What Is A Digital Nomad
A digital nomad is a transient, a ghost. He or she is a modern day traveler, a wayfarer who — in past decades — would have moved from town to town, avoiding a career altogether. What makes the new, digital, nomad different than the old wandering musician or the train-hopping wanderer is that we now settle ourselves into the multiplicitous spirit of the internet. We live and work in the cloud, in the aid, never settling in and always doing something new. Where digital nomads establish careers in one particular area of the internet or not, they are defined by their vagrancy, either literally (because they move themselves from city to city while they work) or in spirit (because they are always taking on something new in the virtual world). Digital nomads are a new feature of our society, and they are quickly, among the young, coming to replace the old way of the wandering artist.
Moving Nomads Vs Digital Nomads In Spirit
There are nomads that move and nomads that stay put. Some digital nomads move cities routinely, uprooting themselves on a regular basis. This is more like the old way of being a nomad, but in this case they are anchored to their digital lives as writers, editors, programmers, artists, etc. This affords them to freedom to go wherever they want and establish themselves anywhere without having to worry about making a living (or taking a low-paying long-hour job down at the docks).
The other kind of nomad stays put. Perhaps they have settled in with a small group of dedicated loved ones, perhaps they have fallen in love with a city. What makes them nomads is not their physical vagrancy but their spiritual movement — in spirit, they refuse to be pinned down. They perform different jobs, sometimes for all sorts of different people, and sometimes using all sorts of different skill sets. In their spare time they write novels and screen plays, they record albums, they produce films. Their lives are free from the burdens of a traditional employer and they are often consciously avoidant of routinized careers. Some of these nomads eventually settle into a particular job, but they often take the jobs that afford them great freedom and variety — an editing job that has them working today on children’s books and tomorrow on textbooks; a job without any real direct supervision, which they can do on their own terms, from home or wherever else, whenever they like.
What makes a nomad a nomad is nothing but their spirit. They are travelers at heart (even if they do not travel in body). Many of these people are young, intellectual, well-educated, artistically talented, and philosophically interested. Some of them see themselves as socially responsible and use the freedom of their nomadic lives to work toward great social change. Some of them see themselves as detached from that sort of political life and use their freedom to cultivate themselves and their true loves — often artistic loves — as fully as they wish. Whatever the case, this sort of nomad shares a lineage with the train hopper, but he or she is entirely their own species. This is a life that is only possible in the digital age, and it doesn’t look like it is going anywhere anytime soon.
Traditional Nomads Vs New Nomads
Traditional nomads avoided the clamor of society by putting themselves off the map. Some of them were homeless, many of them did not have access to healthcare, and virtually all of them had long lists of temporary jobs that payed poorly. These nomads traded the life they could have in society for one of freedom and creativity, but the cost was quite high. Though is was likely a cost they were willing to pay, it is undeniable that the romantic image of the traveling bluesman fails to account for how difficult that life would have been.
The new, digital, nomadic life is similar in philosophy to the old way but entirely different. What we see is still a nomad who avoids the world that they see as stopping up their creative freedom, who seeks out the joy of a different kind of life, but now we find more and more often that these people, who are usually well-educated, are able to secure online employment. This employment varies greatly, and is still nomadic in nature (as it does not routinize the worker the way that an office job does), and it generally doesn’t pay as well as a traditional business job, but it can pay the bills, which is all that many young people want. The vagrants of today are virtual stars — present on social media, active on freelancing websites, constantly working, always creating, building their names — and that, rather than confining them to cultural pressure, affords them the freedom to flee from it. This is a new age of vagrancy.
How To Give Up Security For Freedom
If you are considering leaving your permanent, in-person position for a life of digital nomadic vagrancy, then you may be in for a shock. The work pays less, may require long hours, is sometimes difficult to come by, and does not include — in general — 401k’s or medical coverage. You will generally, unless you’re lucky, not get a great position right out of the gates (if you ever find a permanent position you’re happy with) and if you, it will likely not include bonuses and fancy job titles. This is not the life for someone who wants to keep up with their neighbors. This is the life for someone who wants to be an exception, who wants to make their own way, and who wants to be free of what encumbers them. Being a digital nomad means trading security — the security of a society — for something else, freedom. It is a trade that many people make willingly and consciously, but that doesn’t mean that it is easy. What it is is rewarding.
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