How digital nomads have the best…

After the changes that have disrupted the professional and corporate world, many people, armed with their luggage, passports, laptops, good Wi-Fi and flexible working conditions, can now work almost anywhere while on the go – they’re called digital nomads.

According to a 2021 report titled The search for digital nomads continues, by independent workplace consultants MBO partnersdigital nomads are “people who choose to adopt a location-independent, technology-based lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely, anywhere in the world connected to the Internet” and they are redefining the way we think about work-life balance.

“Some digital nomads travel for years, regularly moving across countries and continents. Others are nomads for shorter periods, taking workcations and sabbaticals that last from weeks to months. United Driven by a passion for travel and new adventures, digital nomads value the ability to work anywhere they can connect to the internet.

Image: Caspar Greeff

daily maverick Caspar Greef has been a digital nomad for almost two years, traveling through Central America and working as a sub-editor.

“I had a bad case of boredom… things were getting boring. I said [Editor-in-Chief and founder of Daily Maverick] Branko Brkic that I was bored and thought I was going to Thailand and wasting my savings on vice and unhealthy living. He suggested I go to Central America instead.

“‘Start in Belize,’ Brkic said. “They speak English there, so it will be easy, and I hear it’s an amazing place.

In South Africa, Greeff’s working hours are 5 p.m. to midnight. In Central America, he can connect from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – the time difference allowing him to work more easily at “normal” hours.

“Doing my desk job five days a week, I was going to be a 21st century wanderer, a digital nomad, freed by technology from the constraints of place, a traveler navigating the stream of data,” Greeff writes at the start of its journey in 2020.

“I bought a plane ticket and went to Belize via Istanbul. From there I went to Guatemala, then to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Ecuador, the Galapagos, Peru,” he recalls.

View from the Ecuador highway. (Picture: Reiseuhu /Unsplash)
A marine iguana, endemic to the Galapagos, sits on a volcanic rock in Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island January 22, 2019 in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images for Lumix)
Live long and prosper. The village of Vilcabamba in the Valley of Longevity. (Photo: Caspar Greeff)
The church in front of the Parque Central in Vilcabamba. (Photo: Caspar Greeff)

Lauren Melnick has been work abroad since 2016 and earns a living as a freelance writer, blogger and editor.

“I had a strong desire to travel, but I didn’t want to take a two-week vacation. I was super attracted to the idea of ​​slow travel and wanted to experience different countries as an expat, but without all the administration and permanence,” she explains.

Melnick finances his travels “in the same way that a ‘normal’ person lives their daily life working from an office”.

“My ‘rent’ is what I spend on hotels or Airbnbs for the month. My ‘car’ is my transportation costs like Uber or renting a vehicle. Nothing has really changed financially, I spend just my money differently because I’m not tied to a long term site.

Take the road

There are many sites online for digital nomads with tips and community links with other digital nomads, but you don’t need much to get started. In fact, says Greeff, less is more, and her luggage, including the laptop, weighs around 7kg.

“My advice to anyone wanting to become a digital nomad is: just do it. It’s easier than you think, and even the most remote places (a small island off the coast of Nicaragua, the Galapagos, remote jungle towns) have good enough Wi-Fi to work with,” says Greeff.

He also recommends having a dual SIM phone so you can use your “home” SIM card to connect with work, friends and family, as well as a local SIM card – which is especially handy for accessing to the access point if there is no Wi-Fi.

Melnick’s advice should be prepared with health and travel insurance, and there are more and more catering options especially for digital nomads.

It’s not all sunshine and roses, however, and Melnick admits the nomadic life isn’t for everyone.

“You have to be super disciplined to do your job in between exploring a new place. It also gets lonely because you’re constantly in new surroundings and meeting new people.

If you’re worried about a lack of community, there are ways to connect with other digital nomads.

“I’ve been on digital nomad retreats in the past. These are extremely valuable (when done right) and allow you to learn from other digital nomads and explore a place without having to. solo,” says Melnick.

“However, I am a lone traveler at heart and prefer the freedom of not having to deal with other people when planning my trips. But if I feel lonely, I usually find groups of nomads on Facebook for a destination and I’m starting to attend meetings.

Lauren Melnick in Deadvlei, Namibia. (Photo: Lauren Melnick)
Lauren Melnick in Valley of Desolation. (Photo: Lauren Melnick)

Pandemic travel

Covid-19 has thrown a spanner in the works for travellers, especially with travel bans and redlists, which have affected, in some ways, what it means to be a digital nomad.

“Restrictions on international flights and travel have made it much more difficult to travel abroad, and health issues have made it more difficult,” the MBO report said. However, the pandemic has also exposed more people to remote work, as many no longer travel to the office and instead work from home. And while working from home is possible, people realize there’s no reason they can’t work from a different destination.

Thus, MBO expects the pandemic to spur more people to become digital nomads as the possibility of remote working is more tangible for employers and employees.

“In the past, companies were reluctant to let their employees go mobile. This has now changed and a significant and growing number of companies have announced their intention to allow a much higher degree of long-term remote working,” the MBO report states.

“The pandemic-induced change in the way work is done has taught businesses of all sizes the benefits and feasibility of working remotely. This has led to widespread support from leaders, managers and workers to maintain flexible working hours and remote working arrangements after the pandemic is over,” the report states.

And while pandemic nomadism has been difficult, both Greeff and Melnick have seen a silver lining in remote working during lockdown.

At the start of the pandemic, Melnick was in Bali, two months into a six-month trip to Southeast Asia.

“I came back to South Africa on one of the last flights before lockdown and spent a year in Johannesburg. A lot of the freedom I get from my lifestyle was taken away from me. I lost all my job (as I mainly work in the tourism industry) and had to pivot my business models to stay afloat,” she recalls. South Africa and discovered new sources of income that weren’t on my radar before the lockdown.

“I was stuck in the colonial city of Antigua in Guatemala for eight months when the pandemic hit that country…. a great place to get stuck,” says Greeff.

“When the borders reopened late last year, I started traveling again and felt extremely lucky to be able to travel then, with low prices and beautiful places unspoiled by hordes of tourists. – I was often the only gringo in town.”

What’s next for Greeff and Melnick?

As of this writing, Greeff is on Isla Carenero, a Caribbean island off the coast of Panama.

“I love where I am now… Perfect climate, warm water, good surf, coral reefs, jungles, nice people, vibrant expat community and super friendly locals. It’s easy to connect here and make friends…it’s like the end of the road (travel-wise) for me,” says Greeff.

Melnick’s first international trips in 2022 will be to the Maldives and Namibia, and she also hopes to return to Kenya.

“I think one of the most underrated digital nomad destinations is Nairobi. I spent a month there and absolutely loved it. It was super affordable and I spent my weekends flying to coast and visiting Diani Beach and Watamu,” she says.

“I can’t wait to go back and spend more time in the country.” DM/ML


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