The concept is far from new, but it’s taking a new dimension for since mid 2010s. People want to get away from “big cities”, be “free”, “experience” more, etc. And with the Uberisation (e.g. AirBNB for the accommodation), it has never been easier to jump into the unknown. Who wants to only start traveling when they are 60yo+? In my case, I’ll probably be in a chair watching weird content through a virtual reality device (or whatever improvement we got!); or just maybe live in a “tiny house” deep inside the forest to avoid what civilisation became, who knows. There is no age to start this kind of life, but it’s definitely easier when you’re “young”, or let’s say without “obligations” (aka: limitations you created, or limitations you feel obligated to).

This article is merely an introduction to the concept of being location independent, global nomad, or said with a more flashy and marketing term, “digital nomad”. I’ll discuss some aspects of this lifestyle with more depth in separated articles. But for now, let’s get started.

1. Who is a location independent person?

A location independent person is less attached to geographic locations, goods and dominant norms (than others).

Here are some characteristics:

  • 🌍 You can go wherever you want (subject to your passport); but it doesn’t mean you have to.
  • 🎒 You don’t mind owning little physical items, minimalism is a trending term.
  • 🍃 You don’t have to plan too much ahead, you enjoy every moment and decide on a whim.
  • 🍨 You must be flexible: life is like ice cream.
  • 📐 You behave depending on your host country’s rules, and you won’t feel like a tourist.
  • 🌀 You shall meet great people, while having some loneliness periods too.
  • 🐣 You have to earn money like everyone, as it isn’t produced by rising chickens.
  • 🏖 You can avoid the low temperatures all the year.
  • 🏕️ You tend to live experiences instead of buying and owning goods.
  • 🎣 Last but not least, catching all the Pokemons will be your life goal (mid-2016 trend, at least).

2. Most Common Prejudices

Let’s quickly demystify the most common prejudices.

Must be costly?
Definitely depends on where you go / live, and the kind of lifestyle you look for. I met all the kinds of nomads, most live a very simple life. Only a few have outstanding / outrageous habits. If you currently reside in a “rich country”, it should be cheaper. If you’re well organized, accommodation could be only 200-400€ per month by renting a room in a nice flat. But again, it vastly depends on your criteria. The subject is worth several posts!

Only for single people!!?
Statistically yes, as most of the nomads are “young” people. However the pioneers in being location independent are already quite “old” (35/40+). Plus a significant portion has children (and continue traveling). Note that you may travel alone, but you don’t have to be lonely on a daily basis.

It must be tiring to change location so often?
Most people choose to “slow travel”, meaning you stay at least 1-3 months at a location. One month is the bare minimum if you don’t want to burn (yourself) too quickly, 2-3 is a good average. More than 6 months, and you could take roots! On the opposite, some people like to “fast travel” by moving every week (but not necessarily by changing of country).

I don’t like to travel, so it’s not for me…
And it’s fine! We don’t all feel the need to [travel]. You could start in your country, or even in your own city.
The point isn’t to travel, but to have the possibility to.

3. The good and the bad

I became location independent at a moment in life I needed to be outside of my comfort zone. While I didn’t expect anything from this experience, I thought it couldn’t hurt to verify and try it. As living in France (so with a good passport) and being a software engineer (easier to find a remote job), the entry difficulty was very low compared to the average. So after some time preparing the transition (dropping my flat and becoming freelance), I eventualy started and went abroad.

While I won’t share the specifics of my experience, here are some insights about what you can expect. And as it’s based on my personal point of view, there is definitely some biais.

You get more time for yourself.
Less commute and less responsibilities should result in more time!

  • Less commute between work and home (if you chose the accommodation carefully), and even less if you work at home (but I don’t recommend as it’s good to see people on a daily basis).
  • Less responsabilities (less recurrent bills, less cleaning as you have a small bag, etc).

It helps to define your priorities.
Because you have more time, you experience and think more. It’ll disrupt your habits, give you some perspective.
But it’s not necessarily a positive experience; we all don’t react the same with too much time in our hands. You either know how to spend it wisely, or you fall into a bad form of procrastination.

Normal life feels odd.
Whenever you come back “home”, it’s hard to understand why some many people accept the standard life that society imposes us by default. You may feel lost, not really knowing what your next step should be. That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with other nomad, even when you’re back.

…so, is it worth it?

You’re the only one who can answer the question. Most people find enough joy in a normal life (9-to-5 job, or the daily routine), and take vacation twice a year to achieve personal desires and rest (by traveling, most of the time).

While it’s the standard in current society, that’s not necessarily the only way to live your life. If you have the opportunity to give it a try, then you definitely should give it some thoughts! No need to plan for a 1 year excursion, a few weeks / months would be enough for the taste.

Alternatives exist. But most require you to be economically independent, even if it doesn’t mean to be wealthy.

4. It should be a choice, for the current and future society

The subject is quite vast, so I’m just going to summarize a few thoughts.

It’s obvious, living as a location independent person should be a choice, and not an obligation due to (geo)economic reasons. Between wars and poverty, a lot of people are forced into this. As a result, the digital nomad trend could be seen as a wealthy behavior, and should not be in hot / priority discussion topics.

However being location independent is much more than traveling. As mentioned, it helps to:

  • Be minimalist (experiencing instead of owning / consuming, buying only what you really need, etc).
  • Iterate / confront your view of the world. There is no better way to challenge your opinion than by speaking to different people (outside your usual bubble).
  • Give you some peace of mind. It was proven that being (physically) far from your “problems” helps in recovering emotionaly.
  • Challenge yourself and push your adaptational limits.

Technical progress (like AI) and climate change are changing the world fast. We have to reinvent our life, starting from our daily activity to our accomodation. Whether you like it or not, you may have to adapt sooner than expected. Some years ago, we could think “it’ll hit by the time of our children or grandchildren”. As of today, it’s probably a matter of years.

While the human being has a great capacity for adaptation, we aren’t equal in the confrontation.