All you need is a laptop, wi-fi and some wanderlust.
30 min read
The last we heard, real estate entrepreneur and writer and filmmaker Heidi Hough was living in a community of foreigners and natives in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Prior to Chiang Mai, she was in Vienna for a few months, and before that, travelled back and forth between Los Angeles and New York City.
Hough is the quintessential digital nomad — someone who lives in different cities and earns a living online — and she makes it work by having multiple income streams. These include managing real estate sublets around the world, directing a documentary film through grant money and freelance writing. She was also, when we learned of her, in the final stages of launching an online life-coaching business.
The reasons for pursuing the digital nomad lifestyle are attractive and numerous. “Besides seeing new places and cultures and having adventures is finding people like myself,” Hough said. “In Chiang Mai, I am never looked at askance for not having a ‘regular job’ or for constantly traveling. It’s always just ‘Where are you from, what do you do, where are you going next?’”
Whatever the motivation is for seeking remote work, the numbers show that this segment of the workforce is on the rise. A March 2019 report from FlexJobs showed the remote workforce, while not exactly synonymous with digital nomadism, had surged almost four-fold in the past decade, from 9 percent of U.S. workers working remotely occasionally in 2007 to 43 percent in 2017. And according to an 2018 Owl Labs report:
- 52 percent of employees around the world worked from home at least once per week.
- 68 percent of global employees worked from home at least once per month.
- 18 percent of employees worked remotely full time.
These work trends speak to people’s growing desire to be free from the confines of a stationary office and life. Over the next decade, it’s predicted that 38 percent of the full-time workforce in the United States will be remote, and there’s a crop of job sites dedicated to serving this shift to remote jobs and those seeking them, such as Remote.co, Remoteok.io, FlexJobs, Working Nomad, Upwork and Outsourcely.
For those serious about becoming a digital nomad, it takes more than just a laptop, wi-fi, country-specific SIM cards and power adapters to make it work. Hough maintains a core discipline: She’s not on vacation. “The main rule of my life is to remain responsible by always having wi-fi access, responding almost immediately,” she says, “and most importantly by far, maintaining strong personal relationships everywhere I go and with everyone I work with to the best of my ability.”
If you’re looking to join the growing tribe of digital nomads, here are 18 slides with ideas to get you started.