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As More Types of Work Go Online, More Workers Are Going Nomadic
No matter how much you love your job, you probably find yourself occasionally moping as you head into work on a sunny day, wishing you could ditch the office for a mountain top view or a tropical beach. In this little dream of yours, you still work and earn a healthy salary, but you are no longer tied to a single location or a 9-to-5 schedule. Instead, your office is now your laptop, and you're free to travel the world soaking in new, exciting experiences and cultures.
Digital nomadism: living the dream or perpetuating a myth?
For a growing number of people, this flexible approach to work isn't a pipe dream, it's a reality. Digital nomads are all over social media, posting envy-inducing photos from exotic locales, their flip-flop-clad feet propped up on a beach lounger and their MacBooks balancing on their tanned legs. They appear almost universally happy, and many are eager to sell you, often literally, on their lifestyle.
However, while digital nomadism is a most definitely a thing, there is a bit of debate about whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. There's also disagreement about whether it's just a flash-in-the-pan trend or if it's the leading edge of the new norm.
Proponents see it as a solution to much of what ails the post-industrial workforce, including long work hours, limited vacation time and stagnant social mobility, and believe it will only become more popular. However, naysayers point to the sociological downsides of the movement, like its endemic inequality and potential harm to local communities, and think it will largely remain an option for the privileged.The term "digital nomad" was first introduced by Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners in their 1997 book of the same name. They correctly predicted that the growing use of digital devices and the internet would make brick-and-mortar workspaces unnecessary for many workers.
Who are these digital nomads anyways?
As expected, freelance writers, photographers and computer programmers were some of the first to take advantage of this new landscape, leaning into the burgeoning gig economy and floating from assignment to assignment and place to place. However, the digital nomad way of life is increasingly opening up to those with more traditional jobs, including those employed full-time at companies, business owners, doctors and lawyers.
Contrary to popular belief, digital nomads aren't all millennials or members of Gen Z, either. According to Flexjobs, those two demographics account for only 27% of the mobile workforce, while Gen Xers account for 41% and the baby boomer and silent generations account for 32%.
While there have been concerns that this new nomadic lifestyle is very male-centric, statistics show that women are much more likely to embrace the trend, making up a whopping 70% of those currently living the lifestyle. Meanwhile, many more seem eager to at least move in the direction of digital nomadism. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, one-third of U.S.-based workers said they would be open to switching jobs if offered remote work opportunities and a more flexible work schedule.
The world is your office
Those who want to take the leap into digital nomadism have some interesting options to choose from.
The first step for many is either to find a company that lets employees work remotely, or to move into a self-employed, computer-based career. From there, you can test the nomadic waters relatively close to home by working out of coffee shops, public libraries, or from the comfort of your own home.
But for those ready to spread their wings a bit, coworking spaces are proliferating in stunning environments around the world. Some of these businesses also provide social spaces for fellow nomads to hang out and make friends, which can help people feel more connected in a lifestyle that is decentralized and shuns traditional communities.
Bouncing from Bali to Mexico to Portugal and back again is now easier than ever before for thousands of workers. But being a digital nomad definitely isn't for everyone. Critics have rightly noted that many nomads already had access to a comfortable nest egg before they hopped on a plane, and a significant portion of them pad their incomes by selling books and courses on how to pursue the lifestyle.
In addition, some jobs are always going to be tied to specific locations, meaning that remote work will simply never be an option, or even a temptation, for most. However, there is no doubt that the way we look at work is undergoing a genuine sea change, and many jobs that had always been bound to physical office space are suddenly remote-work friendly. From copy-writer to therapist to lawyer, here are 11 modern careers that are becoming increasingly nomadic:
About the authorAlexandra North is an American translator and content marketer living in Germany.
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