Work is where your laptop is: meet the globe-trotting digital nomads | Work & career
Samantha Scott doesn’t miss her daily commutes in London, especially “the fear of having to wake up and take the tube, and get to work sweaty and hectic.” I always wake up at 6 or 7 in the morning, but I can go for a walk on the beach before I start working.
When she and her partner Chris Cerra arrive with their luggage in a new city, it can easily be mistaken for tourists. But they are part of a new generation of “digital nomads” who jump from country to country to live and work.
The global shift to flexible working triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic means more and more people are considering abandoning their long-term homes to fly across the world, working from their laptops, tablets or smartphones .
Last week, an Airbnb report titled Travel & Living showed that 11% of the company’s long-term stay bookings in 2021 reported living a nomadic lifestyle, and 5% are considering giving up their primary residence. .
Delia Colantuono, a 31-year-old freelance translator from Rome, became a digital nomad five years ago when it wasn’t a “big thing”.
She has now lived on five continents and says the nomadic lifestyle is “not just for the rich, it’s for anyone who can work remotely and wants to do it”.
Many places are keen on attracting long-term visitors, which means good deals can be found. Colantuono rented a villa in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands with three other nomads for € 450 (£ 390) per month each.
Cerra, 28, a technical research and development consultant for a financial boutique, lived in several cramped shared flats in London and then rented an apartment with a friend for £ 1,000 per month per person. Since becoming a nomad, accommodation costs have ranged from £ 300 in Asia to over £ 1,000 in Stockholm, Sweden.
High-speed wifi is at the top of the wishlist for nomads, followed by a good workspace – desks or a large dining table – a decent kitchen and comfortable beds.
Chanin Kaye, 51, and his partner Jason Melton, 46, are six months away on a seven-year road trip from Mexico to Argentina, staying about a month in each city. They decided to move out of their Seattle home because they love to travel and save money to pay off big student debt.
“Seattle has a very high cost of living,” says Kaye. “We had a big house with two other roommates – and we were still paying $ 2,400 (£ 1,690) per month including utilities. Right here [in Mexico] we never pay more than $ 1,200 all inclusive, and often less. “
They realized during the pandemic that they could stay in touch with their adult children from a distance “and feel close even when we are not physically close”.
Melton quit his sales job and the couple now run a remote accounting business that Kaye started. “We work all day and go on adventures all weekend,” she says.
Kaye estimates the couple have saved 70% by living on the road and want to be debt free within five years – and possibly buy a property somewhere.
Colantuono and others are aware of the environmental impact of their jet-set lifestyle and want to settle down someday. Several people, writing on a Facebook digital nomadic forum with 15,500 members, say age is not a barrier, but stress the importance of being fit and healthy; and it is said that a downside to this way of life could be a feeling of being uprooted.
There don’t seem to be many digital nomadic families with children; traditionally only a few families – who usually homeschool – have traveled the world. Erin Elizabeth Wells, a 41-year-old productivity consultant from Massachusetts, began traveling to the United States with her husband and daughter Eleanor, who is now almost four, in October 2018, and says they are a “Educated family of the world”.
Traveling as a family means they travel slowly, but it does mean they make friends wherever they go, she adds. They live in Airbnbs or other fully furnished rentals and “plan to go on and on until there’s a reason our family needs something else.”
As parts of the world gradually reopen after Covid restrictions, a growing number of people are enjoying new flexibility to work from anywhere. Last year, nearly one in five Airbnb customers used the site to travel and work remotely; and this year, 74% of those questioned in its survey in five countries expressed the wish to live elsewhere than with their employer. Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, said: “The lines between travel, life and work are blurring.”
Cerra says, “For a long time this kind of lifestyle was considered really, really outside the box. What we are seeing is that everything is tending to become a little more normal now, more accepted. “