What is a Digital Nomad? This is a question that I asked Google (in all it’s glory) a long time ago, and over the course of a coffee fuelled afternoon full of hopes and dreams – I chose my dream career then and there.
In the new and exciting world of small portable technology and the internet, room for a new lifestyle is growing. The Digital Nomad is a career archetype for someone who earns a living through working online. Choosing a location independent career means that digital nomads are able to live and work where they want when they want. They’ve been known to follow the summer all around the world or live a luxurious lifestyle in 2-4 locations a year while earning an average western wage.
What kind of people do this you ask? There’re all sorts:
Writers, Photographers, Bloggers, Entrepreneurs, Media Specialists, Marketing and Online Gurus. People who once worked Monday to Friday as coders, graphic designers, project managers and illustrators now manage to set up business models and income streams that allow them to forgo the security of the classic ‘office job’.
A popular method for entering into the Digital Nomadic lifestyle is finding freelance work on websites like upwork.com. Using this medium, people all around the world are able to earn an income without ever having to enter the office or appear in person for a meeting.
Josh from Flightmedia.co was able to save $6,500 in his first 45 days on Uupwork.com’s predecessor – elance.com.
What is life like as a Digital Nomad?
Beaches, Wi-Fi, Pina Coladas? As far as I can tell, it’s not all fun and games, and a lot of hard work and uncertainty. But the reward for sacrificing a monthly pay cheque and health insurance is the ability to sit in a cafe or an Airbnb anywhere in the world, working through your laptop and spending your leisure time as a recurrent holiday abroad.
It’s important to remember that you can do a lot with a small wage that you might be earning at the start. In Albania (which has pretty decent internet by the way), there’s beautiful beaches, cheap and delicious food and I was spending roughly $200 a month. Throw in a decently priced Airbnb with a kitchen and a local grocery store and you have yourself a little life in Albania. Earning even $1000 a month would help you make ends meet and see you living comfortably, or until you find the need to move again.
Nomadlist.com lists the best places to live as a Digital Nomad, comparing the cost of living per month with the weather, internet speeds, and happiness of expats in these locations. – It’s no secret that Chaing Mai, Thailand is the top of this list and a hub for Digital Nomads to live a pretty fantastic lifestyle with a low-cost of living.
In an interview with thenextweb.com, Jodi Ettenberg from Legalnomads.com said: what initially started as idea of starting a blog to keep her friends and family up to date on her travels turned into a career chasing the summers;
“I started to build a routine that involved winters writing and eating in Asia and summers in North America, speaking at conferences and doing consulting work for social media.”
In essence, to be a Digital Nomad means sacrificing the norms of a stable lifestyle with a house and car to travel and be free from living in one location.
The Characteristics of a Digitally Nomadic lifestyle.
Travel is the big one. This lifestyle means that Digital Nomads tend to find themselves moving from place to place after a few weeks or a few months. People usually stick around for a long enough to get comfortable and see everything a city or country has to offer before moving on. It’s a much slower form of travelling but means you get to almost live like a local. I got a taste of this lifestyle as I worked from cafes around Sofia, Bulgaria during the day and saw the sights in the afternoon and at night while living in my friend’s apartment during the spring/summer.
The Routine of a 9-5 job that is so common in our modern society is completely gone in this lifestyle. Working as a freelancer or an entrepreneur, as most digital nomads do, means managing your own time and being highly organised. In reality, it’s just not possible for some people to be focused enough when they could be out drinking or playing video games. That being said, for those with the discipline, this lack of routine means waking up when you want, working when you want and relaxing/adventuring when you want.
Independence is key when you’re working in a location independent career. Freelancing means being your own boss. It also means being financially independent and managing expenses, savings, tax and spending in both your personal and professional life. It sounds a little daunting, but it also allows you to take 2 months off and go off-grid into the Amazon jungle at the drop of a hat.
Freedom is the reward here. You go where you want, when you want and choose contracts, job offers and business strategies that work for you. It sounds a bit like a fairytale, and it often is, but when you have the choice of working in countries with greatly varied costs of living, earning $1,000 a month could mean living a comfortable life in Asia or Eastern Europe.
Minimalism is essential. The idea of living a life with less stuff is a whole other topic. Put simply – living this style of life means having less. You don’t need that expensive car, mortgage or tv. Plenty of people with this lifestyle carry everything they own on their back and let go of the modern habit of having ‘stuff’. Check out the bottom of this post for a better look of living with less.
It’s not without its disadvantages. Often finding yourself alone, on top of the emotional ups and downs of travel can be fatiguing. There is a considerable lack of private space unless you splash out for a decent Airbnb. There’s also the classic reality that being abroad means you’re missing out on the things happening back home. The feeling of missing out on things like weddings, births and funerals isn’t a pleasant one. Lastly, and probably the most serious one, it’s hard to start and maintain a relationship. More about this over at becomenomad.com.
As an avid doer of stuff and things, I’d like to move towards earning a small income online. Maybe one day I’ll be able to set sail and head off again into the big bad world without a return date, and earn my living through my laptop. At the moment, I can write, do WordPress design and a little bit of market. Maybe one day I’ll be able to do that around the world!