Work everywhere, do not live anywhere?

The Covid-19 pandemic has allowed the development of remote work, and thus a new type of worker who juggles work and travel: the digital nomad.

You might see them on your LinkedIn or Instagram feeds, and they post inspiring marketing texts between two vlogs shot from the paradise landscapes of Bali. The digital nomads, or digital nomads, to take advantage of the boom in remote work to make a living while traveling. An idyllic-looking lifestyle, but it is not without flaws, both for these workers and for the locals in their various destinations.

Who are the digital nomads?

Today, there are an estimated 35 million digital nomads in the world, a third of whom are from the United States. It is difficult to get accurate statistics, because these people are scattered and do not necessarily use specialized platforms. According to several studies, the average digital nomad is a white man in his 30s working in IT, marketing, or as an entrepreneur, with an average annual salary of over $50,000 and can approach $100,000.

Charlotte Legrand, author of the book Digital nomad, work for freeIt is characterized by being a Bedouin hybrid: “I’m a piece [à distance] In creating digital content, on the other hand, I am a yoga teacher. It allows me to meet people instantly who have nothing to do with digital nomads. »

Freedom, purchasing power…and loneliness

What motivates these digital nomads above all else is the freedom to live and work where they want. “I realized that the lifestyle suited me perfectly because I love to travel and do a lot of sports, while I worked where I wanted in an environment that was more in line with my values ​​and expectations.”Charlotte Legrand explains.

“It seems like we spend a lot of days traveling, having fun, getting to know people and partying, but that’s not really true at all. We still spend a lot of time alone.”

While I mostly traveled to France, others head to Eastern Europe, South America, and South Asia for reasons of purchasing power. It is not uncommon to see these digital nomads flaunting that they live like royalty and have a house for rent considered unimportant in the West. American Kristen Gray sparked controversy on social networks in 2021 by encouraging her subscribers to buy her book on digital nomadism and settling, like her, in Bali because life is cheaper there. A publicity stunt considered irresponsible at a critical stage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, even for the digital nomads themselves, life isn’t perfect. Staying just a few weeks or a few months at each destination, which they don’t necessarily talk about, is hard to make connections and loneliness can be hard to bear. Charlotte Legrand tested it out: “It seems like we spend a lot of days traveling, having fun, getting to know people and partying, but that’s not really true at all. We still spend a lot of time alone.” Against this loneliness are specialized platforms such as Nomadlist to promote mutual aid and meetings between digital nomads … at the risk of creating a personal relationship.

Is Ethical Digital Nomadism Possible?

A cliché about a digital nomad can sound pretty intimidating: the year-round sequence of long trips, from one trendy coworking space to the next, flaunting a luxurious lifestyle on Instagram while ignoring the locals. And so it attracts criticism: the overconsumption, pollution, gentrification – and even neo-colonialism – of poor countries. But is this inconsistent version of digital nomadism really the only possible version?

“When you are a nomad, you go to countries that are not ours. You have to adapt to the local culture, with the way of seeing things, the local logic, the values ​​of the country, and trying to understand them instead of imposing yourself. It is a priority.”

According to Charlotte Legrand, on the environmental side, there are two schools: those who care about it, those who prefer closer destinations and long stays in the same country to limit the number of flights, and those who have other priorities. “I think about it a lot and try not to travel, and I don’t take a lot of long trips a year to cut back on carbon emissions, but no one is perfect. I like the way of eating that respects the environment, but when you travel, part of that effort is wasted.”

To be an ethical digital nomad, she especially insists on the importance of respecting the locals: “I think there’s a great idea of ​​respect. When you’re a nomad, you go to countries that aren’t ours. You have to adapt to the local culture, the way of seeing things, the local logic, the values ​​of the country, and trying to understand them instead of imposing yourself. It’s a priority.”

In recent years, many countries have discovered this trend and want to dispel the administrative ambiguity around digital nomads by creating special visas. Visas whose criteria clearly state the priority types of workers required. Thailand, for example, wants to create a specific ten-year visa for people who earn more than $80,000 annually. Wealthy workers who can offset the huge tourist losses due to the health crisis, but they don’t roam the country like tourists. Will these beneficial visas be enough to encourage digital nomads to settle down?

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