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Digital Nomad Location Independent Lifestyle Designing NuNomads

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When we started our technomadic journey back in 2006, we thought it would be awesome to connect with others doing similar things. We looked around, and couldn’t find too much organized activity out there on the interwebs. But it seems since there’s been an explosion of awareness and communities of folks doing things similar to what we are.  They’re just calling it different things.

We’ve been inundated with terms like digital nomad, location independent professional (LIP), nunomad, lifestyle designer, nuRVer and more. And of course, our preferred term… technomad.

What, if any, are the differences between these terms and how might they apply to us and perhaps to you?

All of these labels are rather loosely defined, and each can include elements of not having a fixed home, travel, utilization of technology, inclusive of a career/jobs and a consciously constructed lifestyle.  And of course, each of these terms can be done in a variety of configurations from solo, coupled, family and/or group travel, on any scale from budget to luxury travel and for a fixed to indefinite time period.

The chart belows shows our understanding of what elements each of these terms specifically implies, although each can be inclusive of all of the elements based on personal manifestation. More than likely, more than one term will apply to any given traveler.

Matrix of nomadic lifestyle designing digital traveler terms

Matrix of nomadic lifestyle designing digital traveler terms

Nomads & Vagabonds

These are concepts that have been around from the dawn of humans. There are many people who are called to iternant wanderings of having no singular fixed home.  Their reasons are varied, some as a matter of circumstance, some for following seasonal work, some for the pursuit of wanderlust. Their modes of transport are also varied; from hiking, biking, driving, flying, boating and more.

We both gave up our fixed homes and have embraced full time nomadism.

World Traveler

This term generally refers to anyone doing travel outside their home country, whether on an extended gap between phases of life, indefinitely, regularly for work or pleasure, as a nomad, as a location independent professional, as an expatriate or more. There are many forms of world travel involving staying at hostels, backpacking, flashpacking (backpacking with more tech), coushsurfing, long term rentals or generally just not settling down in one spot indefinitely.  The travel can include or not include technology, and may or may not involve a consciously constructed lifestyle.  Exile Lifestyle wrote a Field Guide to World Travelers that further breaks these options down.

We both have prior global adventures and we intend to incorporate more into our lifestyle.

Digital Nomad

The usage of the term seems to be more about working remotely using technology –  whether while traveling, telecommuting from home or from a cafe around the corner.  It’s not specifically being nomadic without a fixed home, but is often used to refer to perpetual travel while utilizing technology.

While not specific to us, it’s a descriptive phrase we’ll use sometimes. We rely heavily on digital connectivity to fuel our nomadism.

Location Independent Professional (LIP)

This phrasing comes from Lea and Jon Woodward’s own journey to escape the high costs of starting a business in the UK by working remotely in more affordable locations.  The term refers to professionals in careers that are not location specific. It could be someone who telecommutes, works online, has a home based business, does work over the phone or any other variation.

It’s a term that can also includes full time nomads like us, and I’ve been a location independent software entrepreneur for over 15 years.

NuNomad

This term was around when we embarked on our journey, but there didn’t seem to be much activity on our brief visit to the community website then.  We’ve seen them resurface recently, so hopefully with all the new buzz around these lifestyles, their well developed resources can be better utilized.  Nunomads are described as tech-saavy entrepreneurs who take their work wherever they damn-well please.

Definitely a term that is fitting for us as well, although the nunomad is not necessarily technology dependent.

NuRVers

This is a community that brings together a niche of young-at-heart working age RVers – people who are traveling, living and perhaps working out of their home on wheels.  This one describes us when we’re traveling by RV.  However, it isn’t specifically about integrating in technology or even career with travel.

It’s a great community, and we’ve definitely feel at home there and have enjoyed many rendezvouses with fellow NuRVers.

Road Warrior

This is a style of business traveler who spends a great deal of their time on the road – attending conferences, doing installations, training, going to business meetings and more. They typically have a home base somewhere, but home may also be their favorite hotel chain and frequent flier seat. They can likely be credited with monetizing advancements in mobile technology that allow digital nomadism to be more accessible, as smartphones, laptops and data cards are necessary components to their arsenal.  Road warriors sometimes enjoy the travel and seek out professions that include it, and sometimes its seen as a necessary part of a job.

