The term ‘Digital Nomad’ has gained tremendous visibility during the recent pandemic. It is a lifestyle adopted by technology savvy people who can work from anywhere, without having to be based out of a location. With job losses and salary cuts, alternative sources of income are being explored. The ‘Digital Nomad’ lifestyle has caught the imagination of youngsters around as it provides flexibility to manage your own pace. Research shows that the 2020 ‘Digital Nomad’ spike is driven by people with traditional jobs. It is a whopping 96% increase in 2020 if compared with 2019 numbers. It will be no surprise if 2021 doubles the figures again. This is a bit odd, as earlier the space was dominated by Freelancers, Bloggers, Affiliate marketers etc. It is a location independent, technology enabled way of life.
1. Will the Digital Nomad Lifestyle suit you?
Don’t be swayed by pictures or videos of these nomads working on a laptop with a pina colada in one hand. The ‘Digital Nomad’ lifestyle is far from rosy. It definitely entails doing the work to earn your living. Those who adopt this way of living are usually educated, have tech skills, are creative and able to think on their feet. They also like to travel and can do any type of work to get by, if the situation demands. It is not easy to be uprooted from a location easily and it also takes a lot of efforts and planning. Specially if you have a family. Also, it is not the traditional 9 to 5 job, as it keeps you busy at odd hours with odd issues. It is predominantly a western concept, where even women are comfortable travelling alone.
It will definitely teach you to live independently and think out of the box. You will be able to manage your finances effectively after certain experience and be able to make friends easily.
2. How to get started?
There are many skills that are in great demand for one to become a ‘Digital Nomad’. There are software programming, website designing, creative writing, logo designing etc. There are many resources which will give an idea of the cost involved. I like ‘Nomad List‘ as it gives important statistics about the location. It also advertises remote location jobs on the website, which is cool. If you are interested in working remotely then ‘weworkremotely‘ and ‘remote‘ are excellent websites to explore. Popular stay solutions are provided by ‘Couchsurfing‘, ‘Air BNB‘ and others.
3. Types of work available for a Digital Nomad
- Trading and investing
Freelancing can be in any domain. Few examples include software programming, blogging, website and logo designing, voice over artist, virtual assistant etc. The list is endless. Few of the popular freelancing websites are ‘Fiverr‘, ‘Upwork‘,
Below are few other options for a Digital Nomad:
- Drop shipping
- Digital marketing
- Vlogs and You Tube
4. Digital Nomad Pros
- Save money living in a low cost-of-living area
A digital nomad is exploratory by nature and seeks to experience different cultures. At the same time this lifestyle strains the finances during the initial phase. Thus living in a low cost neighborhood or country makes more sense. It is also attractive, considering the tourism potential of developing countries, which makes this a mouth watering proposition. ‘Nomad List‘ is a great database to search for low cost of living abodes.
- Flexibility to live where you want
Many of us are not comfortable with the 9 to 5 job. It surely bores the hell out. Someone who does not want to be bound by a routine will find being a digital nomad satisfying, as there is so much to explore. One is able work remotely from anywhere and earn a living. The laptop is enough to make a website, build an app, write a blog or trade cryptos. It does not matter, where one is based out of. Many of the digital nomads are aware regarding residency and taxability rules and hence, they keep shifting from one country to another and thus avoid being taxed other than in your native country. Live winters on the beach, and summers cuddled up in the mountains or experience spring the entire year.
- Ditch the toxic environment of office politics
The freedom to be anywhere provides an opportunity to distance oneself from possible office politics. Being one’s own boss and having the ability to earn as per one’s capability is liberating. Your promotion would not be denied because you had a difference of opinion with your boss the last year. You will be able to earn what you deserve and not always be on the mercy of senior management.
- Experience new cultures & make new friends
Being a digital nomad gives plethora of opportunities to explore new cultures and make new friends. A lot of ideas are gained when interacting with people outside the comfort zone. You may stumble upon a new way of generating additional income, which is way beyond your imagination. The same is not possible is you stay holed up in one place during your entire life.
- Learn new skills or languages
New skills and languages are to be learnt by default, if one aspires to lead a successful digital nomad life. You have to constantly keep upgrading yourself and be ahead of the curve. This is fun for those who are willing and able to enjoy the journey. It is also stimulating and keeps you sharp. All of these will help you in good stead later with other things in your life. For example, when establishing a business you will be able to connect with a friend in that country much easily. You may have developed excellent connections there, which by itself may be a goldmine.
