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If you are good at what you do and have managed to build a steady flow of freelance work, you may want to take the next logical step and become truly “location independent.” Indeed, the freelancer of the future will be a “digital nomad.” Millennials, in particular, love to travel. Fortunately, technology has provided us all with relatively portable lives.
Digital analyst Mary Meeker refers to the “asset-light generation,” which subscribes to the sharing economy and accesses media and services digitally, rather than in material form. These young consumers, who operate in the “pay-as-you-live” market, seem more interested in access than ownership.
Writer Gina Miller explains that a “digital nomad” is someone who “works online from anywhere in the world, living in different countries for varying amounts of time.” Miller contends that these professionals have “an ambition to succeed, a knack for combining work and play, and a strong belief that breaking away from more typical lifestyles is completely possible.”
Famed “4-Hour Work Week” author Timothy Ferriss gave a similar nod to professionals who prefer travel and adventure over gathering material possessions. In today’s freelance economy, there are on-demand workers living the dream by working in the office of the future: “paradise.”
According to freelance journalist Anna Hart, “when all you need to run your business is a laptop and a Skype headset … why put up with pollution, urban squalor, rain, and high rent, when you could open your laptop in Thailand, Australia, or Germany?” Or Bali.
Hubud in Bali offers a 250-person coworking space, complete with an outdoor organic café and an adjacent garden visited by real monkeys. Coworkers pay basic membership fees (between $20 and $250 per month, dependent on internet usage). It’s an eclectic community, full of Silicon Valley techies, hippies launching social enterprises, yogis, bitcoiners, traders and so on.
(Of course, this influx comes as no real surprise to Bali, which has been recruiting digital nomads on YouTube).
Hubud’s founders, Peter Wall and Steve Munroe, set up the area’s first coworking space three short years ago with an investment from 25 founders. The duo simply installed broadband and hosted seminars and social events. “Digital nomads started showing up. We never expected to become a mecca for location-independent professionals, but we have.”
Other exotic coworking spaces are quickly cropping up worldwide to meet a growing demand. Some locales even offer room and board. Those heading out to the great wide yonder tend to look for locations with fast internet speeds that is foreigner-friendly and boasts a low cost of living. The handy site NomadList.io provides a cost breakdown of hundreds of cities, as well as details about short-term rentals and local co-working spaces.
Keith Mander has also compiled a comprehensive list of getaways around the world. Another helpful forum is https://nomadforum.io. Rumor has it that the Soho House Group will soon be launching “Homework,” a new coworking concept that will allow members to hot-desk their way around the world.
Luckily, today’s jobs are increasingly easy to put in the telecommute box. A handful of forward-thinking companies appear to understand even those who do not thrive in an office environment can, nonetheless, be valuable assets to the team. Check out the job board Remoteok.io for a listing of remote opportunities across the board. Many freelancers also pick up gigs on Elance, Upwork, or Craigslist.
The first digital nomads flocked to idyllic destinations in search of exotic landscapes, low expenses and warm weather. Today’s working travelers, however, also seek out accelerator programs and mentoring sessions. To that end, Hubud has joined forces with TurnPoint to provide courses such as coding and new-business development.
Despite the amenities, there are those who report that location-indie living isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. According to journalist Anna Hart, “The freedom to work in exotic surroundings is thrilling, but it quickly becomes isolating, uninspiring, lonely and, depending on the internet speed, frustrating.”
Gina Miller reminds those with wanderlust, “It may not always be beaches and coconuts when you’re a digital nomad; it takes a high level of discipline, organization and sometimes creativity to successfully lead this lifestyle.”
Remember, wherever you go, there you are. In other words, you can easily erase the lines between work-life balance in paradise, too.