This is a question that keeps popping up and that’s why I decided to dedicate this blog post to try and give an answer.
I’m telling this right now in the beginning, that there is no definite and clear answer to what/who is a digital nomad. That’s because digital nomads are ‘creatures’ that come in all shapes and forms and each one of them is unique.
DON’T WORRY, they are people, too!
But they see the world in a different way than most of the population and they have this strong urge to discover everything this planet has to offer.
So, let’s start and see the possible origins of the term, digital nomad. Obviously, it’s initiated by the tech world we live in (digital) and a word that describes people who travel often (nomad).
This isn’t much help because if you try to find this term in a dictionary this is what comes up:
That was big help, too…duuggghh
Anyways, after a more in-depth research, I found out that digital nomads are people who leverage and seize technology to create a location independent income in order to give them the freedom of travelling wherever they want. Basically, these people use the power of the internet to work so they can wander all over the world.
So, I figured that ‘digital nomad-ing’ has to do with working remotely. I quickly went over to Google Trends and checked how popular were the search terms digital nomad and work remotely since 2004 until the present. You can see the results below in the picture:
As one can notice, the two terms popularity go hand in hand since the year 2009. Before that, there were some differences but starting from 2009 their trend molded in together.
So, what this picture tells us? The rise of the digital nomad is heavily influenced by telecommuting or remote work. We know that working remotely is highly influenced by the rise of the internet in the 00’s. But in the last few years this trend of remote work gave birth to new a lifestyle, yes you guessed it, the ‘work from anywhere’ lifestyle.
Just for your information itinerants (nomads) existed before the technology and the internet boomed, and they were called only nomads (without digital). These people also have ‘the wanderer syndrome’ in them but in order to make a living, they engaged in casual jobs (mostly short-term) such as bartender, housekeeper, waiter, barista etc.
But let’s get back to the modern term ‘digital nomad’. The above-mentioned definition is the closest one I could find but I realized that there is more to it, if we start to look under the surface. Reading this definition may give you an image of a person with a big luggage and a laptop, living a minimalistic lifestyle and travelling all the time. However, this definition is rather generic and a lot of people can be included in this category.
A digital nomad can be a: online freelancer, designer, developer, stock trader, online poker player, CEO, business owner, writer, customer care specialist and the list goes on and on. Even if you are an employee you can be considered a digital nomad. There are a lot of companies that pledge for a distributed system that allows employees work remotely. These virtual companies encourage the digital nomad lifestyle because they know that freedom is important in today’s society. The nine to five ‘cubicle job’ is becoming a thing of the past. Companies like Buffer, Zapier and Automattic leverage technology to give freedom to their employees, in exchange employees offer a greater dedication to their work.
All these people use technology and the internet to get work done, however, they don’t live the same lifestyle. Some of these nomads live in luxurious hotels and enjoy all the perks of luxury. The others (considered the real digital nomads) have their own online business or freelance gigs and seek cheap accommodation deals on their travels. We have to understand that being a digital nomad is not a job or status, it’s a lifestyle. And this lifestyle can be lived under many circumstances and on different budgets, as well.
It really depends on the person whether they consider themselves digital nomads or not. If you tick off one these 10 signs, you might actually be a digital nomad. Yet again, you are the only one who knows yourself.
As many digital nomads may disagree, I truly believe digital nomads can be all types of persons starting from employees, entrepreneurs, business owners or investors. It purely depends on how much of a nomad a person is and how they can handle their business/work from different locations.