Some days ago I found out that I was a digital nomad!
I guess I am a bit slow to catch up with the rest of the world since the term digital nomad has been around since 1997. I did some googling and it seems like it is being used quite loosely. To me it seems like a digital nomad should be first of all a nomad – someone who does not live in one place, does not have a permanent home and travels around. A wanderer, an itinerant. How intensively he travels is not really important, I guess. But if he goes to Bali, rents a vila and is “based” there to run his online business, is he a nomad or an expat (another favourite word – a euphemism for immigrants from developed countries). Some nomads seem to talk about their homes a lot.
It seems like since 1997 the phrase “digital nomad” has evolved semantically and is more and more used for anyone who works from a computer and is location independent. This is what a fellow digital nomad explained to me. So a digital nomad is anyone who take their work along on their long holiday in Phuket or simply go live in a warm country where life is much nicer, cheaper and the food is much better than in most of the developed world. Fair enough. There are of course also the “true” – itinerant – digital nomads who move from place to place, never staying in one place for too long – maybe just for a few weeks when they get a project to work on or while looking for projects when they need money; otherwise sightseeing, exploring, wandering and doing what a traveler does. I guess it all comes down to priorities – is it work or traveling that is more important. To be a digital nomad, you first need to like traveling. If you are one of those people who can’t poo while on vacation, it’s probably not for you. Then you need to feel comfortable being outside of your comfort zone. That’s an oxymoron! Or is it?
“What’s important is to feel comfortable. And you can make yourself comfortable virtually anywhere.“*
Then there is the digital part. Traveling is nice, but unless you are a weird version of Paris Hilton – spending your dad’s fortune on aimless wandering, you will probably have to do some work at some point. Many travelers work in bars, farms and hostels for a few weeks at a time to make some money before they continue traveling. Since the term is used so loosely, I guess those are also kind of digital (taking a selfie while picking strawberries and posting it on Facebook does involve a bit of digitality).
Being a digital nomad should not be that difficult. It all comes down to your skills. You could do anything from translating to webdesign and photography to forex trading. With the blogging boom and the possibility of making money from ads, many digital nomads (or at least the ones you read most about for obvious reasons) are travel writers. Then you will need to stay connected. Being connected to the internet is becoming easier than ever. You will also need electricity. That could be tricky – in Bolivia and Papua New Guinea I’ve been pretty often in a situation where there is no electricity, but there is 3G – that’s the world we live in! And to finish this boring topic off – here is the story of the first real digital nomad from way back in 1983.
*I will say it again: “What’s important is to feel comfortable. And you can make yourself comfortable virtually anywhere.” This is a quote I read somewhere years ago. I don’t remember who said that and I can’t find it on Google. If you know who the author is, please let me know.