A digital nomad is defined as someone who uses technology, especially a laptop and a wireless network, to work remotely from anywhere in the world. Digital nomadism has risen from being an idealist vision to an acceptable way of working by major corporations.
The global pandemic that ground cities to a halt in 2020 acted as an accelerant to the digital nomad way of life. Millions of office workers who were told to work from home (WFH) discovered that they could work from anywhere (WFA), and now governments are competing to lure digital nomads to work in their country.
Working from anywhere started gaining momentum when WiFi became available for consumer use in the late 1990s, but predictions of this way of working go back decades before.
With this increased interest in digital nomadism, I’ve put together this digital nomad history to show how we got to where we are now.
Digital nomad timeline
To tell the story of digital nomad history I’ve placed related news reports and articles in chronological order.
The articles in this list are from mainstream news outlets and independent sites that mention topics related to being a digital nomad. This timeline is also interspersed with significant landmarks in internet and tech history. I’ve also added some commentary in boxed sections of my digital nomad experience at the corresponding time.
I acknowledge that this history is compiled from English-language links, so I’ve tried to make it more globally inclusive by including articles in English national papers of record (such as The Bangkok Post and The Times Of India).
Another problem is that this only represents the tip of the iceberg. The submerged part of the iceberg (i.e., 90%) are digital nomads who never write about being a digital nomad.
With those disclaimers out of the way, here is the timeline of digital nomad history.
• Arthur C. Clarke talks about one of his predictions for future technology – [BBC Horizon]
Arthur C. Clarke predicts remote working in Bali.
“…the incredible breakthrough which has been made possible by developments in communications, particularly the transistor and, above all, the communications satellite. These things will make possible a world in which we can be in instant contact with each other, whereever we may be. Where we can contact our friends anywhere on earth, even if we don’t know their actual physical location. It will be possible in that age, perhaps only 50 years from now, for a man to conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali just as well as he could from London.”
• One day, a computer will fit on a desk – [ABC Australia]
“In this ABC interview from 1974, science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke makes the bold claim that one day computers will allow people to work from home and access their banking records.”
• Robert Noyce (Intel’s co-founder and the co-inventor of the integrated circuit) predicts that remote working is the future.
“And I think that as we look farther into the future, we’re going to find that people will live where it is conducive to live, not where it is conducive to work.”
And the zinger at the end…”Wouldn’t you rather work in Hawaii?”
• Steve Roberts becomes the first digital nomad by Ccmputing Across America with a computerized recumbent bicycle. In Popular Computing Magazine he is described as a high-tech nomad.
[Steve Roberts – the first digital nomad]
• The birth of the web – [CERN]
“The World Wide Web was invented by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 while working at CERN.”
• World Wide Web (WWW) launches in the public domain.
• Windows 95 is released with dancing executives and a Rolling Stones theme song.
When it was released, only about 30% of American homes had any computer at all. Windows 95 was a springboard for broader consumer adoption of personal computing.
• WiFi is released for consumer use.
• Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners publish the book Digital Nomad, making it the first documented use of the phrase digital nomad. It’s not clear if they coined the phrase digital nomad, or if it was already in use.
From the publisher’s website: “Digital Nomad tells us how current and future technological possibilities, combined with our natural urge to travel, will once again allow mankind to live, work, and exist on the move.”
• Free Agent Nation – [Fast Company]
“There’s a new movement in the land. From coast to coast, in communities large and small, citizens are declaring their independence and drafting a new bill of rights. Meet some of the 25 million residents of Free Agent, USA.”
Daniel H. Pink writes about the rise of individual contractors working at home. It shows that millions of Americans were already working remotely, even if only from home.
• The Wi-Fi Alliance forms as a trade association to hold the Wi-Fi trademark.
• The New York Times publishes a story about a new breed of techno-nomad that are taking to the road. The article is about long-term travellers who are publishing their stories on websites. The tools used include “things like laptops, personal digital assistants, telephone adapter kits, digital cameras, photo-editing software and Web-design tools.”
This was published in the age before blogs, so it’s more about the early days of travel blogging than digital nomadism. As we shall see later in this historical timeline, there is a lot of overlap between the two genres, and travel bloggers are one of the groups that will play a role in digital nomad development.
• PayPal first appears as an online demo that allows people to email payments in US dollars.
• The e-lance economy – [Fast Company]
“What happens when Free Agent Nation meets the world wide web? You get the “e-lance economy.” A growing army of self-employed professionals has discovered that when it comes to landing projects, managing hectic schedules, and meeting new colleagues, the Web is without peer. Meanwhile, a growing number of Web sites — with names such as eWork Exchange, Guru.com, and FreeAgent.com — have arrived that attempt to meet free agents’ virtual needs.”
• Web site creates marketplace for free-lancers – [CNET]
“eLance, which lets free-lancers bid on jobs posted by potential employers, is set up similarly to a trading floor, with eLance employees stepping in to facilitate trades, make sure they are completed, and stimulate demand or supply as needed to ensure liquidity of the market.”
• Look, Ma, no wires! Cornell class project tests wireless networking – [Cornell Chronicle]
Cornell University runs an experiment for students to submit an assignment by e-mail only on Computing Methods for Digital Libraries.
A website was set up at www.nomad.cornell.edu, titled “Cornell University Nomadic Computing in Education and Digital Libraries”.
• The dot-com bubble bursts – [The New York Times]
• Free Agent Nation: How Americans New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live by Daniel H. Pink.
“In this landmark book, Daniel H. Pink offers the definitive account of this revolution in work. He shows who these free agents are — from the marketing consultant down the street to the home-based “mompreneur” to the footloose technology contractor — and why they’ve forged a new path.”
Pink expands on his 1997 Fast Company article with this book featuring interviews with “free agents”, and a resource guide on how to work for yourself.
• Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term Travel
Vagabonding by Rolf Potts is regularly cited as an influence on long-term travel bloggers, many of whom would go on to be digital nomads.
• Work at home/telework as a reasonable accommodation – [U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission]
“Many employers have discovered the benefits of allowing employees to work at home through telework (also known as telecommuting) programs. Telework has allowed employers to attract and retain valuable workers by boosting employee morale and productivity. Technological advancements have also helped increase telework options. ”
• The Berkeley Daily Planet features a story about the Nomad Cafe in North Oakland. This cafe encouraged people to bring their laptops and work, where they have “high-speed internet access and the most ports in the East Bay”. (For digital natives, ports were where you physically connected your laptop to a cable to access the internet.)
• Google Adsense is launched, enabling smaller publishers a way to easily monetize website content.
With the rise of wireless internet access, it’s was becoming apparent that we can now work anywhere – even at the beach.
