As someone who has lived outside of their home country for well over a decade, the term digital nomad comes with mixed feelings.  I used to cringe every time I heard the term.  In my mind, the term digital nomad was someone who was wandering aimlessly about as a nomad, without any sense of direction or purpose.  Maybe a digital nomad was someone who didn’t have stable employment or floated from one sofa to the next – it just didn’t sit right with me.  But alas, I’m a changed person! These past few years have taught me that ‘digital nomad’ is not a negative term. The term itself has evolved and even broadened significantly over the past two years. It has broadened so much that I would even consider myself to be a digital nomad.  So, what is a digital nomad?

What is a digital nomad?

If you want to get technical a digital nomad is defined as a person who earns a living doing work online in various locations of their choosing.  Fine. But if you really want to understand the characteristics of a digital nomad you must understand the 3 main pillars of digital nomad life (1) remote work, (2) flexible working hours, and (3) doing what you love.  When you look at all 3 of these characteristics together, you can begin to understand why being a digital nomad is a way for people to take control of their life and to build the type of work and environment that works best for them. It is the perfect blend of freedom, travel, and purpose.  

Remote Working

Due to the pandemic, many people have gotten used to working from home.  I myself have worked from home for well over a year, and the idea of returning to an office setting with traditional 9-5 hours isn’t appealing.  Both employers and employees learned quite a bit about work habits during the pandemic. It doesn’t matter whether you dial into a call from the same city or from another city.  A video conference call provides the same functionality as meeting in person.

Generally, the world has learned that the value that you provide to an employer, customer, or client is not related to where you’re working from.  Location has little to do with value provided or the ability to perform most tasks.  Instead, value is largely related to the skills that you have and whether you’re able to bring those skills to the table.

As people are becoming more used to working from home or working remotely, people are also less inclined to return to the way things used to be.  Millennials are less inclined to return to long commutes, one-hour lunch breaks, and the hustle and bustle of getting to and from the office.

  Working from home taught us that the old way of working was detrimental to our health, personal relationships, and overall quality of life. Long hours in the office from Monday to Friday and working on weekends is no longer suitable in today’s world. People are now demanding that they have flexible working hours and flexible work locations as a condition of employment.

Digital nomads work remotely as given. There is no office to check in to, there is no commute.  Work is performed at the location of choice if it gets done in a way that meets the standards and needs of the client. This is a key characteristic of being a digital nomad.

Flexible Working Hours

When I think of flexible work hours, the song “Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy comes to mind. The song perfectly depicts a world in which the only free time that we have is the weekend when we are in a typical 9-5 job.  Just as the song says, “everyone is working for the weekend”, essentially working only to live. Every other day of the week, Monday through Friday is carved out and dedicated to a day job.  In essence, your time is not yours, and realistically day jobs don’t end at 5:00 PM. If you are in a mid to senior-level position, your work most likely ends around 7:30 PM.

In the wake of the pandemic, flexible working hours became much more popular. Due to the challenges of COVID, many families had to adjust their schedules. Employers also had to adjust their schedules. Large corporations needed to adapt to changes in employees living situations and therefore, creating the idea of flexible working hours.

Better Health, Better Wealth

But the idea of flexible working hours is not new. Flexible working hours have been around for decades. It has only been reserved for special circumstances like a new child in the family or other special situations.  Employers traditionally did not grant flexible working hours to employees, for they feared that it would result in a decrease in productivity. But now we’re learning that flexible working hours can be attributed to an increase in productivity. Allowing employees to work during times of the day that is most convenient to them is (surprise!) beneficial to not only employees but the corporation as well.

And now that many employees have experienced the benefits of flexible working hours leading to more family time, better diet, and nutrition, and more time to exercise. Who the hell wants to go back to 9-5?   As employees start to look inside of themselves to understand what skills they have that can add value to this world, they demand flexible working hours, regardless of whether we are in a pandemic or not.

Digital nomads get to choose their own hours in most cases.  As consultants or entrepreneurs, they make their own schedules according to their lifestyles. It is a major reason why many people have become digital nomads.

Do Something that Makes Impact

Lastly, and probably the most profound change to the way that we work in the wake of the pandemic, is that people long to do work that they love. People want to make an impact on society. People want to feel as though their contributions matter. Even people with the most lucrative and high-paying roles such as bankers, consultants, and lawyers are starting to question, “what is the real value that I’m adding to this planet, and am I growing as a person as a result of my job”? If they sense that the answer to that question is “no”, they will most likely start looking for either another job that is more meaningful or seek to do something that is more entrepreneurial.

Most people that have become digital nomads have done so  to have amore meaningful impact in this world.  The freedom to choose the work that suits you best, allows people to follow their dreams and skills and create value in the way that is most suitable to them.

Are Digital Nomads the Future?

By now you should have a clear picture of what a digital nomad is and why many people are starting to adopt the characteristics of a digital nomad life. The ability to work from wherever, choose your own hours, and have a meaningful impact are the main attractions.  How could your life improve if you became a digital nomad?

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