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Digital nomad – the freelance lifestyle phenomenon - Blog

Digital nomad – the freelance lifestyle phenomenon

Digital nomad – the freelance lifestyle phenomenon

A digital nomad is the name given to people who work in the tech industry (broadly conceived, anyone who relies on a laptop for their income– this includes everything from bloggers and programmers to freelance accountants), but hop from country to country, for as long as their patience or visa allows. Digital nomads are typically freelancers or entrepreneurs, who have developed income streams that don’t require a fixed workplace.

Could you do what you do from a Thailand beachfront? Is an internet connection your most vital infrastructure need?

A digital nomad is the name given to people who work in the tech industry (broadly conceived, anyone who relies on a laptop for their income– this includes everything from bloggers and programmers to freelance accountants), but hop from country to country, for as long as their patience or visa allows. Digital nomads are typically freelancers or entrepreneurs, who have developed income streams that don’t require a fixed workplace.

Over the course of a decade or so, a large digital nomad community has developed. A number of websites and forums exist to help these new age nomads find the next city, find the cheapest flights, give travel and productivity advice, share secret spots.

Do you have what it takes?

It takes a very particular kind of person to be able to successfully navigate the nomad lifestyle. Having a set of skills that allows you to make money while travelling is essential. So is being comfortable living away from your family and friends for a long period.

The digital nomad seems to be a temporary way of life for most. Pieter Levels, Dutch founder of the popular digital nomad web service NomadList, recently gave up the lifestyle, citing a need for home, and a tiredness with the loneliness of the nomadic lifestyle.

The ability to work from home is difficult to learn for many who venture into freelance work. This includes making the move to exotic locations, where you’ll need to find time and a space to attend to your income-producing activities while beating away the distractions of your new, temporary home.

The downsides of digital nomadism extend beyond being isolated in a foreign environment. Relying on public wifi can be a security risk. Vulnerable connections are exploitable – the digital nomad would need to take precautions to keep their information and their client’s safe from prying eyes, first among which would be the use of a VPN.

Top spots for the nomads

Some locations seem to attract the digital jet set more than others. Tropical weather and fair to good internet means that Thailand has many locations that have become popular with the digital nomad set, first among them the jungle idyll of Chiang Mai. The exchange rate favours dollar-earning professionals, though South Africans will likely be able to comfortably afford a good lifestyle, if they’re working in a high demand field, like freelance accounting, or web development.

The Canary Islands are another favoured location – the beautiful surroundings are met with excellent bandwidth and plentiful housing options.

In Africa, the top-rated location for digital nomads is Dakar, Senegal, which scores highly in terms of cost, weather, and fun, according to NomadList. South Africa scores lower, due to relatively high costs and relatively slow internet connections.

Until recently, the ability to secure a location for a medium-term stay was difficult – hostels are too chaotic, hotels too expensive, and formal rental contracts subject to onerous regulations. Many nomads now rely on apps like AirBnb, which allow short term rentals for reasonable prices.

The internet is not just a tool for connecting people around the world, but is also connecting people to the world. If you have the discipline, initiative, and drive for adventure, consider becoming a digital nomad – not many have the chance to get paid to travel.