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The Rise of Digital Nomads: Embracing Freedom and Affordable Adventures

The featured image for a Travel Creators Club article titled The Rise of Digital Nomads: Embracing Freedom and Affordable. It displays a digital nomad that is also a content creator working on their laptop while sitting on a bed with maps and travel pictures on the wall and the words notriphobia with its definition displayed in a block on the left of the image.

The year is 1997, and a book has just been released in which 2 guys, Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners, hypothesize that innovations in technology would bring about a new group of people who would utilize communication networks and devices to live out a nomadic lifestyle. The book is called Digital Nomad and it’s pretty spot on. Not only does the book fairly accurately predict this new trend, but it is in fact where the term “digital nomad” originates.

Nearly 30 years on and here we are, doing exactly what they predicted. The growth of people embracing a digital nomadic lifestyle has exploded. In 2023, over 17 million Americans already describe themselves as digital nomads, and the trend seems to be in its early days.

So what has made the digital nomad lifestyle so appealing and is it really worth aspiring to if you are a travel content creator?

The Digital Nomad Lifestyle

First off, let’s just draw a distinction between digital nomads and remote workers. While all digital nomads are remote workers, not all remote workers are digital nomads. The term “digital nomad” has a specific implication that you live and work while traveling the world. Take for instance a web designer from India, living in India and working online as a freelancer. This person is a remote worker. But if it was a Brazilian person living in India and working as a freelancer, they could be considered a digital nomad.

We should also consider the term “expat” as it is yet another one that gets thrown around a lot but specifically refers to people who have left their country to live and work abroad. These people tend to move to a country for longer periods, some even opting to stay forever, and often work in the local area they live in. A good example of this is TEFL teachers, as they live in foreign lands, but unlike digital nomads, they are not able to simply pick up and move their entire lives at the drop of a hat.

It doesn’t really matter what field you work in either. Digital nomads work as accountants, engineers, teachers, FX traders, content creators, or whatever.

So we know that the lifestyle of a digital nomad includes travel and working abroad, and while that might sound exotic, the day-to-day life is just the same as anywhere: wake up, drink coffee, turn the computer on, do grocery shopping, have a drink with friends, etc. Life goes on, no matter where you are.

It should be mentioned that some people choose the lifestyle purely for economic reasons, while others truly enjoy being a part of a different culture. So there will be a difference in how you choose to interact with the people and the place you are in.

How did it come about?

The digital nomad lifestyle is characterized by the ability to work remotely, using technology to bridge the gap between professional responsibilities and personal adventures. The key here lies in the use of technology. Doing this 50 years ago was an impossibility, but with the arrival of the internet, portable computers, and smart devices, people found themselves capable of working from anywhere.

Historically, we went from nomadic peoples to farmers and city dwellers, and now that so much of the menial labor part of life is taken care of by machines, it is finally possible to go back to a nomadic lifestyle. It might be that the ancient drive for living on the road and traveling from place to place is still deeply ingrained in us from ancient times; so, now that it is possible to live that way again (with a fair amount of comfort), it is pulling people back to a life of adventure.

Tech got the ball rolling, but whatever else it is that has made the nomad lifestyle appear again, it offers some excellent benefits and is drawing in people from all walks of life.

The Benefits of a Nomadic Life

The cost of living in most Western countries has gone through the roof and the developing world is not missing out on the rising prices. But, if you are earning a Western salary and living in a developing country, you can live a very decent lifestyle for a fraction of what it would cost you to just scrape by in your own homeland.

Poorer countries tend to be cheaper to live in. Food, transport, housing, etc., are all significantly cheaper. The exchange rate between local currencies and some of the big boys like the USD, EUR, and GBP, means that for those earning in in these outside currencies, life can be good. The stronger the currency you earn in, the more buying power you will have when converting to the local coin.

For travel content creators, a nomadic lifestyle is something that almost comes with the territory. Apart from the thrill of living in a foreign land and experiencing a new culture, the key benefits of the modern nomadic lifestyle are the cost of living and flexibility.

Cost of Living

It is obvious that if you earn $1,000 per month and you move to a country where the average monthly salary is $300, you can easily get by and some. That being said, it only applies if you don’t live the high life. An American writer and business theorist named Thomas J. Stanley once said, “Whatever your income, always live below your means.” This is something that is very important to take note of, because you can easily fall into the trap of spending money on things simply because it is cheaper than back home, and soon your salary is eaten up. Try to live more like the locals and you will be able to save up and have a good life.

Even if the economy start to go completely south for the country, things should remain stable for those earning outside money. An example of this could easily be seen in Turkey where the Turkish Lira went from around 7 Lira to 1 USD in February 2021, all the way to 14 Lira for 1 USD in February of 2022. This was due to bad economic policy decisions, very high inflation, etc.

