It feels like every second person you speak to online is striving to become a location independent “digital nomad”. Well, who can blame them? Travel, freedom, autonomy… it all sounds pretty glamorous to us! Where do we sign up?!
Technological advancements and changing societal norms have given rise to a generation of workers who are redefining the term “career”. Digital nomads are pushing the boundaries of entrepreneurship, remote working, and freelancing. Many are earning a great living without sacrificing physical, financial or personal freedom. No office? No problem. Servicing clients in the US whilst you’re sipping a cold coconut in Thailand? Totally acceptable.
This new way of working has been linked to some impressive economic and health benefits for budding entrepreneurs, as well as remote workers and their employers. In this post, we’re sharing some of the most bragworthy benefits of being a location independent worker. By the end of the article, you’ll be able to suss out whether this lifestyle is for you, and then get on the path to freedom – pronto! (Or, wear your job like a badge of honor if you’ve already taken the leap!).
What is a digital nomad?
Investopedia explains this type of person very well:
Digital nomads are people who are location independent and use technology to perform their job. Digital nomads work remotely, telecommuting rather than being physically present at a company’s headquarters or office. The digital nomad lifestyle was made possible through a number of innovations, including cheap internet access, smartphones and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to keep in contact with clients and employers.Investopedia
Most remote workers are in the “knowledge economy” using skills like marketing, writing, IT, design, teaching, coding, coaching, and more. Many get their jobs done at co-working spaces like “WeWork” or pool-side (at least that’s what Instagram indicates) but a large portion simply work from home (or hotel) in their PJs. And this trend shows no signs of slowing. A recent study by research firm MBO Partners found that 4.8 million US citizens identified as digital nomads in 2018. In 2016, a Gallup poll revealed that 43% of employed Americans spend at least “some time” working outside the traditional office space. The UK Trades Union Congress calculated that between 2005 and 2015 the number of remote workers rose by almost 250,000.
Pieter Levels, the founder of nomadlist.com – a website that ranks towns and cities by their nomad-friendliness based on factors such as cost of living, internet speed and entertainment options – estimates that there will be a billion digital nomads by 2035.The Guardian
Millennials are infamous for valuing experiences over possessions, and that is demonstrated so clearly in this generation’s drive to be location independent. So, as this trend goes from strength to strength, what do people like most about living this lifestyle?
What are the benefits of becoming a digital nomad?
Health and wellness
This one’s a biggie. Ongoing stress is at the root of many chronic illnesses, and for some people, being stuck behind a desk from 9-5 (or longer!) for 5/7 days a week is not conducive to leading a low-stress life. Whilst some people thrive on routine, stability and a predictable career path, others are overwhelmed by experiences with hierarchical company structures, micro-management, long commutes, meeting-overkill, and high-pressure reviews. Many crave the ability to create their own work environment – a space designed on their own terms (not Nancy the nagging desk neighbor’s…). To each their own, we believe, but it’s important to know what works for you.
Choosing location independence means choosing to eat whatever and whenever you like. No more scoffing canteen sandwiches behind your computer at lunch, if that’s not what you want. When you’re in control of your own work day, you have the opportunity to eat, move and live more mindfully, and intentionally. You have more time for hobbies, relaxing, getting outside in nature, and of course, the buzzword of the moment – “self-care”.
Flexibility and freedom
Today, freedom is often prioritized above classic status symbols like owning a house. As a digital nomad, freedom is the ultimate draw – the opportunity to travel the world, immerse yourself in different cultures, and even learn new languages while you’re at it.
If you value flexibility, becoming location independent means you can adapt your schedule to fit what works best for your body – whether you’re a night owl or an early bird. You can choose to attend your daughter’s school play without worrying about what your boss will say. You can shuffle things around when you’re sick, tired, have friends in town, or even just fancy the day off. It’s all on your terms (well, a little bit on your clients’ too).
Self-development and motivation
The world is the digital nomad’s playground. This lifestyle can involve stepping outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis, and that leads to a hefty dose of self-development. As a remote worker, you have the opportunity to meet different kinds of people in different places – and learn from them! Digital nomads make powerful connections, often. They leverage co-working spaces where they can bounce ideas off other entrepreneurs and get inspired by other travelers who bring new experiences to the table. By following curiosity, investing in education and trying new things, digital nomads are able to build a bespoke career driven by passion and purpose.
A digital nomad’s income is dictated by their own productivity and market savviness, which can be stressful but in itself provides ample motivation to work hard and be creative. For the self-employed, being their own boss, while not always easy, is far worth the time investment in the early startup phase.Education First
Save and make money on your terms
Another fantastic thing about working for yourself (or without the steady salary of a 9-5) is that you can earn as much or as little as you want. It’s completely uncapped. If you work longer hours, you’ll get paid more. If you want to increase your rates, you can. You don’t need to negotiate with your boss for a pay rise and you’ll always be financially rewarded for working past 5pm on a Friday.
Many digital nomads also choose to chase the sun, living in very affordable countries (even islands!) whilst earning money from clients with big budgets who are based in places like North America, Australia, or the UK. Win-win!
Something wonderful about this setup is that it can truly benefit an employer too (in the case of someone who wants to stay employed but work for a company remotely). At first consideration, this prospect sounds counterintuitive. Surely people will throw their to-do lists out of the window and skip off to brunch when they know their boss isn’t watching, right?! However, for the right kind of person, the opposite is usually true. High-performance workers are typically those who value things like autonomy, creativity, and flexibility. They crave variety, ownership and new challenges. They need these things to stay engaged in their roles. When employers decide to demonstrate trust in their employees by offering them location independence, it motivates them. It increases productivity and makes space for innovative thinking.
Do you fit the digital nomad bill?
Curious about becoming location independent? Whilst there are some incredible highlights, this lifestyle is definitely not for everyone. In fact, we also tackled some of the challenges in another article.
So, we’ve put together a list of qualities that most location independent workers seem to share. Do you feel like you would answer, “Yes, that’s me!” to many of these statements?
I value freedom and variety
I love exploring, traveling and adventure
I thrive in change environments (or am easily bored by routine!)
I’m a self-starter and self-motivated
I like working independently or with high levels of autonomy
I am always learning and experimenting with new things
If this sounds like you, then maybe it’s time to book in a conversation with your boss or think about going solo… it might be the best decision you ever make! Check out part 2 of this series discussing the potential barriers and challenges that come with being a digital nomad.