The rise of the digital nomad

lifestyle design — By on August 10, 2009 at 7:35 am

It does seem that more and more people these days are turning themselves into some version of a digital nomad. In a basic sense, this could simply be an individual who is disconnected from an office and prefers to do much of his or her work in local coffeeshops or other WiFi hotspots. But there are also a growing number of people who are either moving abroad to a cheaper and more exotic locale, or even ditching a home base altogether and running businesses from the road. These men and women are living a life that would have been unimaginable in previous decades, but which is now possible because of new technologies and the globally interconnected world in which we live.

Mike Elgan recently penned an article for Computerworld about this very trend:

Sell the house and the car. Put up all your possessions on eBay. Pack your bags and buy a one-way ticket to some exotic location. The plan? “Telecommute” from wherever you happen to be. Earn an American salary, but pay Third-World prices for food and shelter.

The digital nomad, location-independent lifestyle once seemed so impossible, exotic and unlikely that only a few people dared even attempt it. But now, a lot more people are doing it, and it seems like everyone else would like to. Could it be? Is the digital nomad lifestyle about to go “mainstream”?

I was asked to be interviewed last week by the producers of something called the Ideas Project, a Nokia-sponsored site that explores what the “big ideas” are for the future of communications. I could have talked about anything, but I chose to address what I think will be the single trend that will do the most to change how people work: The location-independent digital nomad trend…

A perfect storm of micro-trends are colliding before our very eyes to facilitate the lifestyle of traveling while working, and working while traveling. These include the usual suspects, such as the declining price of electronics and bandwidth and of an increasingly globalized economy. But they also include trends that don’t seem that obvious.

The biggest of these is that the technologies, products and services that digital nomads use to work while traveling are themselves becoming popular among everybody, even those who never travel…It will get to the point where the only difference between an ordinary white-collar worker and a digital nomad is an airplane ticket.

I love that line: “the only difference between an ordinary white-collar worker and a digital nomad is an airplane ticket.” Do you have any experiences with the digital nomad lifestyle, or do you know someone who does? What are your thoughts?

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