DIGITAL NOMADSClaire RowlandUser Insight
2INTRODUCTION   The last few years have seen the emergence               of a new class of digital worker, living         ...
3WHAT WE DID                                             They use the technologies and services that the rest        adven...
4“I have regular haunts, but instead of                                                                            the res...
5with a broader perspective on the world and issues         Two of the nomads we spoke to were actively trying       city ...
6“Price gouging on travel culture,                      “You get imperceptibly alienated fromincreasingly shitty airline s...
7PRACTICALITIES   CONNECTIVITY AND COSTS                                       even at those prices it doesn’t cost much  ...
8generally have one or more of e.g. the iPhone,           “With the iPhone especially you would                     Extra ...
9POWER                                                   adapters and chargers for different international          more t...
10The primary need is to be back up and running as          way, after lugging too much kit around the world a         The...
11for many nomads, who have contacts in many cities.       epitomises the geek nomadic lifestyle, thanks to a         “I h...
12nomads always to keep track of their connected          create stronger ties than occasional                   a New Yor...
13interests and status, all intended in a subtle way        the primary motivations for moving from                       ...
14OPPORTUNITIES FOR                                           If you could have one wish for something that would      oth...
15                                                       “I dream of joining an association of                    remote w...
16to help us travel less, not more. Some nomad                                                           REFERENCES/THANKS...
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Fjord: Digital Nomads white paper


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In order to understand the needs of highly mobile workers, Fjord interviewed a small but highly influential group of Nomads to understand their lifestyles, goals and technology needs. We also wanted to understand how the physical and social costs of this highly demanding mobile existence compared with the benefits. Also available at

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Fjord: Digital Nomads white paper

  1. 1. DIGITAL NOMADSClaire RowlandUser Insight
  2. 2. 2INTRODUCTION The last few years have seen the emergence of a new class of digital worker, living being a modern nomad, and the technology and other solutions they use to make it all essentially nomadic lives on the kind possible. of global scale that was previously only available to a tiny and privileged few. Using Our primary goals in conducting this technology to transcend the need for a research were to understand the core needs permanent base, they spend a significant of digital nomads, how technology and amount of their time traveing around the services may adapt in future to meet those world from place to place, enjoying the needs, how the lives of nomads may change autonomy to live and work wherever they in future, and what impact this might have choose, building global networks of contacts for the rest of us. and gaining perspective from the wide range of cultural experiences open to them. They are relatively small in number, but as extreme examples of mobile workers, many of them high profile in the technology field, they have the capacity to shape both technology and social trends for the rest of us. In late 2008, Fjord conducted interviews with a small but highly influential group of nomads, to understand their motivations for living this lifestyle, the experience of T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  3. 3. 3WHAT WE DID They use the technologies and services that the rest adventures, perhaps after coming out of a long of us also rely on from time to time, but are more period in a job or relationship.We interviewed 11 nomadic participants, in a highly dependent on them, motivating them to seekcombination of face-to-face, phone, IRC and email creative and innovative solutions to problems that They typically work for themselves, as independentinterviews (remote and time-shifted communication the rest of us also face, albeit less frequently. consultants, or are involved in startups. They haveis a necessity for this group). Participants were, in the freedom to determine where they work and movemany cases, high profile names in the technology They inspire, and in some cases actively create, frequently, either because the work can be doneworld, responsible for some of the best-known web some of the technologies and services that enable from anywhere in the world, or because they haveservices in recent years. more productive travel and remote working for the deliberately chosen to do work or collaborate with rest of us. people in a specific location. They may not even haveWe are enormously grateful for their candid a