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What is a Digital Nomad?

Today my “office” is located in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Melaka, Malaysia. A few days from now, it will be in Singapore. Later in the week, it will be on the island of Borneo. I am a digital nomad and I never get tired of the view from my desk because it is always changing.

You might have heard the term “Digital Nomad” before, but what does it really mean? The basic definition of a digital nomad is someone who utilizes technology (that’s the digital part) in order to make it possible to work wherever they want (that’s the nomad part).

Digital nomad workers can be found in many different careers including writing, graphic design, web design, translation, SEO, marketing and many more. All that a digital nomad needs to earn an income is a laptop and a decent wireless connection. They are free to live anywhere in the world and work while they are traveling by logging in from internet cafes, trains, hotels and even tropical beaches. They make their own hours, so it doesn’t really matter what time zone they are working in.

Niagara Falls, Ontario - In our first year as digital nomads we traveled across Canada
Niagara Falls, Ontario – In our first year as digital nomads we traveled across Canada

Some examples of blogs by digital nomads who are living this lifestyle include SeekNewTravel.com, LegalNomads.com, NeverEndingVoyage.com, and TwentySomethingTravel.com.

Most digital nomads are freelance workers of some type, working for many different clients around the world. Some have their own online start up businesses or make money from selling advertising on their websites. They might also generate income from the sales of Ebooks.

Digital nomads travel in many different ways, some moving through cities quickly and others staying in each location for weeks or months. Some people might have a home that they use as a base and then venture out on trips, while others (like us) might have no home and live full time on the road.

It’s hard to believe, but sometimes traveling full time can be cheaper than it would be to pay rent, bills and shopping while living in one place. Many digital nomads have figured out that if they are earning dollars, euros or pounds and they are traveling in regions such as Southeast Asia or South America, their income goes a lot further. This is why you will see many digital nomads choosing to travel these cheaper countries, as they can either travel frugally and save money or spend the same as they would back home and enjoy a higher standard of living.

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand - A cheap place to be a digital nomad
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand – A cheap place to be a digital nomad

This type of job wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago, but the prevalence of high speed internet and the evolution of small portable laptops has made it possible. As a result, you no longer have to choose between traveling the world and pursuing a career. You also get to enjoy the many other perks of being able to live and travel absolutely anywhere in the world you want and earn a living while you do so! Take a look at all of the amazing adventures that we had in our first year as digital nomads.

Working by the pool in New Orleans
Working by the pool in New Orleans

If you want to make this lifestyle happen for you, read our guide for getting started as a digital nomad. You can also check out the other posts in the Digital Nomad Lifestyle category to learn more about what the location independent life is like. If you have any questions, just let us know.

About Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

11 comments

  1. I really enjoyed this article. It sounds like you are really living your life to the fullest and seeing the world. I can see why being a digital nomad probably isn’t for everyone. A lot of people want a permanent address.
    But it makes sense that traveling full time could save you money on rent and bills. I like the term “location independent”.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences as a digital nomad.

  2. P.S. The top photo with the green mountains is a stunning shot.

  3. This is what I aspire to be! I have settled for too long making a living in crappy retail management jobs and I bought a house because I though I was supposed to. Now that I have given up that career for a freelance career that I love, I think about all the places I would like to see and spend some time.

    We went to Italy last year for 13 days. It was my first trip out of the country. I fell in love with Italy and traveling to new and interesting places. There are so many more places I would like to go, and I hope one day to be able to travel at my discretion while still being able to support myself. Truly inspirational!

  4. It sounds amazing! I would love to try living like digital nomad! But don’t you miss something? I think each digital nomad needs a partner! I would love to see the world but I won’t be that happy if I don’t have anyone that could share these moments with me! I think that if you find another digital nomad it will be the best! And I’m not talking about a boyfriend but just someone to have by your side so it would be more fun!

  5. I think that it would be a great job to a point. I for one like being able to settle down somewhere. However I really do like to travel but not for too long. I guess a digital nomad can make anywhere their home so if you wanted to settle down somewhere for a bit you could.

  6. I’m also a digital nomad, and researching a base in SE Asia for the winter.

    Very important to me is internet quality, I make a lot of serious phone calls so I can’t deal with the connection dropping all the time.

    I will most likely choose Bangkok as I imagine the major cities will have the best internet.

    Here’s a useful resource for assessing the quality of a country’s internet.

    http://www.netindex.com/quality/allcountries/

  7. What a fantastic article! Digital Nomad sounds like a rather exciting thing to do, instead of being tied down to one place. I can understand how it would be a lot cheaper as well…I think I shall look into this further and do some more research. It looks like something that would appeal to me.

  8. It’s good to know that other people are doing this successfully – I’m also a Digital Nomad (software developer), though I only learned what the term meant last week!

    I left London without doing much research and it took me a while to learn that I could work out of hostels and hotels and that I was actually more productive when I worked fewer hours and dedicated more time to enjoying the travel experience. The stimulation leaves me feeling refreshed and I get a lot more done!

    I also have to agree that it’s a much higher standard of living if you’re not the type to settle. My costs are lower, I work part time hours and enjoy myself far more than I ever did in my 9-6 back home.

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