant the concepts are, the more synapses occur in your brain. This is called synaptic play. So, when you frequently change your workplace you get diverse experiences. And your brain, full of these diverse inputs, is more inclined to produce creative and inventive ideas.

Being more adaptable

This lifestyle comes with multiple challenges; you leave your comfort zone, need to adapt to new environments, deal with different people and cultures. And this makes you more adaptable and open to new experiences. This also stimulates your brain’s activity and ability to learn new skills.

Doing things you love

This is perhaps, the major reason why people choose nomadic lifestyle. “We work to live” - this tired mantra is still actual. The freedom to choose your working environment and schedule gives your more opportunities to live a full live, do things you are passionate about and spend more time with your loved ones.

Being part of global community

When you travel you meet a lot of people, and not only locals, but other digital nomads. The community of digital nomads is constantly growing; adventure spirit, memorable experiences and shared lifestyle forge close connections between like-minded people.

Downsides of remote work

Despite all the great benefits of remote work, any nomad knows there’s also downsides to the lifestyle: unstable salary, dependence on Internet, wifi struggle, lack of face-to-face communication and difficulties in career advancement. Life as a digital nomad isn’t all adventures, But it is the trade-off for choosing freedom over 9-5 work routine.

What Is the Future for Digital Nomads

There are lots of people out there that are “awake”. They understand that our old systems do not work for mankind anymore. They’re willing to work towards a future where the world has its inner balance back, and is a peaceful place. It is not only the way we work we have to change – there is so much more; education, religion, banking, health, science and the state system.”
Felicia Hargarten, the founder and initiator of the global Digital Nomad DNX movement.

Digital nomadism is becoming mainstream. Continued improvements in mobile and cloud computing technologies, increasing tendency to hire remote workers and generation change in the labor market (Gen Xers and Millennials are inspired by the opportunity to pursue their travel interests while working) will lead to growth of remote work.

To help digital nomads with their journeys, products and services are developed to help them meet the challenges of their lifestyle. These include growing number of online talent marketplaces, coworking (and co-living) spaces providing professional business infrastructure (including high-speed Internet), temporary housing, and online information sites (for ex., Nomad List), where they can find information on the cost of living, internet speeds, city safety, walkability, weather, taxes, visas, and a variety of other information of interest.

Even the auto industry is developing products especially for digital nomads. Both Volkswagen and Nissan have recently added vans for “VanLifers” (the term used to describe digital nomads who tour around in camper vans) to their product lines.

How to Become A Digital Nomad

Nomadic lifestyle is not for everyone. If you consider becoming nomadic, we offer you several tips to prepare the ground for “escape” beforehand.

Build Skills

It’s possible that you will not be able to work remotely doing exactly the job you’re doing right now. But you can find the sweet spot between what you already know (or you want to learn), what you love to do and what people would pay you for.

In most cases you will need to build digital skills to start working remotely and be competitive in the market. The best places to learn digital skills are platforms like Udemy, Skillshare and others.

Cut unnecessary expenses

Paying for things that do not add value to your life is never ideal. Living as a digital is a great way to defeat unhealthy addiction to physical possessions. Chances are you won’t need your 44 inch television or gym membership when travelling around the world, so you get rid of unnecessary expenses that will bog you down on the road.

Have financial buffer

As a remote worker, you don’t have the luxury of a consistent salary, and it’s a wise decision to have safety net for emergency cases. Moreover, when planning your budget, add 25% as a substantial financial buffer as currency exchange rates, accommodations, flights or food costs can fluctuate.

Tune your mindset

Stepping outside of your comfort zone and start living in a nomadic manner, no matter how passionate you are about this style, requires a certain mindset. If your fear is holding you back from taking the road, try to understand the nature of your fear and find out how you can deal with it. Don’t let your fears to control you. What can happen in worst case? It’s very likely not the end of the world, so try to stay calm and don’t over dramatize it.

Just Do It

As long as you have work that allows you to be location independent and fund your lifestyle, you’re all set.

There’s no other way to learn how to work remotely and travel the world other than doing it yourself. There’s no secret formula to become a digital nomad, so you will need to try and build up your own knowledge, skills and expertise. Go on and enjoy this rewarding yet challenging lifestyle.