permanent home base, or at least not one in whichresponses, and have assumed to protect their DEFINING NOMADS they spend a significant amount of time.anonymity unless specifically given permission toquote them. Not everyone who is highly mobile is truly nomadic. “I sort of live in New York, meaning An essential distinction of our nomads is the degree that’s the city where I do the mostIn return for their time, we made donations on of control that they maintain as part of the lives they laundry.”behalf of each participant to The One Laptop per have chosen: it’s up to them when to move on, andChild Foundation ( to where. The places they choose to spend time are typically leading technology hubs with good networkingWHY NOMADS? TRUE NOMADS opportunities, places offering easy access to a favourite leisure activity (e.g. ski resorts) or The truest nomads live this lifestyle as a result11 is a small sample, but the nomads are a relatively rich cultural opportunities, or the prospect of a of an active desire to see the world, because theysmall group. However, they are highly influential, comfortable lifestyle for relatively low cost. have become well known for what they do and takepioneering remote working and maintaining global up speaking and work engagements around thenetworks of contacts in ways that will affect a much world, or sometimes because of a desire for freshwider audience. T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  4. 4. 4“I have regular haunts, but instead of the rest of life, which is typically centred aroundpubs they’re cities.” family or friends at home. As such, they are likely to find extensive travel a potentially disconnectingTravel is an opportunity to see the world and move experience that restricts rather than enhances theirin wider social circles than they would if based in a social activities.single location. Ironically by transcending physicallocation they have freed themselves up to enjoy it Road warriors may not have the same degree ofeven more. control over their travels as the true nomads, or the same social experience, but theirIn their world, work is inseparable from the rest of technology needs are broadly the same and theytheir lives, with most of their friends and contacts represent a far larger market.being fellow ‘connected people’ met throughnetworking and sharing ideas. ROAD WARRIORS A couple of our interviewees fell more accurately into this category, but in this report we have focusedThere are even nomadic companies, set up and The majority of mobile workers are probably more more on the nomads, who are arguably more activestaffed by nomads and collaborators working in accurately described as road warriors. These are trend-setters. However, design solutions thatmultiple countries around the world. This allows heavy business travellers, with permanent home and address the nomads’ needs are likely to work well forthem to hire the best person for the job, no matter work bases. They are more likely to be employees, road warriors too, especially if they can enhance thewhere in the world they are. and travel tends to mean visiting clients, colleagues opportunities for social interaction. or business partners, often resulting in more time“The company has never all been in the in less glamorous locations than the nomads, e.g. suburban business parks or second tier cities. BENEFITS OF Asame room and the founders had not NOMADIC LIFESTYLEever been in the same room at the same They have fewer opportunities to build socialtime until 6 months in.” All the nomads we spoke to were deeply appreciative networks in each location visited so are more likely of the opportunities they have to see the world and to perceive a stronger divide between work and meet many interesting people. This provides them T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  5. 5. 5with a broader perspective on the world and issues Two of the nomads we spoke to were actively trying city like San Francisco with great networkingthat concern them and a much wider social network to encourage others to live nomadically for a while possibilities. Nomads can also minimise spendthan they would otherwise have. as a way to broaden their horizons, even if just for in the early days of a start up by moving to a city a short while. They strongly believe that the only offering a good lifestyle and cultural stimulation“Constantly thinking about the world remaining barriers to a fully nomadic lifestyle are for relatively low costs, such as Bangkok or Buenos technological, and that more and more people could Aires. Some nomads hope to convince more andfrom different points of view.” and should overcome the mental inhibitions that more businesses to allow their staff to be nomadic, root them to a fixed home: even creating nomadic teams who move from“It’s only when you are outside that you location to location every few months in search oftruly understand your own culture.” “It’s more realistic for many people new experiences. to do than they realise. …People areSome also felt that it was a way of taking control “People should and could change theover life, and