Life’s a beach
The Digital Nomad Explained
When you graduate from college, the first thing that pops up into your mind, *after recovering from your graduation party*, is how to land that perfect job.
You land a job that feels kiiind of similar to that perfect job and you start your amazing career.. A true young professional you are now!
But then it starts itching. Your ergonomic office chair starts to feel like a wooden plank. You‘re wondering how the hell you can spice up your lunch sandwich this time and your mind starts to drift off to the next travel destination on your bucket list.
Sounds familiar? Then I’ve got the solution for you:
One who derives income remotely and online, rather than from commuting to an office. This enables the digital nomad to not need a permanent home base, and she/he can travel anywhere at any time.
If this phenomenon sounds new to you, Digital Nomad mom Christine Gilbert provided a bit of history on the term in 2013 and goes way back:
1983: Steve Roberts sets out on a “computerized recumbent bicycle” and becomes the very first digital nomad.
1985: Motosat, a satellite system for personal users (mostly RVs and boats) comes into the market and allows nomads to get online anywhere.
WiFi is born.
1995: There are an estimated 20–30 million internet users
1997: Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners publish the book Digital Nomad. It’s unclear if they coined the phrase or tapped into one that was already in use, but it’s the first book on the topic.
1998: Paypal is launched and eventually becomes the standard for online payments.
1999: Digital Nomading is technically possible for the masses. Laptops now have wifi, the prices have dropped, the processing speed is better and battery life has been improved.
Elance a site for hiring or getting freelance work is launched with the tagline, “Changing the way the world works.” Today it has over 2 million registered freelancers.
2000: 360 million people are now online worldwide.
2003: Google Adsense goes public allowing bloggers to run ads from Google’s network of advertisers.
Skype is launched and eventually offers services that let you have a static phone number (in the US or other countries) that will redirect to your online Skype account or can be set to send calls to your local overseas cell phone.
2005: Freelancers platform oDesk is launched.
2006: Blogger Where the Hell is Matt? becomes a Youtube star with his video dancing around the world.
2007: Tim Ferriss writes The 4-Hour Workweek, which outlines how to work online and inspires a generation of travelers to take their careers on the road.
2009: National Geographic launches the Digital Nomad blog.
The site workshifting.com is launched by Chris Brogan and others, but is later acquired by Citrix.
2010: The digital nomad academy is launched, originally charging as much as $1,500 for mentorship.
MatadorU is started and the ads say, “Get paid to travel the world”.
2012: Christine Gilbert and her husband Drew Gilbert raise $37,000 via Kickstarter to finish and festival release their documentary “The Wireless Generation” about people who work online and travel overseas.
There are now an estimated 2.4 billion internet users, about 1/3 of the world population and in almost every country in the world, you can get online.
More than 140,000 US Government employees now have written telecommuting agreements with their agencies
A study shows that over 40% of the US population are in jobs that could feasibly be done remotely.
2013: The New York Times writes about the shift in travel blogging towards more marketing, in blogger’s attempts to keep financing their travel.
The “online staffing industry” (read: freelancers working online) is estimated to increase from $1 Billion in 2012 to $5 Billion in 2018.
2020: According to Euromonitor, by 2020 43.7% of the world’s population will be users of the Internet.
Enough with the facts. We want to know how we can all life this dream life, right?
Don’t you already hear your manager say:
“Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.” —Jackie Reses, Yahoo’s HR Manager
Well, Buffer shows how it’s done. They are one of the leading examples on how fully distributed remote teams can be highly effective.
Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer, wrote the following blog post on his world wide-spread team:
“I think the distributed team discussion is often focused around the challenges. I wanted to share from our experience the fun side of being distributed, which I think far outweighs the challenges:
Sounds pretty cool right? But, nomadic traveller Eli thinks you should consider the down sides too:
- Loneliness. A nomadic lifestyle doesn’t make it easy to find a constant companion that follows you everywhere you go.
- Constant ups and downs. Since the nomadic lifestyle doesn’t offer the guaranteed stability a regular lifestyle does, you’ll meet with both good and bad surprises on a daily basis. This emotional roller-coaster is boosted by the fact that everything is new and you lack information. If you take life too seriously, it can be a problem; a nomad needs to know how to ride through the ups and downs because both are guaranteed frequently.
- Lack of private space. Most people feel the need to be able to say, “this is home” — a place to feel comfortable and secure, store all your stuff, create and design. Constantly changing locations means you don’t always have that private home-base, and although occasionally you’ll find something more stable for a few months, it will never be home since you know you will leave it soon.
- Excitement levels. Travelling too much can dull you to new things. After a year of being stuck in the pressure of work, a week’s vacation in India is eye-opening. But when you’re constantly moving around (especially if you’re focused in only one region, e.g. Europe), your excitement levels aren’t quite what they were. Yet another snow-capped mountain, just one more lava field. The wow element gets turned down, and even the most jaw-dropping spectacular can seem boring and mundane.
