The fastest-growing, the most favourite, and the dream profession in the world today is being a Digital Nomad. A Digital Nomad is a person who conducts his life in a nomadic manner while working remotely using digital telecommunications technology. The most difficult part to become a digital nomad is to have minimal material possessions which is very difficult in my case as I have a tendency to collect itineraries almost everywhere. Besides one has to work remotely in temporary housing, hotels, cafes, public libraries, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles, using Wi-Fi, smartphones, or mobile hotspots to access the Internet which again has its own challenges depending on the location and the facilities available in the area.
There are two natures of Digital Nomads, one those who are everlasting travelers and the other are nomadic for a short period of time. Some nomads travel through various countries, others focus on one area and explore in to its roots. In a research study in 2020 it was found that 10.9 million American workers described themselves as digital nomads, an increase of 49% from 2019 where as in India it is still a taboo to leave your homes even for a regular job in a different city. But you must know that a digital nomad can be anyone from younger remote workers to backpackers to retired or semi-retired persons. In India most of the digital nomads are the start-up owners or the entrepreneurs.
According to the book “Digital nomads beyond the buzzword: Defining digital nomadic work and use of digital technologies” by Nash and Caleece written in February 2018, the first digital nomad was Steve Roberts, who in 1983 rode on a computerized recumbent bicycle and was featured in Popular Computing magazine back then. The earliest known use of the term “digital nomad” was in the 1997 book Digital Nomad by Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners, which describes how technology allows for a return of societies to a nomadic lifestyle. Yet it is unknown if the phrase was coined in this book or if they took a term that had already existed.
It is understood that one becomes a digital nomad due to a desire to travel and due to location independence. Compared to living in expensive cities, a digital nomad lifestyle also has cost advantages but with this comes loneliness and exhaustion. Biggest drawback is to maintain an international health insurance with global coverage, abiding by different local laws including payment of required taxes and obtaining work visas and maintaining long-distance relationships with friends and family back home. Some say that is it also difficult to maintain a lifestyle and hence it leads to misunderstanding and miscommunication with their clients or employers. Specifically, if they are in different time zones. Some face the difficulty of finding a reliable connection to the internet, and the absence of explanation between work and leisure time.
Despite many difficulties there are more and more getting into this new culture and several visa programs are 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. Other countries such as Bermuda, Barbados, Georgia, and Croatia offer similar digital nomad visa programs. Some digital nomads have used Germany’s residence permit for the purpose of freelance or self-employment to legalize their stay, but successful applicants must have a tangible connection and reason to stay in Germany.
Speaking about Germany I came across a Digital Nomad named Chris Wilpert on Instagram who helped me to understand more about a life of Digital Nomad and its pros and cons. According to Chris a digital nomad is just part of two things, one part is digital and one part is nomad. The nomad part is like a thing which is already around the world for countless years and which are just people who are roaming around the country or the world and not settling down so they just go from one place to another like us, like former ancestors of humans. And then the digital part, it is all the stuff we do digitally basically with a computer or phone or anything that probably connects with the internet and so digital nomad basically means someone who roams around and includes internet so that they can work remote that helps them locate independently.
Chris considers himself as a full-time digital nomad from last seven years because of his non-stop travelling and working remotely. Before that he was having a residence and wasn’t travelling that much. About 10 years ago when Chris was 25, he started his venture after his University Degree, Master in Business computing, Chris decided to travel for a year, so during this year he also had little travel blog and he made a little money with it till a company asked him to work with them, after a year he made enough money to just travel then came the idea of the first world tour where Chris travelled as bag packer for 15 months without realising that he is becoming a digital nomad.
When asked how he manages his work and travelling he replied, “Well to be honest, I just don’t have one occupation, I am IT consultant first and I work 10 days a month for a company, so I am not an employee, kind of in a form of freelancer. Besides I have a small company SEO like search engine optimization where other companies can get better rankings on Google and other search engines. I also have 3 travel websites where have 1-2 people who write there and make some possible income from there via advertisement. Apart from that I trade in stock markets. I have been doing it for a long time like 10 or 11-12 years. A fresh start would be since last year where I owned three air bnb in Colombia.”
