What drives people to become (digital) nomads?

Why do nomads leave home and hearth? Many outside the nomad community will probably think, “Well, that’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? Working remotely on a sunny beach in an exotic place!”, but there is much more to it. After many deep-dive interviews with digital nomads (in Portugal) and academic research, I’ve boiled it down to three stages. Perhaps it will help you to finally take the plunge and go for it!

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Why leave?

The number one reason for leaving the place of origin for digital nomads, is a loss of work-life balance. This was the case for many of the digital nomads I’ve met. Perhaps you recognize this? Working crazy hours, insane commutes and still not making enough money to live in a vibrant city center. Perhaps you have crashed into a burnout, or feel like you are not living up to your full potential, because you’re wading through large amounts of bureaucracy. Whatever the cause, balance is lost. This makes people wonder why they even want to remain in this hamster wheel of a lifestyle. This realization is the first push that drives them towards the nomad lifestyle.

What pulls a nomad into the lifestyle?

A beautiful location isn’t the only thing that attracts a true digital nomad. It’s also finding  purpose and a sense of belonging. Most digital nomads I interviewed say the community is essential. What is the value of experiencing something beautiful, if you can’t share it with  like-minded people? The digital nomad community is the very reason why digital nomads move to specific areas in the world. Digital nomad communities worldwide consist of people who enjoy deep conversations, find ways to learn about themselves, their work and the world, better themselves, and want to give back to the local community.

There is a side note though; when a favorite nomad location, like Bali, Lisbon or Medellin for instance, becomes too flooded with digital nomads, this could be a driver of unwanted gentrification for the local community, which would cause housing costs to rise to a point where locals can’t afford to live there anymore. When you switch to the nomad lifestyle, it is good to be aware of unintended consequences.

What is keeping you from becoming a nomad?

Once you have decided the rat-race city is not the place for you, and you’ve found a place where you want to go, it is time to deal with some common obstacles you may encounter. The number one obstacle for most digital nomads is how to make money independent of location. Having previous work experience makes this obstacle much easier to overcome. When you’ve been around the corporate block, you know how it works, and it makes it easier to understand where and how money is made.

Another option is, -pause for dramatic effect- passive income. Passive income is income derived from earnings in which an individual is no longer involved. Passive income is not easy to come by, especially when you’re just getting started. However, since that 4-hour workweek (Hello, Tim Ferriss!) sounds attractive to all of us, passive income is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Are you considering becoming a digital nomad? Here is some excellent reading, to help you prepare: Digital Nomads, In Search of Freedom, Community, and Meaningful Work in the New Economy, by Rachael A. Woldoff and Robert Litchfield.

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