With an official end to the pandemic in sight, it appears we can now look back at the past couple of years and start to take it all in. One major change in our culture is how and where we work. When offices shut and nearly everyone worked from home, a shift in mentality occurred, and more digital nomads were born.
People realized that not only could they do their work from places outside the office, but they preferred it and were more productive. For many, that mindset stuck, and when offices began to reopen, they chose to stay home or travel abroad to new exciting locations while still maintaining their workload. Thus, the term digital nomad was on everyone’s minds.
These digital nomads did not appear overnight, as before the pandemic, it wasn’t unheard of for people to work remotely from around the globe, logging in and working alongside coworkers back home and abroad. What did change, however, is the sheer number and popularity of the digital nomad life. Between 2019 and 2020, the shift towards a digital nomad lifestyle nearly doubled, growing by 49%.
What’s The Draw?
Why do people become digital nomads? In a recent study, the top reasons reported were better work-life balance, freedom, the love of travel, avoidance of office politics, and the longing to explore and immerse yourself in other cultures. Those who have chosen the lifestyle of a digital nomad do so in search of freedom, with the ability to live and log on from wherever they want to be the biggest draw.
Any digital nomad will tell you that it’s not exactly like you see in the pictures, and working from the beach logistically doesn’t usually work (Blame the glare, sand, splashes, etc.). Although it might be a bit less glamorous than stock images will have you believe, there is no denying that the nomadic lifestyle is alluring to many. Work from a cafe in Buenos Aires one week and a camper van in the mountains the next? What’s not to like!?
Who Are The Digital Nomads?
If you think traveling the world and working from anywhere sounds like a dream, you are not alone. Today nearly 17 million Americans alone consider themselves to be digital nomads. Worldwide there are around 35 million people that define themselves as digital nomads.
Recent surveys have begun to collect data from digital nomads, and results indicate that the average age is 32, the majority are married couples, and they move locations on average every six months.
The majority of digital nomads report that they live in hotels, with a close second being with family or friends, followed by those who live in an Airbnb, while the rest live in vans/RVs/cars and hostels.
There is a growing trend for families to embark on a digital nomad lifestyle, with more and more parents embracing the opportunities and unique childhood experiences that it can give their children. Of course, schooling is a main factor here, and ensuring that children are receiving a quality education is often a deterrent for parents who long for the digital nomad lifestyle.
In addition, there are many mistakes to avoid, and while trial and error can help new digital nomads navigate these uncharted waters, there are also numerous groups online to help and share resources with.
Cost of Living
It’s a well-known fact that living in America is expensive and only becoming increasingly so. While many turn to being a digital nomad in search of a lower cost of living, ultimately, this is an area where it really depends on how you want to live.
There is a big price discrepancy between roughing it in Colombia and having a penthouse apartment in Paris, and the good news is there really is something for everyone in terms of accommodation. With platforms such as Airbnb increasingly offering incentives to entice digital nomads to choose their properties, the trend is only working in favor of the nomad.
Today there are many tools that can help the digital nomad with their financial planning, including this calculator that helps determine where you can afford to go next.
The best thing about being a digital nomad is that it’s not a one size fits all formula. With more and more digital nomad visas becoming available, you can stay much longer in one place if that suits you. While some digital nomad visas require the applicant to earn a very high amount of money, there are many that you can qualify for making less than $2000 a month. One thing to remember is that visa or not, you should always carry health insurance, and in fact, many countries require it for long-term visitors.
The End Of An Era?
With the official end to the pandemic in sight, might this signal the end of the digital nomad lifestyle? After all, many companies are now requiring workers to return to the office, leaving many to consider a career change in order to remain nomadic.
In addition to a return to the office, higher demand has led to higher prices among digital nomad hubs. The bright side is that even with these increased prices, the cost of living is usually still lower than that of American cities.
The 2023 digital nomad has learned a lot in the past few years, and the freedom that their lifestyle affords them is a core value for them.
No matter the challenges, the digital nomad movement is not going away anytime soon. And nomads are not letting these factors phase them too much anyways. One of the main draws of this lifestyle is the lack of everyday stresses that living back home brought with it.
For example, what is the biggest daily stress reported by digital nomads in a recent survey? Finding WiFi seems to be the top concern, as it’s the most critical tool for remote working is staying connected. *Hint, always buy local sim cards and load them with data.
These are almost always a fraction of what it would cost back home, and you provide a backup connection via hotspot if and when your wifi isn’t sufficient or in cases of a power outage.
Challenges and Inspiration
Now, it goes without saying that packing it in and heading out into the world with your laptop is easier for some than others. Family and financial obligations are, of course, huge factors in terms of being able to make the lifestyle work.
While there are many people that have successfully transitioned to a digital nomad life with kids, the logistics for schooling and healthcare are much more complex when you factor in children and other family commitments.
Another barrier is financial obligations. Oftentimes, you will meet digital nomads from two categories. The first is those who never owned a home or even possibly a car — so “packing it all in” literally meant just getting rid of your apartment and possessions, a task that isn’t really all that hard.
On the other end of the spectrum, you will find those who sold their homes and cars and are using that money as a cushion to help fund life abroad. This leaves out those who fall somewhere in the middle, perhaps owning a home but not ready to give it up. It’s no secret that the cost of living and inflation have made the financial burdens on us very heavy, and it’s much easier said than done to sell it all, rent it out, put it in storage, and head out into the unknown.
It’s understandable that the risk of becoming a digital nomad might sound too great, but don’t be discouraged. Ultimately only you know what’s right for you, and if you are one of those who long for the digital nomad lifestyle but it’s just not feasible for you currently, there is some good news!
There is no age limit for being a digital nomad. Embarking on this lifestyle when you are 65 can be just as fulfilling as if you were 25. There’s a lot of the world to explore, and there really is something for everyone. Until you are ready to set off, there are more than enough articles and travelogs online to keep you informed and inspired.
Digital Nomad Tip
One idea for those interested in the digital nomad life but unable to dive in headfirst is a workcation. Does the idea of taking a few weeks away from the office yet still working and not using any holiday time sound good? Then a workcation might be just the answer for you.
Many companies are beginning to embrace this trend, realizing that workers are just as productive out of the office, and time away from the cubicle leads to an increase in employee satisfaction. If your workplace doesn’t explicitly announce that work cations are possible, it’s worth asking, just don’t be surprised if it sets an office trend.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com