- Broaden your mind through travel experiences
Saint Augustine one said that “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” So many perspectives and insights are gained when one travels. Understanding human psychology becomes a cakewalk. It broadens your mind beyond comprehension. You are more understanding and can see the meaning of a pursuit from different viewpoints. You are more focused, disciplined and are able to manage finance extremely well due to the years of travel.
- Set your own schedule and take time off when you want to
Travelling prevents a burn out effectively. If you are able to manage your schedule well and have the freedom to take time off when required, it will go a long way in helping maintain your sanity. However, certain discipline is a pre-requisite. The benefits of being able to manage own schedule is the freedom to explore things that interest you. Once, you pinpoint an area of interest, you will be surprised that you feel restless, if you not able to do that activity. For example, if I don’t write for a week, I feel restless. You then are able to easily devote more time doing that stuff without getting bored. How wonderful is that?
5. Digital Nomad Cons
- Not adhering to previous employment contracts
A digital nomad novice should check current employment contracts, if working for someone. Many organizations allow remote work upto a distance, as time variation may interfere with work schedules. Check if your employer is flexible to allow you to work from a remote location and that policies also allow the same.
- Taxation issues
When travelling to different countries on a tourist visa, there is risk of overstaying, which in turn may impact residency status from tax applicability point of view. Hence, you may end up paying double taxes in the native country and the country where you are visiting. Be mindful of these and be aware of local regulations. In many countries, continuous residence of 180 days will make you eligible to pay taxes in that country also.
- Moving constantly is exhausting
Working and travelling simultaneously may be exhausting at times if not planned properly. The lifestyle would demand multitasking. You may have a work deadline and at the same time would need to exit the country tomorrow. Couchsurfing confirmation may be pending and you have already arrived in the city without backup stay options. You may be deported from a in transit airport and you will have to re-do the entire plan. Advance planning will help avoid a lot of these firefights, however be prepared for anything. Always think on your feet to get out of tricky situations.
- Your productivity can suffer
A spanner in your travel plans will definitely impact the desired work productivity. Always have a buffer between your commitments and aim to deliver before the deadline. This habit alone gives you ample space to accommodate emergencies, if they arise. Also, having great relationships will minimize the impact of such hiccups.
- Digital nomads may battle loneliness
There may be occasions when a digital nomad may be reminded of home and family. Specially when one is sick in a foreign land or short of money. Always have a reserve for emergency expenses and a backup somewhere, which may be able to fund your return ticket in case you go broke. However, there can be ways and means to recover sooner by asking for local support from fellow travelers or residents. Be patient during these trying times and keep making the efforts.
- A general lack of private space
Working while being a digital nomad will require many compromises. You may not be able to work out of a lush office every time as you are on the road. You may not have a private space and many a times would need to share space with fellow nomads. The virtues of sharing and caring are experienced first hand during these periods. The intersections with others become more meaningful, which further tends to forge deeper relationships.
- Travel loses its luster & wow factor
After a certain period of travelling, a digital nomad may look forward to settling at one place. Long travels loose the charm and may not be a wow factor anymore. Thus one should be prepared for the same and have a backup plan somewhere. Else, build your own backup when on the move. It can be as simple as building an online business, which is location agnostic. However the travel experiences will be so profound and enriching that you will be able to find a way out most of the times.
6. Future of the Digital Nomad lifestyle
The digital nomad ‘GENIE’ is definitely out of the bottle for millennials considering the fast technology upgradations in recent years. COVID 19 has hastened the process by at least 5 years. Governments are also ramping up the technology base for themselves and their citizens. Recently the Indian government launched E-Rupi, which will help plug in leakages in spending. Slovenia is inviting digital nomads to set up base in the country. Digital Nomad friendly co- working and co-living spaces are coming up fast in remote work hotspots. All of these developments indicate that winds of change are blowing in a favorable direction. Keep watching this pace for more action.
Q. Who is a digital nomad?
Ans. Digital nomads work remotely and travel to different destinations without impacting their livelihood income. They rely heavily on internet and wireless devices.
Q. Is it worth being a digital nomad?
Ans. Being a digital nomad gives the freedom of time. Flexible working hours is the main perk. However, much depends on your personality and how you perceive it. Many prefer fixed working hours. So totally upon the person living the lifestyle.
Q. Which country is best for digital nomads?
Ans. Studies have found that Thailand has emerged as the best country for digital nomads.