Chris is a German according to his passport but it also says that his residence is Mandarina, Colombia which is funny and weird. Chris didn’t like the question of how many countries visited so far because it gives a wrong idea of how much you have travelled. Chris says, “I can travel one hundred countries and each of them in couple of days to weeks, you barely see any country and also my goal is not to visit as many countries as possible but it’s simply to travel. I simply spend a little bit more in a country so the number is probably not like what some people would expect it. But I also don’t count for that reason but to give a rough estimate it’s probably around 50-100, the only places I have not been so far is like some places in Asia and New Zealand and Africa. At least I have been to main countries and some small countries or city countries which you can visit one day Brunei etc.”
It is quite obvious that a digital nomad is free, one can really be where ever they want and Chris says that that’s a kind of feel of freedom and if one is smart enough then they can also save more money. Chris further explains that the system of the world economy is not equal, it’s different in every country. So, for example if one goes to Australia and works there and earns a lot of money then he can take that money and travel for like six months. So, working in first world country that pays good helps in travelling in less expensive country is Chris’s mantra.
“Every place has its own charm” says Chris when asked about most favourite and least favourite country. “We even learn much more from countries you actually didn’t like that much” he adds. But to answer it in traditional way he named Colombia his favourite country and Medellin his favourite city in particular because they have everything really nice, the weather and the people also they are affordable. Apart from Colombia he is also very fond of El Salvador because of good memories and also it is unspoiled without the bag-packers and also not over crowded. “You always have a better version of the countries you have less expectations. The countries I had high expectations are always disappointing like New York and stuff like that. My least favourite place I really cannot remember, I really cannot answer that, I don’t have any country, wait let me say one country, let me say Germany, I don’t like Germany, I don’t know why, I don’t want to be there, I don’t like the weather, the culture is not what I like. I just like the work culture. I don’t know why I have problem like that but maybe it’s like trauma” he added.
Chris turned a Buddhist during his initial days of travelling. He shared an incident that one time where he lost a lot of money online in stock market and that depressed him enough to have suicidal thoughts because he lost lots of money. “I lost everything but I work and I gained so much more later that it is still incredible for me, how it was possible for me is to never give up and I think whatever I saw like the world wonders I always think this is crazy, the world is so beautiful and this is so crazy and we always think so small in our country in our problems or place around this world is an incredible place but not only the big ones but also a small one. I love hiking and it is like click meditation for me I thank god to give me the ability to walk and it gives me so much peace.”
When travelling you also see a lot of cultural differences and similarities in societies, Chris has never been to deep Africa but he says the upper parts like Egypt has more of a western touch in its culture. Also, in Asia it is always a different culture in China and rest of the Asia, one can also find a close connect between South Asian countries. Whereas in Europe one can feel like being in Alice in Wonderland. European people have a different mindset where in US people are like superficial, loud and over patriotic but their national parks and the beauty of the country is incredible. Latin American countries are warm, beautiful and opposite of US.
India is very exhausting country but I loved it. People are so tensed but I don’t understand why as they have such a huge diversity and the country is so big that you can have anything like you can go to south for beaches or Himalayas to relax in cold and have adventure.
Last year Chris thought of writing a book but then he claims that he is not a good writer. Besides he also feels like it will put a lot of pressure on him to note down each of his experiences which he thinks is a reason not to enjoy the adventure. But he does have an Instagram account @mrglobing where he shares his pictures.
Sometimes Chris thinks of retiring from being a digital nomad and have a normal family but again he is not sure how he is going to support his woman as the modern-day women has a much difficult life then earlier days. Also, the craving of travelling will keep affecting his married life.
Upon inquiry on advising someone of becoming a digital nomad Chris explains: to be rational, talk to people who have done it before and ask them personally, don’t go on a Facebook group, don’t follow but take opinion. Just do everything yourself. Don’t give up discipline, nothing comes easily, you don’t become rich quickly you don’t earn a lot of money quickly everything comes with time so you need disciple and you need patience and to keep going.