squeezing the greatest possible very grounded in the idea that they are where they are. Nowadays more and way you think about not working inopportunities from it, though they acknowledgedthat it might not be a lifestyle that could be sustained more people should [be nomadic for a the office.”forever: while] because you can be anywhere with high speed internet access. … FRUSTRATIONS OF”Time passes faster when you’re Once you move around it changes your THE LIFESTYLEnomadic, but time doesn’t drift, you’re mental perspective so you feel that you There are some obvious practical difficulties whichalways doing something and always can move around. …If you do it for 6 nomads have to deal with, such as frequent jetlag,planning something. Life is very months to 1 year you will see the new lack of sleep and decreasing levels of comfort due toexciting.” opportunities of life.“ airline and hotel chains reducing costs by reducing levels of service. Business benefits of nomadic working may include the opportunity to take work in a technical hub T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  6. 6. 6“Price gouging on travel culture, “You get imperceptibly alienated fromincreasingly shitty airline service, loss friends back home, it’s not good forof food in hotel rooms, you.”pay wi-fi.“ Several nomads acknowledged that this was not aIn addition, the mundane pleasures of home, such as lifestyle they expected to maintain forever, and feltcooking for yourself or having the means to indulge they might soon need to switch it for a slower pacea hobby (such as playing an instrument) may be and greater stability.hard to come by, and it requires a concerted effortto get physical exercise when one’s lifestyle is so “The idea of travelling forever ischaotic. frightening.”While nomads typically have very wide circles of However, the excitement is addictive, and somefriends in many locations, maintaining very close feared that their sense of grounding, or ability tofriendships and family relationships can be tough. adapt to a more ‘normal’ life, might be affected:This is a lifestyle requiring a high degree of self-sufficiency and confidence, and emotional support “Life is very exciting, so major lifemay not always be to hand when times get tough.Friends and family who are not nomadic may find decisions get put on hold. You mightit hard to understand the desire to lead a rootless start to lose your appreciation of alifestyle. ‘normal’ lifestyle.”“The existential angst of thesimultaneously very social and verylonely lifestyle.” T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  7. 7. 7PRACTICALITIES CONNECTIVITY AND COSTS even at those prices it doesn’t cost much but when overseas I can’t even surf the After accommodation, the nomad’s most important web on my phone.” need is to find an internet connection. Availability is less of an issue than reliability and cost: patchy wi-fi can create an unprofessional impression on a Skype “I do text-only checks of mails to call, and spending a lot of time on the move can manage costs.” make data costs add up significantly. Keeping track of costs is generally difficult, and “Everything is possible, but much of it is nomads try to stick to locations with free and unlimited wi-fi, avoid using mobile data roaming, difficult or expensive.” and hope for the best. Mobile broadband is often used by people who spend a significant proportion of time in their home “I just try not to worry about it. It is country, but the high cost of roaming severely difficult to track. The only thing I really restricts use when travelling, and has led some do to try to control these costs are to highly mobile nomads to ditch their smartphones for avoid using cellular services when I’m basic talk and text models (see below). outside the US.” “Mobile carriers’ complete highway robbery of travellers.” EQUIPMENT All the nomads we spoke to carry laptops, preferably ”My mobile phone has unlimited data light but full-featured ones such as a small MacBook. in US, but it’s 1.5 cents per KB overseas. All also carry mobile phones, but are split on the benefits of smartphone devices. Those who spend I stay connected on IM all the time, as a reasonable amount of time in one ‘home’ country T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  8. 8. 8generally have one or more of e.g. the iPhone, “With the iPhone especially you would Extra batteries, external drives, power leads andSidekick, and perhaps a Blackberry. Where these find it really frustrating as you’d get data modems (mostly for use in a home country) arehave Powerpoint, Keynote or other document also common. Power and backup are discussed in used to all the great services and youviewers, they can sometimes remove the need to more detail below.take a laptop to a meeting, and a high-end phone can won’t be able to use them abroadalso function as compact camera and GPS device. because of ridiculous roaming charges.” When life is spent on the go, in hotel rooms andHowever, fiddly text entry and small screen sizes friends’ apartments, and everything must be carried,mean they cannot replace the laptop for more