The 9-to-5 routine has been a long-held tradition for decades: working in one office, at your own desk, for seven or eight hours, five days per week.
But things are changing. There is a group of people going against this rigid structure. They’re leading the way in a global work initiative, crossing borders and time zones in an attempt to show a successful career doesn’t have to happen at an anchored desk.
Who are they? Digital nomads.
We spoke to some of these wanderlust workers to find out what it’s like to pick yourself up and explore the world, while maintaining a productive business at the same time.
A growing trend
Working as a digital nomad is a relatively recent phenomenon, but it’s becoming popular. With a deep desire to see the world, digital nomads truly work remotely, often moving from country to country on a weekly or monthly basis, and maintaining a successful career along the way.
David Daniel, a business strategy consultant, and Diane Daniel, a photographer and digital designer, of New Nomads say becoming a digital nomad allowed them to explore the world their own way.
“While some people save up their time and money to travel for brief periods during the year, we have the ability to do so full time,” says David.
Diane added: “we slow travel, so we’re able to spend several weeks or months in a location and get to experience it more as a local than a tourist.”
Advances in technology have allowed for increased and widespread connectivity to the internet. This means those with a real passion for travel can be almost anywhere in the world and maintain contact with their employer or clients, so they can earn money and explore the globe at the same time.
Where in the world?
Having ripped up the rules, where in the world are the digital nomads visiting? According to Twitter and Instagram data found using Crimson Hexagon, the United States of America has the biggest appeal, particularly California, Florida and New York.
The UK and Australia are also top destinations for digital nomads, perhaps because of the infrastructure these destinations can offer. Diane and David highlight the importance of connectivity.
“There are countries and locations that we would like to visit that do not have the infrastructure for us to be able to perform at full capacity,” they explain, “so we generally have to give them a pass.”
Tomas Laurinaricius, a blogger and entrepreneur, confirms there are drawbacks of travelling to certain areas.
He tells us: “Sometimes it’s a challenge to cope with lower hygiene standards, the language barrier and poor Wi-Fi.”
Of course, travel is about getting out of your comfort zone, and a number of non-English speaking countries have proven popular with digital nomads.
Thailand, Spain and Indonesia came out on top according to the Twitter and Instagram data, which is hardly surprising, considering the paradise that awaits travellers.
The pros and cons of the nomad life
Being able to travel to diverse parts of the world is appealing to many, but is the digital nomad way of life set to replace the 9-to-5 for good?
Professional blogger Ryan Biddulph is a passionate believer in the road-based way of working.
“Being a digital nomad is a fun, freeing and fulfilling lifestyle,” he says. “If that isn’t enough ‘F’ words for you, this life can be financially rewarding, too.
“You’ll learn how to see the world from a bunch of different perspectives, you’ll suspend judgement more easily and you’ll appreciate both similarities and differences of certain cultures, in relation to your own. I see being a digital nomad as an ideal way to grow, to expand and to dive into life head first.”
Laura Bronner of Eternal Expat also reaps the benefits of the nomad life, saying she loves being able to work from anywhere in the world, that her time is entirely her own, and that she can choose to work at any time of day.
“I know that my earning potential isn’t capped, and that I truly have all the power to increase it… which wasn’t the case in any of my previous jobs,” she reveals. “I get to do all this while doing work that I truly love, and have the opportunity to help other people do the same.”
The digital nomad life offers you the opportunity to be your own boss while travelling the world, which seems like a win-win situation. But there are some drawbacks to be aware of.
There are difficulties of travelling so frequently, confirms blogger Ryan.
“The only con I’ve experienced is the ‘nomad’ part of the phrase. I love travelling, but feel a bit sad each time I leave behind friends I’ve made, animals I’ve grown attached to and magical places I’ve spent time in.”
Laura agrees cutting ties every few months is a downside.
“Moving around constantly means you don’t make truly long lasting connections with people in the same way that you would if you lived somewhere for an extended period of time.”
Could you live the nomad life?
If a life spent on the road sounds like something you’d like to try, consider starting out in one destination and see how you manage the out-of-office lifestyle. Laura points out to us how difficult it can sometimes be to be self-motivated, so a deep desire to work as well as travel is essential.
You also need to learn how to live with very few possessions. Your laptop and communication software is by far the most important thing you own, and having little else can be freeing. According to Tomas: “I appreciate everything, I own almost nothing and feel richer than ever.”
Researching your destination before you travel to any destination is essential, particularly in regards to connectivity and infrastructure. Wi-Fi is absolutely necessary on an almost 24-hour basis; clients are likely to be living in different time zones, so you must be able to connect with them during their working hours.
But of course, the most important thing about being a digital nomad is to enjoy the experience. The chance to travel the world, and continue to have a career and earn money is an exciting opportunity. All of the digital nomads we spoke to explained how they’ve grown personally and professionally, and are living better lives than they could have ever imagined.