28 January 2015

The Anti-Nomad Rant

I had a discussion with an acquaintance recently, who happens to be a travel blogger. This person also happens to be not German, but rather, a foreigner who lives here in Berlin. We somehow remarked that both of us don't like the phrase digital nomad, which is somewhat of a catch phrase for the types of people who are in a constant state of travel, working over the Internet, blogging while doing it, and not really having a long-term home base. They call themselves digital nomads, and basically the idea is that their lifestyle makes long-term perpetual travel sustainable.

Somehow, the phrase digital nomad doesn't sit well with me.

I have nothing against long-term travelers. In fact, I read quite a few blogs of these people, and there even is a part of me that wishes I could do that too. I know of a pair of guys who move to a new location every 3 months, slowly traveling. Unfortunately, my career path doesn't allow me to telecommute, and therefore I don't think I can attempt doing that. On top of that, I also am the type of person who loves a routine, so while I love seeing new places, I also love the fact that for the most part, I have a warm bed waiting for me in the night, and not some hostel bunk bed in the jungle.

Anyway, I digress. I was supposed to be talking about digital nomads. See, I find that phrase an oxymoron. Most nomads don't have regular access to clean water, sanitary toilets, and live less than 1 USD a day. On the other hand, these digital nomads typically have a lot of gadgets with them: an iPhone, an iPad, a laptop computer, basically, anything electronic that would allow them to be connected to the Internet (and potentially work) while eating tapas in Barcelona, or sipping coconut juice in Goa, or riding elephants in Chiang Mai. I feel like it is a disgrace to use the term nomad in such a way.

See, the thing is, travel for me is a privilege. A lot of people in the world don't get to travel the way these perpetual travelers do so. Heck, a lot of people in the world don't even have the right citizenship to get a passport enabling them to visit another country without tons of bureaucratic hassles. I am pretty sure that these real nomads didn't choose to be poor and live a nomadic lifestyle. If one looks at human evolution and migration profiles, it is evident that people prefer and profit more from agricultural lifestyles than with hunting-gathering lifestyles. Settling down is more preferable if that is an option. It is just that these real nomads don't have that as an option, and that various life constraints force them to be nomadic. This situation is the total opposite of the so-called digital nomads, who for the most part, are people who think that their stable 9-5 jobs are too boring and therefore they would rather travel perpetually. While I have nothing against that lifestyle, it is definitely not a nomad in my book. To be a perpetual traveler is a choice, and calling it digital nomad makes it look like it is some frugal and luxury-free lifestyle, when actually it isn't.

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