than “I downgraded my phone. Now I just opportunities to personalise one’s space are limited.very basic tasks. use the cheapest one I can get.” For some, bag fetishism becomes a substitute for pride in a home environment, providing a small“The phone can carry read-only stuff. Most nomads also carry cameras, with compacts opportunity to carry a familiar piece of personal or cameraphones for snapshots and the occasional identity anywhere in the world.You need a laptop for doing actual digital SLR if they are likely to want to take betterwork. Blackberries are only good foryes/no emails.” quality pictures. “I have too many dongles and power cords in a nice bag.” Those who are permanently on the move don’t justFor nomads who move country a lot, the extremely need tools for work, they also need ways to entertainhigh cost of roaming renders smartphones themselves, and even maintain hobbies. iPods areeffectively useless for internet access. Some of these unsurprisingly ubiquitous, and some may carrypeople will buy the cheapest possible pre-pay phone small speakers and even miniature amplifiers, likein each country and/or carry a bunch of local pre- the Sonic Impact T-amp. One nomad we spoke topay SIMs to be swapped in and out of an unlocked carries a miniature guitar and practice amp, anotherhandset. To some, a super basic phone has become a small projector, which doubles as a large monitora source of retro joy and a sense of rebellion against for design work and a cinema screen to host filmthe networks and their perceived extortionate nights (a useful gimmick for making new friends incharges. new cities). T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  9. 9. 9POWER adapters and chargers for different international more than they actually did. Their main concern power supplies, but these are easily lost. It’s was for losing data rather than the equipment itselfPower is to digital nomads what water is to important to know that spares will be available (except in the case of treasured possessions such astraditional desert nomads: a certain amount can be locally, which has driven at least one nomad we a camera), and online backups were widely used,carried, but it’s vital to stock up when you can, to spoke to to stick to using equipment for which whether that was a formal backup service such asknow where the next source is, and to make what peripherals are easily available. Rsync, Google Docs or simply forwarding email to ayou have last until you can get to it. With planning, Gmail account for archiving.a flat battery may be a rare occurrence, but nomads “Wherever there’s an internationalmust live with the constant fear of running out of airport there’s always an Apple store,power. that’s not necessarily true of something like Dell.”“I rarely actually run out of electricity,but am constantly aware that I might Mini USB chargers are a useful, lightweightand make adjustments to deal with it.” alternative to traditional phone or device chargers“I have at times gone to the bathroom and mean that only one local adapter need befor a long time to charge up. That’s carried, for the laptop.always embarrassing but they almostalways have a power plug there. Power “I refuse to buy any mobile phone that None were concerned that their data would be of anyis one of the reasons I attained lounge doesn’t charge by mini USB.” value in the wrong hands, and only two saw the needprivileges.” for encryption. BACKUPS AND SECURITYMany nomads carry spare batteries, some up to 3, “If I lose data it would not jeopardise We had expected nomads to be very concerned aboutperhaps even extended life batteries, but some try the risk of loss or theft of data, but in reality most my trade secrets. The problem is notto avoid carrying them if they can predict where the having a copy.” felt this was something they ought to worry aboutpower sources will be. Some will carry go-bags of T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  10. 10. 10The primary need is to be back up and running as way, after lugging too much kit around the world a The more nomads know the environment willsoon as possible in the event of the loss or failure of few times. provide, the less they need to bring, and the lighterany device. they can travel. Packing light requires not just “I just can’t rationalize my stuff to organisation, a ruthless attitude to possessions“Get used to the idea you can lose travel light.” and the creativity to think of alternatives, but a confidence that certain things will be available onanything and pack light.” arrival.However, online backup can be slow, and expensiveif paying for connectivity, so there may be a need to FINDING A PLACE TO STAYprioritise the most important work only for online Finding somewhere to stay in a new place is oftenbackup. Some nomads carry external hard drives, the first need to be met. Hotels provide the comfort,and we heard stories of people carrying multiple convenience and facilities needed for a short stay.hard drives in separate bags wherever they go to But for longer-term stays, perhaps of a few months,guard against loss, as tourists may split