- Money. There’s a certain illusion (steamed books such as the 4 hours workweek contributed to it), that a location free lifestyle actually holds greater riches than being a corporate slave doing a 9 to 5 job. From my experience, in the majority of cases, you would be much better off financially staying in the same place. In general, your finances are held up by the two pillars: revenue and expense. As for expenses, it’s true that you can save money by choosing to stay in low-cost countries, although due to information gaps, you will probably spend more than a local. The real problem comes down to actually earning money while changing locations. Even in today’s global and internet connected world, it’s hard to form a real connection with clients when you can’t attend physical meetings with them; it’s also hard to be fully committed and focused on a revenue stream while changing locations constantly; time’s wasted. Instead of holding up the dream, that the nomadic lifestyle will be improve your financials, realize that it has its costs. But then again, for nomads, happiness comes first.
- Losing everything, again and again. It’s like birth, death and rebirth, and while we’re on this philosophical tangent, why are we so afraid of death? Maybe it’s because we’re scared of losing what we’ve worked so hard to attain. The nomadic lifestyle is similar; every time you move, you are losing your home, your favourite “known” places, your social circles, all to be recreated time after time.
- Reactions of your non-nomadic environment. There are typically two reactions you will encounter when you reveal your nomadic identity. Envy is the first, and with envy come all the questions that are trying to prove your model wrong (you have to be wrong, or they are wrong). The second reaction is from people thinking that you’ve totally lost it. Some nomads actually thrive when receiving the envy reaction (“you have an amazing life”), but when you get addicted to envy you will later on need to hide or lie about the disadvantages, in order to keep the dream alive. Worse, you will be at a risk of lying to yourself about how happy you are. As explored in other articles, ego doesn’t fit with the lifestyle.
- Missing out. As your family grows older, and your friends start having kids, you’re not there to accompany them in those moments, and maybe you’re going to regret missing the precious moments in the future. I wish I spent more time with… we tend to think that only our lives are changing, but even the people we leave behind change, grow and die, and you have to learn how to accept this fact of life. If it’s important to spend quality time with your parents, don’t go away for years at a time. Come home every six months. Find solutions.
- Not meeting your perfect match of relationship and career.When it comes to jobs, the nomadic lifestyle can be disadvantageous for the perfect career, too. The period spent travelling can look like a black hole on a resume, and can be difficult to explain to a potential employer. Although fulfilling work can happen for you while you’re moving around, you’re worse off than if you stayed at home. This disadvantage of the nomadic lifestyle doesn’t just apply to your perfect job with its perfect salary, but the perfect special someone, too. Since you’re travelling and most other people aren’t, it dramatically reduces your chance of finding your better half, and it’s something to be taken into account. Your pool of potential applicants is reduced, and your chances drop. However, if you do find someone to share the journey with, they’re probably amazing, and great candidates with whom to share your life. Sometimes finding the right person and settle down in a life full of love is much better than staying on the road. But then again, the road is fun!
- Attachments. For a nomad, attachments are very negative since they stop us from moving. Attachments can be sweet and addictive. An amazing relationship, a great home, the right job. You have to keep on moving, and you have to give them up, if you want to continue in your nomadic lifestyle.”
To be honest, I think living the nomad lifestyle is something everybody should try for at least a short period of time. And the downsides are currently being solved creatively as well, more and more fun initiatives are being brought to live:
NomadCruise: One ship. 100 digital nomads. 30 events. And a lot of code. Be part when over 100 digital nomads from around the world leave on a transatlantic cruise from Colombia to Portugal this May. Connect, learn and have a great time while enjoying the perks of an all-inclusive cruise ship!
NomadList: Your go-to place when you want to travel the world while working, but you don’t know where to start. A massive database of world cities, that you can filter into safety, level of sunshine and learn about new locations to go to.
Hubud: Co-workers, community leaders, corporate renegades, solo/social/intrapreneurs, philosophers and futurists.. it’s time for us to come together and define the future of work.
The Surf Office: Build productivity under the sun. Surf Office provides community-driven workspace and accommodation.
NomadHouse: Never travel alone. Nomad House builds spaces where digital nomads can live work and retreat together.
Digital Nomad Documentary: A story about Digital Nomads’ life and work,
the real story of dreams and reality.
Roam: A single $ 1,600 lease that gives you month-to-month access to incredible co-living spaces and local communities around the world. Just show up with your bare essentials and immediately feel at home.
Remote Year: Travel with interesting people while working remotely. Leaving June 1, 2016
Let me know if this is something you have tried out or if this is something you would like to try!
Annet is a Hyper Island alumni, currently living in Amsterdam and working as a Brand Strategist.
Also gives workshops in various creative methods, creating purpose & team development.