Matt Haynes anticipated a great route around the world when he decided to become a digital nomad in January 2020.
The 32-year-old marketing consultant from York, England is said to be working remotely, spending a few weeks each in Bali, Thailand, a few cities in Eastern Europe and beyond. Instead, the world came to a halt as he visited a friend in Lisbon in March. He stayed there in a hostel for a week, which turned into a month, which turned into 7.5 months, during which he bonded intensely with the 13 other people staying there and there. working.
“It was one of the most surreal but best moments of my life so far,” he says. Now he is renting an apartment on the outskirts of Lisbon and has applied for a residence permit. “No plans to go to Bali yet. “
Digital nomads have been around as long as laptops, working remotely while traveling or living abroad full time, often in scenic locations. But Mr Haynes’ story epitomizes the new type of digital nomad emerging since the start of the pandemic: one who stays longer, takes fewer flights and maybe even takes root.
The sudden adoption by the world of all kinds of remote working has meant that a wider range of people, including salaried employees (not just the freelancers or the founders of startups) and older workers (not just the young adults without feet), can more easily become digital nomads. Additionally, several countries have introduced new visas and longer-term residence permits specifically for remote workers during the pandemic.
These trends suggest that there will not only be more digital nomads after the pandemic, but more ways to be one, said Steve King, an Emerging Research partner based in Lafayette, Calif.
Mr. King’s firm, which studies the future of work, helped lead a 2020 survey of 3,457 American digital nomads, alongside MBO Partners, a company management software publisher.
“The scale at which digital nomads have grown during the pandemic has come as a shock to us,” King said.
The survey found that 10.9 million American workers in 2020 described themselves as digital nomads, up 49% from the previous study in 2019. Most of those gains came from people in traditional jobs (up 96%) rather than freelancers (up just 12%). .
“The other thing that surprised us was the diversity of ages,” he says. Of the digital nomads surveyed, 42% were millennials, 19% were Gen-Zers, 22% were Gen-Xers, and 17% were baby boomers, a relatively even distribution.
Many countries, including Estonia, Bermuda and Mauritius, have introduced special visas and residence permits during the pandemic to further woo this growing group of digital nomads.
Margaret Manning, a 61-year-old British businesswoman who had worked in Singapore for a decade, applied for a 12-month Welcome Stamp visa from Barbados last October, specifically designed for remote workers. She was approved within 24 hours and moved there with her husband in January. She says visa restrictions in Singapore have increased during the pandemic. Moving to an island that actively courted foreign workers sounded appealing, especially since it was working on launching an early-stage artificial intelligence startup.
“I was sure it would be a melting pot of enterprising, like-minded people,” she says.
So far, renting a house and setting up her workspace has gone smoothly, she says, and on top of that, social life on the island is “unbelievably crazy.”
“You have to be a little careful or you’ll be out there 24 hours a day,” she says.
Digital nomads have been criticized in the past for their large carbon footprint or their inability to engage with locals. The new guy has a chance to be different. “Digital nomads often say they want to experience local culture, but realistically they tend to be separated as a subculture,” says Olga Hannonen, a postdoctoral researcher who studies digital nomads at the University of Eastern Finland.
Cyndie Burkhardt, 57, an American health coach living in Croatia since March 2020, was approved this month for a one-year residence permit the country launched during the pandemic. She was in her ninth country in nine months when the pandemic grounded her in the seaside town of Split. The extended stay prompted her to seek a long-term residence and changed her idea of what the life of a digital nomad could be like.
She plans to try and live in another Croatian city, maybe Zagreb or Dubrovnik, in the fall, and learn Serbo-Croatian.
Digital nomads in Western countries often tout the low cost of living abroad as a key attraction. But their finances can be tricky in other ways. They need to proactively follow tax regulations in their home country, which can constantly change, says Kathleen Di Paolo, Bali-based tax advisor for digital nomads and former tax lawyer in Australia.
Last year, many of his American clients had to work hard to get their stimulus checks while living overseas. She advised them to keep careful income records in case the IRS follows up on their requests.
Another consideration for digital nomads is vaccination against Covid-19, as vaccination rates and access vary widely from country to country. Barbados has fully vaccinated around 26% of its population and Croatia around 32%, according to Our World in Data, a University of Oxford project, but Indonesia, home to Bali’s digital nomad hotspot, vaccinated less than 6%. Ms Burkhardt and Ms Manning were able to get vaccinated in their new country of residence, but not Mr Haynes, in Portugal. (He expects to be eligible once he obtains his residence permit but, he says, “There is a lot of conflicting information.”)
As the lifestyle of digital nomads becomes more accessible, workers can self-categorize into different streams: domestic nomads who work remotely from scenic locations inside the United States, long-haul with the new extended visas and old-school nomads eager to resume their weekly activities or monthly walks.
Sara Magnabosco, a 33-year-old Italian who traveled full-time for 3.5 years while working remotely, says her pace has slowed during the pandemic. She spent four months in a row in the south of France, Italy and Mexico and enjoyed them all. But now she can’t wait to get back on the road.
She plans shorter trips of two to four weeks to places such as Kenya and the Czech Republic through Hacker Paradise, a community of around 900 remote workers around the world. She suspects that her age group is not the target audience for the new generation of remote work visas.
“The freedom to travel is always important to me, and that’s why I chose this lifestyle in the first place,” she says.
Write to Krithika Varagur at [email protected]
Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8