What is a digital nomad?

Digital nomads, nomadism, remote working, distributed teams, freelancing, entrepreneurs…. It’s difficult to really understand all those words! So really, what the f*ck is a digital nomad? Let’s begin by the definition of those different words!

Digital nomad, remote, freelancer…?

  • Remote working or telecommuting means not working from your company office but from home, a coffee shop, a coworking place… using the internet to work remotely. Some people are permanent remote workers while some others are working remotely only a few days in the month or 2 days a week etc.
  • A distributed team means that the people on that team or company are working together but are not physically near each other. For example, some might be working from home (but not necessarily) and others might just be working from different offices that the company has around the world.
  • Distributed companies are companies without offices (or mostly) and all their employees are remote workers.
  • Doing freelancing work is being self-employed (in other words, you are an entrepreneur) and working on demand without being committed to a particular employer. Most of the time you have several customers (employers). As a freelancer, you can work in the same places as remote workers: home, coworking, coffee shops etc.
  • Entrepreneurship is when you create a company — any kind of company. An entrepreneur is not necessarily a startupper. An entrepreneur can work remotely or not, can be a freelancer or not.
  • Living the nomadism way of life is not being attached to one place to live. You might be an explorer, a permanent traveler, a globetrotter… There are also semi-nomad people and occasional nomads.
  • Digital nomadism is using the internet as a tool to work while being a nomad. So a digital nomad can either be a remote worker, working in a distributed team or company, a freelancer-entrepreneur or a “mere” entrepreneur.

So now that you see the difference between those profiles, let’s go deeper than that: what is a digital nomad?

The digital nomads

The stereotype about what is a digital nomad is often someone working from a paradise beach.

digital nomad long term travel

But it’s so much more than that! Yes, there are digital nomads working from the beach. But most of the time they will not — or not all the time. Many of them are simply working from coffee shops, slow coffees, coworking spaces or coliving (housing + coworking) spaces around the world.

It is not as easy as it looks and many people are disillusioned as you have many new problematics: where to sleep? Where to work? How to meet people? Is the wifi good? Is the country or the place safe? How to handle traveling and working at the same time?… You can find a lot of articles about that on the web. Fortunately, there are also many people enjoying it and doing it for several years.

Digital nomadism is a trendy way of life but it is not so new. There were digital nomads back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s with the apparition of the Internet. Actually, the first digital nomad was Steve Roberts in 1983 who was traveling on his bike across America while working. It began to interest economists in the same period as The Economist had noticed:

In the 1980’s Jacques Attali, a French economist who was advising president François Mitterrand at the time, used the term to predict an age when rich and uprooted elites would jet around the world in search of fun and opportunity, and poor but equally uprooted workers would migrate in search of a living.

But the term “digital nomad” was invented by Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners with their book Digital Nomad.

Many nomads are going to southeast Asia or south America as they have a cheaper cost of life there. But you can find them all around the world. There are also different kinds of digital nomads like permanent or temporary or people with a semi-nomadic lifestyle… We will talk about it in our next article!

Co-founder and explorer @ NewWaves.io
I am also doing small freelancing missions mostly in web design, front-end and marketing.

Alexandre du Sordet

Co-founder and explorer @ NewWaves.io I am also doing small freelancing missions mostly in web design, front-end and marketing.

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