That Digital Nomad Life
So what is being a digital nomad?
With the rise in social media, new technologies as well as cheap travel - we are seeing a rise in people travelling internationally for work. The new age of people describing them as 'digital nomads' are truly here.
The term 'digital nomad' is used for those individuals who work internationally not chained to any specific location. Digital nomads use technology to perform their job and often work remotely rather than being present in a headquarter or office.
By some estimates, the number of digital nomads should top one billion. Stephane Kasriel, Chief Executive at Upwork, the global freelancing platform stated that “…remote work has gone mainstream". Remote working has become the new norm for a lot of millennials and provides a number of opportunities for both individuals and countries - in terms of attracting the best and brightest.
so how does it work? is it even legal?
One of the largest obstacles for borderless folk - or digital nomads - is the bureaucracy surrounding their respective employment. Even though more than ever before people are choosing a form of employment which is location independent, in reality, the policy hasn't caught up. That is - the policy framework in a lot of countries do not actually recognise this kind of employment.
So what does this mean? To work in a country that you do not have citizenship in required a work permit. Work permits are typically available if you have an employer within the location you would intend to move to. Often digital nomads use a tourist visa to enter a country and 'work' on the said visa. Yet, this can be a tricky choice, as, within the eyes of the law, this would be considered acting as an illegal worker.
Estonia is one country which understands the need to revolutionize visas for the modern workforce. Estonia is introducing a new Digital Nomad Visa in early 2019. Killu Vantsi, adviser at the Citizenship and Migration Policy Department of the Ministry of the Interior in Estonia, would bring 1,400 people every year to the country. This opportunity allows young entrepreneurs who temporarily live in Estonia to have the right to reside in the country a whole year and be entitled to a Schengen visa.
How is this different from travelling?
The idea of travelling has changed significantly. Nowadays everyone who travels seeks to be a local - even if it is for only a temporary period. In turn, when you work as a digital nomad your time really isn’t your own (at least this is what I found!) if you are trying to get your business off the ground, or are working for a company that has a different time zone from where you are based.
I originally got into working as a digital nomad, incorporating digital opportunities and skills in my portfolio in early 2009 whilst based in Seoul. Rather than simply ‘travel’, I wanted to also further my career at the same time. I developed my digital skills - in journalism, data analysis, digital marketing and the like and ended up living abroad for 5+ years in Asia, the Middle East and South East Europe.
Being a digital nomad has a lot of opportunities and suits a variety of people - but it isn’t for everyone. I also learnt a couple of years in, that as humans we are not meant to be so mobile for super long periods of time. It can often be tricky as this choice of lifestyle as a digital nomad can put a strain on relationships. Luckily I often headed back to London every six-months to re-establish my network and see family - but this isn’t the case for all digital nomads.
How do you work ‘remotely’ and ultimately be productive?
Working remotely is a skill you develop over time and can be lonely. Some digital nomads choose to work from co-working spaces which act as hubs of productivity and community that offers a unique network and can offer new opportunities. For others, it is the perfect lifestyle balance as you would be able to control and set your schedule when works best for you.
In my experience, productivity is really all in the mind. As I mentioned before, the typical ‘9-5 schedule’ no longer applies and your time is no longer your own. I found that having clear boundaries establish for yourself works wonderfully for productivity levels - this is also true for blocking out time slots in your calendar for when you know you work best. In my case, my peak time of being productive is early in the morning and late in the evening. If possible, try to organise your days around when your natural clock sits.
The beauty of being a digital nomad is working from anywhere in any environment, but we all have places we prefer, right? Levels of productivity can increase or decrease depending on the location you work from. Everyone is different, so each person’s ideal working place and style is unique. I am an extrovert by nature and I get really motivated by the energy of people coming and going. As such, you would often find me in coffee shops when I was working remotely (though this habit has really died hard!), but this is distracting for other people. Ultimately it is important in being an effective digital nomad to have a clear workspace, as to easier get into ‘work mode’.
So what are your experiences with being locationally independent? Have you ever worked remotely abroad, or perhaps just remotely? Comment below!