• Stuff the office – let’s all go to the beach – [The Guardian]
“Brighton has just become the first beach in Britain to have wireless access, meaning – in theory – that anyone with a laptop can get out of the office and work from a deckchair. So, in an unprecedented experiment, the G2 team headed for the coast armed with computers, mobiles and factor 30 to test the system. Introducing a whole issue commissioned, written, edited and produced from the seafront, Oliver Burkeman asks what this means for our working lives.”
Working on the beach with a laptop – help me find the fist photo
The Guardian didn’t post an accompanying photo with this article. If they had, it might have been the first documented photo of a popular digital nomad trope – working on the beach with a laptop.
I began my digital nomad journey in April 2003 as an affiliate marketer, and then Adsense publisher. I remember seeing “make money online” sites using imagery of working on the beach with a laptop, and this article mentions the phenomenon. I’m having a hard time finding such photos, so if you are from that era and remember those sites, let me know!
• Skype is launched by an Estonian startup, enabling free voice calls over the internet.
• The costs and benefits of remote workers – [Network World]
“No question about it, we’ve entered the era of the virtual workplace. While companies have talked for years about the concept of enabling workers to work from anywhere, 2004 marks a milestone in actually achieving that goal. Nemertes Research recently quantified a nine-fold increase in “virtual workers”- those who reside in separate locations from their managers – over the past five years.”
• The book American Nomads is published. It’s not about digital nomads, but it’s placed here as a reference of how “nomad” is used in common parlance. In this case, the book is about “travels with lost conquistadors, mountain men, cowboys, Indians, hoboes, truckers, and bullriders”.
• YouTube launches.
• Welcome to the Working Nomad blog – [Working Nomad]
“The difference between this trip and the 1000s of other trips undertaken by backpackers is that it will be entirely funded by money earnt through maintaining sites on the Internet.”
• Going Bedouin – [charterstreet.com]
Greg Olsen writes about remote working and the future of luxurious headquarters in Silicon Valley. “By focusing almost exclusively on service-based infrastructure options, a business could operate as a sort of neo-Bedouin clan – with workers as a roaming nomadic tribe carrying laptops & cell phones and able to set up shop wherever there is an Internet connection, chairs, tables, and sources of caffeine.”
• Twitter is launched.
just setting up my twttr
— jack (@jack) March 21, 2006
• Laptop Hobo launches. With the tagline “not your old-man’s office”, Laptop Hobo is “a new resource for those who wish to work their at-home jobs while traveling / living abroad.”
• WebWorkerDaily, for the Web 2.0 Worker is launched by Om Malik. The blog is for “the distributed worker, where the office is wherever their laptop happens to be”. The blog featured articles on topics such as working in strange places, and it ran until 2010.
When looking back on the site in 2020, Om said it was about a decade too early.
• NuNomad start a blog and forum for remote workers.
• Apple reinvents the phone with the release of the first iPhone.
[Apple CEO Steve Jobs holds up the new iPhone (via Time.com.)]
• Where the coffee shop meets the cubicle – [Bloomberg]
“Co-working facilities blend the appeal of an independent environment with many of the advantages of the traditional office.”
• Where neo-nomads’ ideas percolate / New ‘bedouins’ transform a laptop, cell phone and coffeehouse into their office – [SFGATE]
“A new breed of worker, fueled by caffeine and using the tools of modern technology, is flourishing in the coffeehouses of San Francisco. Roaming from cafe to cafe and borrowing a name from the nomadic Arabs who wandered freely in the desert, they’ve come to be known as “bedouins.”
San Francisco’s modern-day bedouins are typically armed with laptops and cell phones, paying for their office space and Internet access by buying coffee and muffins.”
• The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
Tim Ferriss releases The 4-Hour Workweek, introducing the concept of lifestyle design. While not explicitly about being a digital nomad (he never refers to the phrase), the book makes the case for living anywhere by remote working, outsourcing, and geoarbitrage.
The book reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and when looking at digital nomad history the 4HWW is considered as a major turning point. Even though working remotely had been possible for years, this book made tech workers in the Bay Area realise that they could work on a beach in Thailand instead.
Tim’s blog (“Experiments in Lifestyle Design”) would go on to inspire other writers in this new niche of lifestyle design, which was a precursor to digital nomad blogs.
[The original fourhourworkweek.com site from 2007.]
• Technomadia is launched by Chris and Cherie (perpetual technomads since 2006). The site becomes a resource for living in RVs and vans (before #vanlife became a thing). Even though living out of a van wasn’t a new concept (just ask a surfer or hippy from the 60s), they were the first of the work online/tech brigade to document it.
• The 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) “began with the seizure in the banking system precipitated by BNP Paribas announcing that it was ceasing activity in three hedge funds that specialised in US mortgage debt.”
• Kirsty from Travoholic.com launches Nerdy Nomad. This make-money-online/travel blog hybrid site is one of the earliest iterations of a digital nomad blog.
Kirsty is an old-school nomad who had been making travel sites since 2000. The first post says it’s just another making money/travel blog. While there were many “make money” blogs at the time, there weren’t travel blogs that were showing income reports, and make money blogs weren’t focusing on travel lifestyle.
• Lea Woodward launches locationindependent.com, and in the process coins another phrase to describe a digital nomad. The Location Independent Life Blog ran from 2007-2010, and Lea was prominent in the location independent/digital nomad movement, featuring as a writer on other related websites.
• The ‘anywhere computing’ era dawns – [Computerworld]
“Neo-Bedouinism. A new breed of entrepreneur is starting companies, building businesses and doing it all without bothering to lease office space.”
• Computerworld launch The World Is My Office column by Mike Elgan, beginning with the world is your office, too. The blog is now a great historical archive of the early days of working from anywhere, when announcements like wi-fi at Starbucks was a big deal.
• Planning for a digital nomad – [Chris Brogan]
This article is about what gear to use if you’re planning to go nomadic, but it’s more notable for mentioning “digital nomad”. It had been 10 years since the Digital Nomad book was published, but other phrases were still being used (such as neo-nomads and digital bedouins). There was no mention of digital nomads in the previously listed articles in this timeline, though it’s possible that it was mentioned in blogs that have since gone offline.
From this point onwards, digital nomad becomes more common in use.
The post-4HWW era of 2008-2009 was the golden age of lifestyle design blogs. Along with travel blogs, they would help foster the digital nomad movement to create its own identity.
• The gear of life nomadic – [Tynan.com]
Tynan was one of the original lifestyle design blogs with digital nomad tendencies. This packing list article exemplifies the minimalist ethos of the digital nomad, and it would go on to inspire countless other digital nomad packing lists. Tynan’s packing list has become an annual tradition that is still published now.
• They’re working on their own, just side by side – [The New York Times]
“Contemplating his career path a couple of years ago, a young computer programmer named Brad Neuberg faced a modern predicament. “It seemed I could either have a job, which would give me structure and community,” he said, “or I could be freelance and have freedom and independence. Why couldn’t I have both?”
