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Digital Nomad: definition, benefits and all you need to know

Updated on :

February 28, 2024
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Digital Nomad: definition, benefits and all you need to know

Introduction

What if the Basilica of Santa Maria in Barcelona or the beaches in Cape Town can be your work view? Yes, you read that right. Nowadays, many people travel while working from wherever they are. These people, known as digital nomads, live free lives and explore different cities worldwide without skipping their work. 

What was a dream until a few decades ago has become a reality in the last few years— a digital nomad lifestyle.

It is a revolutionary work-life arrangement that helps people go beyond geographical boundaries and explore the world without compromising on work. All they need is a stable internet connection and a working device. But how does that work, and what does it mean for the employers? This article will familiarize you with everything about digital nomads.

Who is a Digital Nomad?

A digital nomad is a remote worker who maintains a location-independent work life by utilizing technology and the internet. They can be seen working in a cafe, co-working arenas, libraries, or even on a remote island. The only main requirements are reliable devices and wireless internet/mobile hotspots to stay connected to their work.

A digital nomad lifestyle often suits professionals like

  • Freelancers, 
  • Writers,
  • Graphic designers,
  • Web developers,
  • Online marketers,
  • Consultants, etc. 

Undoubtedly, it is an appalling lifestyle for those who are adventurous and wish to explore different cities while working outside of their office.

Also Read: Can non-US citizens work for US companies and live abroad

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 Working from home avoids commuting, and fewer commuters result in 

 lower greenhouse gas emissions. 

Digital Nomad Hotspots

Now that you know who digital nomads are, you may wonder if there are places where individuals are mainly into a digital nomad lifestyle. Certain ‘hotspots’ have gained traction, especially for remote working. These places are perfectly fit to work and offer necessary amenities, coworking spaces, and a stress-free environment for nomads to work comfortably.

Here is a list of some famous digital nomad hotspots in the world.

Asia

Asia is home to some of the best countries and cities for remote working professionals. Here are some of the top-notch digital nomad hotspots in Asia. 

Bengaluru, India

Bengaluru, known as the Silicon Valley of India, is a prominent tech-based digital nomad hotspot. It offers modern technology and a thriving startup culture, making it a dream destination for tech-savvy people. Consequently, the city has reliable, high-speed internet access and well-equipped coworking areas.

Freepik | Bengaluru City, India

It might seem expensive, but the city is more affordable than many other cities, with an average cost of living of $1319/month. Despite being a metropolis, Bengaluru also features numerous parks and green spaces, offering a refreshing escape from urban life. It is an excellent place for digital nomads enticed by technology and wishing to live around greenery. 

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Through the years, Chiang Mai has become a beloved digital nomad hotspot for people seeking places for long-term remote work. The city offers several housing options, especially for digital nomads. These include rental condos (at affordable rates) and nomad rentals. If you love privacy, you can also consider staying at the Gur Chiang Mai hostel, where many other digital nomads reside.

Additionally, Chiang Mai is a very affordable place with an average of approximately $930/month. Coming to the locational advantage, the city is nestled in the mountains. It offers abundant national parks that you can visit, making it an excellent place to have a work-life balance.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

South America

Medellin in Columbia and Lima in Peru are two of South America's most famous digital nomad cities. Read on to see why.

Medellin, Columbia

Medellin, known as the City of Eternal Spring, has gained traction as a vibrant and innovative remote working hub. With heavy investments in innovation and technology, the city has fostered an environment of startups and coworking spaces.

With Columbia’s digital nomad visa, you can stay as long as 2 years in Medellin and get a foreigner ID. Having this ID makes it easier for you to navigate the immigration process, rent an apartment, and opt for internet services. 

Medellin has a relatively low cost of living compared to other South American cities, approximately $503/month. Affordable accommodation, dining, and entertainment options thus add an advantage for digital nomads planning to relocate to South America.

Medellin, Columbia

Lima, Peru

Lima, the capital of Peru, offers a mix of history, modernity, and culinary delights, making it an emerging digital nomad hotspot in South America. Its tech ecosystem is gradually expanding, providing digital nomads with coworking spaces like Comunal and WeWork and networking events as the city embraces digital innovation and entrepreneurship. 

The best part is that Lima is very affordable, with an average cost of living of about $500/month. However, there is a little compromise when it comes to the internet speed. Lima's internet services are not too excellent but modest.

Also Read: Countries that Offer a Digital Nomad Visa to Remote Workers

Europe

Europe has long been a famous destination for digital nomads because of its rich culture, architecture, and innovation. Read on to learn more about two of its digital nomad hotspots.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, has become a vibrant hub for digital nomads due to its blend of historic charm, modern amenities, and creative energy. With over 300 days of bright sunshine year-round, Lisbon is a great place to wake up, stroll along the riverside, get a morning coffee, and start your work at some Wi-Fi cafe.

