What is a Digital Nomad?

In the past couple of years - and the last year (2020) especially - the term “digital nomad” began circulating around the Interwebs, especially in the fields of business, entrepreneurship and even travel.


But what is a digital nomad exactly?


The term itself seems to hold a bit of a romantic, slightly adventurous, even old-timey spirit. A modern day nomad.



Computer in front of window in busy city.


Well, according to the Oxford Dictionary, a digital nomad is “a person who earns a living working online in various locations of their choosing (rather than a fixed business location).”


Or, as good ol’ Wikipedia puts it:


“Digital nomads are people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles.”


Simply put, a digital nomad is someone who has the freedom to work from anywhere in the world (like a nomad) with just their laptop (hence digital). Today, the draw and popularity of being a digital nomad is stronger than ever. In fact, in the last couple of years, the number of digital nomads in the USA alone rose from 4.8 million to 10.9 million.


And as many people can guess (unless you have been living under a rock since late 2019), there has been a sharp uptick in people wanting to work remotely, or having no choice but to work remotely because of the global Covid-19 pandemic.


But even before the pandemic sent people home from the office, there had been a big surge in interest over the ability to work remotely not just from home but from anywhere in the world. For many people who work primarily online, the fact that they could do the same job from a beach or a coffee shop in say, Thailand, instead of the cold dark cubicle in a city they actually hated, was a huge draw for pushing towards a more digital nomad-style life.


And while many managers said working remotely couldn’t be done because it would likely lead to a downturn in productivity, since the pandemic, that belief has kind of gone out the window.


All of this put together means that right now is the perfect time to become a digital nomad - especially if you already have a completely online job or are able to continue your present job in a remote manner.



\\ How Do You Become a Digital Nomad


As the definition states, a digital nomad is simply someone who works entirely online and has some form of freedom to work and travel at the same time (i.e. location independence). In today’s increasingly digital world, many jobs have become good options for a digital nomad lifestyle.


For example, jobs such as website developers and designers, programmers, SEO specialists, social media managers, and writers are some of the more common avenues to go down. But there is also the option to take once location-dependent jobs and make them location-independent. Teaching, engineering, marketing, plus many more are now focusing on being more online, meaning you could take them on the road or even overseas.


If you are curious about pursuing a digital nomad career, or just want to see what kind of remote jobs are out there, then we suggest checking out FlexJobs.



\\ Downsides of Being a Digital Nomad


While it might seem like an absolute dream of being able to work remotely and travel at the same time, in truth, there are definitely a couple of things to take into account before jumping in headfirst to being a digital nomad.


Below are a few of the more common downsides to consider before becoming a digital nomad.


Loneliness

One of the most common downsides to working entirely remotely is loneliness. When you are traveling all the time and work completely on your own, it can be tough to make friends and build a community. While it can be amazing to work from anywhere and avoid the often dark, dingy cubicle life, there is something to be said about the ability to have somewhat “built-in” friends when working in an actual office environment.


While it is definitely possible to make friends and build a community while working remotely and traveling, just know that it will likely be tougher overall. One common way to help with this is to actually work in places where you will likely find other travelers and digital nomads, like coworking spaces and popular coffee shops.


Lack of Time

Another common downside to working remotely and traveling is the fact that even though you are working in some amazing places, you still have to work. For many digital nomads, even though they are not in the office with a manager hovering over them all the time, there are still certain requirements - especially time constraints. Unless you work for yourself or are a freelancer, be prepared to still work 40-hours a week, no matter where your office is.


This lack of time can be especially tough when you are based somewhere awesome, like a major city with lots of museums to explore, or a beautiful mountain town with hundreds of trails. Just know that when you become a digital nomad you also don't suddenly get extra hours in a day. This is something we have personally struggled with (and honestly still are).



People working on computers in a coffee shop.


Motivation

Finally, another common con to being a digital nomad is the lack of motivation. For some workers, actually going to an office makes them feel more motivated because they are surrounded by fellow workers and office mates. So when you take coworkers and an actual “office” out of the equation it can a lot tougher to sit down and actually get any work done.


If you are someone who can motivate yourself without the need of a boss or other coworkers, this likely won’t be much of a problem. But if you are someone who struggles with self-motivation, it might be pretty tough to actually get anything accomplished when you are working entirely on your own (especially if you are in an amazing spot with plenty of things to distract you).


 

The idea of becoming a digital nomad has quickly been gain traction, especially since the pandemic when many people (workers and managers alike) realized that a lot of jobs could actually be done entirely online and entirely remotely. Plus, the ability to work wherever you want - even if that means just at your own home - has also been gaining popularity because let’s face it, for many people the idea of commuting everyday and then working in dark, gray office has almost no appeal.


Becoming a digital nomad is a great way to combine work and play, especially if are able to work wherever you want - including internationally.


If you are curious about combining remote work with adventure, then also check out this article on Adventure Digital Nomads.