Circa 2013: Ranbir Kapoor’s dialogue from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani — Main udna chahta hoon, daudna chahta hoon, girna bhi chahta hoon, bus rukna nahin chahta — inspired a number of us to get out there and live every moment, free from the shackles of life. Exploring new cities, countries and cultures, all with a flexible job in hand, sure seemed surreal back then. But, not anymore, for digital nomad travel has taken over.
Put simply, digital nomads are those who have professions they can pursue online, yet travel the world. They frequently move from one destination to another, soak in different cultures and experiences. A study by Lonely Planet and Fiverr highlighted the emergence of the “anywhere worker”, a breed of digital nomads who, rather than being freelancers, tend to have a stable, knowledge-work job that allows them to be based out of any location of their choice. Of the 1,400 people surveyed, 54% identified as anywhere workers, of which 70% were parents who took their children with them.
The birth of the trend
“Digital nomads have been around for a while, albeit fewer in number,” says Arun Ashok, regional manager (India & Middle East), Luxury Escapes, but agrees Covid-19 was “a definite accelerator”: “Roles that are not overly client-facing have the luxury of being based anywhere with good WiFi. Once resorts and villas caught onto that, there’s been no looking.” Ashok adds that cheaper destinations, especially on islands, tend to offer power backup to protect from weather-related woes. “Meeting rooms for groups that are travelling together are a good inclusion to throw in,” he suggests.
Some properties have seen a surge in these new types of travellers. “We are seeing more travellers whose headquarters are their laptops and boardroom meetings are on video call,” says Yeshwant Holkar, owner, Ahilya By The Sea, Goa. The trend has also given a boost to mediators who help move luggage hassle free. “A digital nomad is quintessentially free of the lug and stress, and wants freedom of movement by removing baggage from the travel equation,” says Harsha Vardhan, CEO and founder of CarterX, which provides tech-based travel solutions. “People moving to new cities and did not have any idea so to settle in. The reason to take to hostels we were not taking any security deposits, hence we saw the longer stays going up,” says Pallavi Agarwal, Founder & CEO goSTOPS.
Digital nomad vs slomad vs workation
Digital nomads are people who can work remotely and keep moving from one place to another, while workation is more of a quick getaway, and falls under the digital nomad lifestyle. Slomads is another new trend that’s gaining pace, and refers to slow travelling digital nomads who prefer to stay at a destination for a longer time period. Also, they are eco-conscious travellers.
Gurugrammer couple Prannay Gulati and Mugdha Aneja’s 10-day workation in Goa turned into a two-month stay. “We work for the same MNC and it switched to a work-from-home module. In Goa, we rented an apartment to make it a budget-friendly stay, but little did we know we’d end up staying for almost 60 days!” says Gulati. But, things aren’t all that easy. He adds, “You’d imagine sitting on a beach and working, but managing to get good WiFi at a shack was a task. There were tourists all around in cafes, so productivity became less. But, as it started to become off season, it got better, so we extended the stay.”
Couples aside, parents too want their kids to get acquainted with unique experiences from early on. “My children are seven and 12 years old. During the pandemic, my wife, kids, senior-citizen parents and I decided to move to Manali for two months. Schools switched to online mode and my wife is a freelance writer, so it was easy for us to make the decision. We got a cottage on rent and made sure it had good WiFi, electricity backup and other essentials to work easily online,” says Kushal Anand, 38, an entrepreneur from Delhi.
Countries offering digital nomad visas
In a bid to boost tourism, which was massively hit by Covid-19, as many as 25 countries now offer digital nomad visas. Once obtained, a person can stay for up to 12 months, which can even be extended. Germany offers a German Freelance Visa that allows you to work with small businesses and startups on a contractual basis. Greece allows non-EU, EEA and Switzerland nationals to work for a year with one year extension. One can also apply for Digital Nomad Residence Permit. Indonesia allows travellers to apply for Digital Nomad Visa and live for up to five years, tax-free. There’s also Mauritius Digital Nomad Visa and Bahamas Digital Nomad Visa, among others.