This is the plain truth about what it takes to become a digital nomad

When the COVID-19 pandemic clears up and borders are reopened, more people who have tried remote work may wonder how far they can go. Our research on digital nomads, extremely remote workers who leave their homes, cities, and most of their possessions behind to lead a life they call “location independent,” sheds light on what it takes to achieve it while destroying some myths. common. Digital nomads are often depicted as wealthy, few of whom we met or interviewed in Bali, Indonesia, one of the world’s largest digital nomad communities, fit this pattern.

Much more often, we observe digital nomads hard at work, working freelancers to pay the bills while trying to start businesses that they were passionate about. Leaving aside the small proportion of trust fund donors and retired executives, the people we met had left jobs that worked long hours in expensive cities and saved little savings. While not completely bankrupt, nearly every digital nomad we met needed to work regularly to survive. The truth about what it takes? Bring work. Whether they were taking a full-time job on the road or a part-time freelance project, those who left home with a paid job in hand adjusted much more easily to their new lives as digital nomads. For those who are starting over, major digital nomad destinations like Bali and Chiang Mai, Thailand, have much lower costs of living compared to Australia, the US, and Western Europe, and even a few small gigs paid in currency. Westerners can make a world of difference in reducing anxieties about earning enough to survive. We met many nomads in Bali who lived what they considered a comfortable life on the equivalent of $ 12,000 to $ 18,000 a year. Myth No. # 2: Digital nomads couldn’t make it in the “real world.” Most of the digital nomads we interviewed were successful at work, at least by their employers’ standards. We were amazed at how many digital nomads had employers who went out of their way to retain them as they prepared to leave. Carol, a 37-year-old Australian employee of a tech startup, was shocked that after she told her boss she was quitting to travel and work online, he said, “We don’t want you to leave … just log in and work Wherever you are. ” Carol (all names are pseudonyms, according to research protocols) kept a job she enjoyed and got the lifestyle she hoped for. Realizing that their work life was not improving even as they paid more and more “fees” in supposedly fulfilling roles, digital nomads quit their office jobs and took control of their destiny. As Norman, a 37-year-old digital nomad and independent marketer from Western Europe put it, “Companies like Google that are trying to please Gen Y and others just think they can put a ping pong table down the hall, and people will be happy there. No. ” What is needed to receive this treatment? In a word, skills. Nomads with strong professional skills and knowledge of how to apply them remotely performed better. The average digital nomad we met was in his early 30s, with roughly eight years of professional work experience. Myth No. 3: Digital nomads never work more than four hours a week Tim Ferriss’s best-selling bible for digital nomads, somewhat misleadingly titled “The 4-hour workweek,” led many to equate the phenomenon with a life of pure leisure. On the contrary, we frequently observe that digital nomads work as many hours or more than in their previous lives to successfully reinvent themselves as freelancers and entrepreneurs. As Brandi, a 32-year-old American digital nomad, told us: “I don’t want to work four hours. I like what I do and I want to do it. I am happy to work. I’m not trying to get away from work. ”Although many don’t count it as work, digital nomads also spend a lot of time networking, developing skills, and working on professional development efforts. The concentration of digital nomads in technology, marketing professions Broadly defined, e-commerce and coaching helps them easily understand what others are doing and learn from other people’s strategies.

Photo illustration from MarketWatch / Oxford University Press |, Carmon Rinehart

Myth No. 4: Digital nomads are always on the go (or in the pool) Traveling is a major draw to being a digital nomad, and nomads fill their social media with photos of the “office of the day” of the beach, pool, or rice field. But the truth is that successful nomads often find that they are most productive when in one location. Ed, a seasoned American digital nomad living in Chiang Mai, says that “you can honestly live with a backpack for a while and post these ‘office of the day’ photos. But no one I’ve ever met is as productive when they are on the move all the time as when they are not. And I think they are lying if they say they are. “We met some digital nomads dedicated to long periods of very aggressive travel schedules, but many more preferred to think of themselves as” location independent “, ready to travel at any time , but also mindful of the fact that they could gain more from their freedom from particular locations by staying longer in a location of their choice. We found that digital nomads often stayed in Bali for the entire period of their visit visas from two months, they left for travel periods ranging from a day to a few weeks, and then returned with new visa watches to Bali’s famous digital nomad community. In the long run, digital nomads often seem to find one or a few Few communities of fellow nomads to base their travels on Rachael A. Woldoff, professor of sociology at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W. Va., Y Robert C. Litchfield, associate professor of economics and business at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania, are the authors of “Digital Nomads: In Search of Freedom, Community, and Meaningful Work in the New Economy.”