By Neelanjana Gautam
Do you have this constant, deep urge to travel? Have you always waited excitedly for your vacations and wished they were longer? Do you love heading toward a cafe when you have a deadline to meet? Does your best work happen in dynamic environments?
If you find yourself answering yes, you may be cut out for an unconventional career journey that’s becoming increasingly popular in the modern wireless age.
A digital nomad is a professional who leads a location-independent lifestyle that allows him or her to travel and work anywhere in the world with the Internet as their prime armor.
If this sounds like a hook to your bohemian way of living, you could be well on your way to becoming one. Anyone can be a digital nomad, all you need is a desire to see new places and meet interesting people, a brave entrepreneurial spirit, and a job or a combination of freelance gigs that lack a required location.
It is obviously not for everyone. Some would prefer to live in one place; to plant some roots. They like the predictability of routine and responsibilities. They want face-to-face coworkers.
But many in our new generation of workers view this as an attractive alternative lifestyle – traveling to see the world with their smartphones, keeping in touch with “home” through Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook (and in some cases making a living through those platforms).
How does it work?
High-speed internet and location independence are the two factors that drive digital nomads.
Although coffee and laptops are the two identifying marks of a digital nomad, beyond that they can come in a multitude of different forms. They love to travel and work from anywhere but a 9-5 office — from Airbnb rentals, coffee shops, public libraries, and even RVs. Creative and driven individuals with a wanderlust — especially writers, designers, photographers, and the like. Self-starters — the kind that mostly lands up in startups and businesses thrive in this kind of arrangement.
Freelance jobs are most suited to this style of work as it’s easier to have a varied portfolio of clients from different parts of the world. The deal is you can clock in your own hours and choose the work you want to do. But the flipside and the constant challenge is to find new work opportunities and to ensure a consistent financial stream. You either need to have some dependable, ongoing clients, or an effective way of bringing in new business remotely.
Other than the standard roles that are always open in any creative environment like writing, blogging, designing, publishing, there are also many consulting positions that are available in any type of industry. Whether you’re pursuing law, marketing, HR or anything else, you can browse related websites and find opportunities for leveraging your skills into the online marketplace. If you’re a language expert, like you can speak two or more languages your most obvious option would be online coaching or translating services. For example, if you’re an American citizen who can speak a few European languages like French, Spanish, German, you’re more likely to get offers from clients in those countries than the local counterparts. And wait, you could do it all while sunbathing on the beaches of Canary Islands or watching the sun set on the French Riviera!
More and more “regular” jobs have the ability now to “work from home” or “work remotely.” As that’s happening, more and more people are making the decision to make their home “the whole world.”
While on paper, the digital nomad lifestyle may sound like a dream come true, there are some things to consider. As mentioned above, if you’re trying to make it work with freelance and contracted gigs, you better either have a trusted stream of business, or be prepared to weather some “dry” periods if you have a lull in work.
Secondly, if you choose to travel internationally, working across the globe from clients or an employer, creates a suite of other problems–time zone mismatches, connectivity problems, etc. You’ll need to prepare for these things.
Thirdly, it takes a lot of self-discipline to work diligently while in the middle of what may feel like a “vacation” environment, especially if you don’t have a direct “boss” per se. Don’t underestimate how hard it can be to buckle down with a laptop when you’re surrounded by potential fun and adventure. You’ll have to be very good at managing your time, sticking to your schedule, and separating work from play.
How has the lifestyle worked for these young go-getters living on the edge of adventure and life goals? Here’s a quick dive into a couple stories of digital nomads:
She’s a 23-year-old girl who was born in Germany, grew up in Miami Beach, and majored in political science and religion. When she was in her senior year of college, she toyed with various ideas about how to make a viable career on the road as opposed to the regular corporate grind. She took a stab at monetizing her travel blog and booked a ticket to Bali with $800 in her bank account. Of course, it was a daring move, but Sabrina stuck it out for the sheer passion of doing what she loved, like visiting foreign locales and collecting passport stamps. And as she says, “having a large platform to impact others, and doing it in a way that allowed me to sleep in, work in my yoga pants, and hang out in Bali. That wish was not a fairytale or pipe dream… because it came true.” To know more about how she made it, check out this Forbes story here.
In the past 7 months, she’s been to Mexico, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Cuba, and within the United States, Florida, California, and Arizona. She’s getting ready to go to Nashville and North Carolina in the U.S. next week. Larissa started out as a remote attorney and the choice has been accidental. She quit her job and moved to California from Florida in late 2013, and on the way, a colleague popped up the idea of picking up some freelance attorney work. After a bout of Google searches and a few cold emails, Larissa made things happen and the story continued from there.
“The bulk of many legal practices is research and writing, which can be done anywhere with the internet. It seemed crazy to have to do that in an office between certain hours. If I want to surf for 2 hours at lunch, why can’t I do that and then finish the work at night? If I want to work from a different city so I can see long-distance friends and family at night, why can’t I do that?”
Find out how a typical work day looks like for Larissa on Nomad List.
Top 13% Instagram Influencer in the Business community
Life goals: Travel the world. Work on Fitness
She’s 22 years old and lives in a suburb of Buffalo with her parents. She has a dual degree in fashion design and entrepreneurship, and by her own admission, she’s obsessed with traveling, apparel, and business.
“I have 7 different jobs within my mom’s company; digital media, marketing advisor, waitress, bridal assistant, landscaper, professional food taster and personal assistant. I work 24/7/365 because even when I’m not at the office, we are at the dinner table talking about future plans and things to do.”
She has been challenged by the one and only Gary Vaynerchuk. So she is documenting her journey of #30DayGaryVeeChallenge to see what she can accomplish with the world watching her.
Lodi Planting’s three secret passions in his 20s
Social media, making websites, human resources and traveling — with these three skill sets on his sleeve in his 20s, Lodi imagined starting on his own, build a network of prospects and professionals around the world. Today he does consulting assignments for clients in Belgium and The Netherlands. And also he is a partner of a datacenter which offers cheap hosting solutions for global clients.
Lodi loves to get paid in Euros and feels it’s very important to work for employers in countries with a strong currency.
Peep into his Dutch website for more details.
Ieva Laicane, author of The Random Passion Project
Ieva had a vague notion about digital nomads before she became one. She easily believed these guys to be super-rich with no care in the world and they got by replying to just a few emails per day. But, when she settled for a nomadic life she realized there’s more to it than meets the eye. Writing books, selling services, designing websites, keeping accounts, consultancy, and such jobs involve a lot of hard work, but the good part is that it’s enjoyable.
Hear it from Ieva: “I’ve never really had worked in a typical 9-to-5 environment. So I’m not one of those who “escaped” from this lifestyle. Right out of high school I knew that I need something different so I started traveling to find what that is. And it kicked me right in the guts. I-LOVE-TRAVELING.”
Her piece of advice for the 20 somethings is that never underestimate your own ability to do whatever you want to be doing. There always is a way to make things work.
Like she says, “I learned things, day by day, got my first clients and literally just built this lifestyle from zero. Oh, what a fun time to be alive when literally anyone can do this!”
Check out The Random Passions Project and Ieva’s story here.
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Digital Nomads: Making the Whole World Your Office