Digital Nomad Lifestyle
We are sure you already heard of them in the last years:
Yes, those people who work out of hammocks next to the beach while enjoying a nice cocktail. At least that’s what you think if you browse through Google Images.
But what does their life actually look like?
Here we’ll answer your most pressing questions about the digital nomad lifestyle. Who are they and why do they exist? What kind of jobs are available? Where in the world can you find digital nomads? And how do they manage to live that way?
We’ll show you their most popular destinations and some crucial tools that they use. This way, you get an insight into the possibilities that this way of life holds and how you can seize them.
Let’s see, maybe you’re already living the digital nomad lifestyle but just haven’t called it that way yet!
Who are those infamous digital nomads anyway?
Digital nomads are the symbol of the “modern human”. They are not bound to an office because they use the world wide web to work. Wherever they want, whenever they want. This enables them to travel the world like true nomads back in the days.
Some of you may be completely new to the idea. That’s why we made this small glossary with 10 buzzwords that you often hear.
Digital Nomad Lifestyle Glossary
A person using the technological advancements to work online while travelling the world at the same time.
An employee working independently of the location of the firm. Doesn’t necessarily travel constantly.
Offices and facilities that you share with other freelancers and teams.
A person who left their country of origin to live abroad. Unlike the remote worker, an expat could also be working the new country.
A person who is his/her own boss and chooses their clients independently. Digital nomads often work as freelancers to have more flexibility and freedom.
A combination of ‘work’ + ‘vacation’. It’s similar to the digital nomad lifestyle but only for a fixed period.
Basically another term for ‘workation’ where e.g. startup teams retreat for some time to finish a specific project.
A shared flat with other digital nomads or remote workers.
Communities like Couchsurfing or AirBnB where you can find local hosts to stay with. Falls under the concept of the Sharing Economy.
An umbrella term for the mindset of sharing what’s yours with others. Another example besides accommodation are carpooling communities.
How did the digital nomad lifestyle develop?
Around 60 years ago scientists had already propounded an adventurous thesis. Researchers described the future life of people related to digital media as “Urban Nomadism”.
In their imagination it looked like this: Travelling around restlessly with all your property. The basic idea already had the same premise as today.
To make the world your home.
In the 80’s this idea was taken up again.
People speculated that the elite will spend much of their time travelling the world. In a rapid “jet-set pace”.
Why? Well, out of pure curiosity to explore new countries and to make international business contacts.
Technology makes it all possible!
As often there is one reason that accelerated this change:
“What used to weigh 12 kilos now fits in your pocket!”
About 20 years ago Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners wrote a book called “Digital Nomad”. They showed the upcoming opportunities due to advancements in communication technologies.
It’s hardly imaginable for young people today how the first computers looked like. They weighed about 12 kilos and were the size of a small car.
Makimoto and Manners prophesied that computers in future would be lighter and smaller. And even shrink to the size of a pocket calculator.
They also knew that those living the digital nomad lifestyle would be connected at any time.
“Modern man will be online and available at any time. No matter when, no matter where.“
Following the prophecies of the past 60 years, many things have become true. More than 50% of Europeans use a laptop or smartphone to go online. Innovative new products pop up on the market on a daily basis and are presented on the big stages of the world.
Today you travel to gather international and practical experience on different continents. This mobile lifestyle is already a reality for many people. It stands for freedom of movement, independence and represents the modern society.
What jobs can you do as a digital nomad?
It’s pretty clear what’s the basis for jobs with a digital nomad lifestyle:
A laptop and a fast internet connection.
Nowadays digital marketing becomes a more and more popular career choice. Companies understand the value of delivering targeted and relevant messages to consumers. And that it makes more sense than bombarding them with traditional TV ads or leaflets.
A digital marketer’s workplace is the internet. They have access to their data at any time through the cloud system.
Need to talk to a client face-to-face? No problem!
Software like Skype enables “personal digital contact” with one or more people at once. Even doctors and nurses can check up on their patients remotely now. And journalists and bloggers make money while still in their pyjamas and slippers!
Then add in photographers, translators, flight search experts and coders. And you see there is a wide variety of callings that qualify for this 21st-century lifestyle.
Where in the world can you find digital nomads?
There are some regions where you’re more likely to come across people with a digital nomad lifestyle. Take a look at some of the top countries where they prefer to live.
First, you might think of warmer countries – apart from anything else it saves on heating bills!
Of course, you also have the world’s vibrant cities like Budapest, Berlin, Amsterdam, Lisbon, London or Prague. They are always a melting pot of start-ups, young people, culture and a buzzing lifestyle. This alone makes it worth to visit one of the many coworking spaces there.
You see that we can only make a few suggestions, otherwise, this will be a never-ending post. Check them out and find the spot that resonates with your interests and personality!
But it’s not only the location and the weather which are critical. It’s even more important that there is a good infrastructure with fast internet!
The perfect internet connection? Plan A, B and C!
There simply are places without a good internet connection. That usually applies to the hammock at the beach where Google Images sees you working. But many countries have invested lots of money in the development of telecommunications.
“The number of hotspots is increasing and bandwidth is improving.”
In the best case scenario, you have a strong internet already at your accommodation. That’s plan A. If that doesn’t work, this is still no reason to throw in the towel. There are more options.
Plan B: Smartphone Hotspots
Okay, there actually is an option to connect your hammock to the internet – if your mobile data plan allows it. You can use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot through the “tethering” function. This lets you connect on the move regardless of your environment.
