The Bittersweet Truth about the Digital Nomad Lifestyle


Key Takeaways

  • Full-time digital nomads surged from 10.9 million in 2020 to approximately 35 million by 2022.
  • Initial allure diminishes, exposing instability, loneliness, and unreliable work setups.
  • Accounts from Bex Band and Mindi/Daryl Hirsch showcase the eventual shift to a more settled life.

London, UK–Full-time digital nomads currently number 35 million, including many Americans and Britons. Despite the romantic depiction, the lifestyle can prove challenging over time.

The Band’s Nomadic Journey

According to a report published by The Telegraph, in 2016, Bex Band and her husband Gil began their digital nomad journey in Israel, progressing to Tanzania and beyond. Their lives revolved around freelance marketing work, Band’s blog, The Ordinary Adventurer, and a women’s adventure group, Love Her Wild. The endless adventure seemed like “a dream come true,” as Band puts it in the report.

The report noted that the glamour started to wane after two and a half years and 12 countries. The challenges of maintaining a healthy lifestyle on the go became evident. Band yearned for familiarity and stability, especially in her living conditions.

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The report stated that the novelty of working from picturesque locations gradually evaporated, replaced by frustrations over unreliable Wi-Fi connections. Loneliness became a common theme, despite a constant influx of new acquaintances. Long-standing friendships suffered from the distance and the lifestyle divergence.

As per the report, in 2020, 10.9 million people identified as digital nomads. This figure rose to around 35 million by the end of 2022, spurred by the work-from-home surge during the pandemic. Destinations such as Lisbon, Bali, and Tulum became hotspots for nomads, with Americans constituting more than half of this global populace, closely followed by the UK, as reported by Nomad List.

Realities Amid the Numbers

While numbers paint a glossy image, more people voice the not-so-rosy realities. Americans Mindi and Daryl Hirsch, who run the website 2foodtrippers, found the constant motion eventually wearying. After a nomadic stint spanning three years and 33 countries, the couple settled in Lisbon in 2019, enjoying the stability, community, and business growth of a stationary lifestyle.

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The report noted that the surge of digital nomads has led to many issues for host destinations, from inflated housing costs to cultural insensitivity and legal complications. Despite these concerns, several digital nomads, including Band, urge others to try it, emphasizing the life lessons it provides but cautioning that it may not be a sustainable long-term lifestyle for many.

What We Think

The allure of the digital nomad lifestyle, peppered with exotic locations and flexibility, is undeniable. However, as exemplified by experiences recounted in The Telegraph’s report, the gloss often fades.

Challenges of stability, isolation, and practical issues like internet reliability can chip away at its appeal. While it offers invaluable life lessons, it might not be a sustainable long-term choice for everyone.

Moreover, the influx of nomads poses challenges to host destinations, raising concerns about housing costs, cultural insensitivity, and legal complexities. As much as it offers a unique perspective, approaching this lifestyle with caution and a realistic outlook remains crucial.
Learn more in The Telegraph report.

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