As someone used to hacking out solutions, Mr. Neuberg took action. He created a word — coworking, eliminating the hyphen — and rented space in a building, starting a movement.”
• Why you should quit your job and travel around the world – [The Art of Non-Conformity]
The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau is a lifestyle design blog that was launched in 2008, and it soon became one of the most influential blogs on lifestyle design and travel.
Chris was on a quest to visit every country in the world by travel hacking (a term that he helped popularize). The blog covered personal development and life design, entrepreneurship, and international travel – all modern digital nomad blog themes.
“Quit your job to travel the world” would become a staple in travel and digital nomad blogging.
• The rise of the new nomadics – [The Times]
“If your ‘job’ entails loitering in coffee shops, armed with only a laptop and mobile, then you’re part of a brave new world.”
• Digital natives and digital nomads — new tribes of the internet age – [Albert Mohler]
“Observers of cultural change in America have assumed for some time now that the vast technological advances of the digital age would shape the worldviews of coming generations. That future is our present as the generation of youth and young adults now shaping the culture of business and higher education is in full technological overdrive.”
• Nomads at last – [The Economist]
“Urban nomads have started appearing only in the past few years. Like their antecedents in the desert, they are defined not by what they carry but by what they leave behind, knowing that the environment will provide it. Thus, Bedouins do not carry their own water, because they know where the oases are. Modern nomads carry almost no paper because they access their documents on their laptop computers, mobile phones or online. Increasingly, they don’t even bring laptops. Many engineers at Google, the leading internet company and a magnet for nomads, travel with only a BlackBerry, iPhone or other “smart phone”. If ever the need arises for a large keyboard and some earnest typing, they sit down in front of the nearest available computer anywhere in the world, open its web browser and access all their documents online.”
• Our nomadic future – [The Economist]
“Something that people think of as just another technology is beginning to show signs of changing lives, culture, politics, cities, jobs, even marriages dramatically. In particular, it will usher in a new version of a very old idea: nomadism.”
• Independent’s Day: Digital Nomads Rising – [Micro Persuasion]
“Recessions often accelerate social shifts that are already percolating under the surface. One of the key trends I have been watching is the growing number of Digital Nomads.”
• Airbedandbreakfast.com officially launches (shortened to Airbnb.com in March 2009). Airbedandbreakfast would go on to become a popular way for digital nomads to find accommodation around the world.
• Dell launches an online space for ‘digital nomads’
“Dell launched a new Web site for the elusive group of officeless or generally mobile “digital nomads,” by creating an on-line community around the topic.”
The digitalnomads.com site was launched to coincide with the introduction of Dell’s new Latitude laptop, and the site ran from September 2008 to 2009.
• Bitcoin is launched.
• The rising importance of the digital nomad: Results of the first crowd-sourced whitepaper
This report is compled by Dell after launching their digitalnomads.com project. The whitepaper includes:
1) What it means to be a digital nomad
2) Managing digital nomads
3) Digital nomads ROI
• workshifting.com is launched by Chris Brogan with other writers, running until 2015.
“If you work out of coffee shops, hotels, and airports every bit as much as the office, workshifting is for you. Tips, reviews, and opinions on the world of web commuting are what workshifting is all about.”
• The Lifestyle Business Podcast is launched by Dan Andrews. This is one of the earliest podcasts in the lifestyle design/digital nomad niche, and it covers topics such as signs you are a lifestyle entrepreneur or lifestyle designer, outsourcing in the Philippines, and travel hacking. Dan was already in Southeast Asia running a business remotely with his business partner Ian Schoen. The early episodes are characterized with the background noise of roosters and the din of traffic in the Philippines.
• Digital nomads ditch cubicles for shared spaces, choosing their co-workers – [The Washington Post]
“Wireless internet has developed a new kind of colleague — the digital nomad. They work wherever they find a wireless Web connection and then reach their coworkers via instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, email and more”.
• TBEX ’09
Travel Blog Exchange was founded by Kim Mance in 2009, and the first travel blogging conference (TBEX) was held in Chicago alongside BlogHer ’09 in July 2009.
The one-day event was a meetup of travel bloggers and travel writers. Among the bloggers are the long-term nomad types who would go on to write about the early digital nomad scene. TBEX continued to grow and it was eventually acquired by New Media Expo.
• Is free Wi-Fi a good deal for coffee shops? – [Phys.org]
“Free Wi-Fi has turned coffee shops into de facto work spaces. That’s good for a region full of digital nomads armed with laptops who want to escape the isolation of working alone. But it’s been a mixed blessing for coffee shop owners, who have found the economics of free Wi-Fi a complex brew.”
• www.reddit.com/r/digitalnomad/ is created on 15 October 2009. Reddit defines digital nomads as “individuals that leverage technology in order to work remotely and live an independent and nomadic lifestyle.”
• Get paid to travel the world – [Tropical MBA]
The Tropical MBA launches as a “paid internship and training program with a location independent entrepreneur”. The internship offered the applicant a job working with Dan (from the aforementioned Lifestyle Business Podcast) while learning the “skills required to become a location independent entrepreneur, freelancer, consultant, or employee”.
One of the few requirements was that you must have your own laptop and you must pay for your ticket to Bangkok, Manila, or Hanoi, or other to-be-determined location.
The winner of the Tropical MBA paid internship for digital nomads was Sean Ogle, who went on to write about his life-changing experience.
• “Digital Nomad” is added to the Macmillan Dictionary and is defined as “someone who uses technology, especially a laptop and a wireless network, to work remotely from anywhere in the world.”
By 2010 the digital nomad era had begun in earnest. Digging through the historical archives, 2010 is like a Cambrian explosion event in the digital fossil record. More digital nomad-themed sites started appearing, and people are identifying as digital nomads.
• The escapees travelling the world while working online – [The Guardian]
“Have you spent the recent weeks fantasising about escaping the cold and the daily grind? Meet the modern-day nomads who have taken the plunge.”
• The first travel blogging course opens with the launch of Travel Blog Success by Dave Lee from Go Backpacking. Travel blogging continues to be a popular way of being a digital nomad.
• Life Nomadic by Tynan is published.
“Life Nomadic is equal parts inspiration and practical advice for anyone who has ever dreamed of traveling the world. Learn how to take luxury cruises for less than thirty dollars a day, buy flights for as little as twenty dollars, and book hotels for not much more. Besides traveling cheaply, you’ll also discover how to get the most out of your travels buy packing light, living like a local, and using cutting edge technology to your advantage.”
• Being a digital nomad – a primer – [Dragos Roua]
• Yup, I quit my job today! – [Explore For A Year]
Digital nomadding also overlaps with long-term travel/gap year travel. Instead of surviving off savings, travellers are supplementing their travel funds by working while exploring the world.
