Earlier this year, I decided to live out of a backpack and embark on an adventure, in the hopes of expanding my repertoire of stories by stealing a look into the life of others. This is where I found out I wasn’t the only crazy human being defying work structures and systems that, to me, seemed a bit outdated for the way in which the world was moving.
On my way from Sarajevo to Belgrade, I sat in a van with five others, who like me, were traveling for extended periods of time. All of us came from different countries, but we shared more than just our obsessive need to travel; we also shared a common disdain for the societal norms that told us we had to stay in one place, get a 9-5 job, build a house with a white picket fence, and live the rest of our lives out until our debt-ridden retirement came around the corner. What amazed me was not their will and their fearlessness to travel but the extent of their time traveling. They had been on the road for so long that they entered a wave where they no longer considered themselves in a state of “vacation” but rather in a state of living.
One of them, a writer from the US, had been traveling for two years, moving every so often. She had built a network for freelance writing and made her money on the go. Another, a former British school teacher, left home to travel as a busker, playing in parks and venues. My wonder took flight while hearing these people’s stories because they were filled with an intellect that is very hard to find. This intellect—call it street-smart if you like—was a deep awareness of their surroundings, an instinct for capturing the right time and place like no other. The busker developed a method.
He had a ranking of songs people from different places in the world liked to listen to while they were visiting new cities—songs that remind you of home, mainly. Songs that made them stop and drop money into his guitar case. It was this insight, these observations, that made his passion for music profitable while giving him the liberty to keep exploring. But in order to learn how to observe and to engage, he had to continue moving.
I began to listen to these queues. Websites for freelancers came up in conversations—startups that understood the course the world was beginning to adopt. They saw the alternative road and took it. I began to think of what it meant to live in this day and age. If all we needed to develop our ideas was a computer and exposure to a fresh point of view, what were we doing limiting ourselves when it came to where and how we spent our time?
Entrepreneurs play an imminent role in the now globalized world of business, and there is, growing slowly but surely, a community of “digital nomads,” or what I like to call “nomapreneurs” who are attempting to adapt to a more boundary-less world. Technology is supposed to introduce freedom from physical and informational restraints. New generations of entrepreneurs (regardless of age) are beginning to adopt lifestyles that embrace the expansion of communities to create international networks. Entrepreneurs have the possibility of not needing to move to reach others with a product and the liberty of time and place to interact and manage their lifestyles through more personalized, unconventional structures.
Nomadic Lifestyle: Cheaper, More Productive and More Inspiring
According to Jay Meistrich, founder of Moo.do, the nomadic lifestyle is “cheaper, more productive and more inspiring.” I, personally, can attest to that. What we learn from our environment is as important and fundamental as the technical skills we learn from school, courses, or books. We tune into instincts and survival skills that can later be applied in the development stages of a startup. A change of air often concludes in a change of perspective, which can be necessary to take a step forward.
If we lived in an ideal and fair world, these doors would be open for all to take advantage of. But this yin is not exempt from its yang. While there is increasing positivity and access to tools for entrepreneurs to reach bigger audiences, there is also an increasing play of consolidated corporations limiting entry into the market of small businesses. This limitation stems mainly from a lack of equal access to resources, like computers, tablets, programs, and the internet, as well as proper technical education for everyone around the world.
We are still far from dissolving what many call the Internet Gap, generated by the limitations many face in terms of access to technology. The key is in continuing to develop strategies where resources become reachable to people across the planet, in lieu of their socioeconomic standing.
Entrepreneurship has the power of dismantling barriers of entry only if access to technology becomes unlimited. Nomapreneurs demonstrate the way in which people, with access to certain tools, can develop profitable ideas regardless of time and place.
Technology is supposed to be a democratizing tool, but it cannot reach that full potential until IT is democratized.
In terms of the economic impact of these changes on different geographical spaces, there is a possibility for this change to be the beginning of a drift away from big multinational corporations to small digitalized international businesses. The study on globalization and entrepreneurship by Flanders DC also stated that “the third dimension of globalization, international migration, has an impact on both the demand and supply side of entrepreneurship. On the supply side, immigration changes the size and composition of the labor force. On the demand side, the presence of growing communities of foreign-born people creates a demand for particular goods and services, opening new possibilities for business ventures.”
“Working in an office is a relic of the past,” according to Jay Meistrich. “There are co-working spaces in many cities where digital nomads can meet peers from around the world and find collaborators. Nomads give travel and work advice on Reddit and Nomad Forum, there’s over a thousand of us (and growing) in a chatroom at hashtagnomads.com, and the community is organizing meetups all over the world.” It’s time that we begin to embrace the idea that working in an office is not a synonym for optimal productivity and that we begin to create opportunities for anyone who feels like they are not at their best within traditional structures to step out and create.