Knowledge Travels

Could you Be a Digital Nomad?

Could you Be a Digital Nomad?
Rene Swart
January 30, 2024
The Covid pandemic had an affect on societies and families across the globe, it brought unimaginable tragedy to millions and changed the way many of us perceive ourselves and the systems that we rely upon. It held mirrors up to governments, businesses and the global supply chain, it challenged our perception of truth and made us question sources of information. It also transformed the world of work.
It forced the world to dramatically reimagine deeply entrenched norms about what working should be and opened our eyes to the possibilities of what could be. Having had a taste of remote work, the conventional, 9-5 full-time, office-based rat race is something many workers are no longer feeling obligeda to accept. People are pushing the boundaries between their personal and professional goals more than ever before, seeking increased freedom, autonomy and work/life balance. Becoming a digital nomad is one example of an aspirational lifestyle which may have previously seemed reserved for a select few but is now a more accessible, real possibility for many. Could you become a digital nomad and escape the daily grind? Is it all it’s cracked up to be?
  1. Who is a Digital Nomad?
  2. What fields do they work in?
  3. Where are the best places to go?
  4. The Time is now
  5. The Dream versus the Reality of Digital Nomadism
  6. How Learning and Digital Nomadism Connect
  7. Conclusion
  8. References
Could you Be a Digital Nomad?

Who is a Digital Nomad?

While remote work is now mainstream, digital nomads are a specific kind of remote worker identified by their mobility and lack of a singular working location or home base.
These location-independent workers rely on technology to be able to take their work with them as they travel the world (Hannonen, 2020). They remain distinct from business travellers in that they self-initiate their travel and from expatriates in that they have no intention of settling in a new location longer-term (Cook, 2023).

While you might assume that the typical digital nomad is a young, single male freelancer or tech entrepreneur, this is largely a stereotype and the population is increasingly diversifying. It may surprise you to learn that, according to a recent survey by FlexJobs, a typical digital nomad is quite likely to be a married, female Gen X-er  working in writing, education or training. While entrepreneurs and freelancers do make up significant proportions of the digital nomad population, the fastest growing segment since the pandemic is salaried workers. A 2023 study by MBO revealed that the number of salaried digital nomads doubled in 2020 and increased 42% in 2021.

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What fields do they work in?

Widespread self-isolation and work from home policies during COVID lockdowns necessitated that we discover just how many roles could be performed remotely. This reflects in the wide range of jobs performed by digital nomads, well beyond the stereotypes of travel blogging, internet-based start-ups and tech roles.  The top 10 fields for digital nomads according to the Flexjobs survey are:
  1. Writing
  2. Education & Training
  3. Administrative
  4. Customer Service
  5. Art & Creative
  6. Computer & It
  7. Consulting
  8. Data Entry
  9. Marketing
  10. Marketing Management

Where are the best places to go?

NomadList provides a filterable ranking of digital nomad destinations based on a holistic set of criteria ranging from overall cost of living, safety and quality of life scores, to internet connection speed and availability of free WiFi, to air quality and weather, LGBTQ+ and female friendliness, among many others. Their current top 10 destinations are:
  • Kho Pha Ngan, Thailand
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Austin, Texas, U.S
  • Madeira, Portugal
  • Timisoara, Romania
  • Lagos, Algarve, Portugal
  • Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
  • Da Nang, Vietnam
  • Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain
Could you Be a Digital Nomad?

The Time is now

For some, working from home during the pandemic allowed for dreams of a future of remote work in exotic locations (often with lower living costs) once international travel opened up (Cook, 2023). With the pandemic acting as a tipping point which has dramatically accelerated changes in where and how we work, the current landscape of the world of work provides the ideal conditions for becoming a digital nomad for several additional reasons:
Could you Be a Digital Nomad?

Shifts in organisational policy: Post-pandemic, the policies of many companies have embraced the wins in productivity, employee wellbeing and reduced overhead costs offered by remote work and changed to accept long-term hybrid and remote models, including large international companies like PayPal, Facebook, Google and Siemens. Although not all companies have embraced the “Remotopia”, a report by McKinsey estimates that remote work has increased four or five times since before the pandemic struck.

Increased location accessibility: Governments around the world are opening up their countries to digital nomads. Destinations including Estonia, Thailand, Georgia, Bermuda, and Barbados, for example, offer specific digital nomad visas, while Madeira has created a designated digital nomad village to attract these workers to their island (Borrett, 2021).

