What Is a Digital Nomad?

The Internet has changed the way we view a lot of things. Banking, commerce, and community have all been altered by the Internet. Another area undergoing huge change is work. We are living in one of the most transformative periods for work and employment since the Industrial Revolution. The ability to “remote in” has enabled an entirely new kind of worker – the Digital Nomad.

What is a Digital Nomad?

Digital nomads are workers who hold down either traditional or freelance jobs, but are not bound to physical offices – or even countries for that matter – like the majority of employees. These nomads work from home, from coffee shops, from coworking spaces, and from anywhere else with an internet connection.

The rise of the Internet and the digital era made telecommuting a viable option because of cheap, immediate access to all information necessary to work. However, there is – in my mind, anyway – a big difference between working remotely and being a digital nomad. To be truly nomadic, one cannot have a central base of operations. These digital workers’ true home is online, and they travel around the world doing their work by their deadlines.

Nomadic lifestyles are as old as humanity. Digital nomads have flipped the traditional concept at its core, however. Rather than going to where work is (or to where food grows, or to where livestock can graze), digital nomads bring work with them.

Despite what anyone tells you, it is not vacation

As remote work and digital nomadic life become more popular, there is pushback from some. Certain individuals view this new version of work as a constant vacation or as less-intensive work. This is untrue. The work usually is challenging with important deadlines needing to be met, and it comes with its own set of issues. Slandering digital nomadic work as a constant vacation also can lead to disillusionment from some as they try out the lifestyle. Sure, you can work from some beach in Thailand, but that doesn’t mean that you should or that it will be pleasant: sand + moisture + computer + poor WiFi – an outlet anywhere near you = a crappy day at work.

It takes discipline to work remotely, just as it takes discipline to wake up early and go into an office on time. Work is work; end of story. Unless you can say to your boss, “Sorry, I won’t do that, I’m on vacation,” then it’s not vacation. That being said, while being a digital nomad is not being on holiday, it does open up many opportunities for new activities outside of work. It can also make your buck go further in some cases, if you are in a country where the cost of living is lower than it was back home.

It’s not for everyone, but it could be for you

If you think that you may benefit from a digital nomadic lifestyle, you’ll need to do your own research. Be sure that you’d be able to keep your job, that you’ll be taxed correctly, and that you don’t break any immigration laws. Beyond that, you will also need to search inside yourself a bit. Would you thrive in this type of work environment? There is nothing wrong with more traditional employment arrangements either.

Either way, digital nomads are on the rise, and if there are enough of them, we may need to start questioning things like work migration and immigration laws in the future.