Digital nomad

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Digital nomad working from Thailand.

Digital nomads are people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner.[1] Such workers often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles.[2][3] This is often accomplished through the use of devices that have wireless Internet capabilities such as smartphones or mobile hotspots. Successful digital nomads typically have a financial cushion or need to develop high levels of self-reliance and self-discipline.[4] The digital nomad community has had various events established to host members of it. Common types of digital nomads include retired or semi-retired persons (including snowbirds), independently wealthy or entrepreneurs, and (often younger) remote workers. People typically become digital nomads for positive reasons, such as financial independence and a career that allows for location independence. Although digital nomads enjoy advantages in freedom and flexibility, they report loneliness as their biggest struggle, followed by burnout.[5] This lifestyle may present other challenges as well such as maintaining international health insurance with coverage globally, abiding by different local laws, and sometimes obtaining work visas.


One of the earliest known uses of the term digital nomad originally was in 1997, in the book Digital Nomad.[6] It was the title of a book published by educational publishing company Wiley. It was written by Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners. It is unknown if the phrase was coined in this book or if they took a term that had already existed.[7] Digital nomads may also sell a number of possessions in order to make travel easier, and may also sell or rent their house.[8]

The foundation of the digital nomad movement is remote work, allowing people to do their work at home or otherwise through the Internet.[9] Digital nomads can use wireless Internet, smartphones, Voice over IP, and/or cloud-based applications to work remotely where they live or travel.[10][11] Digital nomads may use co-working or co-living spaces, cafes, house sitting agreements, and shared offices.[12]

Digital nomads tend to travel while they earn money through their online business, clients or employers.[13] They find people with whom they can explore the world by using apps like Fairytrail, TourBar, and others.[14] This sort of lifestyle may present challenges such as maintaining international health insurance with coverage globally, abiding by different local laws and sometimes obtaining work visas, and maintaining long-distance relationships with friends and family back home.[15] In some cases, the digital nomad lifestyle leads to misunderstanding and miscommunication between digital nomads and their clients or employers.[16] Other challenges may also include time zone differences, the difficulty of finding a reliable connection to the internet, and the absence of delineation between work and leisure time.[17][9] Services such as TransferWise and PayPal are popular among digital nomads.[7] Skype, Zoom, and Slack are common tools for people to use to communicate through voice, text, and video chat across long distances.[7] YouTube and Instagram have been used by digital nomads as a means by which to earn revenue through content directly or indirectly through sponsorship and merchandising without having to have a central workplace or living space.[7] An important step in being a digital nomad is ensuring that all relevant documentation (such as visas and passports) is kept up to date. If you do not, it can lead to legal difficulties when traveling abroad.[18] A solid grasp of any official languages of the countries you are visiting is also important, as a lack thereof can prevent a person from engaging with the locals. It also creates the risk of complication if you have to go to the hospital.[18]


The term location independence was coined by Lea Woodward in 2006 as a word used to describe the digital nomad lifestyle.[19][non-primary source needed] There were "location-independent" workers before the "digital nomadism" label become popular.[7] Historically, one of the first digital nomads was Steve Roberts, who in 1983 rode on a computerized recumbent bicycle and was featured in the Popular Computing magazine.[7] In 1985, a satellite system called Motosat was established, allowing greater access to the Internet.[7] Digital nomads over time gained more ability to live that lifestyle. Such advancements include Wi-Fi Internet and Internet-enabled laptops.[7] The digital nomad lifestyle is rapidly growing in popularity since 2014, when websites ranking cities by cost of living, weather and internet speed to help nomads choose where to live [20][21] and international conferences for digital nomads like DNX sprung up.[22][23][24][25] Since then the movement has coincided with the rise of remote work becoming a viable way to work, especially in technology companies in Silicon Valley. Digital nomad began to become popular with brand names in 2009. National Geographic started the "Digital Nomad blog," and Dell Computers launched a short-lived website called Digital Nomads.[7] A documentary film about the digital nomad lifestyle by Christine and Drew Gilbert, titled The Wireless Generation, earned $37,000 in funding through Kickstarter.[7] A cruise called "The Nomad Cruise" was founded in order to offer a means by which digital nomads could meet and interact.[26]

Virtually anyone can attempt to live the digital nomad life, though certain groups are more representative in the community. These groups include younger people, entrepreneurs, refugees, nomads overall, people from well to do nations, and more.[26] Digital nomads have been said to be inspired by Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek, David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology, and the work of Mark Manson.[27][28]

Popular destinations[edit]

