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“Digital Nomads” — Location Independents

David Mahoney of Behance Scotland shares an insight, discussing digital nomadism.

Through the 99U’s quarterly magazine I stumbled across their feature on location independents other wise known as ‘Digital Nomads’. Individuals living and working in a wide range of countries remotely jetting between wifi hotspots, cafes and co-working spaces across the globe. Websites such as Nomadlist offer desirable rates at your finger tips to locations in Europe to Asian the temptation of relocating abroad may seem like paradise but is it?

The popular website Nomadlist describes the nomad as “individuals that leverage technology in order to work remotely and live an independent and nomadic lifestyle.” The website lists cities worldwide against a criteria for getting a health work life balance, some of the criteria are as follows: monthly cost of living, internet speeds and co-working space costs and through the service allows you to book the whole trip away from accommodation and flights.


Firstly, the nomad culture reminded me of an article that circulated a while back in 2013 about a blogger Sam Cookney who was picked up by the Huffington Post for estimating that the current cost of living in London in 2013 was around £ £1,732 and that it would be cheaper to live in Barcelona (£640) and commute all the way to London everyday! Secondly, when we look at the shift of work from the end of the industrial age to something far different, which according to Seth Godin has seen the shift of people treating work as a lifestyle rather than a vocation. It is perhaps these two factors that may have motivated people to trade in their desk jobs for a beach resort and a laptop.

When looking at Nomadlist, it is interesting to see the largest proportion of nomads are working as programmers and a large amount traveling to Asia. With a quick search it appears that one of the most popular destination for the nomad is Chaing Mai, Thailand. Favoured for its monthly cost living around $641 and fast WiFi around 30mb. Other desirable qualities include the killer conversion rate between Dollar to Baht, large American community with its annual Digital Nomad Summit and well established tourism infrastructure. Chaing Mai is increasingly becoming a haven for those location independent seeking a lifestyle at a percentage of that living in many American cities.

Besides the great advantages what might be the disadvantages to living this nomadic lifestyle? According to Upwork’s Ally Basak Russell (previously Odesk) in an interview with Forbes she explains that this issues she has faced when traveling include, “a consistent high-speed Internet connection. Even in London, you’d be surprised how frequently my connection goes down. Video calls are crucial to be able to read people’s faces and body language during meetings. Without video calls, I feel much more isolated. I have also racked up a lot of foreign transaction fees at ATMs. Getting a local bank account in many countries is a nightmare.”


Improvements in technology has also catalysed this trend in traveling and working abroad more common place than it was 10 years ago. Devices that are far more connected, web services and tools for data storage and file sharing, the improving nature of financial services, and tools which have sliced the bureaucracy which travel and living abroad used to bring. The digital nomad culture is not going unnoticed, large companies such as Google now providing more co-working and location independent positions and more countries promoting exchange programs such as in my city of Edinburgh to facilitate cross continental relationships and business.

I admit this is a very second hand view of the subject of the digital nomad culture therefore I have arranged some time away this summer to do some traveling / light work away from home to then return to revisit this topic. I have booked Barcelona for over a week and a plan to head back out the states later this year to visit friends in New York and Philadelphia. I know this isn’t the full relocation aboard like many brave adventures but I wish to embrace my inner nomad by making time to travel, experience cultures and meet new people, and if possible, work.

Find out more about David Mahoney here. Follow him on Linkedin / idmahoney Twitter / @davidmahoney

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