• Technology allows digital nomads to work anywhere – [BBC]
Possibly the first mainstream media article to feature a picture of a nomad working in a ridiculous place.
• A digital nomad budget: how much does 6 months in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay cost? – [Never Ending Voyage]
Articles about global cost of living were common on expat sites and forums, but this is the first budget report from the perspective of a digital nomad. Appropriately enough, Simon and Erin would go on to create an app for recording travel expenses.
• My quest for the perfect ‘digital nomad’ office – [Johnny Vagabond]
If you’re going to work from anywhere, it may as well be in a scenic location. Thus begins the quest for the perfect digital nomad office. (RIP, Wes Nations.)
• The lifestyle of a minimalist digital nomad – [Raam Dev]
• Neo-minimalism and the rise of the technomads – [Sean Bonner at Boing Boing]
• Instagram launches.
• Digital Nomad Academy by Cody McKibben is launched, becoming the first digital nomad training course.
• Airplane Mode – [National Geographic]
National Geographic launches Digital Nomad at digitalnomad.nationalgeographic.com with Andrew Evans. In this instance, digital nomad refers to electronic dispatches from a global wanderer rather than someone who is working from their laptop. Digital nomad is still an interchangeable term with someone who is a long-term travel blogger.
• A Little Debacle…How NOT to do a visa run – [A Little Adrift]
Visa run becomes a familiar phrase in the digital nomad lexicon.
• Playa del Carmen: Such a good place to live – [Wandering Earl]
Travel bloggers were leading the charge in promoting potential cities as future digital nomad hubs. This is the first post to make the case for Playa del Carmen, which has gone on to become a digital nomad hotspot.
I met Derek “Wandering Earl” Baron at a Christmas party in Chiang Mai in 2010, and he suggested I should come and check out Playa del Carmen. I ended up renting a room at Earl’s place, and I wrote about my experience here.
• Why I am living in Bali, Indonesia – [Tropical MBA]
The first digital nomad to make the case for living in Bali.
• The first World Domination Summit is held in Portland, Oregon. The event was conceived by Chris from The Art of Non-Conformity, with the theme of living a remarkable life in a conventional world. While not a digital nomad conference as such, the keynote speaker was a digital nomad and it was attended by those already living the digital nomad life.
• TEDxFlanders – Catherine Van Holder & Ine Dehandschutter – Digital Nomads
First TEDx Talk on the subject of being a digital nomad.
“Catherine and Ine made a trip around the world, to 3 countries in particular, and set foot in several others. They did all this while working, questioning the current life templates they grew up with, believing in one meme: Don’t be rich, live rich!”
• Video explaining why Andy Graham is the most experienced digital nomad on planet earth – [HoboTraveler.com]
• Chiang Mai – The digital nomad capital of the world – [Jetset Citizen]
Chiang Mai became popular with travel bloggers and lifestyle designers, who would also identify as digital nomads. This is the first post to declare Chiang Mai as the digital nomad capital.
Chiang Mai 2010-2012
I was in Chiang Mai throughout 2010-2012 when the digital nomad scene really took off. I don’t remember what I read that convinced me to visit, but it was apparent that something special was happening in Chiang Mai. I met John from Jetset Citizen while I was there. That era left a deep impression on me, and Chiang Mai is still one of my favourite places to live and work.
• A digital nomad in Luang Prabang – [Bohemian Traveler]
• Despite the smog, some colourful scenes in Chiang Mai – [Legal Nomads]
“Burning season” becomes another phrase known to digital nomads in Chiang Mai. The air in Northern Thailand becomes hazardous in the dry season when fields are burnt.
• Digital nomad life: one month plus in Bangkok, Thailand – [soloflightEd.com]
• First DCBKK conference is held in Bangkok – a conference by a private membership group for internet entrepreneurs. There is a high proportion of digital nomads in attendance, though the talks are more about issues of running an online business than the nuts and bolts of being a digital nomad.
• Nomad Digital installs free passenger WiFi on all Arriva Netherlands trains
“Wireless technology provider Nomad Digital has completed the installation of free passenger wi-fi on all trains run by Dutch rail operator Arriva Netherlands.”
The appropriately-named Nomad Digital are specialists in providing wifi for passengers on trains.
• Working remotely in Nicaragua: cost, wifi, housing – [Susan Shain]
“Interested in working remotely in Nicaragua? Here are all the details of my experiences: costs, wifi availability, and housing.”
• Exotic life for Aussie ‘digital nomads’ – [The Age]
“For many people it’s the ultimate dream – ditching cubicle life for the freedom of the open road, without worrying about running out of money.
For a growing number of tech-savvy entrepreneurs, or ‘digital nomads’, making a decent living wherever there’s Wi-Fi has become a happy reality.”
• 10 years as a digital nomad – [Nomadic Notes]
A look back on my life as a digital nomad since leaving my last job in 2003.
• Bootstrapping in Saigon – [Jon Myers]
“Why you should bootstrap your startup in Vietnam.”
This article was originally a forum post from 2012. It became an influential destination article that put Ho Chi Minh City on the digital nomad map.
• The dark side of the digital nomad – [Mark Manson]
“Traveling the world while making a living as a digital nomad is an experience like no other, but there’s another side of it you don’t often hear about.”
Before Mark Manson became a best-selling author with The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, he was roaming around the world as a digital nomad while writing on his blog.
• The rise of the digital nomad – [The Australian]
• When work is a nonstop vacation – [BBC]
“The digital nomad lifestyle presents plenty of challenges, including reams of paperwork.”
• Cafes, hotels power up to draw ‘nomad workers’ – [The Japan Times]
“Cafe chains and hotels are adapting to the growing population of “nomad workers” using mobile devices to work outside the office. A Renoir coffee shop near Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station is well known for such workers, thanks to its 20 power outlets provided specifically for those who need to work on laptop computers or charge mobile phones.”
• 22 things I’ve learned as a digital nomad – [Spartan Traveler]
Digital nomads have now had a few years of travel experience under their belt to ponder what they have learned in the process.
• Why I am living in Saigon, Vietnam – [David Hehenberger]
• Work-life haven: why entrepreneurs and digital nomads are settling in Bali – [The Fetch Blog]
• How to become a location-independent employee – [Too Many Adapters]
• Permanent vacation: digital nomads work from the road – [NBC News]
“Some workers eschew traditional 9-to-5 jobs in favor of a location-independent work lifestyle that allows them to travel the world.”
• Confessions of an Indian digital nomad – [The Shooting Star]
• For digital nomads, work is no longer a place and life is one big adventure – [International Business Times]
This article is most notable for the iconic photo of digital nomads working at Hubud in Ubud, Bali. This image has gone on to be recycled in numerous digital nomad articles.