Chris was previously a road warrior before leaving the traditional work sector and becoming full-time technomadic.

Lifestyle Designer

Another buzz word that is faddish and has several sources of inspiration incorporating many of these terms, including 4-Hour Workweek, Free Pursuits, Intrepid Lifestyle, Thrilling Heroics, Exile LifestyleJetSetCitizen and Lifestyle Project. The term describes anyone who is not waiting until retirement to live the life they want – usually following the myth that one can outsource work to create a passive income stream. Terms like ‘breaking out of the cubicle’ are often associated with these folks.

Lifestyle Designers is a term that is often used to describe us, but we don’t strongly identify with it. Neither of us needed to break away from the cubicle – we’ve both pretty much lived lives of our own creation long before this term came on the scene.

And finally, our preferred term..

Technomad

Less we think that all this digital location independent traveling life designing nunomad stuff is new, it’s not. Far from it. Steve Roberts started off in 1983 on a bicycle with tech mounted to his handle bars to keep him connected and working as he pedaled all over.  Mobile technology wasn’t a concept, nevermind something you could just order online after twittering with other technomads about the ideal netbook. But he assembled it all; satellite phones, handlebar keyboard and solar panels helped complete his Unix-cycle. And he’s still at it, now on his new nomadic home, a geeked out sailboat named Nomadness .

The term he coined, technomad, isn’t as prevalent like the terms above, but we embrace it. While not completely descriptive of our lives, it’s simple and touches on the elements we most value – we’re technology enabled nomads.

Whatever you call yourself, make sure you’re living life on your terms, and are building a life that is your own creation. Don’t follow exclusively in anyone else’s footsteps, carve your own unique path!

33 COMMENTS

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  1. Love reading your updates and guides folks. The possibilities are endless when it comes to carving out an individual location independent lifestyle.

    People complain that they can’t do this or that, instead of concentrating on what they can do.

    I’d delighted that I’ve found something that’s allowed me to become location independent and it has allowed me to move to Thailand :)

    Thanks for sharing guys.

  2. “Road warriors sometimes enjoy the travel and seek out professions that include it, and sometimes its seen as a necessary peace of a job.”

    I think you mean piece, not peace, but otherwise great post.

  3. […] Why do some travel bloggers resign from their jobs? It’s not always about the money – Time is a big factor. Most of us wouldn’t want to excuse from work or submit too much sick/vacation leaves. If you are dedicated and you are willing to exert extra effort by writing and accepting other freelance gigs, then you can be a Digital Entrepreneur. […]

  4. Cherie,

    I would like to announce (if it is not improper to here) that my nu nomad partner, Carmen Bolanos (see her comments above), and I have (just this week) published our new book on location-independent living. It’s called “the Nu Nomad.” (Please see: http://www.nunomad.com/TNN). For those who desire to travel the world while I still generating a healthy income, then this how-to guide may be your best resource.

  5. Oh no! You’ve trapped us all in the matrix. :)

    It’s interesting how none of us are particularly fond of being categorized and defined by others and thus have a tendency to create terms to define our own categories so our individual nuance is not lost.

    Had I seen this post first, I’d still have written the article on my blog that you commented on earlier, but this post and comments have definitely made me think. For that I thank you.

    Also, where’s the whole enchilada category with all of the columns checked for those of us who specialize in being generalists?

  6. Dear Cherie and Chris,

    Jef brought my attention to your website and lifestyle, which I find very interesting.

    I am author of the book “Global Nomads: Techno and New Age as Transnational Countercultures in Ibiza and Goa”. It’s based on my doctoral fieldwork about highly mobile expatriates who live in a global circuit of countercultural practice enmeshed in tourism and surveillance regimes. As an anthropologist, I spent a good deal of my time on the move, studying traditional and emerging forms of nomadism.

    In reviewing your matrix and following debate, I note that nomads are not vagabonds. Nomads typically have fixed homes (defined by seasonal routes connecting complementary ecological niches, say, mountains and valley), and they do work. In fact, one of the basic features of nomadism is that mobility is a basic component of their economic strategies. As such, a hypermobile worker (digital or not) is not a nomad if mobility is disconnected from work needs/processes but is rather based on a lifestyle/leisure decision.

