When you hear the words “digital nomad” what comes to mind? If you immediately envision a sweaty hostel in Bali, full of 20-somethings working side jobs here and there until they move on to the next city on their bucket list, you wouldn’t be alone. And 20 years ago, you wouldn’t have been wrong.
But in recent years, the digital nomad lifestyle has gotten a bit of a glow up. With an increasing number of services available to remote workers, new opportunities for employees to work remotely, and a mindset shift towards prioritizing experiences over material items, more and more Americans are waking up to the possibilities that a remote work lifestyle could provide.
So who is the digital nomad of 2023, and how are they shaping the future of this formerly fringe lifestyle?
New CivicScience data find that 7% of Americans say they are currently working remotely as digital nomads in the US and 5% are doing the same abroad. However, that number could soon skyrocket, as 20% of respondents say they’re considering the digital nomad lifestyle.
Of course, the digital nomad lifestyle is only possible for those who have the ability to work remotely. As the data show, having a job that lets you work fully remotely is increasingly important to Americans; 50% of respondents in the workforce say that a fully remote job is at least ‘somewhat important’ to them, with 24% saying it’s ‘very important’ (n=2,654 responses from 9/21/2023 to 9/25/2023).
And while just 15% of U.S. adults in the workforce say they have a job that lets them work fully remotely from wherever they choose, including abroad, 26% are considering a job or career change in the next 12 months that would allow them to do so (n=2,462 responses from 9/21/2023 to 9/25/2023).
Who Is the New Digital Nomad?
Perhaps not surprisingly, the digital nomad lifestyle appeals most strongly to younger generations, with 18- to 24-year-olds leading the way as the most nomad-interested of any age group (see chart above).
But it’s not just the young and the restless who are adopting this nomadic lifestyle:
- Parents are only slightly less likely to have an interest in becoming location independent than adults without kids (20% compared to 21%), suggesting that this trend isn’t just for those seeking a low-responsibility approach to life.
- And interest in this lifestyle isn’t just common among those who have a fully remote job already. Around one-quarter of those who are not working (after losing a job and/or being unable to find work), as well as those who currently have a hybrid in-person and remote job, are also interested in taking their work on the road, possibly dreaming of the opportunities they could find.
- Perhaps not surprisingly, those without a mortgage (renters or those still with mom and dad) are the most eager for the digital nomad lifestyle. But, where are they staying once they set out on the road?
Airbnb or Hotel?
Within the US, digital nomads are fairly split between whether they stay at a vacation rental or a hotel – 46% are likely to stay at a Airbnb or Vrbo listing on at least a monthly basis, while 51% are likely to stay at hotels. However, U.S. adults who are digital nomads abroad stay at a hotel much more frequently than they do vacation rentals. Clearly, needs within the US and outside of it may vary for those embracing the remote work lifestyle.
Transportation needs, however, are largely met with rideshare apps, as 85% of digital nomads both in the US and abroad get around this way.
So Why Do It?
For those interested in living and working abroad, the top reason for doing so is to experience the travel and adventure that this kind of lifestyle brings. This is followed by cost of living, which could be motivating moves specifically to countries where the dollar goes further.
It’s worth noting that moving for a job is not a top motivating factor, with just 20% of respondents citing this as their reason. In fact, political reasons rank higher among the list of reasons to move abroad. So while Americans are looking for remote work, that data suggest that they are primarily seeking to find location-flexible jobs from American employers.
And while crime is often anecdotally cited as a reason for Americans, specifically those with young children, to move abroad, this also comes lower down on the list, with just 16% of respondents citing that as one of their top three reasons for leaving the country.
Clearly, the digital nomad trend is just taking off. And as Americans begin to explore remote lifestyles at home and abroad, only time will tell how this approach to work – and play – impacts consumer choices for the long-term.
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