• First DNX conference (in German) for digital nomads held in Berlin.
• ‘Visa run’ crackdown: Where to next for Thailand’s ‘digital nomads’? – [Asian Correspondent]
• Digital nomads: how to travel the world without quitting your job – [Lonely Planet]
The digital nomad way of life is featured in the backpacker bible.
• National Geographic continues the Digital Nomad column with Robert Reid.
• Nomad List is launched, providing a list of the best cities to live and work remotely. The data is averaged out by user submitted costs and rankings.
• Slouching toward Nimmanhaemin – [Damien Walter]
If Chiang Mai is the digital nomad capital of the world, then Nimmanhaemin Road is the main street of this Nomadville. This article was originally published in 2013, and it covers the phenomenon of the digital nomad scene around Nimman in Chiang Mai:
“Nimman Road is a unique blend of traditional Thai style, European chic, and a retro 1950s Californian vibe. The college kids who party here are obsessed with motorbikes, 90s grunge music and hipster culture. In 2013, hipster students look the same the world over – skintight low-slung jeans, asymmetric haircuts, tattoos. Nimman at night could be London’s Soho, Saint-Germain in Paris or the Mission district in San Francisco. And in a decade it will likely be as exclusive as those neighbourhoods. An apartment in Nimmanhaemin today costs 30% more than it did just a year ago.”
• Is there a better phrase than “digital nomad”? – [Nomadic Notes]
I used to struggle with the phrase “digital nomad”, and I wondered if there was a better phrase. Mainly because of the blank stares I would get when I told someone unfamiliar with the phrase that I was a digital nomad.
• Lessons I learned on the road as a digital nomad – [Noel Tock]
• How to build a business by the beach – [Jon Yongfook]
• Immigration officers raid co-working space Punspace – [e27]
“Chiang Mai-based co-working space Punspace was today raided by some “20 armed uniformed police and immigration officials”, according to author and entrepreneur Johnny “FD”.”
• Digital nomads travel the world while you rot in your office – [Mashable]
A clickbait headline that doesn’t help the reputation of digital nomads.
• Bootstrapping in South East Asia – [Chris Osborne]
• e-Residency is launched by the Republic of Estonia. e-Residency is “a government-issued digital identity and status that provides access to Estonia’s transparent business environment”. Entrepreneurs from anywhere (even outside the EU) can start an EU-based company and manage their business without having to be in Estonia.
Estonia is targetting nomadic entrepreneurs to register a company, and they have a digital nomad landing page at e-resident.gov.ee/digitalnomad/.
Here is a review by Joel Runyon on how to get an Estonian E-Residency.
• Nomad List — Medellín Digital Nomads Meetup – [Medellín Living]
Medellín emerges as a digital nomad hub.
• What is a digital nomad? And why don’t I want to be one? – [Greg to Differ]
Thoughts on the digital nomad scene from an established expat in Bangkok.
• First Nomad Summit is held in Chiang Mai, with 150 people attending the event.
• Work from anywhere but home: startups emerge to turn you into a globetrotting digital nomad – [Fast Company]
“As digital workers freelance from around the world, startups are popping up to offer them housing, advice, and a place to log on.”
• Christine Gilbert and her husband Drew Gilbert raised $37,000 via Kickstarter to finish and festival release their documentary “The Wireless Generation” about people who work online and travel overseas. The digital download was released in May 2015, and it can be viewed at thewirelessgeneration.vhx.tv.
• Meet the ‘digital nomads’ who travel the world in search of fast Wi-Fi – [The Guardian]
“For these ‘citizens of the world’, the office can be anything from a beach hut in Brisbane to a Starbucks in Seattle, thanks to the growing prevalence of remote-based work. But roaming the globe from cafe to cafe is not without its challenges.”
• DNX Berlin digital nomad conference is held on July 31 and August 01 2015 (now known as DNX Festival).
• Digital Nomad Girls launches a community Facebook Group – the first community dedicated to female digital nomads and their unique challenges.
• Say hello to the digital nomads – [The Hindu]
“Who wouldn’t want to travel and see the world, work on the move, have no traffic and commute to worry about, no cubicle to be trapped in? We all would, wouldn’t we? But there are some who actually make it happen. Meet some of India’s growing tribe of digital nomads who are able earn a living on the move, paying for their travel and living an exciting life as they do so.”
• Nomads of the digital age – [Taiwan Today]
“Location-independent foreign professionals discover the advantages of working from Taiwan.”
• Chiang Mai vs. Medellin: What digital nomads are saying – [The Sweetest Way]
• Work’s a beach: meet the digital nomads making the world their office – [The Guardian]
“Working on a palm tree-lined beach may sound like bliss, but remote workers can struggle with different time zones and isolation on the job.”
• There will be 1 billion digital nomads by 2035 – [Pieter Levels]
“I did a presentation on the future of digital nomads (and remote workers) in the next 20 years. I used public data to show actual social and demographic trends and extrapolated them to make a guesstimate how the rise of remote workers will affect the world in 2035.”
• Nomad Cruise I
The first digital nomad cruise sails from Gran Canaria, Spain to Salvador do Bahia, Brazil with 120 nomads onboard the Sovereign of the Pullmantur fleet.
• Working holiday: More ‘digital nomads’ parking their caravans in Cambodia – [The Phnom Penh Post]
• The digital nomad deception – [thisisyouth]
“Is it ethical to live the digital nomad lifestyle, or does the practice promote gentrification and western cultural imperialism”
• Globetrotting digital nomads: the future of work or too good to be true? – [Forbes]
“This article is by Beth Altringer, a lecturer on innovation and design at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.”
• Digital nomads live in a bubble – [Marcus Meurer]
“How to burst that bubble and connect.”
• Travel bloggers explain the downsides of being a digital nomad – [USA Today]
• Living in… the best cities for digital nomads – [BBC Travel]
• Digital nomads: the future of work, or colonialism 2.0? – [The Long + Short]
“Young professionals are exchanging cubicles for ‘exotic’ locales. But living cheap and free comes with uncomfortable questions about privilege.”
• Why a growing army of ‘digital nomads’ are choosing Asia as their base – [South China Morning Post]
“For many who wish to get away from the daily commute, working online offers them a chance to fulfil their dream, and safe, cheap and friendly Asia is the perfect place to do it.”
• Growing tribe of digital nomads works from anywhere – [The Sydney Morning Herald]
• What I learned from being a digital nomad in Africa – [Claudia Makadristo (v.d. Driest)]
“I’m a digital nomad and Africa is my playground. And trust me.. being a digital nomad in Africa is a whole other ballgame..”
• 7in7 Digital Nomad Conference is held in Bangkok on 27-28 October. This is the first of 7 conferences to be held over 7 years on 7 continents.
