The New Digital Nomads—Run Your Business From Anywhere in the World

As summer vacations come to an end, many travelers long for ways to retain some of that magic when they return to the office. A new e-Book aims to help.

On Tuesday, “Digital Nomad Playbook: Launch Your Business From Anywhere in 30 Short Days,”will be released by Elance-oDesk, a marketplace for online work headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. The free, online guide offers advice from how to get finances in order to determining where the cost of living is lowest.


You can be a digital nomad wherever your heart desires. Berlin looks good right now. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Digital nomads are professionals with a location-independent lifestyle that allows them to work anywhere in the world there is a good Internet connection — from beach towns and cafés to co-working spaces in major hubs from Berlin to Bangkok.

“Happiness for me is hot coffee and a clear schedule,” said Dan Andrews, 32, the e-Book’s co-author, co-founder of two location-independent businesses, and a digital nomad. “It’s such simple pleasure to be able to define how my days look.”

“I didn’t want life in a corner office, but didn’t have the financial means to travel as much as I wanted,” said Andrews, who spoke to Yahoo Travel from Bali. His journey began in 2007, when he read what he and many other digital nomads call “the bible” — “The 4-Hour Workweek“ by Timothy Ferriss. “It was a turning point for me. I started my business the next day,” said Andrews, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania and was working in small business manufacturing in San Diego. By mid-2008, he was traveling and embracing the digital nomad lifestyle as a chance for more freedom. “I’ve been on the road ever since,” he said.

Related: Living Abroad: A Nomad’s Guide to Home-Loose Living


The 4-Hour Workweek by Tomothy Ferriss, an inspiration for Digital Nomads everywhere. (Photo: Crown Publishing Group)

“I hope this book helps more people take the leap,” Ally Basak Russell, director of international marketing at Elance-oDesk, wrote in an email from Oslo, Norway, where she was working for the week.

“After we launched our Digital Nomads video, we received countless notes from viewers saying how they were so inspired, but wanted a concrete plan on how to make the transition from a 9-to-5 desk job or work-from-home situation,” said Russell, who edited the e-Book. “We’d found blogs and resources full of great tips on either travel or online marketing, but none that realistically laid out a timeline and steps for how to travel while running a business via the Internet.”

"The number of digital nomads will continue to increase,” said Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research, an independent research and consulting firm in the Bay area. “Because people no longer need to choose between the desire to travel and the need to work,” he said. He attributes that to several different factors. First, working remotely from just about anywhere, the digital nomad’s MO, is easier due to developments in technology that in many cases didn’t exist even five years ago. Secondly, millennials, who represent many of the digital nomads, tend to be better traveled and more confident and open about international travel than previous generations. And last, today’s job market is more accepting of change, and there has been a steady increase of independent workers.


Oslo, not a bad place to work from. (Photo: Thinkstock)

But not everyone can adapt to a life on the move; incomes tend to be lower; productivity is often more difficult; and many studies have shown that face-to-face connections are still an important part of how to generate income. “The travel piece just makes networking harder,” says King. “Digital nomads shouldn’t underestimate the effort it’s going to take to grow and maintain networks.” But King says that many don’t view the downsides as showstoppers. “The tradeoffs to see the world and have cultural experiences are worth it. People no longer have to live where their job is. They can wander the earth.”

Related: Tech Tuesday: How to Get Everything for Pennies on the Dollar

That was the case for Nalisha Patel, from Auckland, New Zealand. “We did not want to wait until we were 65 to live life,” said Nalisha, 33. As a lifestyle consultant, she and her husband, Janak, 36, a former mechanical engineer, own and run an online wellness and lifestyle business. Early in their marriage, the Patels wanted a house by the beach and fancy cars, but once they attained this, they became disenchanted. “The photocopy life — same work and experiences every day — did not provide lasting happiness,” she said. “We realized we really wanted to travel. It’s all about new experiences. That’s what excites us.”

Beginning in 2011, the couple traveled for 2½ years in the United States and Europe, renting apartments and staying at locations for six weeks to three months. In February, they returned to Auckland for a wedding, but starting in September, they plan to “chase the sun” for at least a year, in Scandinavia, Dubai, the U.S., and maybe Asia.


This guy is dreaming of becoming a digital nomad. Are you? (Photo: Thinkstock)

“Online technology is the key to giving us this lifestyle,” Nalisha said, but learning to run the business on the road was the easy part. For some, accepting the idea and getting over fear can be the real challenge. “Mindset is everything,” she said. “We take each day as it comes. We really embrace living out of suitcases. It’s a small price to pay for new experiences.”

For Andrews, the prestige factor was the toughest part initially. “Roaming around the world living cheaply in Thailand is not the greatest story to tell grandma at Thanksgiving. But I’ve really done a 180 on it,” he said. Today he maintains an office and warehouse in California and a team of 15 employees (many are digital nomads), and he is creating a secure financial future for himself.

“It’s huge opportunity not just to have fun; it’s a way to be a business leader and see the world at the same time.”

WATCH: Digital Nomad Andrew Evans tracks his journey’s in real-time on Twitter:

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