money the key need is to find a place which not only offersbetween wallets and money belts. reasonable comfort, power and connectivity, but also somewhere to relax and feel at home, whereOnly one carried a laptop lock, though another mealtimes don’t have to mean eating out andmentioned the need to be sensitive in some locations potentially, meetings can be held.where using relatively expensive equipment might Still others lack the capability or willingness to doeven incur personal risk. without some of the tools they would expect in a fixed office. Small and light things that are designed “The luxury of buying groceries andPACKING LIGHT to be portable (such as small laptops and the fixing up a salad.” aforementioned USB chargers) are easier to carry,You’d think packing light would be a priority but some physically small things can be hard to Services like Craigslist can be used to find shortfor anyone who is highly mobile, but it is an work with, such as screens, keyboards and mice. We lets in a hurry, and sharing with other interestingorganisational skill that has to be acquired, and heard indirectly of one nomad who insists on taking people can be a good way to network. Borrowing ansome nomads find it hard. Some learned the hard a 22” monitor everywhere in a suitcase. apartment or staying with friends are viable options T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  11. 11. 11for many nomads, who have contacts in many cities. epitomises the geek nomadic lifestyle, thanks to a “I have found that being nomadic hasHowever, sharing a space with people over extended combination of free wi-fi, power sockets, good sized drastically increased the number ofperiods of time can be a new source of stress, tables, not telling people to leave, and (according to close friendships that I have, but thatespecially if it must also serve as a workplace. our interviewees) the “second best coffee in town”. It’s here that nomads go in the knowledge that they some distant friendships have to beMost of the nomads we spoke to seemed to need are likely to bump into friends, meet new people maintained via web.”surprisingly few things to feel at home in a new with similar interests, or simply to be in a familiarenvironment. For some, wi-fi is enough, for others, place where they recognise the baristas. See belowit’s the ability to play their own music out loud that for more discussion of the social life of the sharedmakes the space feel like theirs. workspace.“I do not need to feel at home per se, but Concentration in public places tends not to beat home where I am.” a problem, with many using noise-cancelling headphones and music to create personal space as needed.FINDING A PLACE TO WORKIt’s quite possible to work from a home base or hotel SOCIAL LIFE OF NOMADSroom, though all the nomads we spoke to like to Nomadism is simultaneously a highly social and In contrast, road warriors may find extensive travelwork alongside others, whether for active company very lonely lifestyle. True nomads tend to have wide a more isolating experience, as they have lessor simply to be surrounded by people. This might circles with friends in lots of cities, and view this opportunity to build relationships in the locationsmean mooching office space from a friend or client, as one of the key benefits of the lifestyle. However, they visit.or working from coffee shops, where they may hopeto meet other nomads. limited contact with people ‘back home’ may affect longer-standing relationships, and it would be a MAINTAINING FRIENDSHIPSRitual Roasters coffee shop in San Francisco’s difficult lifestyle to combine with a family (none of our true nomads had children). Instant messaging, IRC, blogs, Twitter, Facebook,Mission district has become the place that most Flickr, and many other networking sites allow T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  12. 12. 12nomads always to keep track of their connected create stronger ties than occasional a New Yorker and he lives in Newfriends. They take these tribes with them, and face to face meetings alone would.” York. Once every couple of weeks in aonly have to open up the laptop to have a friendly café you’ll met someone random andconversation. We heard of someone who calls thislaptop tribe ‘my little square friends’, as personal “I’ve been able to maintain a lot of different. Of those, there are a few youicons on social networks are always square. meaningful relationships through the will stay in touch with. RandomnessThe ability to follow what people are up to online combination of travel and technology.” is a good thing. You can work alonecombined with occasional face to face time seems somewhere but it’s about keeping theto strengthen relationships in a more powerful way THE SOCIAL EXPERIENCE balance between mental health andthan those ties could be maintained purely online,or purely through occasional visits. Sharing the OF THE PUBLIC how long you’re doing it for, and what WORKSPACE value do you gain in terms of socialminutiae of lives and thoughts provides the socialcapital from which bonds are forged, and face to face connections.” Nomads welcome the social aspect of working intime cements those ties. Most of the true nomads we a public space as opposed to alone in a hotel roomspoke to felt they maintained many more friendships or apartment, both for ‘ambient company’ or thethat way than they would otherwise be able to. opportunities to have random encounters in public spaces and potentially meet interesting people.