Published 24 August 2017 Category: Entrepreneurs, Startups, Workplace

Is the Life of the Digital Nomad Misunderstood?

You might have heard the term “digital nomad” being thrown around before. What are they? Digital nomads are individuals who choose to ditch the 9-5 office gigs in favor of leveraging technology to work while traveling. This movement has been gaining momentum in recent years, and for good reason.

Research done by Remote.co reveals that working remotely can be quite advantageous for individuals. A few benefits include: increased productivity and efficiency, lowered stress, and boosted morale. Due to the myriad of benefits, many digital nomads consider the lifestyle sustainable. In fact an impressive 79% said they plan on being a digital nomad for the rest of their life.

But being a digital nomad isn’t just beneficial for the individual. By cutting out their commute, remote workers positively impact the environment. A reduction in overhead costs and employee turnover rate means that hiring remote workers helps their employers, too. To get work done, digital nomads need two things: a strong Wi-Fi connection and a space to get their work done.  

The rise of the digital nomad movement is poised to create a real, lasting impact on the world at large and the numbers are only rising. The founder of the Digital Nomad List predicts that by 2035, there will be 1 billion digital nomads. To prepare for this, we need to educate ourselves about what it actually means to be a digital nomad. Many of the non-nomads who I come into contact with don’t understand this style of work. They pass judgements on something which they haven’t experienced.

Knowing people’s most popular objections seemed like a good a place to start. These are a few of their answers.

“People think that being a digital nomad is the same as being on vacation for those with jobs. No matter where I am in the world, no matter how awesome my Instagram may look, I wake up and have customers to attend to and work to do, just like everyone else.”
–Amar Ghose, CEO & Co-Founder (born in the USA, currently working in Germany).

“You are the master of your own time. Being a digital nomad requires a lot of self-motivation. You know you can spend your whole day in bed but you need to find the strength to get up and work. You won’t have a boss to motivate you, you have to do it on your own.”
–Karolina Klesta, Professional Blogger (born in the UK, currently working in Estonia).

“Everyone assumes that they are all in their twenties! There’s plenty of digital nomads out there in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s etc.”
–Dave Briggs, Freelance Writer and Travel Blogger (born in Ukraine, currently working in Greece).

“The biggest misconception is that you will be driven and motivated every day. You’re human and sometimes when there was no milk for coffee that morning and you got a stain on your new jeans, you aren’t going to be firing on all cylinders. But that’s ok. It will come back round.”
–Paddy McShane, Customer Success Manager (born in New Zealand, currently working in Ireland).

“Many believe that we don’t work or that life’s challenges all of a sudden disappear.”
–Kate Smith, Business Founder & Marketing Consultant (born in Canada, currently working in Canada).

The most common trends found in the responses were: lumping digital nomads into the same camp as backpackers or leisure travelers, underestimating their dedication to their work, and forgetting that real life struggles plague everyone regardless of location.

There’s nothing easy about this kind of work. Digital nomads are very entrepreneurial-minded individuals because they have to be. Their livelihood depends on their ability to communicate effectively, stay organised, and hustle. The lifestyle requires an immense amount of self-motivation and constant effort.

It’s only natural that a new, nontraditional work style would face a certain amount of judgement and backlash, but hopefully the general opinions about remote work will mellow with time. After all, it wasn’t long ago that co-working was considered a fringe movement many had never even heard of.

In the meantime, we can work to change public opinion by providing a glimpse behind the curtain. Understanding the day-to-day struggles of digital nomads reminds traditional workers how much they have in common with these remote workers.