Certain destinations are among the more popular locations for digital nomads, including Chiang Mai, Thailand, Medellín, Colombia, Mexico and Bali due to a low cost of living and reasonably high quality of life.[29][18][30][31] For example, the town of Ubud in Bali became popular among digital nomads after the installation of fiber-optic communication for Internet access.[27] Another popular choice among digital nomads is Cyprus. A European state with low tax, a quick company set up process and beautiful scenery, the island of Cyprus has a growing nomad community. [32] Other cities include Tallinn, Tarifa, Bansko and Tbilisi due to critical mass and greater acceptance of the digital nomad lifestyle as well a relatively lower cost of living. Cities that have a higher cost of living exist for digital nomads, include Singapore and Oslo.[18] Other notable movements loosely related to digital nomads rising in popularity include Vandwelling. Due to the popularity, opportunities for people to live as a digital nomad in the area exist to facilitate this.[22] In the United Kingdom, certain cities such as Bristol, Birmingham, and Brighton are popular. This is due to the lower cost of living compared to London.[33] Organizations such as Innovation Birmingham exist to accommodate 90 technology companies.[33] But being a digital nomad doesn't mean that you have to choose a city and then stick to it, the beauty of being able to work as a digital nomad is the ability to pack up and leave where you are, jump on a plane, train or minibus and venture off into the wild, without the modern constraints of an office.[34]

Cause for the popularity[edit]

The digital nomad lifestyle has become significantly more popular in recent years due to a number of factors. Internet connectivity becoming more widespread, even to rural areas, has helped people travel to more areas (digital nomad or otherwise).[9][26] Jobs becoming less location-dependent (such as graphic designers and writers) has also contributed to the ease of the digital nomad lifestyle.[26] There are some negative factors that cause people to become digital nomads. These include political unrest in their home countries, a high cost of living where they live, the diminishing of long-term employment, and more.[26]

Legal developments[edit]

Many digital nomads tend to come from more developed nations with passports allowing a greater degree of freedom of travel. As a result, many tend to travel on a tourist visa.[35] While it is technically illegal for a digital nomad to work in a country on a tourist visa, many digital nomads tend to reside in locations with a lower cost of living while working remotely on projects outside their country of residence. In most countries, as long as the nomad is discreet and is not taking a job away from a local person, the authorities will turn a blind eye to nomad work. Visa runs are also often common in the digital nomad community. Some nomads have also attempted to legalize their stay by taking up part-time jobs in teaching English as well as taking university courses in their host country. In addition, digital nomads often use their status as perpetual travelers to escape the tax liability in their home countries without immigrating to the tax system of another country.[36] Nevertheless, this practice is considered controversial amongst digital nomads.

This has resulted in the creation of several programs targeted at digital nomads such as the e-Residency in Estonia and a SMART visa program in Thailand. Estonia has also announced plans of a digital nomad visa, following its growing e-Residency applications.[37][38] Other countries such as Bermuda, Barbados, Georgia, and Croatia have began to offer similar digital nomad visa programs.[39] Some digital nomads have used Germany's residence permit for the purpose of freelance or self-employment[40] to legalize their stay, but successful applicants must have a tangible connection and reason to stay in Germany.


As commented above, feelings of loneliness are often present in the practice of nomadic occupations,[41] since nomadism often requires freedom from personal attachments such as marriage.[42] The importance of developing face-to-face quality relationships has been stressed to maintain mental health in remote workers.[15] The need for intimacy and family life may be a motive to undertake digital nomadism as an intermittent[43] or temporary activity as in the case of entrepreneur and business developer Sol Orwell.Traveling as a digital nomad couple is a relatively infrequent option[44] whose advantages and disadvantages are a discussed subject.[45] The individual and/or entrepreneurial fulfillment of both members of a digital nomad couple seems a complex goal but may offer synergistic expectations.[46] Iconic examples of stable, professionally viable digital nomad couples could be those of Diana Southern Norman & Ian Norman,[47] who have jointly developed a career in astrophotography,[48] Brent Hartinger(writer) and Michael Jensen(editor),[49] and Naomi & Elia Locardi, who -continuously since 2012 until pandemic times- sustained themselves as a nomadic, travel/landscape photography team.[50] Other known digital nomadic couples have been featured online.[51][52]

Notable digital nomads[edit]

See also[edit]


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  13. ^ Lamarque, Hannah. "The Rise of the Digital Nomad". Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
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  15. ^ a b Meggan Snedden (30 August 2013), When work is a nonstop vacation, - Capital
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  34. ^ 39
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  47. ^ "About". North to South. 2014-03-22. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  48. ^ "This Full Astrophotography Workshop is Now Available for Free on YouTube". Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  49. ^ Hartinger, Michael Jensen & Brent (2019-08-20). "How two gay guys sold everything, left home to travel the world & lived happily ever after". LGBTQ Nation. Retrieved 2020-10-09.
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