Take a look at this guide if you want to know how to set it up and what things to pay attention to.
Plan C: Coworking Spaces
You might think: Isn’t there another obvious solution?
Starbucks! Or any other café!
Fair enough, but if you need stable Wi-Fi access, you’ll likely to get frustrated by the frequent disruptions. That’s why for many start-ups and digital nomads so-called “coworking spaces” are an alternative choice.
These can be smaller offices or entire complexes where teams or freelancers work side by side. Besides coffee and Wi-Fi, they often offer printers, projectors and meeting rooms. Add in the possibility to network with like-minded peers and it’s clear why coworking is on the rise!
“By the end of 2017, there will be more than 14,000 coworking spaces worldwide.”
Join over 1,000,000 colleagues in London, Amsterdam, Paris or New York and set up your virtual workstation there. In case you’re on a tight budget, there are also cheaper locations like ours in Tenerife:
How can you live comfortably on the road?
There is one guiding principle that you should adopt:
Less is more!
Digital nomads are often freelancing to earn their income. Of course, you have to be very disciplined to be able to work this way. But being your own boss is one important perk that makes it worth it. And while you have to make a living wage, money often plays a subordinate role anyway.
Instead of accumulating possessions, the digital nomad lifestyle rather includes the concept of minimalism. And that makes sense, image this: The less you carry with you, the more flexible and spontaneous you can change your city. Absolute location independence!
That’s what the “Cult of Less” is all about.
The aspiration is to minimise your possessions as much as possible. Michael Kelly Sutton, a modern digital nomad and minimalist, was one of the first. He was able to work with a laptop, a Kindle, a smartphone and two external hard drives.
Taxes? Income? Correct invoicing?
We’ve all been there.
Your motivation to deal with taxes and paperwork falls with each day that a deadline gets closer. And now you’re supposed to take care of it while travelling the world?
Let’s say you’re an aspiring nomad from Germany. What should you do?
Many digital nomads register their self-employment and are thus obliged to pay taxes. If you live according to the Cult of Less, you should be able to cover your overheads with a lower income.
In Germany, most of the free roaming nomads fall into the tax category of “small businesses”. That means they have to add no tax to their bills and pay no Value Added Tax (VAT). You should always mention your small business tax status on all of your invoices.
It’s advisable to speak to a qualified tax accountant as laws can change from year to year. Ignorance is no defence.
The same goes for spending a long time as a resident in a foreign country. Then the local tax regulations may apply to you. Get expert advice to avoid that an unexpected tax bill surprises you!
How can you keep your budget in check?
If you’re travelling on a shoestring, it’s always useful to get some advice. Our Digital Nomad Guest Trainer of April recommends travelling outside peak seasons. And to scan your network for locals who can offer you tips and tricks.
Who knows, they might even be willing to host you for some time. Because let’s face it: Hotels and apartments are expensive. They’ll likely empty your wallet before you can say “digital nomad lifestyle”.
But don’t worry if you don’t happen to have local friends in every remote part of the world where you’d like to travel to.
There’s another solution: peer-to-peer travel accommodation.
Sites such as AirBnB or Couchsurfing are all part of the trend of the so-called “Sharing Economy”. You’ll find inexpensive rooms in the homes of locals, especially if you’re flexible. Staying longer in one place helps you to negotiate good accommodation deals.
Or if it’s your cup of tea, you could even sleep, travel and work out of a campervan like our guest trainer Ellen de Dreu.
A never-ending road trip? Sound’s like a plan!
On top, you have the cost of living like food, drink, transport and entertainment. Don’t underestimate that because naturally: If you feel like you’re on holiday, you spend money easily. Do your research to budget your trip before you leave home!
Nomad List is a search engine that can help you with all the planning and your location choice. It’s based on the experience of an entire community living the digital nomad lifestyle. You can select the criteria (cost, internet, fun) that matter most to you and go from there.
What items are a must on your packing list?
Most digital nomads are proud of one thing:
They travel without many possessions. Less is more, remember?
Still, it’s not as spontaneous as it sounds. Don’t hit the road before you find out which items and tools are your personal essentials.
Here are some suggestions to…
…better be safe than sorry!
Make sure to get adequate travel and medical insurance.
…have your all-rounder with you!
Your laptop will be indispensable as you’ll rely on many online services.
…keep in touch!
A smartphone without sim-lock will let you find an adequate local mobile plan. Some phones even allow you to insert two sim cards at the same time!
…never run out of energy!
Use extra batteries or power banks like Mophie which you can charge with an USB connection.
…back it up!
A backup on an external hard drive might be a lifesaver if your laptop conks out. Or sync all your saved files with the cloud on a continuous basis, e.g. via the Google Drive Desktop App. This way you’re immune to all technical failures.
An ethernet cable and (if necessary) an USB adapter will be helpful even in coworking spaces.
…keep your rhythm!
Do you need to organise meetings and split tasks with people scattered around the world? Then Doodle and Trello will help you to find convenient dates and divide the workload. Apps like Slack, Google Hangout or Skype are perfect to facilitate your communication even more.
…document your experience!
Finally, do your future self a favour and get a good camera to take as many pictures as possible. Actually, all you need is one second every day. Seriously.
What will your way to location independence look like?
Are you now asking yourself: How can I adopt the digital nomad lifestyle? If yes, we have something for you. Take a look at the stories of our digital nomad guest trainers at Coworking in the Sun. Or get inspired by more blogs from aspiring digital nomads.
It’s your turn! There are infinite possibilities!