Digital Nomads: Demography

The Big Picture 3/8: Who they are and how they live.

It’s difficult to get a clear picture of what Digital Nomads are really like. Information on the web is scarce, scattered, and sometimes misleading — especially on social media. In this article, I’ve summed up research, survey data, and personal experience to give you a more accurate insight.

The Big Picture

About the data

  • Nomadic Report is an open survey I launched this year (2019). It’s a long-term survey instead of a one time snapshot. It also gives every participant instant and permanent access to the latest results. Note that the number of responses (35) is still too low to give a clear picture. Consider its results merely as an early indication until it evolves.
    If you’re a Digital Nomad, or are interested, your participation would be greatly appreciated!
  • Workers of the World is a one off survey with 152 responses collected in 2016.
  • Digital Nomad Survey is a discontinued survey with about 500 responses collected up until 2016.
  • The knowledge that I’ve gained through research and from personal experience as a Digital Nomad.

Please do get in touch if you find any errors or can contribute more data.

Age

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How old are Digital Nomads? Nomadic Report (2019)

Note that all three surveys use different age ranges.

Relationships

Looks like being a Digital Nomad doesn’t hinder people in making relationships work — good!

Citizenships

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Passport used for travel, Workers of the World (2016)

Occupation

It will be interesting to observe whether employees will catch up as remote work is rising in popularity and acceptance. Also, employment usually provides for a steadier income stream. That gives more safety and confidence when experimenting with a nomadic lifestyle.

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What best describes your employment status? Workers of the World (2016)

Income

In addition, Nomadic Report asks whether income varies each month considerably. So far, half of the Digital Nomads have stated that to be the case.

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Average monthly income, Workers of the World (2016)

Relocation

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Time spend per location, Digital Nomad Survey (2016)

Note that Digital Nomad Survey and Nomadic Report measure the frequency differently.

Some Digital Nomads maintain a profile on Nomad List. There they list every single one of their trips. Browsing them gives a good overview of how they are moving around the world.

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Slowmad or Gomad by Very Nomad Problems

Also interesting is that the majority identify as occasional Digital Nomads. Only one-third state that they’re non-stop on the move.

Nomadic Report is the only survey asking that question. It’s difficult to tell how to interpret that without further context. It could mean that people who settle in a location they love for a while won’t consider themselves Digital Nomads anymore until they relocate more frequently again.

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Do they live like a Digital Nomad? Nomadic Report (2019)

Accommodation

According to Nomadic Report, the majority rent apartments. That’s usually cheaper and possible even with a stay as short as three months.

Half of Digital Nomads use hospitality services like Airbnb. It’s great for covering short-term stays, or the first days in a new location. From there, they can explore cheaper alternatives locally. The same goes for hotels and hostels.

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Where do Digital Nomads sleep? Nomadic Report (2019)

Workspace

About half of Digital Nomads work from cafés and coworking spaces for a variety of reasons such as meeting new friends, networking, or just getting some highly focused and productive work done.

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Where do Digital Nomads work from? Nomadic Report (2019)

Destinations

Below are some of the most-frequented destinations among Digital Nomads in no particular order. The list is based mostly on the frequency that the cities have been mentioned in social media. Popularity, according to Nomad List, is used as an additional indication:

  • Canggu & Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
  • Chiang Mai & Bangkok, Thailand
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • San Francisco, USA
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Medellín, Columbia
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Tenerife & Gran Canaria, Spain
  • Barcelona, Spain

Taxes

The majority still pays taxes back in their “home country.” That’s probably a safe bet before going down the rabbit hole of tax residency.

It’s worth noting that the USA is the only major country that taxes its citizens worldwide, so it’s independent of where in the world they live. For them, paying taxes in their home country is usually obligatory.

More insight

More questions I’d like to have answered in a structured quantitative way:

  • By what means do Digital Nomads earn money?
  • What are the reasons Digital Nomads live and stick with that lifestyle?
  • How many families travel, and with how many kids of what ages?

In the meantime, check out the following discussion on Digital Nomadism. It was hosted by the Chinese Global Television Network (CGTN). They look at the lifestyle from different angles and cover many important topics.

Conclusion

I’ve met citizens from many countries — not just from Western Europe and the USA. From young to old. Married, with a partner, solo and complicated. Even families with kids. From fast-moving to multi-national expats. From grinding to wealthy. With totally different jobs and daily lives.

Sometimes they’re even unaware of the term Digital Nomad, and that they live quite differently than most other people. They just do it.

Digital Nomads are a highly diverse crowd. Any attempt to put them into a box will ultimately fail.

Now, let’s dive into the upsides of Digital Nomadism to see why it’s so alluring.

Continue reading in Part 4: The Bright Side.

Written by

❤️ building things, breaking things, writing software, discovering electronic music, living everywhere, and learning about life — knaup.io

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