According to research, living in Lisbon is 63% cheaper than in other European cities, making it an excellent choice for a European digital nomad with an average expenditure of $1305/month

Moreover, Lisbon's location along the coast provides stunning ocean views, sandy beaches, and opportunities for outdoor activities. Moving here allows you to have a relaxed pace of life with the city's warm and friendly locals.

Lisbon, Portugal

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain, is a perfect digital nomad city in Europe, famous for its sunny beaches, Catalan cuisine, and networking. The city checks out all the points with a multitude of productivity-centric coworking spaces, coffee cafes with high-speed internet, and tapas bars to recuperate! Living here will also make you a part of Spain’s inclusive culture that respects all genders and LGBTQ+ members. 

However, as a digital nomad in Barcelona, you might have to spend between $1600 and $2300, making it somewhat expensive compared to other cities. Nevertheless, the city is still home to the majority of digital nomads in Spain.

Barcelona, Spain

Africa

In the last few years, Africa has also witnessed a rise in remote working and digital nomad hotspots. Let’s see two of the continent's most preferred digital nomad hotspots. 

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, as you must have heard, is one of the most vibrant coastal cities in South Africa. Known as the adventure capital, the city offers mountain ranges, thrilling landscapes, and oceanic views. Concerning a remote working culture, the city has a very get-out-of-town appeal and delectable food that makes you feel like you’re always on vacation. Besides, it has a growing tech ecosystem, with co-working spaces, tech hubs, and startup communities. 

Moreover, regions like Green Point, Camps Bay, and Tamboerskloof have become extremely popular in the city as they offer an abundance of coffee cafes, restaurants, and contemporary workplaces, making them famous for cafe culture. Regarding the cost of living, Cape Town is not very expensive and offers a wide range of living options. It is considered to be 65.8% less expensive, with an average cost of living of about $540/month (excluding rent). So if you wish to stay close to the ocean, Cape Town is an excellent digital nomad hotspot.

Cape Town, South Africa

Marrakech, Morocco, North Africa

Marrakech is a city that combines history, culture, and modernity. This North African hotspot has attracted digital nomads with its bustling markets and a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. The city's medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers a blend of traditional Moroccan life and contemporary amenities, making it an exciting destination for remote workers. Other places, like Gueliz, Kasbah, and Mellah, are contemporary attractions with palaces and tombs. 

Marrakech also boasts co-working spaces, reliable internet connectivity, and a lower cost of living than many Western countries, making it an increasingly popular choice for those seeking an exotic yet functional work environment. On average, an individual spends over $500.6 monthly living in Marrakech.

Digital nomads can also be a part of one of the many nomad communities like the Outsite Marrakech. Members of such communities enjoy access to a local Whatsapp group where they can network with others.

Marrakech, Morocco, North Africa

Advantages of Being a Digital Nomad

Living a digital nomad lifestyle sounds like a dream come true—you work, travel, and recuperate all at the same time. There are a few other advantages that such a lifestyle offers. Some of them include

  • Increased productivity when you work from wherever you want: Per a recent survey, over 66% of people prefer working outside offices in more comfortable workspaces. This, in turn, motivates you to finish your work so that you have more time to delve into the place.
    Moreover, traveling and relocating to a new place releases a cocktail of happy hormones (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins), which helps you get fresher ideas.
  • Personal Growth: When you’re frequently on the go and come across new people and cultures, you step out of your comfort zone and learn new things. Especially when you move out to another country, you become much more flexible and open to newer experiences. This exposure to new settings helps you grow personally and makes you more confident in life.
  • Work-life balance: A balance between work and life is a highly sought-after aspect people wish to fulfill. With the chance to work remotely at a digital nomad hotspot, people can integrate their work into their lives rather than vice versa. It is one of the easiest ways to escape the typical 9-5 work culture.
  • Networking and community: Digital or tech nomads are exposed to vibrant cultures and communities of like-minded people. When they stay at a particular place for some time, they engage in networking events, spend time at co-working spaces and interact with several people in social gatherings—such interactions open doors for future opportunities, collaborations, idea-sharing, and valuable connections. 

Popular Digital Nomad Jobs

While traveling and working remotely from anywhere in the world seems like an enticing idea, not all kinds of work/jobs can fit such a lifestyle. But there are a few jobs that you can easily pursue while traveling and working remotely. Below is a list of some renowned digital nomad jobs. 

  1. Web development/web design: Remotely creating and designing websites, applications, or user interfaces. 
  2. Online marketing/SEO: People skilled in marketing and familiar with SEO techniques can manage online presence from anywhere.
  3. Freelance writing: Writing jobs like blogging, copywriting, content creation, etc., can be pursued remotely. 
  4. Online teaching: Many tutors have started teaching via online platforms, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.
  5. Customer support/virtual assistance: Professionals who provide administrative support and customer services can work remotely.