During this time period, the prices of goods would rise as inflation gripped the nation, but the exchange rate with major currencies against the Lira was also shifting. The government tried to implement policies to slow the out-of-hand inflation and keep runaway prices in check. The point is that, while local people were struggling to make ends meet with prices for goods, rent, and travel doubling in a year, the digital nomads living there and earning in foreign currency were not feeling the pain.

Overall, living in a cheaper country has many benefits on the bottom line.

Work and Travel Flexibility

This is perhaps the best part of being a digital nomad. You get to live where you want and explore the world at your own pace. No need for round-trip tickets and a jam-packed itinerary if you can relax and work a bit travel a bit and see what it is actually like to live in one of those foreign lands.

Digital nomads often also have a flexible work schedule, having task-based or time-based projects, as opposed to mind-numbingly having to sit at a desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., irrespective of your output. It is actually really hard to go back to an old-school job once you have tasted the flexibility thing.

In fact, 78% of employees feel more productive with a flexible schedule as opposed to the rigged norm. This means that both employees and employers can benefit from staff having a more flexible workflow.

The Tough Side of a Nomadic Life

I think that most people can imagine the difficulties faced by those living in strange lands, but here are a few of the most common issues that digital nomads face:

Language: Living in a place where you can not understand people can be a tough one, but with the likes of Google Translate and other tools to help us, this gap is quickly being crossed. One day we might even have a babel fish in our ears to translate everything for us, but till then it might be best to learn the language or use a translator.

Food: Unless your pallet and stomach allow you to eat a great variety of dishes, you might face some challenges. If you have access to a kitchen, this can easily be remedied.

Culture: Learning to understand a different culture can be tricky, as each group of people has a certain way of doing things. In most countries, they do understand that foreigners act differently, so for the most part, you won’t piss off too many people if you do something that is not culturally acceptable or just weird to the locals (within reason).

Visas: Depending on your nationality and passport, finding countries that are good for visiting and living in for a while can be tricky. There are many countries today that offer special digital nomad visas, which helps a lot if you plan to stay somewhere for more than just a month or two. These often require a bunch of paperwork and you need to prove your income, etc. Otherwise, you can always do border hops. This means that when your visa is about to run out you cross into another country and back again giving you a bit more time in the country. Either way, this one is still a bit of an annoyance and it doesn’t seem that it will change any time soon.

Contracts: If you plan to rent a place for an extended period, then you will have to come to some sort of agreement with a landlord. How this works will depend on the country you are planning to live in. Some countries have a good setup where you can go through a rental agency, while in others you might simply have a verbal agreement. This can also impact things like opening a bank account or signing up for a mobile contract which requires papers to be signed. Best to get a local helper to assist in this sort of thing just to be sure you aren’t getting fleeced.

Loneliness: This is not talked about much in the digital nomad community, but it can be a lonely life. You travel and meet many new people, which is great, but most of them eventually pack up and move on. This can leave you feeling very lonely. Dating can also be an issue as you generally have a choice of locals or other travelers. Dating other travelers can be great if you have similar goals and places on your list while dating locals can be tough. The cultural barriers are a factor, but you are a traveler and they probably have a life in the place they are living and won’t want to give it all up to hit the road with you. Family and friends are always far away, so you don’t even always have a shoulder to cry on or a helping hand when needed.

With technology improving all the time, it is becoming ever easier to eliminate more and more of these issues. But there are always cultural things to keep in mind and the bureaucracy of getting visas can make you go mad.

Morals and Ethics

I am sure that some people might have moral and ethical concerns when it comes to digital nomads living in far-off places in local communities. Sure, they will have an impact on things happening in the area, but for the most part, there are many benefits to having some foreigners come and stay for a bit.

The digital nomad lifestyle can be seen as a type of long-term tourism. These are not people leaving their homeland and moving to another country for better employment opportunities, never to return home. Quite the opposite. They come, see, learn, experience, and sometimes even impart some things, before heading to another place and repeating the process.

Having foreign people in your country bringing in other currencies is a good thing for that country and can be a great boost to local communities, especially if the outsiders come and spend money coming from abroad on local businesses. It doesn’t matter what your views are on capitalism, spending money in the local economy is one of the best ways to help the people in the place you are living. Go buy your bananas from the old lady selling them on the street, or go have a drink in a local bar. Charity work is great, but if you don’t have the time for it, just try to spend money locally to help the community.

At any rate, most people are more than happy to have some foreigners living in their country, so don’t let the ethics of it bother you too much.

Conclusion

The digital nomad lifestyle is great for travel content creators, as it offers a unique opportunity to explore the world and share all those travel stories as you do it. There are some good things and some difficulties with living this way, but if you are willing and able to tough it out and overcome a few challenges, joining the rise of digital nomads can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.