Who Are Digital Nomads?

The term digital nomad was coined in 1997 in a book called The Digital Nomad, written by Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners. Their book predicted new technology would allow employees the ability to work remotely, among other hypotheses.

A digital nomad is someone who travels to different locations on a regular basis whilst engaging in remote work using digital telecommunications technology. Digital nomads rely on portable devices with wireless internet capabilities, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones to do their work wherever they want.

All digital nomads are driven by a passion for travel, adventure, and most importantly, freedom.

The Digital Nomad, written by Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners.
The Digital Nomad, written by Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners.

What Do Digital Nomads Do?

Digital nomads are people whose career is location independent as they only require to  have access to a fast and reliable internet connection to work. 

Some of the primary sources of income for Digital Nomads include: 

Income TypeDefinitionExamples
Active IncomeProceeds from activities in which you materially participate during the year.Translation, Copywriting & TranscriptionVirtual Assistant/Remote WorkTeaching LanguagesTaking Online SurveysSocial Media ManagementVideo Production or Video EditingVoice ActingBuilding WebsitesData Entry JobsCryptocurrency & Day Trading
Passive IncomeProceeds from activities (rental, trade or business) in which you don’t materially participate during the year (excl. real estate professionals).Affiliate MarketingBlogging & Digital MarketingE-commerce BusinessDigital Products/Assets eg. NFTsPeer-to-peer lending
Portfolio IncomeProceeds, interest accrued from investments at an earlier time (syn. capital gains).Bonds & StocksTrust & Mutual FundsArtAnnuities

How Many Digital Nomads Are There In The World?

Worldwide, it is estimated that there are at least 35 million nomads. The community is split nearly evenly between males and females at 49.81% females and 50.19% males. Majority of digital nomads tend to come from more developed countries.

Where Do Digital Nomads Stay?

Going by the nature of their work, digital nomads do not have a permanent structure that they call home and even if they have a permanent address, then it is treated as a layover. 80% of digital nomads stay in one place for 3 to 9 months, and 66% stay in one place between 3 to 6 months. Some digital nomads prefer to stay in one place for a few days, while others stay up to a few months.

Digital Nomad working with a Laptop in a Cafe
Digital Nomad working with a Laptop in a Cafe

Ultimately, what determines the place where a digital nomad travels to and resides is cost. Most digital nomads live in hotels (51%), then with friends/family (41%), Airbnb (36%), car/RV/van (21%), and hostels (16%).

Resume.io published a list of best cities in Africa for remote workers; among them, the top cities include Nairobi (Kenya), Cape Town (SouthAfrica), Marrakech (Morocco), Zanzibar (Tanzania) and Cairo (Egypt). Many other African countries are also really keen to encourage remote workers, with the first country introducing a Digital Nomad Visa in 2022. Kigali’s Rwanda has also been on a recent charm offensive trying to attract tourists and all sorts of visitors to the country.

Below is a list of most important factors in a good city for digital nomads according to digital nomads:

FactorSpecific Consideration
GeographyIslands, Weather, Time zone,
InfrastructureWalkable Cities, Transportation, Communication, Housing & Utilities
EconomyCost of Living, Socio-economic structures, 
DemographicsLanguage, Population, Culture & Lifestyle options
Socio-political stabilityPolitics, Freedom of the press, Quality of life, Safety & Tourist visa

Who Were The First Digital Nomads?

Steve Roberts, who in 1983 rode on a computerized recumbent bicycle and was featured in Popular Computing magazine, is widely considered as the first digital nomad.

What Are The Benefits Of Being A Digital Nomad?

  1. Flexibility. Digital nomads have the freedom to work from wherever, whenever. 
  2. Zero traffic. Digital nomadism Eliminates the aspect of stressful commutes and traffic jams thereby saving on time and money.
  3. Expanded worldview. Travel expands one worldview by giving them a deeper understanding of different people and their various cultures.
  4. Multitasking. Working remotely enables one to run other businesses at the same time. DIgital nomads can use their free time to learn new skills hence diversifying their portfolio.
  5. Work-life balance. Full autonomy in designing one’s work schedule which allows one to easily strike the perfect work-life balance.
  6. Keeping in touch with loved ones. Having fewer work hours(70% of digital nomads work 40 hours per week or fewer) allows digital nomads to easily make time to meet and catch up with friends and/or bond with their kids.
  7. Healthy working environment. Since digital nomads work in isolation the probability of  getting into logger heads with other employees is non-existent. 
  8. Improved immunity. Working in isolation also has the benefit of drastically reducing the risk of contracting  and spreading communicable diseases, Bacteria are easily spread in closed environments. Avoiding an office can decrease that risk. Being able to live at your own pace and listen to your body rhythm in terms of working hours also contributes to a healthier lifestyle.
  9. Healthier diet. With the option to work from your place of residence. A digital nomad has more than enough time and energy to prepare a freshly cooked meal unlike the junk food/processed food/microwave foods most people opt for after getting back home tired and exhausted from the office. 
  10. Cost of living. It is economical as one lives out of a suitcase and only purchases what they truly need.Many digital nomads are known to embrace a minimalist lifestyle.. 
  11. Networking. Socialize, interact and build networks and a community with other digital nomads from all areas of the world.
  12. No dress code. Since digital nomads do not physically report to work, they can dress comfortably as they please.
  13. Rejuvenation. Nomadism allows one to move to areas where they get to enjoy good weather. The constant change of scenery also keeps one motivated and refreshed. Digital nomads holiday as they work. 
  14. Mobile office. There are no overhead costs such as premise license, rent or power bills
  15. Multilingual. Living in a foreign country will force one to learn the language of the natives in order to easily get by. 
  16. Physical fitness. Since the life of a digital nomad is filled with travel, a good fitness regimen is essential for someone to embrace the adventure filled lifestyle.
  17. Entrepreneurship. A digital nomad has the capability to grow his brand and scale his business on the online sphere.

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