Take at look at the #digitalnomad tag on your favourite social media platform and I’ll bet there will be a plethora of images of sun soaked beaches and bronzed bodies relaxing under palm trees in exotic locations. I’ll even confess to contributing to a few of those myself (well, MINUS the “bronze body” which I don’t have and I REALLY don’t want to scar your eyeballs for life!)
But the world of work
is changing has changed and the #nomadlife is being embraced by an increasingly diverse demographic.
By definition, a “nomad” has no fixed abode and freely roams the world on a whim. While this lifestyle is appealing to, and has been taken up by, a large cohort of young people the allure of working and living life on one’s own terms has not escaped the rest of us. I do have a fixed abode and my wife, cat and mortgage (in that order) ensure that I spend a large proportion of my time in my loft in Surrey (the original one ……. in the UK) – but I most definitely classify myself as a digital nomad, even if the purists consider me a part-timer, due to the fact that I can truly, and do regularly, work for anyone in the world from anywhere in the world that I can get an internet connection.
And I’m in my fifties ………
Over the last few months I’ve been approached by people of all ages asking for advice on “how to get started in the world of freelancing” or “how to break free of the corporate chains” or “how to get a better work/life balance” or more specifically, “what opportunities are there to become a digital nomad”?
Some of the people have been made redundant and have been struggling to find a job due to the very real age discrimination that is still rife in the corporate world – it might be illegal and their justification always carefully omits age – but I know that in the recent past I have often been the absolute hands down best person for the role after going through a rigorous selection process but the organisation has on each occasion decided to go with a younger and less experienced person, using the excuse of “we wish we could afford someone like you but our budget doesn’t stretch that far” ………which is a bit lame when we’ve had an open and honest discussion about budget up front! I have a number of personal contacts going through exactly the same situation right now – the point of commonality being that we are all over 50 years of age.
Other people are simply sick and tired of being at the mercy of corporate politics or don’t have the same financial needs as they used to, so are looking for a more flexible work approach in the future – perhaps building a portfolio of “fractional” roles for a few days a week or month.
Some of the people are nearing or have reached retirement age but are not in a financial position to stop working. A case in point was a husband and wife who came up to me after I delivered a keynote recently. He is in his seventies, she in her sixties – for a variety of reasons they have no pension to speak of and are paying interest only on their mortgage. They are looking for a way to achieve financial freedom without being dependant on full-time corporate employment.
Others are in the fortunate position of being financially secure but are living healthier lives than previous generations and are exploring ways to generate an income that will allow them to enjoy their years that lie ahead of them.
Of course some of them fit the more typical profile of the digital nomad community, like the young gentleman in his early twenties who took the first job that he could find straight out of college – only to be frustrated with the lack of opportunity and a burning desire to explore his passions which lie elsewhere. Or the young lady in her early thirties with an MBA and a stellar track record spanning multiple blue chip companies plus a couple of silicone valley startups, who now simply wants to strike out on her own and apply her knowledge to multiple projects simultaneously without having to climb a corporate ladder in a large organisation where she feels she will ultimately end up being bogged down in admin and “Business as Usual” instead of maximising her impact at the coal face.
Whatever the reason or motivation, they all reached the conclusion that the lifestyle I have embraced over the last 4 years since leaving corporate life behind is one that they wish to explore for themselves.
The header photos of this article were taken while I was working in Singapore earlier this year while participating at the inaugural Money20/20 Asia conference. I stayed on for a few days to make new contacts and also to explore the city and the culture while I was there. Contact with existing clients continued throughout without them being aware or even slightly concerned that I was working out of MyAwesomeCafé or lounging beside a rooftop pool (I’ve spared you those photos for reasons already outlined above but you can always take a look at my Instagram feed for more exotic location inspiration …..).
The same was true when I was out in Las Vegas for my annual pilgrimage to the temple of tech that is CES where I caused trouble making contentious remarks on stage before moderating a panel session. Work continued seamlessly in Sydney, Warsaw and even during a short break with my wife in Porto – although obviously always BEFORE sampling the offerings of the excellent Port Houses to be found all over the city!
I don’t have a “work / life balance” anymore – it’s all simply “living” and I make the most of every minute of it no matter where in the world that may be.
After sharing whatever advice I could with each of those that approached me (sorry, that will have to be shared in a series of further posts – I’ve learned a LOT over the last four years and continue to do so every day!) – I left them all with a quote I saw on instagram and have not yet been able to track down the source:-
You’re never too young to start an empire
you’re never too old to chase your dreams
I hope this inspires some of you to take the leap into the nomad life – maybe our paths will cross in real life one day – feel free to come and say hi!
About the author:-
This guest post was kindly provided by Andrew Vorster.
Best known for his work as an “Innovation Catalyst”, Andrew is the former VP of Technology R&D at Visa Europe who now spends the bulk of his time tracking changes in TIPS – Technologies, Innovations, Patents and Startups, contemplating the impacts and implications these will have on society, industry and the individuals within. Weaving these into credible and colourful narratives, he inspires audiences and clients to explore multiple possible futures in order to inform strategy and create their own story of the future before they read about it as history made by someone else.
Find out more at AndrewVorster.com