Work without borders: The rise of the digital nomads


Are we seeing the end of the brick and mortar era?

Technology is not only disrupting the way we work today but also the kind of work we do and where we do the work. It enabled the rise of a phenomenon called digital nomadism. For many people, the question of where they can do the work is not a hypothetical one anymore as the number of companies hiring digital nomads is beginning to grow. Take the case of Spotify, the big music brand, which believes that “work is not somewhere you go, it is something you do.”

The digital nomad trend is becoming more widespread. This trend has gained significant attention in recent years due to advancements in technology, changes in work culture, and the appeal of exploring new places while maintaining a career. The Covid-19 pandemic is seen as the prime reason for the growth and makeup of digital nomads. Full-time employees were unleashed from the offices and many of them took to the road to take advantage of their newfound freedom.

In the US alone, the 2022 State of Independence research study found that 16.9 million American workers currently describe themselves as digital nomads, increasing nine percent from 2021 and a staggering 131 percent from the pre-pandemic year 2019. And studies show the same growth rate happening in other parts of the world.

A digital nomad is someone who works online and travels to different places, without being tied to a specific location. They use technology like laptops, smartphones, and mobile hotspots to access the internet and do their work from anywhere they want. Digital nomads can work from coffee shops, co-working spaces, or even from the beach. This flexibility allows individuals to create a work-life balance that suits their needs and preferences. 

Digital nomads can have various jobs, such as programmers, content creators, designers, or developers. Some digital nomads work as freelancers or entrepreneurs, while others work for remote-friendly companies. Some digital nomads travel constantly, while others stay in one place for a while. 

While the digital nomad lifestyle may seem glamorous, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Digital nomads must be self-motivated and disciplined to stay productive while working remotely. They must also manage their time effectively to balance work and travel. Despite these challenges, the digital nomad lifestyle can be a rewarding and fulfilling way of life for those who are up for the challenge.

Digital nomads can inject money into the local economies through spending on accommodations, food, transportation, entertainment, and other services. This can lead to the growth of tourism-oriented industries.

This new location-independent lifestyle has sparked an interest in digital nomad visas. According to trend tracking site Exploding Topics, searches for the term “nomad visa” are up an incredible 2,400 percent over the past five years. As a result, countries are introducing visa options to lure foreigners for extended stays.

Today, there are already about 54 countries that offer digital nomad visas. These countries include Argentina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Mexico, Portugal, and the Bahamas. Some of the Asian countries that offer digital nomad visas include Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. These visas allow digital nomads to stay in the country for a certain period of time and work remotely. Visa requirements vary from country to country, but they usually include proof of income from a foreign employer, insurance coverage, and no criminal record.

The Philippines is potentially a great destination for digital nomads who want to enjoy the tropical climate, beautiful scenery, and friendly culture. It is for these reasons that Surigao del Norte Representative Francisco Jose “Bingo” Matugas II has filed House Bill No. 8165 or the “Digital Nomads Act.”

There are many popular places in the Philippines for digital nomads to choose from depending on their preferences and budgets. Cebu City is a perfect base for digital nomads who want access to the amenities and conveniences of a big city while also being close to nature and adventure. 

Siargao Island is an up-and-coming digital nomad destination in Southeast Asia. It is known as the surfing capital of the Philippines with world-class waves and stunning beaches. Siargao is ideal for digital nomads who want to escape the city's hustle and bustle and enjoy the island's natural beauty and tranquility.

El Nido is a world-class tourist town in Palawan, one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and is perfect for digital nomads who want to experience the best of Philippine nature and culture, while also having access to modern amenities and services.

Being a digital nomad is not for everyone, but it can be a rewarding and exciting lifestyle for those who love adventure and freedom. It is also an opportunity that the Philippines should seriously take advantage of because it is a tourism hub. Except for internet connectivity in places like Siargao and El Nido, we have most of the ingredients necessary to attract digital nomads into the country. ([email protected])

(The author is an executive member of the National Innovation Council, lead convenor of the Alliance for Technology Innovators for the Nation (ATIN), vice president of the Analytics and AI Association of the Philippines, and vice president, UP System Information Technology Foundation.)