What is a digital nomad anyway?

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This is the first part of our new “Digital Nomad Girls Basics” blog series where we talk about all the basics of the digital nomad lifestyle. Let’s start at the beginning: What is a digital nomad anyway?


So, you found our little corner on the internet and something tells me you’re intrigued by the digital nomad lifestyle. Maybe you’ve read some blogs and found out that there are a whole bunch of people travelling the world while getting paid. Or you’ve seen a few sexy pics on Instagram of happy-looking, tanned people working on their laptops by the pool.


Whatever it is, I’m so happy you’re here!


I know that the digital nomad lifestyle is intriguing, fascinating and might even look too good to be true. Trust me, when I first found out about this way of life, my mind was blown. I was confused by all the options, different names (digital nomad, location independent, remote worker…) and more than anything, how to get started as a digital nomad myself.

Now I get asked a lot of the same questions that I used to ask myself and others when I first started out. It makes sense. The digital nomad movement is still pretty young and there’s a lot of confusion out there as to who “qualifies” as a digital nomad.

That’s why I thought we better start right at the beginning: what is a digital nomad anyway?


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Let’s get a bit nerdy and find out what Wikipedia has to say about digital nomads:

“Digital nomads are people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner.”

That sounds about right. A digital nomad is anyone who can work on their laptop or other electronic device and wifi and who chose to travel while they do it.

What’s important here is to note that it doesn’t matter what kind of job you’re doing online. Sure, you can be a software developer or web designer, but you don’t have to have a very techy job at all to become a digital nomad.

Over the last years I have met girls who are social media managers, writers, marketers, psychologists, fashion and travel bloggers, videographers, translators, virtual assistants, event organisers, graphic designers, yoga teachers, English teachers, violin teachers (true story!), business owners, health coaches, PR and HR experts, professors, and many more, who are all working while travelling around the world. (in fact, I interviewed over 50 girls from our community with different online jobs)

What is a digital nomad anyway - Digital Nomad Girls Pic 2

Some of them are freelancers, some are remote employees and others run their own online businesses. Many of them do a combination of all three of these things (that’s right, digital nomads tend to have a bunch of interests and talents they love to pursue).

You see, there’s no one answer as to who or what a digital nomad is. But one thing that is really, really important and that is often forgotten when we talk about digital nomads is this:


‘Digital Nomad’ is a lifestyle, not a job title.

That’s why it’s so confusing as to how to get started as a digital nomad. There simply isn’t one right answer. And the same is true for how much digital nomads earn. It’s impossible to tell because there are a million and one different ways to become a digital nomad.

But don’t worry, that’s a good thing!

It means that there’s almost certainly a way for you to become a digital nomad too! (and we’ll cover lots of those ways in other posts like here and here)

But let’s finish our research first: the second part of the Wikipedia definition says:

“Such workers typically work remotely—generally from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces and even recreational vehicles—to accomplish tasks and goals that traditionally took place in a single, stationary workplace.”

You see?

There are so many different options how to live this lifestyle. You can choose in which country you work. Whether you like to work from home, or a coffee shop, in a beach town or a mountain village. Some nomads even live in their vans, others house sit around the world.


Build your own nomad life

Almost every single digital nomad I’ve ever met had a slightly different approach to how they liked to travel, where they liked to work and how they balanced their time between travel and work (a huge topic for any digital nomad). Which is super exciting. It means you can piece together all the puzzle pieces of your own digital nomad style to create the perfect location independent life YOU love.


Oh yes, that’s another term for being a digital nomad: location independent. Some people like it better because they feel it more accurately reflects the freedom of this lifestyle and that you don’t have to be nomadic all the time (I’ll be using both terms nearly interchangeably because it’s nice to mix it up).

So you see, the definition of a digital nomad is actually pretty vague, yet it’s still a dream of thousands of people to join this movement one day. But, there are still a ton of stereotypes out there and a lot of promises surrounding this lifestyle which give me the heebie-jeebies.


We work hard and play hard

Often, digital nomadism is presented as a cure for everything and a quick and easy way to get rich (a la ‘quit your job, move to Thailand and make 50k a month while working 4 hours a week’).

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What Google thinks Digital Nomad life looks like 😉


Sure, there are some really successful digital nomads who only have to work a few hours a week and make a ton of passive income.

But trust me, each and every one of them has put in years of incredibly hard work until they got to this point. Just like successful owners of brick-and-mortar businesses have done before them.

That’s why I want to be super clear. If you’ve already got a remote job, or successful business you can run from anywhere, then all you have to do is book a flight in order to become a digital nomad. Otherwise, you’re going to have to put some work into your dream.

But the good news is, if I can do it (a chemistry PhD who used to work in a lab) then virtually (pun intended) anyone can do it.

And in the next few blog posts in this series, we’ll talk about how and why (yes why) to become a digital nomad.

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By Jenny

Jenny is the founder of Digital Nomad Girls. She is a freelance writer, social media manager and virtual assistant who also blogs about her digital nomad journey over on Square Hippie. Jenny loves noodle soup, ceviche and dumplings.