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Why digital nomadism is already the future - Part 2

Going Remote.August 16, 2018
By Alex James Napier Holland
Alex is a Red Bull-featured guitarist and digital nomad. He quit his corporate sales career and became a digital nomad in 2017. He now runs a content agency for tech companies and travels the planet. You can follow him at www.alexnapierholland.com

Can digital nomadism help local communities?

Yes, digital nomadism can help local communities. And it must. I’ve seen first-hand the transference of digital skills from European digital nomads, to local people in the countries where we work.

Our co-working space runs dedicated events for young Indonesians — promoting skills and stories of successful entrepreneurship. And we offer significant discounts for local residents who want to use our co-working space.

Most importantly of all, are the friendships that we develop. Our social groups include English, Indonesian, American, Italian, Chinese, Canadian, Singaporean and Thai people, etc., engaging as friends, on a level playing field and sharing experiences, ideas and knowledge. And Bintangs!

Digital nomadism is for everyone - this picture is 3 people chatting over coffee

I’m well-informed about the next steps at co-working spaces, which are heavily centred around education, and in transforming these communities into places for people to learn useful skills — both on-site and remotely, using the internet.

A co-working space is increasingly becoming a place to figure out what you’re doing with your life and to get help launching your new idea; rather than just a place to work. Inspiring stuff. By any measure.

Internet speeds in countries like Bali have also improved significantly in recent years. Co-working spaces have the fastest speeds on the island and it seems likely they will have helped drive forward improvements in infrastructure, at least locally.

However, the discussion around economic contribution is important.

Most nomads that I know would like to contribute more to the local communities in which we work. After all, what better experience for developing cultural awareness and improving your understanding of inequality, than living in a developing country?

Unfortunately, governments have nomads in a tricky spot, with a general failure to recognise that humans today are global. We have no reason not to travel, explore and live anywhere we like.

I suspect that the countries which create intelligent incentives for digital nomad to legally work, pay tax and even base their businesses within their borders will benefit the most from our growing movement.

And developing nations have the most to gain.

For example, Estonia is one of the first countries to recognise digital nomadism and offer both an e-Residency and an upcoming digital nomad visa — which will probably allow a holder to legally reside in Estonia for 365 days, and include entitlement to a Schengen visa, which allows them to visit EU for up to 90 days.

Karoli Hindriks, the CEO of Jobbatical, approached Estonia’s government, with the argument that the main barrier to entry for tech workers entering was obtaining a work visa.

‘I can’t predict the future but my gut feeling is that one thing is clear. There is a talent shortage in most of the countries in the world and the countries who will excel economically in the future are the ones who are adapting to this. The ones who figure out how to bring people in, instead of building walls.’

Hindrinks goes on to suggest that packages for public services like healthcare could be sold to visitors — which sounds like an intelligent and potentially profitable solution.

Meanwhile, It should be noted that the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, believes, citizens of the world are citizens of nowhere — solidifying her as the most out-of-touch, uninformed, and irrelevant prime minister in modern UK history (in context of her opposition to legalisation of drugs and general cynicism towards civil liberties and personal freedom).

So, I find it interesting that the typically open-borders modern Left aren’t more excited about a movement that could free humans from the social shackles of corporate life and the potential divisions that nationality, ethnicity and religion can cause.

What does digital nomadism look like?

The irony, is that a Left-leaning, no-borders advocate would struggle to find a more inclusive environment than a digital nomad co-working space.

Yes, of course there’s a bar to entry, in the sense of having to get a plane ticket and some kind of online income (or savings) in order to visit. But the same is true of almost any location beyond our own local area.

And the beauty of working in a warm, developing country, is that there’s little room for snobbery or prejudice.

Even if someone earns six-figures, it makes zero sense to wear anything other than the board-shorts, flip-flops and t-shirts we all wear. You can’t rent a car, so almost everyone rides the same battered scooters (OK, there’s a few nice motorbikes!).

I know people earning multiple six-figures; and I know people earning far less than $1,000/month. And we all hang-out together at the beach, drink the same beers and share ideas and good times.

Every social environment has its own value system.

And the digital nomad scene is ideas-centric.

  • In the conservative rural area that I grew up, we’d be asked, ‘Who are your parents?’, ‘What job do they have?’, ‘What car do you drive’?
  • VALUE SYSTEM: Economic status

  • In Cambridge, where I spent my teenage years, there’s less materialism — but a soft intellectual snobbery. Questions like, ‘Which political views do you hold?’, ‘Which college do you go to?’, ‘Aren’t Brexiteers horrible?’.
  • VALUE SYSTEM: Having ‘acceptable’ (centre-Left) political views.

  • In nomad hotspots, you’re usually asked, ‘What are you working on?’, ‘What ideas do you have?’, ‘What are you trying to build?’.
  • VALUE SYSTEM: Ideas.

 

In my experience, digital nomadism is inherently constructive.

It’s centred on building, making and offering intelligent solutions to problems.

  • If you leave us hiding underground, we’ll be more inclined to solve our own problems.
  • But if we’re recognised and included in discussions about policy and social contribution, then we can offer a powerful and growing set of tools.

 

By promoting discussions about these important ethical issues, the digital nomad scene is going to start engaging with them more, and both finding and executing constructive solutions that will help to make our movement more socially beneficial.

However, government recognition and engagement will significantly assist this process. What’s clear is that digital nomadism will only grow. And until someone bans laptops, internet access and the right to travel, this remains true.

So if someone wants to be authoritarian and try and stop people from being free to launch an online business and live anywhere, then they’re being neither helpful or realistic. But if we can have a constructive conversation about how the growing number of people who are working remotely can contribute to the countries in which they live, then this can benefit everyone, everywhere.

The digital nomad scene is young, immature, flawed — and still operating underground a lot.

But if your dream is of a no-borders world, where people are liberated to be creative; and are judged on their character and ideas, rather than their ethnicity, nationality or religion, then I struggle to see a better horse to pin your bet on than the digital nomad scene.

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