• The digital nomad documentary One Way Ticket is released by Youjin Do.
“A documentary looking at the rise of the digital nomad around the world. Future of work or just another passing fad? Through interviews with advocates, academics and authorities, this film examines issues surrounding the supposed “dream life”.”
The movie is available on gumroad and prime video.
• How digital nomads went from niche to normal – [Wired]
“As companies tighten their purse strings, they’re spreading out their hires—this year, and for years to come.”
• Meet India’s digital nomads – [The Time Of India]
“In this age of flexi careers and freelancing, a growing number of people are packing their laptops and hitting the road (or the hammock). TOI meets this new tribe of Digital Nomads who have literally putting the ‘remote’ in remote working.”
• The changing face of Chiang Mai’s digital nomad scene – [Citylife Chiang Mai]
“Chiang Mai is rapidly becoming the world’s number one location for digital nomads, Why are they here and what are they doing?”
• The digital nomad life: combining work and travel – [The New York Times]
• The Atlas twins, digital nomads and American culthoppers – [New York Magazine]
A digital nomad scandal in Chiang Mai made it all the way to New York Magazine.
• The unsettled – [The Outline]
“It’s easier than ever to live with no fixed address, but that doesn’t come without a cost.”
• Digital nomads work remotely from anywhere – [Voice of America]
• Bratislava is an excellent base for digital nomads – [The Slovak Spectator]
“A digital nomad who lived in the Slovak capital for a year talks about her experience with the city and the struggles she dealt with.”
• These millennials spend their days on the beach and still make money. Here’s how – [CNBC Make It]
• A new kind of employee: the digital nomad – [Salesforce]
• Nomad Train is the first digital nomad co-working experience by train, departing from Moscow on the Trans-Siberian to Mongolia. Here is a review of this Transsiberian coworking trip.
[30 digital nomads from all around the world to board the trans-Siberian in Moscow.]
• The inevitable rise of the “premium” digital nomad – [QZ]
• My life as a 60-year-old digital nomad – [Margaret Manning]
• Digital nomads are hiring and firing their governments – [Techcrunch]
• Foreign workers can now get health insurance abroad with this new startup – [TechCrunch]
SafetyWing introduces travel insurance specifically for digital nomads.
• The digital bromad: How toxic masculinity thrives abroad – [Tech.co]
“Skype calls in cafes without using headphones. Crushing it, killing it, destroying it. Entitled and arrogant. Crossfit. Meet the digital bromad.”
• The biggest myth of nomadic travel is that anyone can do it – [Quartz]
“How to be a digital nomad? Some privilege helps.”
• When the world is the better office – [Goethe-Institut]
• Wandering stars: are Tallinn’s digital nomads building the city of the future? – [The Guardian]
“Estonia’s nomad visa and space-age digital infrastructure are set to make Tallinn more attractive to location-independent workers. Is this the future of urban employment?”
• How digital nomads are changing the world of work – [Wired (in partnership with Microsoft)]
“A new generation of workers is shunning the nine-to-five for a working week that embraces mobility and flexibility.”
• Making a home for digital nomads – [Bangkok Post]
“For young freelancers and entrepreneurs living abroad, Chiang Mai ticks all the boxes, writes William Hicks.”
• How to become a ‘digital nomad’ – [The New York Times]
“Seeing the world while holding down a full-time job sounds too good to be true, but with the right planning, equipment and support, it can be done.”
• The big problem with the so-called ‘digital nomad’ life in Bali – [News]
“It sounds like the ultimate dream. Live in a beachside abode for cheap while getting paid thousands. But there’s a dark side to this hidden corner.”
• Digital nomads are coming to an area near you – [The ASEAN Post]
• Digital nomads are living comfortably in Indonesia while locals struggle – [Travel Noire]
• Ten Years a Nomad: A Traveler’s Journey Home – [Matthew Kepnes]
“Part memoir and part philosophical look at why we travel, filled with stories of Matt Kepnes’ adventures abroad, an exploration of wanderlust and what it truly means to be a nomad.”
Matthew Kepnes began Nomadic Matt in 2008, and it soon became one of the biggest travel blogs in the world. Ten Years a Nomad looks back at his decade of being a nomadic travel blogger.
• The racial disparity in the digital nomads community – [Jetset Times]
“Why isn’t it the DN community spread more evenly with people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds?”
• Digital nomad workers in Japan move freely, with no fixed residences – [Kyodo News]
• Are digital nomads the harbingers of the future of work? – [Forbes]
• The truth about life as a digital nomad – [Stuff]
• Digital nomads: The new generation of Irish workers who can make money from anywhere in the world – [Independent.ie]
• Hate your desk job, love travelling? Life as a digital nomad might be your calling – [Vogue India]
• More Americans try the digital nomad lifestyle – [Forbes]
• Wuhan lockdown: China takes extreme measures to stop virus spread
• The future of work is from anywhere, at anytime – [Entrepreneur]
• Lonely Planet release The Digital Nomad Handbook.
“Escape the nine-to five and learn how to live and work on the road with the latest addition to Lonely Planet’s Handbook series, a practical guide inspiring and motivating people to achieve their goal of travelling more, starting a whole new way of living and creating a flexible work/life balance.”
• Capitalizing on the ROI of WFA (Work From Anywhere) – [Forbes]
“The global pandemic we face in 2020 has shifted the way we work. We now work from home (WFH) and telecommute versus going into physical office spaces, and as we set up our home offices (some of us for the first time), we welcome new tools we’ve never used before.”
• ‘It’s bullshit’: Inside the weird, get-rich-quick world of dropshipping – [Wired]
“In Bali, western immigrants are selling products they’ve never handled, from countries they’ve never visited, to consumers they’ve never met.”
• Silicon Valley’s next big office idea: Work From Anywhere – [The Wall Street Jounral]
“Tech companies once wooed talent with over-the-top campuses. Now they are looking to keep workers happy by offering flexibility.”
• Work From Home is dead, long live Work From Anywhere – [TechCrunch]
• Estonia is launching a new Digital Nomad Visa for remote workers
Estonia launches the world’s first digital nomad visa.
“…as of August 1, 2020, eligible location-independent workers can apply for the chance to come to Estonia to live for up to a year with peace of mind that they can legally work.”
• ‘Code on the water’: Countries court digital nomads amid coronavirus – [Reuters]
“Offering sunny beaches, cheap living and low infection rates, countries are competing for a new generation of remote workers in a bid to ride out the pandemic and make up for lost visitors.”
• Life as a black “digital nomad” isn’t the same – [The Cut]
“Many people see working abroad as a privilege. For me, it’s a way of escaping deadly racism in the U.S.”
