Thanks to the widespread availability of high-speed Internet access, millions of Americans participate in a lifestyle that would have been impossible just a few years ago. So-called “digital nomads” make a living online, as their work requires only a computer and an internet connection, allowing them to travel for extended periods of time while supporting themselves financially. Although the lifestyle is certainly not for everyone, it is growing in popularity, as it becomes possible to do more work from a virtual office and people seek to reconcile their desires to travel the country, or indeed even the world, with the reality of having to work. According to MBO Partners, 7.3 million Americans described themselves as digital nomads in 2019, which is 2.5 million more people than the previous year. As time goes on, employers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of hiring remote workers, and technological advancements have vastly improved the efficiency with which remote work can be performed.
As these trends are likely to continue, the digital nomad lifestyle is all but certain to keep growing in popularity, as this unique way of living allows for a degree of freedom that most Americans can only dream of. More than half of digital nomads are millennials, and most are male, though all genders and age groups participate in the lifestyle to some extent. One of the advantages of the digital nomad lifestyle is the flexibility it affords. Accordingly, digital nomads differ greatly in income, as some work part-time while others work full-time, and the type of work digital nomads do varies in earning potential. One distinct advantage of the digital nomad lifestyle is the money-saving opportunities it enables; while most of us think of travel as an expensive luxury, digital nomads can keep costs down by living in areas with a low cost of living while working for customers in high-wage labor markets, in a practice called “geoarbitrage.” In this way, digital nomads can spend less time working than they otherwise would have to, allowing them to greater immerse themselves in the environments they come across in their travels.
Given the opportunities for adventure and money-saving the lifestyle provides, it’s no wonder why almost 4 out of 5 digital nomads report being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their work and income. To better accommodate the millions of people who choose to live as digital nomads, an entire industry has sprung up to offer products and services to this unique demographic. This includes companies like Roam and Hubud, which provide working and living spaces that cater specifically to digital nomads, offering temporary housing, a professional environment to work in, and an opportunity to network with a local community of like-minded individuals. Additionally, online services and marketplaces make it easier for digital nomads to find work, and tour services designed specifically around the digital nomad lifestyle have emerged to help people work and explore without worrying too much about the logistics.
While the digital nomad lifestyle is attractive to a large number of people, it’s not a realistic option for most. For one, if you are married or have kids, it can be impossible to manage participating in family obligations with a nomadic lifestyle. Additionally, the type of work that can be performed remotely tends to be high-skilled, intellectual labor, making the lifestyle difficult to adopt for people who don’t have a college degree or other specialized training. That being said, the lifestyle can be appealing to young people, who are not yet tied down with obligations, and older people, whose children are adults and who wish to continue working past retirement age while seeing the world.