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What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is someone who travels around the globe while working remotely. Digital nomads take advantage of the new possibilities of digital work, and often only need a laptop to earn a living. This gives them the flexibility to travel, using technology to either run a business or work for a company that has a remote work policy.
It’s not clear who coined the term digital nomad, but it was popularized in a 1997 book by Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners, who argued that new technology would allow people to return to a nomadic state and work from anywhere. In 2020, there were almost 11 million Americans who consider themselves digital nomads.
Popular destination countries often have a love-hate relationship with digital nomads. Digital nomads can have a reputation for ruining landscapes and crowding out locals. But many also see nomads as an opportunity to bring tourist dollars into the country and even fill labor shortages. This became even more attractive as short-term tourism collapsed during the pandemic. More and more countries are giving out “digital nomad visas,” encouraging nomads to come and stay.
Why become a digital nomad?
There are some great reasons to consider becoming a digital nomad. Of course, the first is travel! If you’ve always wanted to see the world and experience new cultures, being a digital nomad allows you to do this.
Many digital nomads also take advantage of the cost of living differences between countries. Earning a high salary in their home country and having a low cost of living in their host country/ies means that they can have more free cash.
But not everything is rosy for digital nomads. Many of them underestimate the toll that it takes to try to live abroad for long periods of time, cut off from your home support network, and in an unfamiliar culture. They may underestimate costs too. While the cost of living might be lower in a host country, your savings can get eaten up pretty quickly in flights, health insurance, and sightseeing.