The term “digital nomad” can be found everywhere today and it is probably one of the fastest growing lifestyles of the last decade. However, many people are still confused with terms like nomad, long-term traveler, digital nomad or remote worker. They keep asking what this is all about. What is a digital nomad? Who are all those people and how do they live? If you are just as confused and curious as they are, read on!
What is a nomad?
Before we answer the question: What is a digital nomad? Let’s first have a look at the term “nomad”. A nomad in a modern description is a person who doesn’t have a stable and permanent home as such but rather moves from one place to another. There is no fixed definition of how long you have to be “on the road” or how fast you have to move or where you have to go, to be considered as a nomad and not just as a long-term traveler.
However, other than travelers, nomads are usually traveling for so long (maybe even their entire life) that they have to make money as they go. They get local jobs, such as in farm work or in hospitality, to be able to buy all their daily necessities and move to the next place. Some people prefer to stay longer in certain places, so-called “slow traveler”, some people move to the next location quicker.
What is a digital nomad?
Nomads who don’t do local jobs to live a sustainable travel life, but work online are referred to as digital nomads. They use their laptops, smartphones and tablets to do location independent work and thus, make their money. With their technologies and the help of the internet, they can simply bring their jobs with them wherever they go and work from hotel rooms, libraries, cafés or coworking spaces. Although digital nomads all work online, their jobs can vary greatly and can be sorted into three categories:
1. Corporate Remote Worker
Today, many companies offer their employees to work remotely. It doesn’t matter if the employee is sitting at home while doing his job or if he is traveling. This kind of remote work mostly provides a steady and secure income with the flexibility of choosing one’s own working place.
The digital nomadic freelancer does online work for one or several clients. These kinds of jobs are often in fields like web design, social media management or content writing. The freelancer can work from wherever in the world, as long as his clients are ok with the fact that he won’t be physically available in their company. He often finds his clients on specific platforms for freelancers, such as Upwork or Fiverr.
Some digital nomads have a startup company and can do all of their business online. Others make their money with the trade of online services. And very few manage to make a living with their nomadic lifestyle itself, e.g. travel blogger or photographer.
Note: A remote worker is not necessarily a digital nomad. There are many people who work remotely but live “at home” and don’t travel anywhere. This concept can save a lot of time and money which otherwise would go into commuting to an office every day. It is also a great way of working for people who can’t or don’t want to leave the house all day, for example, because of disabilities or because they need to take care of dependents. So to answer the question: What is a digital nomad? – It needs to have both, the remote and the traveling aspect.
The Digital Nomad Trend
As already mentioned, the lifestyle is very popular. Many people who are not familiar with the concept get more information about things like What is a digital nomad? or How do they make money? After seeing all the advantages of a nomadic lifestyle, they want this kind of life, too.
Today, you can find many digital nomads in hubs like Chiang Mai, Thailand, or Ubud, Indonesia. But also certain European cities are strongly developing to great digital nomad places, such as Berlin, Germany, or Lisbon, Portugal. Here, remote workers from all around the world meet, work together in coworking spaces and share their ideas and stories.
Many of these current or future digital nomads are people born after 1980. They value experiences, such as traveling, over a secure job or material possessions. But it’s not just the ultimate freedom, this lifestyle offers. Companies and employees alike say that remote work increases the productivity and efficiency.
Moreover, more than 80 percent of these workers reported lower stress levels, when working remotely. Let alone the fact that clients and companies can save a whole lot of money for office spaces or running costs, such as electricity or water.
Since it brings advantages to all companies and employees, clients and freelancers, the potential for this lifestyle is massive. Let alone the fact that mobile internet and devices improve steadily and helpful apps and programs which support the nomadic working life are booming.
Should You Become A Digtial Nomad?
Now that you know the basics and know what a digital nomad is, you are probably asking yourself if you should become one, too. But slow down, the location-independent lifestyle doesn’t only have advantages. There are many downsides to the nomadic life as well. Just think of the fact that you hardly get to see your family and friends. Your income is often not guaranteed and that you will feel lonely from time to time.
Apart from that, you also need to have certain skills as a digital nomad to be successful with this way of living. You need to have much self-discipline to get your work done. You should be able to deal with constantly saying goodbye to new friends and you need to be flexible and spontaneous enough to deal with the constant changes.
Of course, you also need to find a job that you can do while traveling the world. This sounds easier than it is because often there is much competition and the payment can thus be very low.
If you are, besides all those challenges, eager to give the digital nomad lifestyle a try, do your homework! Know, what you have to prepare before starting a location-independent life and don’t rush into it.
I hope I could give you some basic information about the nomadic life and clarify your first questions about it. Read the linked posts to get a better understanding of what it really takes to be a diigital nomad.
Update: I wrote an article that focusses solely on the differences between the digital nomad and an location-independent life. Maybe that’s of interest for you, too.