The confluence of digital technology and the global pandemic has changed the world of work forever. Enforced working from home has made business question the need for expensive office space and once the need to physically control the whereabouts of workers is relinquished, it transpires that ‘remote workers’ are actually more productive than office-based ones.
The term ‘digital nomad’ has been around since 1997 but it is only in recent years that the trickle has turned into a deluge. In 2018 there were 4.8 million American digital nomads, by 2020 that number had risen to 10.9 million. The key attraction is of course that you can travel while continuing to build a career, plus the fact that you will probably have to work far fewer hours if you are working from a location where the cost of living is low. Goodbye mortgage, goodbye household bills, goodbye car maintenance and the daily commute, hello freedom and spontaneity.
So, can anyone do it? In theory the answer is yes, but only once you’ve established the skills which will earn you an online income. Computer programmers and engineers are obviously well placed to exploit their skill set in a nomadic fashion, but so are entrepreneurs and creatives: around 33% of digital nomads run their own business. The cornerstone on which to build success as a digital nomad is the extent to which you have established your income steams before you set off. In addition to creating a secure, diverse client base, you also need to prepare a financial cushion, just in case things don’t go as planned. You should think in terms of always having six months expenses in your account.
You can also make your life a lot easier by heading for a location which welcomes digital nomads and new territories are opening up all the time as governments catch on to the benefits that skilled digital nomads can bring to their economy. Incentives may include tax breaks, special ‘digital nomad visas’ and the provision of special co-working spaces which provide high speed internet and the opportunity to network. You’ll also be looking for a location which is a beautiful place to be and ideally with a low cost of living. The European destination which has become a digital nomad hotspot is Lisbon: 300 days of sunshine, proximity to some of the best beaches in the world and one of the lowest costs of living in Europe. What’s not to like? Unfortunately, the popularity of this beautiful coastal capital has pushed up property prices so why not try the island of Madeira instead. The island has even established a digital nomad village, Ponto do Sol, which is just a short drive from the capital, Funchal. The village offers free workspace and Wi-Fi to nomads who commit to a month or more and accommodation prices on the island are much lower than Lisbon. You may not have the beaches of the Algarve, but Madeira has unique, spectacular landscapes all of its own.