When your office is the whole world

Digital nomads can work anywhere by taking advantage of new technology to combine adventure and travel with their professional careers

Taking your office with you and working from anywhere in the world is a way of life for numerous business people
Taking your office with you and working from anywhere in the world is a way of life for numerous business people
It may seem like the name for a new urban tribe, but the term "Digital Nomads" refers to a way of life: that of independent, restless, travelling professionals, who thanks to new technology, combine their love of exploring the world with their work. Yet, it is not just about travelling: digital nomads above all value their freedom and move around according to their own rules and objectives. As Stuart Jones says, they are people who "take advantage of technology to combine travel and work" and who want to "live life according to their passions," something that takes them to extremes.

Stuart Jones is the creator of Coworkation, an incubator providing ideas and innovation to ifreelance entrepreneurs who want to develop their activities from anywhere in the world. A businessman specialised in lifestyle, this Australian living in Barcelona has set up a number of companies in the tourism and hostelry sector around the world and has combined his business activities with a nomadic way of life.

Jones distinguishes between the concepts digital nomad and Location Independent. According to the Coworkation founder, "a location independent is a professional with the freedom to work from different locations and places," whether it be a coworking site or cafés, but often in the city they live in or a more less fixed base. A digital nomad is a location independent who has adopted a nomadic lifestyle, combining travel and work, spending a few months in one place before moving on to another destination. What they have in common is "the search for freedom and adventure," says Jones.

According to Diana Moret, founder of PandoraHub, the digital nomad "needs to explore and move around" seeking new places to work. She herself is an example: every year she spends a couple of months working in Bali, and when she returns to Barcelona she tries to change her workplace daily "to have that feeling of being in a different place every day." Moret also sees a difference between location independents and digital nomads: "in the most extreme cases, in those who hop from country to country, there is a psychological component of escape," she says.


Presentation of Coworkation in the Montseny natural park. Diana Keisa

At home, coworking or travelling
There are different degrees to the digital nomadic lifestyle. There are people who work from home all year, others who combine working at home with spells travelling, and others who have no permanent base and spend the year moving from place to place as they work.

In general, digital nomads have a specific profile. Most are freelancers, are part of the millennials generation (between 20 and 35), have no boss and who work for a variety of clients. They work online, in such areas as marketing, IT or blogging. Many of them, as in the case of Jones, have a backpacking past, which has ended up becoming a way of life. Others, like Moret, have adopted this lifestyle after years tied down to a company and a stable job.

"I come from the corporate and consultancy world, in which you are completely focused on the client 24-hours a day. You learn a lot, but you end up fed up with it," says the PandoraHub founder, a rural revival and resettlement movement that looks for startups, digital nomads and makers to create professional communities in rural areas.

She got the idea after participating in Scape to Umbria, a weekend event that led her to rethink her professional career and engineer, literally, her "corporate escape". And most importantly, the experience also allowed her to discover her passion for nature, which has been one of the driving forces behind the idea of PandoraHub.

The key to success in this change of lifestyle, says Moret, depends on being "genuine and authentic". In other words, it needs to be in your blood.

How do digital nomads organise their work?
Jones explains that this lifestyle is a response to a paradigm shift: "we can no longer talk about working 9 to 5; there is another sort of balance at work." Jones admits that these professionals "no longer distinguish between their personal lives and work," while also pointing to the importance of knowing how to disconnect. "You have to come up with your own schedule and work according to your capabilities. I work better in the mornings but someone else might decide to keep to a different work timetable," he says.

According to Jones, this style of life is easiest for independent professionals and freelancers, but even an employee in a more traditional company can consider it: "You have to know how to restructure the business to be able to travel, and having a partner can help."

Moret concurs, saying you need to organise your work in a different way, concentrating on offline tasks when you are in your own country and leaving all the digital work for those months you spend abroad. Nevertheless, she thinks that in more traditional companies living as a nomad can be difficult, "unless you consider a radical transformation of the business."


Digital nomads in Bali. Diana Keisa

Working with a view of Bali
Digital nomads can work in cafés, coworking sites or even beside the pool, in bars or on the beach. All they need is a computer and an internet connection. That is what has turned destinations primarily associated with tourism and leisure, such as Bali or Thailand, into genuine innovative hubs by attracting a considerable nucleus of digital nomads to their beaches.

Ubud, in Bali, has become a leading destination for digital nomads, a Silicon Valley set amid rice fields, where coworking sites have sprung up that attract location independents looking to combine their work with nature, spirituality and lower costs. They are what Moret calls "refugees from the West", people who are tired of the stress and consumer culture in Europe or the United States, who want to move ahead with a business project "with much lower living costs" but also with a philosophical idea of seeking spirituality and wellness. Or, as Jones says, people who have "a holistic vision of life."
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