The gig economy: According to the World Economic Forum, freelancing and project-based work has undergone significant normalisation as companies and individuals realise the advantages they hold for agility and flexibility. We also have more tools than ever before to support these working styles – think on-demand labour platforms like Uber and TaskRabbit, personal marketing platforms like Upwork and Guru and collaboration tools like Slack and Zoom.

The Dream versus the Reality of Digital Nomadism

The allure of the digital nomadic lifestyle is obvious. Those bitten by the travel bug can live and work in beautiful, adventurous locations, living a lifestyle which often has a lower cost of living, and celebrates the values of freedom, flexibility and autonomy. For some, digital nomadism is an escape from intolerable past work experiences and is seen as a way of shunning the stresses and bureaucracies of the traditional corporate structure.
Could you Be a Digital Nomad?

The reality of digital nomadism is not all typing on a laptop while sipping cocktails on the beach though. Digital nomads face very real struggles including navigating taxation and lawfulness of their lifestyle, finding a reliable internet connection and time zone challenges. Additionally, digital nomads often struggle with loneliness and isolation as well as with creating a good work/life balance with a clear division between their work and personal and social lives. These struggles are particularly difficult for single nomads working unsociable hours across time zones and working within their living space (Cook, 2020). Strategies often used to cope include what has been dubbed as “digital slomadism” (increasing the duration of stay in a location), choosing locations in sync with the time zones of employers and clients, and seeking out like-minded people by joining co-working or co-living spaces and meet-up events.

 A recent longitudinal ethnographic research study following the lives of a group of digital nomads has revealed a clear paradox to digital nomadism: while they may initially seek to escape and reject structure, in time digital nomads often become preoccupied with recreating it in their lives through high levels of discipline. Digital nomads have been shown to embrace deadlines and employ various project management and time management techniques along with technological tools to optimise structure, routine and self-discipline in their lives.  As the researcher explains: “there is a clear gap between the utopian ideal of working in paradise and the daily realities of getting stuff done, and that this gap is overlooked when digital nomads start out.”

How Learning and Digital Nomadism Connect

Unlocking the world of digital nomadism isn't just about packing your bags and hitting the road; it's about equipping yourself with the necessary skills and expertise to thrive. 68% of digital nomads need specialised education or expertise for their work and 58% report participating in work-related skills training over the past year (MBO, 2020). The University of Hertfordshire offers 100% online postgraduate programmes in a wide range of fields which can be completed part-time alongside current work responsibilities. Already travelling? The entirely asynchronous mode of study means that your studies can change time zones as frequently as you do without the headache of synchronising your studies with anyone or anywhere in the world.
Could you Be a Digital Nomad?


If you long for a life where your work and wanderlust entwine and can prepare for the challenges this lifestyle presents, digital nomadism just might be for you. The post-pandemic landscape offers the ideal conditions for digital nomads to thrive and has opened up this possibility to a wide range of people. It’s the perfect time to reconsider how we can fit our work around our lives versus fitting our lives around our work. The world is your oyster, if you dare!

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  • Borrett, A. (2021). Digital nomads are capitalising on the rise in remote work
  • Cook, D. The freedom trap: digital nomads and the use of disciplining practices to manage work/leisure boundaries. Inf Technol Tourism 22, 355–390 (2020).
  • Cook, D. (2023) What is a digital nomad? Definition and taxonomy in the era of mainstream remote work, World Leisure Journal, 65:2, 256-275, DOI:
  •  Hannonen, O. In search of a digital nomad: defining the phenomenon. Inf Technol Tourism 22, 335–353 (2020).
  • Hermann, I., & Paris, C. M. (2020). Digital Nomadism: the nexus of remote working and travel mobility. Information Technology & Tourism, 22(3), 329–334.
  • Reynolds, B.W. FlexJobs Digital Nomad Survey: Insights into the Remote Lifestyle.
  • Hermann, I., & Paris, C. M. (2020). Digital Nomadism: the nexus of remote working and travel mobility. Information Technology & Tourism, 22(3), 329–334.
  • MBO Partners (2020). “COVID-19 and the Rise of the Digital Nomad”
  • World Economic Forum. (2020). 4 things that will redefine the way work by 2025.