“There’s a real comfort to maintaininglots of weak ties [online]. It’s hard “There is a risk of losing professionalto create strong ties online but by value and mental value, for yourtravelling and seeing those people own sanity and mental health youfrom time to time these can be built. have to maintain [face to face] socialKnowing a lot about what they’ve been connections. My friend works inup to since you last saw them, e.g. from Starbucks rather than at home and When working in public spaces, whether in cafes orTwitter, makes it easier to pick up and he’s a freelancer and even though he’s at conferences, nomads use cues to indicate their T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  13. 13. 13interests and status, all intended in a subtle way the primary motivations for moving from MAINTAINING CLOSEto attract like-minded strangers and provide ice- place to place:breakers for introductions. Stickers (such as moo RELATIONSHIPSstickers) on laptops are popular with those doing “You meet more smart and interesting However wide one’s circle of friends gaineda lot of café work and can signify membership of people abroad. There’s a niche through nomadism, they cannot always replace thetribes, such as affiliation with a particular web 2.0 connection to family and friends you may have hadcompany as well as ownership of the laptop and community of people signed up to the for many years.proof that the owner is not a corporate drone. digital world.”Stickers can also function as advanced business Making friends and contacts takes a little while but “You can have lots of people aroundcards, with new contacts sticking them on eachothers’ laptops as a ‘remember me’. gets easier with practice. you, but if something bad happens back home when you’re away, you don’t haveIf a face to face approach feels too forward, “There is a relatively repetitive way to your best friend of 20 years right theretechnology can also mediate new social encounters establish social connections, if you are for support.”in public spaces. One nomad told us that in popular a geek, in the first few weeks go to 6geek wi-fi hangouts, it’s quite normal for strangers to “Being connected to people through events, and you will have people thatpop up in Bonjour windows to say you have met several times over.” virtual means and meeting them once in a few months is definitely different to”Oh hello, what do you do?” Nomads we spoke to suggested that it takes 2-3 having a group of friends that you see months to get the feel of really living somewhere, once a week.”ESTABLISHING A NETWORK and 6 months or longer is more rewarding. However, if a wide network is one of your main It might seem hard to maintain a love relationshipFor nomads who have landed in a new location in objectives, it’s wise to know when to move on: with this lifestyle, but as one of our nomads pointedwhich they plan to stay for a while and experiencelife as a local, establishing a network and meeting out, if you can work wherever you want, you can alsonew friends is important. This may well be one of ”If you spend too long in once place choose to be where your partner is. like Lima you risk having too local a network.” T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  14. 14. 14OPPORTUNITIES FOR If you could have one wish for something that would other mobile workers) not just by providing power improve the quality of your life while nomadic, what sockets in convenient places, but also by advertisingTECHNOLOGY AND would it be? their presence and location. Offering use of, andSERVICE INNOVATION publicising the availability of, some of the physicalThere are a number of hardware innovations that “A world blanketed in free wifi.” technologies that can’t be miniaturised or carried in bulk, e.g. monitors and adapters, would also helpwould be of clear benefit to nomads; such as smaller Where mobile broadband is unavailable, or too people feel confident about travelling lighter.but more powerful computers; light, portable expensive, predictability is key: knowing ahead of(perhaps folding) displays; longer battery life/ time where the next free, reliable wi-fi will be can Easy and affordable replaceability of parts can swaymore efficient power usage; and better text entry on save a lot of stress. nomads to choose one brand over another: knowingmobile devices. there’ll always be someone to hand to fix a laptop at Though this may be a non-trivial technical problem, short notice, or supply a forgotten charger, may wellHowever, many of the most difficult problems better roaming experiences also require better justify the decision to pay considerably more for thenomads face are less to do with the devices interoperability between different mobile network