During my travels I’ve seen and spoken to many full-time travelers who earn income while they move from city to city. They’ve always amazed me but I’d really not given much thought on how I could do this myself, and what the pros / cons are until recently. When I got into travel blogging I thought that this could be something that I could one day earn money from full-time. However, I’m seeing that many of the successful travel bloggers are actually digital nomads who earn their income from other sources.
Who are these people?
Location Independent Digital Nomads are people who earn an income online, and can be based in any destination that has a good internet connection. The nomads are either entrepreneurs running their own businesses (e.g. SEO/Digital Marketing Agency, a food delivery company, a graphics design agency, an online store where goods are drop-shipped directly from a supplier to the buyer), freelancers (e.g. bloggers / content creators, graphics designers, any person offering a service online on a platform such as fiverr.com) or employees of a company that allows these nomads to work remotely (e.g. software / gaming developers). Here’s a sample list of 64 jobs some Digital Nomads offer and a list of some popular digital nomads that you can learn from.
Depending on where in the world you’re from and planning to travel to, taking the leap into becoming a digital nomad does have some downsides:
Culture – Digital Nomadism is generally a first-world cultural phenomenon. You’ll primarily see Europeans, Americans and Australian citizens living like this, and they’re quite often single Caucasian males or couples who find it difficult to integrate into society if they’re based in a 3rd world destination without people who speak the same language or share the same cultural traditions.
Visa Issues – Depending on where you’re from your passport may give you better or worse access to certain countries in the world. The UK, USA and some European country passports give you visa-free access to over 170 countries in the world. Some Asian and North African countries (e.g. Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia) give you access to less than 40 countries without a visa. South African visas give you visa-free access to 94 countries.
Legal Issues – The tax system hasn’t caught up with digital nomads working on a tourism visa in most countries yet. Some nomads running their own companies find it difficult to operate if they don’t have a permanent address to register their company to.
Distractions – If you’re spending a little time in each place you visit, you may end up sightseeing more than you’re supposed to. It’s recommended that you spend longer periods of time in each place you visit. Perhaps spend the first week discovering the new location and spend the next 2 to 3 months working.
Loneliness – You’ll probably form relationships / friendships with people you meet in each destination, add them as friends on Facebook and move on to the next destination – nothing meaningful and long-lasting. The friends you have back at home may not be able to relate to you as you’re living a lifestyle that they’re not accustomed to. And you’re never around!
To address the downsides of distractions and loneliness, and to reap some further benefits you could consider working within an environment that supports digital nomads. These environments are called co-working spaces which takes people from all lines of work and integrates them into a communal work space. These work spaces help to connect people who would normally have no contact with other like-minded or professional people, and provide them with access to business services such as a good internet connection, meeting space, refreshments, and office peripherals. By connecting freelancers and other independent workers they help get people out of isolation and into a more productive work space.
The Differences Between Incubators, Accelerators and Co-Working Spaces?
I had to research these differences as I’d really thought that co-working spaces were similar to incubators or accelerators.
Incubators are organizations that you generally apply to join if you’ve got an existing business and need access to funding, mentorship, training and office facilities. Consider giving away some equity in your business and disclosing the intellectual property of your business to the venture capitalists that are supporting the incubator.
Accelerators are targeted towards businesses in the conceptual stages to those already bringing in an income. You apply for a limited time-period program in an accelerator (e.g. 3 months) where you undergo extensive training and mentoring under a number of special programs. You’re generally joining an accelerator as a team, not solo.
Co-working spaces allow independent workers to work on their own projects while charging a small fee for use of the facilities. While an accelerator and an incubator focus on making a specific idea come to fruition a co-working space focuses on connecting workers with other like-minded individuals and providing them with a creative and inspiring place to work on their own work.
Which locations do Digital Nomads work from?
You’ll find digital nomads working solo or in co-working spaces anywhere from major cities to exotic islands around the world.
Popular destinations are Budapest (Hungary), Chiang Mai (Thailand); Kamiyama (Japan); London (England); Berlin (Germany); Vienna (Austria); Vancouver (Canada); Boston, Austin, San Francisco and New York (the latter 2 are more expensive in the USA).
Your destination choice will definitely be restricted by your visa limitations, budget (first world countries are more expensive), and environmental preferences. Check out Nomad List where they rank the best destinations for digital nomads.
The Co-Working Space Directory has an extensive listing of co-working spaces to choose from worldwide. You could also just Google “Co-Working Space + [a city you’re interested in] or check out some of the listings of the world’s top rated co-working spaces. You don’t have to become a digital nomad to work in a co-working space. You could be a part-time entrepreneur who wants to develop an idea in an exotic location, with support from others.
There’s also a thing called a “co-working visa” which allows you to become a member of one co-working space but use co-working spaces in other countries for a limited time, if that co-working space belongs to the co-working visa program. There are more than 450 work spaces around the world that participate in the co-working visa program.
If you love to travel for extensive periods, don’t have anything holding you back in your home city, can afford to pay for that initial flight ticket and living costs for at least 3 months, and have the right set of skills to offer remotely then there are plenty of opportunities available to work and travel productively in many global destinations.
I wish I’d been aware of these opportunities a decade ago.