Digital Nomad Lifestyle: Does it Live up to the Hype?
Mon, 26 Feb 2018 || By Tara Arani

Being a digital nomad might sound like a dream job for those who long for freedom and the control over routines, as well as those who continuously seek new challenges. By having a job that is flexible, without the obligation of certain clocking hours and being physically present at the office, digital nomads can work anywhere. Such flexibility offered by this occupation/lifestyle attracts many job seekers, in fact. Currently, working from outside of the office with solely using internet connection has been the choice of more than 140.000 Dell workers, and this number is projected to keep on increasing in 2020. [i] This nomadic lifestyle is also branded as a new ideal alternative that is relatively more attractive compared to a ‘settled’ lifestyle. This lifestyle is seen as more fun and more satisfying than working at the office, with the balance of work-fun life being the major push.[ii] Looking at how fast the trend has revolutionized in the past years, the discussions on digital nomads are very much needed to give an alternative perspective on the real life of a digital nomad: is it really a better life?   

Generally, the trend of a digital nomad is strongly related to the digital disruption proposed by new technologies, gadgets, and internet in our daily life. Such intervention significantly transforms the way people mobilize their life, with a faster pace being very normal among the middle class. The mobility is understood to be more than just moving from one place to others, as it also includes the possessions of virtual existence in the digital space. By the end of the 20th century, Makimoto and Manners had predicted that the technology would play central roles in shaping the new era of nomads.[iii] The ease in moving to different places as well as the very existence of internet are the main factors behind this new era, and they eventually create the digital nomads that are distinct from the traditional nomads, migrants, or tourists with their dynamic lifestyle. This lifestyle combines the elements of travelling (usually for vacation purposes) and working, relying on gadgets and internet connections.[iv] Several popular occupations for these nomads include social media management, graphic designers, online instructors, and other jobs supported by the internet. [v]

Besides technology, the trend of a digital nomad is supported by companies who are taking advantages from this trend, especially the life of off-office works, cheaper travel costs, as well as the increasing interests in travelling of the millennials – who are also the new workforce.[1] Working from outside of the office is claimed to be increasing productivity and give workers more freedom in arranging routines since they are free to socialize and take care of their pace to avoid boredoms.[vi] Besides, the millennials tend to treat experience to be more precious than material achievements, hence making travelling a lifestyle beyond vacation.[vii] So, more companies are pushing airlines, like Air France and JetStar to target their market more to the millennials by providing more options on cheap flights.[viii] Looking at these factors, digital nomad may seem to be a promising trend.     

However, this nomadic life does not support the aspects offered by a settled life, especially strong social bond and ease of access owned by citizens. The moves of freelance workers from one country to another place put ones in a fragile situation especially if they encounter accidents or serious illness. In some places like Taiwan, digital nomads who are also tourists often face difficulties in obtaining health insurance, because this facility only applies to citizens who have work permits. Even nomads who own companies need to wait for months before they can obtain insurance since more thorough examinations are to take place.[ix] Besides, being an expat, in general, can potentially put some in serious mental pressure, as they often feel isolated by working in a different environment with new and different cultures and languages. [x] An adaptation with a different culture might trigger stress, since the brain will focus on learning new things and re-arranging new customs, thus resulting in psychological stress. [xi] Moreover, difficulties in forging relations might make someone feel ‘lost.’

These findings are obviously contradictory to the general opinions on the life of a digital nomad who perceives this dynamic lifestyle better than the dynamics of a settled life. In reality, being a digital nomad brings many challenges to solve. Just as a settled life could not offer the advantages and experiences of nomad life, the later also could not offer any significant difference that is only possessed by citizens who have a settled life.

Editors: Atin Prabandari, MA(IR) & Nabeel Khawarizmy Muna, S.IP

 

Picture: Pixabay

 

[1] A causal relationship between these three is not yet discovered. However, these three are central in supporting the trend of digital nomads.

 

[i]Mohn, T. (2018). The Digital Nomad Life: Combining Work and Travel. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/03/business/digital-nomads-work-tourism.html [Accessed 26 Jan. 2018].

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Makimoto, T., & Manners, D. (1997). Digital nomad. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

[iv] Sørensen, C. (2002). Digital nomads and mobile services. Retrieved from http://mobility.is.lse.ac.uk/download/ Sorensen2002c.pdf

[v] Morad, R. (2018). Forbes Welcome. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/reneemorad/2017/10/31/15-top-jobs-for-digital-nomads/#6ef5b944644d [Accessed 26 Jan. 2018].

[vi] Middleton, F. (2018). 10 reasons why you should work from home. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/connecting-britain/remote-working-benefits/ [Accessed 26 Jan. 2018].

[vii]  Palmer, T. (2016). Wanderlust or Bust: Debunking the myths of millennials’ influence on tourism. [ebook] pp.1-2. Available at: https://www.ibisworld.com/media/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/millennials-and-travel-spotlight.pdf [Accessed 26 Jan. 2018].

[viii] Leo, D. (2018). Airlines target millennials with lifestyle branding. [online] TODAYonline. Available at: https://www.todayonline.com/commentary/airlines-target-millennials-lifestyle-branding [Accessed 26 Jan. 2018].

[ix] Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (2018). Nomads of the Digital Age - Taiwan Today. [online] Taiwan Today. Available at: http://taiwantoday.tw/news.php?unit=12,26,33&post=23767 [Accessed 26 Jan. 2018].

[x] Telegraph.co.uk. (2018). Lost, lonely and miles from home. [online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/3343310/Lost-lonely-and-miles-from-home.html [Accessed 26 Jan. 2018].

[xi] Shaules, J. (2018). Are you struggling with expat culture shock?. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/before-you-go/11553062/Are-you-struggling-with-expat-culture-shock.html [Accessed 26 Jan. 2018].