item itself in the first place.themselves than they are to do with the service technologies:experiences around those devices. These may be Ensuring good ergonomics is also difficult wheninfluenced by cost and/or availability, but as often “I would gladly pay a flat rate of working from a variety of different spaces on theas not the fear of cost or the fear that a necessity will move. Devices that support usage via different inputbe hard to come by in a new place are more serious hundreds of dollars per month if mechanisms or that support usage from differentproblems than the reality. my computer and mobile device just postures can help, as can short term loans of spaces worked, anywhere in the world, no with proper seating.Affordable (preferably flat rate) roaming data questions.”would radically transform usage of smartphones andmobile broadband, as flat rate domestic data has Predictability of power sources is arguably a biggerwithin markets. Easy ways to track roaming costs issue than incremental improvements in batterywould help (surprisingly few operators provide life. Service providers can attract nomads (andsuch a service). T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  15. 15. 15 “I dream of joining an association of remote working. It takes guts, and the ability to nomads where I would have access work autonomously (or for a very understanding employer) to up and off somewhere where you don’t to work/live lofts in many locales, know anyone and build a network from scratch. If where I could lodge when in London, more people did this, the world might well be a for example, and in the same location better connected place. But it’s not for everyone. I could sleep, eat (cook) and work, including having meetings.” Additionally, there’s a certain irony in the fact that by transcending location, the nomads reinforce to some extent the significance and cachet of certain set WHAT’S THE FUTURE OF of locations. Are they really democratising the techThere are many opportunities for services to help NOMADISM? world, or reinforcing the importance of certain hubsupport the social aspects of the nomadic lifestyle. locations? How will the lives of nomads change in future, andOne of our nomads is working on the idea of how will they change things for the rest of us?support networks, such as wikis, offering advice on It’s about where they want to be, not where the work Right now, the hyper-connected nomads inhabite.g. choosing locations, finding accommodation, wants them to be, and where they want to be is often an elite and slightly cliquey world (albeit perhapsgetting broadband and mobile services in different (understandably) where the other cool kids are. 6 unintentionally). What aspects of this lifestylecountries, learning local languages, finding months in London or San Francisco is going to give may trickle down to the wider market? Is this athe people and user groups you might wish to them a bunch of better contacts than 6 months in lifestyle that’s only available to a small elite ofnetwork with. Nomads are an open and supportive Wolverhampton or Wyoming. hyper-connected, high profile thinkers and businesscommunity, and could help each other out, e.g. people? Or will it open up opportunities, or createtemporarily lending apartments to others when out How many people can live like this? What would problems, for the rest of us?of town: be the impact if many more of them did? We can’t all live in San Francisco or Whistler, and for Many of the barriers to more people living like this environmental and currently, economic reasons are social, not technological; such as the feeling many of us may need to start using technology of being tied to one place, and low tolerance of T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |
  16. 16. 16to help us travel less, not more. Some nomad REFERENCES/THANKSinnovations, such as Dopplr, can be used to makemore efficient use of the travel they already do, Matt Biddulph at Dopplr (now Nokia) forand of course online networking allows all of us invaluable help with recruitment and culturalto maintain many weak ties all over the world. orientation; Esther Dyson, Manar Hussain andHowever, one of the fundamental reasons the nomad the rest of the nomads. Ji-Hye Park for researchtrend exists is because face to face contact is still support, Louisa Heinrich for inspiration andessential to building and strengthening bonds. not least Christian Lindholm for support and direction.Given such limitations, it’s likely that true nomadismwill remain the preserve of a relatively small crowd,which for many will be a phase in their lives.However, the nomads are in a sense pioneeringways in which remote working and a global networkof contacts can be maintained which can thereforeserve to increase the options available to a wideraudience. They are reliant on technologies andservices that the rest of us also depend on, albeit to alesser extent.The social and technological solutions that servethem can also help the rest of us be more mobile,more effective and more social whilst we are mobile. T: +44 207 291 9900 | F: +44 207 291 9919 |