Digital nomadism. Only a handful of years ago, this term would have seemed alien or unusual, but it’s become a part of common speech in our ever-changing and rapidly advancing modern world. We’re more interconnected than ever before, and increased access to the Internet has provided the opportunity to embark on a life of travel, and work remotely as while travelling the world.
Despite its fast-rising popularity, ‘digital nomadism’ is often associated purely with tech-savvy millennials, and generations X, Y, and Z. But is this accurate? It begs the question: who is digital nomadism actually for? Is it only suitable for the young, ambitious entrepreneur, and only applicable for people working in a handful of industries? Or could digital nomadism be something that people from all backgrounds can embrace?
How important is money?
Money isn’t everything, but when it comes to the issue of who digital nomadism is for, it’s certainly an important consideration. One of the biggest psychological obstacles preventing people from making that first leap into a nomadic lifestyle is the idea that they won’t be able to afford it. The thought of getting stranded in a strange new country with no money or source of income leads to some understandable caution.
The problem is that this attitude can lead to some misconceptions about how much money you need to have – and need to be making – in order to make it as a digital nomad. If there’s one thing that many nomads will agree on, is that while nomadism certainly isn’t always a life of wealth and riches (not of the material kind, anyway), it’s a lot more affordable than people may think. Whatever your budget, there’s usually a way to make nomadism happen.
For every aspect of the nomadic lifestyle, there are usually some cheap solutions. For flights, apps like Skyscanner can help you find astonishingly cheap connections, and accommodation options like Airbnb and hostels offer highly affordable alternatives. If you’re used to Western prices, many of the countries that you will visit also have far lower living costs than you may be used to, and it’s often surprising how little you can get by on as you explore.
One thing that it’s important to mention is that these misconceptions work both ways. For those who are on the wealthier side of the economic scale, the assumption that the nomad life only suits people with a shoestring budget and few possessions can be just as damaging. In actual fact, the lifestyle of the nomad is just as appealing even when money is less of a concern. As high-end travel moves more towards the experiential, wealthy people are turning to lives of exploration. Investment companies now offer collections of homes all over the world, and people like Nicolas Berggruen (the ‘Homeless Billionaire’) prove that even the super-rich can enjoy a nomad life.
Does age matter?
Possibly the biggest generalisation about digital nomadism is that it’s purely a pursuit of the young. For many people, the archetypal digital nomad is a 20 or 30-something adventurer, tapping away at a MacBook and who is very much a ‘hip young thing’. While there are certainly plenty of nomads that fit that description, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, this idea that digital nomadism is only for young people isn’t really accurate.
It’s easy to see why the life of the nomad might seem, at first, like the realm of the young and sprightly. Long hours of uncertain work, vagabond socialising, and a carefree lifestyle – not to mention the fact that marriage and children don’t necessarily mesh well with these principles – all mean that the lifestyle of the nomad is more suited to those with a spring still in their step.
With that in mind, the fundamentals of the digitally nomadic lifestyle aren’t bound by any age limits. In fact, one study found that nearly 1 in 5 nomads were between 37-45. When you consider the increasing presence of older expats in countries all around the world, it’s clear that age is no boundary to living the life you want to. The idea of dedicating your life to travel is also something that could actually be ideal if you have older children. If your kids are off living their own lives, then taking the chance to uplift, explore, and work simultaneously could be the perfect way to make the most of your free time.
The social aspect of nomadism often gets automatically attributed to something only younger travellers can assimilate with, but this also isn’t the case. With an increasing number of networking events for nomads around the globe, and an ever-growing community of nomads of all ages and from all walks of life, it doesn’t matter how old you are; there are plenty of ways to fit in and enjoy the nomad lifestyle whatever your circumstances.
Does digital nomadism only suit certain professions?
Everybody has to work. Or at least, the vast majority of us do. One of the biggest caveats of a travel lifestyle, and one of the key elements to the question of who digital nomadism is actually for, is the fact that you need to earn a living. For most people, this is where the ‘digital’ side of digital nomadism comes into play.
It’s true that only certain professions and industries lend themselves naturally to digital nomadism, at least to some degree. For the most part, these industries are either internet based or creative. Jobs like web design, marketing, and copywriting all suit digital nomads, but there isn’t a hard and fast list of professions to choose from. More and more people are working from home, and as technology moves forwards, the number of industries that don’t require fixed office space is increasing.
You could start your own business, consulting in your area of expertise. You could freelance and offer your skills or advisory services in almost any industry; or you could even start a travel blog as you explore, and make money from your travelling pursuits themselves. It’s also worth noting that even if you don’t currently possess the skills you’ll need to work remotely, learning them is easier than ever, with courses offered by many experts online and in person. Even just getting stuck in during your free time over a few months can get you on the road to success as a nomad.
Does your personality matter?
Digital nomadism is a unique experience, and it can be the most rewarding thing you can possibly do, but it’s fair to say that it isn’t for everyone. When it comes to the type of person you are, your tastes, and your personality, some people will ‘click’ more with the lifestyle than others. This shouldn’t put anyone off though, and the key thing is you won’t know until you try.
There are a few traits that do make the life of the digital nomad a little easier. Good self-discipline, and a passion both for travel and the work you do are essential. With so many incredible things to see and do, it’s very easy to become distracted while traveling, and setting aside the time to sit down and actually get work done is vital.
Similarly, even the most driven and focussed nomads are all too familiar with the uncertainty of the lifestyle. Paid work can fall through, problems can arise and your situation can go from secure to unstable at the drop of a hat. For some people, this lack of stability and security can be a little overwhelming, and if you crave routine and regularity then the life of the nomad may not be for you. If the idea of a constantly changing lifestyle sounds exciting though, it could the best decision you ever make.
Other qualities, like an outgoing nature and a love of meeting new people, also tie in well with the digital nomad lifestyle. But rather than create a list of psychological criteria, it’s more realistic just to note that everyone is different, and the life of every digital nomad is completely different too. Trust your instincts, and be honest about your own nature and personality. If you really want to make nomadism work, you can; but if you’re on the fence, and are unsure of it would suit you, then maybe giving it a try for a short while is a better idea.
The concept of writing a conclusive guide to who digital nomadism is actually for is in itself a little counterintuitive. The most important thing is that digital nomadism is completely different for everyone that tries it, and the things that many people list as reasons that the lifestyle wouldn’t work for them often stem from misconceptions about what nomadism is. As more people take the leap and become nomads, it’s clear that whatever your age, budget, personality, and even to an extent profession, there are ways you can make it work.
Some people will live the digital nomad lifestyle for years, some for months, some for a matter of days. All you need to get started is a good amount of passion, drive, and ambition. You don’t need to be an expert on travel, or in your industry, and you don’t need to have a fortune in savings (although a fall-back is admittedly handy…). We grow as we travel, and through our failures and mistakes we learn. The nomad lifestyle is all about having a spirit of adventure. Ultimately, who is digital nomadism actually for? Anyone who wants it enough.