Once You See How “Digital Nomads” Live, You’ll Never Look at Work the Same Way Again

With technology today, you can work from anywhere.

But why not work from everywhere?

That’s the idea that unites a growing group of people who call themselves digital nomads. These people don’t just work remotely from their home; they work remotely from around the globe–and they’re constantly on the move.

As the name implies, digital nomads generally travel from place to place and set up camp wherever they happen to be. They may be working for a week in China and then working the next week from a resort in the Alps. It’s like spending your life on a series of mini, working vacations.

You can find them posting Instagram selfies with a laptop in an exotic-looking location and using the hashtag #digitalnomad.

These people work a variety of jobs. From marketing and writing to designers and programmers, basically any profession that can be done with a phone and a computer can be turned into a digital nomad lifestyle.

“[Being a digital nomad means] the opportunity to live and work from anywhere,” said Rico Patzer, a digital nomad from Germany who works as an independent marketing consultant. “I wanted to explore more, gain new experiences and see what else the world has to offer. I wanted to decide on my own how much I work, where I work, what I work and for whom I work.”

And you won’t believe some of the places these people set up shop. With just a laptop and a WiFi connection, they can work on top of mountains, on beaches, in foreign cities, or even at a coffee shop around the block. They’re in total control.

Love my #digitalnomadlife

A photo posted by Rico (@ricoriconic) on

This kind of freedom affords for some incredible opportunities, but it also means a change in the relationship between work and play.

Say goodbye to vacation

For many of us, travel is a luxury. It’s a treat that we earn a few times a year. And we spend the time traveling as a refuge from our day-to-day responsibilities. We use travel as an escape.

Most of us think that we can only travel on short, planned vacations. And even that is extremely limited–in order to travel, we have to work. But in order to work, we have to be at or near the office.

Digital nomads see the world in a completely different way. They break down this false barrier between work and play–they prove that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

“For me it’s not either working or traveling,” said Patzer. “I always try to combine both.”

This means that we aren’t restricted in when we can travel or how often or how far we can stray from our office. Rather we have unlimited freedom to roam as we please–working while we explore.

The whole concept is made possible by technology. It’s a clear and natural evolution of remote working. We’re no longer tethered to office computer and phones–our work is in our hands or in our backpack and we can do it from anywhere. We’re free to move about, and digital nomads take full advantage.

But there’s even a deeper level to this lifestyle–one that goes beyond just enjoying the ability to work from the beach or travel the world. In many ways, digital nomads are rewriting the entire body of conventional wisdom about what it means to work and how we should structure our lives.

An exotic philosophy

Behind the Instagram photos and tweets, there is a much more philosophical war being waged by the rise of this freedom-first kind of lifestyle.

Living on the edge #myHilife #morealohagivesomegetsome #myhighlife #deadmanscatwalk #secretidenty

A photo posted by Disciple of Unkle Pz(R.I.P.) (@smokewell) on

Digital nomads are challenging what it means to work. And they’re challenging the difference between work and life–when, where, and how they are related or unrelated.

For most of us, work is work and life is life. We work during the day, and then we live life at night and on the weekends.

But most digital nomads don’t follow this pattern. Life is everything–work included–and it’s meant to be flexible and adaptable to the way you want to live it.

Cody McKibben is a digital nomad who runs the site Thrilling Heroics. He explains his philosophy on his website. “The sad truth is that most of us are not living the life we WANT to live – but we’re living the life we think we’re SUPPOSED to live instead,” he writes. “You don’t have to live that life anymore.”

This is what makes the digital nomad lifestyle so intriguing and exciting. It’s not just a thrill to think about traveling while you work. But to actually reevaluate the definition of “work” and the role it plays in your life is an entirely different–and much more complex–thing to ask.

When I asked Patzer what it meant to be a digital nomad, he had one word: “Freedom.”

And that’s ultimately what makes being a digital nomad so enticing. Not only does it let people see exotic locations and work from beautiful settings, it gives them freedom over nearly everything they do–even the things that we’ve traditionally seen as out of our control. It challenges the entire concept of work and gets to the core of what it means to live our lives.

The best place to be stranded in Bali – Cangers! ✌️#Canggu #Bali #Indonesia #travel

A photo posted by Amanda Smith (@amandasmith_writer) on

Digital nomads are enjoying the freedom most of us wish we had.

But the good news is that this lifestyle isn’t unattainable for many people. Most jobs in the knowledge economy only require a basic level of access to technology and internet to be possible. And an increasingly huge number of employers allow or encourage employees to work remotely. It’s exactly this formula that makes it all possible.

Probably the most difficult thing for most of us is to grapple with the psychology of it all. Being a digital nomad likely requires you to shed most of your worldly possessions–you may even forfeit having a steady place to call home. But in exchange you receive a whole new level of freedom that seemed impossible just a few short years ago. Now it’s not only possible–but it’s relatively easy to obtain, if it’s what you really want.

Who knows, maybe we’ll all be digital nomads one day.