• Goa has become the “home” for ‘work from home’ pros from the metros – [Herald]
“The virus has changed corporate life; With many corporate allowing employees to work from home, many of them are now moving to Goa to work from “home”.”
• Beyond work from home: Why ‘digital nomads’ think they’re the future of remote life – [CNBC]
“With more companies telling employees that work-from-home policies will extend through the end of 2020, and in some cases, until summer 2021, or even forever, the digital nomad lifestyle is appealing.”
• Digital nomad: the new and cool trend of working from paradise—or anywhere in the world – [Forbes]
“We are starting to see an evolution expanding out from the work-from-home trend. Over the last six months, leading corporations, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Spotify, Shopify, Salesforce, PayPal, Uber and an array of others, have announced that their employees may work-from-home for the foreseeable future.”
• Is the office obsolete? Many travelers hope so – [National Geographic]
“As the pandemic drags on, remote workers see unexpected opportunities to become digital nomads.”
• Long-stay visa programme to attract foreign professionals launched – [Antigua Observer]
“A new programme to lure foreign professionals to live and work in Antigua and Barbuda – and give the economy a welcome shot in the arm – has been officially launched.”
Antigua and Barbuda begin the “Nomad Digital Residence“, and applicants can apply at nomad.gov.ag.
• Dubai moves to attract world’s remote workers with new residency programme – [The National]
• On January 1 Croatia launched a special digital nomad visa. This came about after Jan de Jong from the Netherlands wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister asking for a digital nomad visa.
There is now an official application form provided by the Ministry of the Interior, and the Croatian National Tourist Board launched a campaign called “Croatia, your new office!“, and a hashtag to go with it (#CroatiaYourNewOffice).
• Dubai seeks to lure remote workers with free vaccines – [Bloomberg]
• Europe’s first digital nomad village is opening on a tiny volcanic island – [Euronews]
“The first digital nomad village in Europe is about to open on the tiny volcanic island of Madeira, one of two autonomous regions of Portugal.
Digital Nomads Madeira launches on February 1 in the village of Ponta do Sol. It aims to attract digital nomads, remote workers who travel the world while they work.”
• Will Covid-19 unleash a new generation of digital nomads? – [Oxford Business Group]
• How to become a techpat – the new tribe of digital nomads swapping taxes for tans – [The Telegraph]
“For many years, remote working has largely been the territory of digital nomads, technologically savvy entrepreneurs with a thirst for travel, but the arrival of Covid has given birth to a new way of working and a new kind of worker – the techpat.”
• Work from anywhere: The future has begun – [The Economic Times]
• Like summer camp for grown-ups: The pandemic is changing the digital nomad scene – [The Washington Post]
“From nomad villages to “slowmadism,” the uptick in remote work has ushered in a new wave of nomads.”
• UAE announces new remote working residency visa, multiple-entry tourist visas – [Gulf Business]
During a cabinet meeting I chaired, we approved a new Remote work Visa that enables employees from all over the world to live and work remotely from the UAE even if their companies are based in another country.. pic.twitter.com/Hyp8HU8T6r
— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) March 21, 2021
• Work from a Bali beach: Indonesia plans digital nomad visa to boost its coronavirus-hit tourism sector – [South China Morning Post]
• How the rise of ‘digital nomad’ visas will drive the global battle for talent – [Digiday]
Don’t call it Work From Home—we Work From Anywhere now – [Forbes]
• Digital nomads – [Kathmandu Post]
“Can Nepal compete in attracting this new segment of visitors?”
• So, you want to become a digital nomad – [The New York Times]
“Working remotely while abroad has obvious appeal. But the tax consequences vary depending on where you go. Here’s what to know.”
• Dubai is a paradise for “digital nomads”— and hell for low-wage gig workers – [Rest Of World]
“The UAE has eased visa requirements for white-collar freelancers, but migrant gig workers struggle.”
• Malta seeks to lure ‘digital nomads’ with €300 residency permit – [Times of Malta]
“Remote workers will get six month visa with option of one-year residence permit.”
[Malta Nomad Residence Permit.]
• The new trend of wanderlust, work-from-anywhere digital nomads – [Forbes]
• As office life beckons again, the pandemic’s digital nomads weigh benefits of a return – [NBC News]
“Covid-19 opened up the possibility of a nomadic lifestyle to entirely new groups of people. Now, many of them don’t want to go back.”
• “I don’t think I’ll ever go back”: Return-to-office agita is sweeping Silicon Valley – [Vanity Fair]
“As more of America gets vaccinated, executives—especially in tech—are facing a conundrum: a scattered workforce, employees enchanted by the WFH lifestyle, and million-dollar campuses standing vacant. “They can turn [it] into a museum as far as I’m concerned,” says one tech worker.”
• Your company needs a digital nomad policy – [Harvard Business Review]
• Costa Rica launched a digital nomad visa when President Rodrigo Chaves signed the bill on July 4, 2022.
• Digital nomads have rejected the office and now want to replace the nation state. But there is a darker side to this quest for global freedom – [The Conversation]
“A ‘network state’ is ideologically aligned but geographically decentralised. The people are spread around the world in clusters of varying size, but their hearts are in one place.”
• Digital Nomads and their impact on Africa – [TechCabal]
“The increase of digital nomads might help improve the quality of life and experience for the Africans that take this route, but it is a worrying development for the continent as a whole. The majority of these digital nomads are skilled workers whose contributions could have helped the development of Africa had life here been kinder to them. The mass exodus of talent from the continent has led to several concerns about brain drain, and how it might negatively affect the continent.”
• Parag Khanna: ‘Digital nomads are the tip of the spear’ – [Plumia]
“Whether you mean it to be or not, the act of migration is always political. That’s according to Dr. Parag Khanna, an internationally renowned expert in geopolitics and globalization. His latest book, Move: The Forces Uprooting Us, explores how mass migration will reshape the world as we know it in the decades ahead.”
• The rise of the ‘workation’
“New digital nomad visas are driving a work-from-anywhere boom.”
Notes on the digital nomad history timeline
I found that there were many dead links during my research. Thankfully there is the Internet Archive, but link rot is an ongoing problem for preserving the collective memory of the internet. Indeed, this timeline is based on a previous article that has since gone offline, so I’ve expanded on what was already recorded.
There aren’t many articles in the early days, so I have linked to every instance. As the movement grew, countless articles have been linked to milestone articles and seminal thought pieces. If I linked to every article it would be flooded with “how to be a digital nomad in Chiang Mai” posts. If you have a nomad-related site I have a directory of digital nomad resources.
I’ve also left out “ultimate guides to being a digital nomad” as there a just too many. If you are looking for such a guide, check out the resources for digital nomads and remote workers.
This list is an ongoing work in progress. If you think there is another news item that would add to the narrative then let me know.