How Do You Become a Digital Nomad

Switching to a digital nomad lifestyle becomes smoother with some careful consideration and thinking before deciding you want to work remotely. Here are a few things to consider and steps you can take to become a digital nomad ultimately.

  • Assess your skills and look for job opportunities accordingly: You should start by identifying your skills and then seek jobs that you can manage remotely. Also, research the places that align with your preferences and where you can find well-paying jobs. 

    Some general, non-technical skills that would help you as a digital nomad include discipline, budgeting, decision-making, and organizational skills.
  • Get travel insurance and work visas: Make sure that you have travelers’ insurance, which could be health, life, or car insurance. Research the extent of coverage available in the country where you move to work. Also, ensure that you have a digital nomad visa that legally allows you to work remotely.
  • Build a portfolio: If necessary, acquire the skills required for your chosen digital nomad job. This might involve taking online courses, attending workshops, or gaining certifications. Once you start gaining experience, create a portfolio of the work you’ve done, relevant projects or contributions, etc. 
  • Have a financial plan: This is one of the most crucial things you need to do before hitting the roads as a digital nomad. Calculate your current expenses and create a budget for your digital nomad lifestyle. Moreover, save money for some time before you move out. Having savings to cover initial expenses and unforeseen emergencies will give you a sense of security.
  • Get involved with communities and start networking: Building professional relationships with like-minded people is an excellent way to dive deeper into your industry or work domain. The earlier you get at it, the more exposure will be. So, reach out to others and learn from them. Especially if there is someone who has been in the industry for long, connect with them as they can help you boost your career. Lastly, don’t hesitate to ask for referrals or recommendations when you’ve worked for or with someone. 
  • Choose the destinations wisely: Research digital nomad-friendly destinations based on cost of living, safety, visa requirements, and available amenities. It would be best if you considered some well-established digital nomad hotspots and not a random city that does not have a developed remote working culture.

Tips for Living as a Digital Nomad

Living as a digital nomad might come with a few challenges, but with a few tips and tricks, you can have the time of your life as a digital nomad. Here are some tips.

  1. Stay informed: Before hitting the road, learn as much as you can about the lifestyle, the place you’re going to stay at, the culture, etc. For instance, if you seek peace, then moving to another metropolis would not be a good idea. 
  2. Carry all necessary documents: Regardless of where you go, you must carry a valid ID or driving license, international driving license (if required), passport, and debit/credit cards.
  3. Have a plan: While living a digital nomadic lifestyle, knowing when to return or move is essential. Hopping around from one city to another mindlessly is counterproductive to your productivity and performance. 
  4. Have a return ticket in line (just in case): While not very important, it is wise to have a return ticket back home. It would be a boon in case of unforeseen circumstances.
  5. Carry as little as possible: Learn to pack light. It is one of the most handy tips you’ll need as a digital nomad.

Managing a Team of Digital Nomads? It’s Simple with Skuad. 

The remote working culture has taken a new turn with a digital nomad lifestyle, blending the best of both worlds— working and traveling. While it is an alluring career path, it also comes with a few challenges for the employers or the people they work with. 

Managing a globally distributed workforce of digital nomads could be overwhelming. But there is a foolproof way of acing hiring, onboarding, and managing digital nomads. 

Partner with Skuad, an Employer of Record platform that can help you with international hiring, onboarding, and paying remote employees, including digital nomads. Our unified platform allows you to hire people in over 160 countries without establishing a single local legal entity. Besides hiring, the platform also ensures that you stay 100% compliant with employment laws and regulations in the country. 

Book a demo to see how Skuad can help you in your global employment journey.

FAQs

1. How do I become a digital nomad legally?

As you will live away from home, you must have all your documents, like passport, credit cards, driver's license, etc., for verification. You will also need a digital nomad visa or a work permit. Once you have everything and have planned your stay and finances, you can become a digital nomad. Depending on the city's policies, you may also need your insurance documents verified through an international or local provider.

2. Do digital nomads pay taxes?

Yes. Digital nomads pay taxes in their home country/state, i.e., their permanent residence. Moreover, they may also be subjected to certain taxes for their presence in places they reside temporarily. 

3. Can you be a digital nomad with a full-time job?

You cannot be a digital nomad with a full-time in-office job. However, if you work as a full-time employee at a company with a remote work culture, it is possible. On the other hand, it is possible to shift to a digital nomadic life when you work remotely as an independent contractor or freelancer and can accommodate time zone differences while moving from one place to another. 

About the author

Kate Jonson is a Software Engineer and Tech Writer. During the day, she writes codes and develops tech products. At night, she moonlights as a tech writer sharing her thoughts on work productivity and efficient HR management practices. 

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