What is a Digital Nomad?

Friends on Isla Mujere

Location Independent and Digital Nomad are two terms which have cropped up in the last decade or so to describe a group of individuals who have one thing in common: the ability to move about the world freely without calling any one place home or needing to be tied down to any location. In short, they are working professionals, retirees and freelance entrepreneurs who have used the Internet to become truly free in every sense of the word, living where they please in countries where their money is worth three to four times what it is in their home countries, effectively allowing them to retire long before the traditional age of 60+.

In my own case, I sold all my possessions in the States in late 2007, left in January of 2008 and had all of my debt paid off by the time I was 29, rendering my need to work down to a mere 2-4 hours per day. And before you ask, I’m not a millionaire. I’m just someone who took advantage of technology and the evolution of the working industry to transpose into a new lifestyle that allows me to live, work and play as I see fit, on my own terms instead of someone else’s. As of January, 2012, I’m 32 years old and my contracts, books and products pay for my cost of living. All of this was done well before I reached 65 years of age, the “traditional” period of retiring out of the 8 hour a day work force.

Retire before you are 60? At the age of 30 (or earlier)? Right now I’m sure your mind is throwing up a wall that says “Impossible”. After all, the tried-and-true method of living dictates that you have to work a traditional 9-to-5 job in a brick-and-mortar location, clocking in Monday through Friday while you make your salary or per-hour wage, watching the hours and years tick away while you continue paying taxes, putting money into Social Security (or whatever your government’s equivalent is), anticipating those personal days you are allowed so few of per year, and planning ahead for those 2, 3 or 4 weeks of paid vacation you get every year, depending on your time spent with your company. And eventually, if you are lucky, you will be “allowed” to retire some time past the age of 6o, hopefully with a matched 401k or some other form of income to supplement your Social Security, which will never come close to paying for your actual cost of living as an elderly individual.

Sound about right?

Welcome to the New Age

While living abroad in foreign countries is not necessarily anything new (after all, there have been people in the past who have been doing this for years), the advent of the Internet has opened up this lifestyle to a whole new generation of free spirits. Global communication and the advent of global high-speed connections has transformed the world of yesteryear into the world of today, where instant communication and working remotely have allowed more and more people to transition into a lifestyle of complete freedom.

Working remotely as an expat has become more and more popular in recent years as more and more people have been able to perform their tasks from the comfort of their laptop, rather than needing to commute. But the beauty of being location independent as a digital nomad is that you don’t necessarily need to be part of the work force to enjoy the benefits. You could be someone who is already retired and receiving pension, or you could be someone who has set up residual streams of income. You can be single, you can be attached, and you can even enjoy this lifestyle as a family.

The point is, living abroad as a location independent digital nomad is a lifestyle that anyone can experience, regardless of their age or connections. While there are certainly different cases that vary depending on the individual, anyone with the desire to live this lifestyle can achieve it, utilizing nothing more than common sense and modern technology. You wouldn’t use a hand-cranked printing press to print out business cards, would you? Of course not! You would use an inkjet or laser printer to print things out because that’s the evolution of technology! So why would you continue relying on the old method of doing things when there is clearly a new and improved way of living?

But what does it mean to be an expat?

As I’ve already mentioned, the core of being location independent as an expat is that you aren’t tied down to any one location. You are free to roam the planet as you will, choosing cities and countries that speak to your heart. While the primary benefit of living this lifestyle is seeing your dollar, Euro or pound be worth literally 2-4 times what it is back home, as well as experiencing a drastically reduced cost of living as described in 5 Reasons to Live Abroad, there are many, many more reasons why you should choose this lifestyle over staying in comfy, cozy surburbia back home, which you have been brainwashed into thinking is the most affordable, safest, perfect place in the world to be.

Everyone loves vacation. It is the one time in your life when you are allowed to break away from the work grind and go see exotic locations that speak to your heart. You plan for months in advance, saving every penny against the hope that one day you will eventually be able to see the places that you have dreamed about for so long. And when you finally save up enough money and have the time off of work to go, you only have a couple of weeks (or several) to spend in your chosen destination, cramming your itinerary with “things to do” so you can see and experience everything you want within that limited amount of time. In most cases, you end up selecting your favorite things and places to see from a much larger list that is refined because you don’t have enough time or money to explore everything you want. You squeeze every last little minute for everything it’s worth, eking out every last drop before you return to your 40-hour-a-week grind back home.

Now imagine being able to live in that location. Imagine having all the time you could ever want to explore every last little item on your list. Imagine having more than enough money to spend on all the little things you could never have explored while on vacation, because you have evolved from tourist to local. Imagine never having to return home, because this is your home. Imagine never needing to return to that 9-to-5 grind. Imagine waking up without an alarm clock, never needing to clock in, taking as long as you want for lunch or dinner, going to bed when you want, sleeping as long as you want, and doing everything you ever wanted without anyone telling you what to do or when to do it.

That, in its very essence, is what being location independent as a digital nomad is really about. Absolute freedom.

Sounds too good to be true

People fear change. Especially when it is a life-changing type of change that goes against everything they have been taught since the day they were old enough to understand speech. It is only natural that you view something as mind-blowing as this with skepticism. After all, it goes against the grain of everything you have been told since the day you were old enough to understand your native tongue. The thoughts going through most people’s heads when they hear about something like this is the following:

  • Retire before 30? Impossible unless I’ve won the lottery.
  • No longer have to work a 9-to-5 job? Impossible unless I’ve won the lottery or am somehow independently wealthy.
  • Live in foreign destinations? Impossible, because the entire world outside of the United States/United Kingdom is dangerous, filled with terrorists, third-world countries, no modern amenities, third-world medicine and people just waiting to kidnap me and hold me for ransom, random other brainwashed excuse.
  • Impossible because I’ve been on vacation to these places and it cost us a fortune to stay in a hotel and go on the tours for the two/three weeks we were there.
  • Impossible because I have kids/spouse and I need to keep working my 9-to-5 job so I can keep paying for their school, the mortgage on the house, the two cars so we (both spouses) can commute to our jobs.
  • The education outside of the United States/United Kingdom is inferior, and there’s no way I want to subject my kids to that level of ignorance.

These are just a few of the excuses people come up with when confronted with the thought of living or moving outside of the “comfort and safety” of their home country. And without fail, all of these examples are born of fear that stems from the propaganda spread by the governments of certain countries, as well as a complete lack of education regarding the world that truly exists around us.

Which is the primary reason I started this website. While there are certainly other places out there where you can find similar information on traveling abroad and even spending time in certain destinations, my passion is for integrating into new cultures, learning how to live like a local in every sense of the word. It is my passion to explore and to share that information with people just like you, so that you can understand just how beautiful the world around us is, and that it is absolutely safe and just as accessible as your home country, regardless of your situation and whether or not you have kids.

The reality of the 21st century is that anyone, regardless of their previous commitments or circumstances, can live this lifestyle. You can break away and find yourself living in Peru, in Italy, in France, Russia, Japan, Columbia, South Africa…anywhere your heart desires. You don’t have to be independently wealthy and you certainly don’t have to be 60+ to enjoy the life of a retiree. You can do it right now, anywhere you want.

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About T.W. Anderson

T.W. Anderson is the founder of the Marginal Boundaries brand. He is the writer, editor, videographer, photographer, and social media guru alongside Cristina Barrios, the other half of the brand. In his spare time, he is the creative director of the Saga of Lucimia, a forthcoming MMORPG from Stormhaven Studios, LLC.


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