The article contains affiliate links, and sponsored links are not offered.
Other digital nomad history references
Nomad List has a good history page, and GitLab covers the early years of the history of all-remote work.
The history of digital nomadism by Daniel Schlagwein at The University of Sydney.
Fantastic piece James! What a great stroll down memory lane.
James Clark says
Thanks, Dan! Yes, I loved rereading these old-school blogs – including yourself!
Chris Edwards says
I love this super list- in 1985 I successfully defended my master’s thesis where I predicted people would be soon working from the home with their computers. I suggested computer addiction would become a big problem- turns out it was smartphones!
I would add Alvin Toffler’s The Third Wave (1981) which rightfully predicted the Information Age we now live in.
James Clark says
Thanks Chris, wow that’s great that you saw it coming in the 80s! And thanks for the extra suggestion.
Thanks for this interesting read and thanks for the shout out for Nerdy Nomad! I always get a kick out of seeing how much the whole digital nomad thing has taken off and knowing that I was one of the early ones is sort of cool. I hadn’t realised I was THAT early until I read this timeline, though! The Working Nomad blog and forum was a big inspiration for me and others and I’d give credit to Ant as the person who showed a lot of us what was possible in the early days.
The travel bug left me sometime around 2010 and these days I prefer staying put for long periods of time in one place. First Rwanda for eight years and now Portugal for the foreseeable future. So while the nomading around part sounds like hell to me now, the passive income part is still pretty sweet and I’m enjoying being in Portugal renovating a ruin and building a little off grid farm while managing a business remotely.
It’s a pretty great thing being able to work from anywhere and I’ve enjoyed it, but it will be interesting how it all evolves and changes both work and travel.
Anyway, thanks for the trip down memory lane!
James Clark says
Hi Kirsty, good to hear from you! I was wondering what you have been up to Sounds like a good life in Portugal, so hopefully we can read about it one day 😉
Perry Travis says
No mention of Thing from the Addams Family. Surely the first digital nomad?
James Clark says
Well the box Thing is in is portable, so yes that would work 🙂
What a write up! Good job!
Wade Shepard of VagabondJourney, friends with Andy @ hobo traveler which you linked, has been going a long time… as a digital nomad. 2008
But the term NOMAD… always surprises me as nomads move around and do NOT stay put for 1 year on a DM visa….. being nomadic is the last thing they actually do…. like a bedouin nomad across the sahara or in Mongolia..
Hobo traveler also said, if one stays beyond 90 days you are no longer traveling, u are living…. 30 days is a struggle for me. Sometimes 2 weeks is enough… ;)) thats why i have my name….. Nomadic Backpacker
James Clark says
yes there are a bunch of bloggers from he old times who are also digital nomads, though not many wrote about it in the early days. I mentioned Wade in my article about old-school narrative bloggers
I used to struggle with the phrase digital nomad as well, but I am ok with it now. The thing with English is that words and phrases evolve over time, so being a being a digital nomad now doesn’t mean explicitly on the move all the time.
Shannon O'Donnell says
Fascinating to see it all laid out like that, and the earliest players! To think I was OG in Chiang Mai with you and that cost of living post I wrote went crazy viral at the time (circa 2011 with a million hits). The digital nomad wave was really just starting to hit the more mainstream news around that time. I think you should put your own timeline in there more! You were truly an OG even if you rarely wrote about it in the earliest pre-blogging days. 🙂
James Clark says
I remember that article, that was amazing, and it was a great time to be in Chiang Mai 🙂
I first came across the concept in Papanek & Hennessey’s ‘Nomadic Furniture’, published in 1973. That’s a bit before the digital age, and their target audience was mainly educated young Europeans, who were likely to take short term professional and technical jobs in a changing variety of cities. But it was quite strong on the concept that your skills and employment were not tied to any particular location, and were actually quite portable and durable, while local tenure might be a bit impromptu and improvised.
Brilliant post James!
It is great to look through your timeline and see so many friends listed there. It really is amazing how quickly the digital nomad movement has become mainstream.
I hope we get to meet up again soon.
Kevin Revolinski says
That’s a really impressive rundown of it all. Glad you got Wes in there! It’s also got me thinking how long/often I’ve been doing this. Crazy. And how restless I am these covid days…
Rob Litchfield says
Thank you so much for this interesting timeline! I really agree with you about the tip of the iceberg phenomenon. We find that many journalists and others misunderstand the movement by thinking it’s all about influencers.
Rob Litchfield says
I hope you’ll consider our book as an addition to your timeline. It is a carefully-researched qualitative study based on interviews with digital nomads and fieldwork we completed in Bali, Indonesia. We believe it represents the first in-depth, academic study of digital nomadism. Please reach out if you have questions or comments. Thanks again for this great timeline!
Greg Rodgers says
This was such a fun read full of nostalgia and things I didn’t know. Thanks, James!
Mitra Ardron says
I first became a tech-nomad in the late 1980’s, including1988/89 fully mobile & remote, supporting the creation of the different country nodes for apc.org There were very few of us doing it, and we shared tips on different platform, most notably on Steve Roberts (see your image above) technomads list which he setup on 1992 – see: https://microship.com/birth-of-the-technomads-list-server/ . Most of us traveled with pocket 2400 baud modems, there was one brand we all used but I can’t find any images now. A few people with more money and space in their luggage would have Telebit Trailblazers which were non-standard but could punch through the really bad phone connections when dialing internationally and could get up to 19200 baud. We’d also have a collection of wires, aligator clips, screwdrivers etc since it was usually quicker to remove the phone socket in a hotel or couch-surf and clip on the wires at the back than to find an adapter.
Ted Hawkins says
Back about 2005 I bought: a Dell Inspiron 9300, a Canon Scanner, put everything in a Belkin bag and could work anywhere. From home, in a cafe or a client’s empty desk. I thrashed the living daylights out of the Inspiron for nearly 8 years and Lenovo custom built a tough book for me. With it’s very heavy protective case the thing weighed over 7 lbs. 2011 I started a travel blog in England. 2013 I began traveling in Europe as a travel witerer but also did some work (branding small businesses etc.). I never thought of myself as a digital nomad, indeed I hadn’t ever heard of the term until very recently, just got on with stuff.
Nowadays I have a Lenovo, military spec, Ultrabook and with everything with it weighs less than 4 lbs – things have come a long way. I usually rent a room (apartment share) for 1-3 months and rarely use cafes now. I can also use a tablet for ultralight shorter trips (I have a very bad spine so can’t carry a lot).
The Covid situation has seen many working from home and redefined workspace. Just began photgraphing wildlife, so that should take me to some interesting places and work spots – wonder what’s next…
James Clark says
Thanks Ted! Your experience confirms that there are more people out there working remotely (and getting on with stuff) without even knowing what a digital nomad is.