In the light of the recent COVID pandemic many people have come to be aware of a recent movement known as becoming a digital nomad. A digital nomad is someone who is tied to work only through their computer and internet access, and thus can work from anywhere in the world. Many of these individuals switch countries frequently, or choose settle down in a country with a lower cost of living where they live a better quality of life for their pay.
How Did This Movement Begin?
As the internet rose to popularity in the early 2000’s, so did this idea that an employee could “work from home.” Prior to the invention of the world wide web, working from home was something an employee could do for a day, or possibly two, but then inevitably they would have to come into work for meetings, to turn in work, make phone calls etc. At the beginning of the internet era, some people did find they were able to work from home, but the vast majority still had to commute into work every day, mostly for meetings, to use office supplies, or to be under the watchful eye of a boss or manager.
When COVID-19 swept the globe in March of 2020, everything changed. Overnight, every company that could possibly do without their employees physically being there, did so. Phones were forwarded to cell phones; computers were moved for a home set up. And apps like google meets, zoom, and facetime suddenly became overnight necessities as, thanks to them, meetings could happen without employees physically being present.
Suddenly, people found if they didn’t need to be at their job, i.e. as a programing engineer, that they didn’t need to live in the expensive city their office was present at. For example, numerous programmers and technology developers who currently inhabit California, one of the US states with the highest tax rates, found they could move to a neighboring state and live for much cheaper while working their job would remain the same.
Also, with the rise of the internet came the rise of digital banking. Besides just being able to work from anywhere, it’s now possible to get paid anywhere. And with inventions such as cryptocurrency and international online banks, it’s also easier than ever to convert between two currencies (something that once required a visit to a specialty store with high fees).
Digital Nomad Dream
Ever go on vacation and wish you could spend the entire year on that beach? Well as a digital nomad you can. Not only that, but often times these nomads, besides scheduled meetings, make their own schedule that works with their natural sleep rhythms. Night owl? No problem. Rather go to bed at 8 in the evening? That can be done too!
Most digital nomads report living happier and more fulfilled with their lives, and not only that, but they also lessen their daily carbon footprint (and mental frustration) by skipping a daily or long commute. And instead of putting money into an expensive apartment, suits and ties, or packed lunches, they’re able to live within their means from anywhere they please, wearing and eating whatever they would like.
The Dark Side of Digital Nomad
Sounds great right? Suddenly hundreds of people all over the US can move and live in the state (or country) they really want to! How can there possibly be a bad side? But there is.
First and foremost, this country, as well as developed nations all over the world are about to have hundreds of empty sky scrapers. Office space has long been sought after retail, especially in large cities such as San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. And suddenly, companies are finding they don’t need these offices anymore, or if they do, they’re looking to downsize as some employees will work from home indefinitely.
Office space is unique in its set up—usually with open floor plans and perhaps only one, maybe two sets of bathrooms per floor. Which brings up the question, once these buildings are empty, and they no longer are able to sell as office space, what do they get turned into? Housing? It can be done, sure, but it’s going to cost a pretty penny to redo a lot of the utilities needed to go into an apartment building.
And it’s not just the empty office space that looms as a dark cloud over our heads. It’s the fact that now, just as the employee can work from anywhere, the boss can hire from anywhere. Why would an American business owner pay a hefty salary, health insurance, and a 401K for an employee he barely sees and communicates with? Why wouldn’t he hire an employee in another country, such as India, to do the job for less pay and sans benefits? And this is a huge issue, because the job market as we know it is about to change.
The USA and Technology
American’s like to believe we are up to date on all the latest technology, and if you’re talking about a smartphone, that’s possibly true. But the truth is, we are far behind other developing nations when it comes into stepping into the new technological era.
In China, kids are learning to code in kindergarten. In India, the public schools push science harder than any other subject. Even in places like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan they are paying special attention to teach kids how to operate technology on a coding level. So, where does that leave the US? With a bunch of people who are still being taught sentence structure late into the high school years? Not to talk bad about English class, but it isn’t going to help anyone when the top hiring professions begin to look elsewhere for technological talent.
It’s highly possible that the next ten years could become sort of a technological revolution just as the nineteenth century saw the industrial revolution. And this probably means some jobs will disappear, or leave US soil, and for good, unless we step up and join the ranks of other developed nations around the world and teach our students the importance of computer programming.
What do I do?
If you’re interested in becoming a digital nomad, it’s still possible, just make sure you offer a wide range of services that would make you a prestigious and worthwhile hire. Not only that, but highlight your creative abilities as these are harder to replace with just anyone. For those reading this that don’t consider themselves very apt at technology, now is the time to learn. Not just learn, but try to become a master. Because when things start to change, it’ll be those without the technology abilities that are left behind. And that’s not a place where you want to be.
Need somewhere to start? Look into coding classes, or become more familiar with the technology behind cryptocurrency. Can’t do either? Perhaps learn the mechanics needed to repair computers from a mechanical standpoint. No matter what you decide to do, make sure you think about the long-term societal need for that specific job, after all, it’d be the worst to learn a new job that overnight becomes obsolete.