    This is not an issue of mere terminology but rather of learning with insights from clear definitions. Nomadism is one specific form of mobile lifestyle. Yet, the term is very sexy, irresistible to popular and subcultural reinvention. The matrix above contains some redundant categories which are only justified in reference to minor subcultural variations in the process of group identity formation. All in all, I’d still maintain that people mistakenly employ the word “nomad” (or “technomad”) when they could be well using “mobile” (“hypermobile” or “techno-mobile”), to be correct.

    In any case, your current experiment is truly interesting and exciting! It anticipates an alternative lifestyle possibility in the rise. I am looking forward to learning more from your developments.

    Sincerely,

    Anthony D’Andrea

    “The nomad does not move.” (Deleuze and Guatarri)

    • Thanks for chiming in Anthony, it’s great to have your particular viewpoint interjected.

      While I don’t debate that there are and have been many nomadic tribes and communities that are based upon moving with the seasons for work/hunting/etc and perhaps that have several homebases that they move between. But I have not seen reference to nomads being defined by work and by having *a* fixed home. But that is not the only form of nomadism, especially in today’s cultures and uses. Especially when a digital age allows one to consciously construct a location independent worklife. In an industrialized and digitized world, we are no longer tied to having hunt by the seasons.

      In my particular case, my nomadism is both about lifestyle choice AND moving to/from work locations (we’re currently enroute to DC where I’ll be working on contract.) Who’s place is it to really draw the lines as to if I’m a LIP, technomad, nomad, vagabond, gypsy, lifestyle designer or “techno-mobile”? Sure, it may not be historically correct. But then, how many terms we use today are? Words, like people and societies, evolve.

      At any rate, the purpose of constructing this matrix was specifically in ‘reference to minor subcultural variations’ that we’ve observed being used from our own viewpoint (that of the blogosphere we play in)- not from an anthropological one. We were specifically looking at terms that we’ve encountered others using and applying to our lifestyle.

    • Hi Anthony –

      I love your insights here from an anthropologists perspective, and your book sounds fascinating. Both Ibiza and Goa are places that I hope to someday experience.

      But one comment…

      You eem to be complaining about how “people mistakenly employ the word ‘nomad'”, yet you mention the “process of group identity formation” and note that the term ‘nomad’ is “very sexy, irresistible to popular and subcultural reinvention”.

      And indeed that is exactly what is going on here. We are busy reinventing terms and charting out and identifying the various niches of our subculture, and that is the distinctions that this post was exploring.

      So while I understand that from an anthropologists perspective, we may all just be ”hypermobile” with very little real distinction , I do know that the term “hypermobile” does not feel like a hat that fits me any more so than “roadwarrior”.

      The term that struck a chord in my soul the first time I heard it (thanks Steve!) was technomad, and it is a label that I am proud to attach to myself.

      It is fascinating to watch the emergent trends as different people with different backgrounds and motivations start to chart out this space and try on labels to see what fits them and feels right.

      I look forward to your future insights!

      – Chris

  7. The reason I had mentioned expatriates as a separate category is that Anthony d’Andreas, a University of Chicago sociologist, in his book “Global Nomads” ( http://www.amazon.com/Global-Nomads-Techno-Transnational-Countercultures/dp/0415553679/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246339766&sr=8-4 ) specifically notes important differences between travelers who spend only a few weeks or months (or, typically, a tourist season) before moving on, and those who stay 6 months to several years. But for your purposes you might categorize them both as world travelers.

    There are important differences, however: the expat would be hard-pressed not to learn the local languages, but seasonal travelers in Ibiza for example frequently do not speak Spanish. The backpacker who spends 2 months in India is very different from the expat who needs to rent a house, hire staff, learn Hindi, and figure out how to open a local bank account.

    It’s a subtle distinction perhaps; just proof of how varied the nomadic world really is.

    • Oh yes.. there are indeed differences in any form of travel with varying speeds. Even as domestic traveler – our style of interaction with a city is different when we are there for a week versus several months (and we do mix it up). But that doesn’t change the terms in which we refer to ourselves. But, as the matrix is not tracking length of time in any one location (as of yet.. doesn’t mean I won’t change it in the future).. those are not distinctions I am specifically tracking. I did however place expatriate in my lumped ‘World Traveler’ category in thanks to your bringing the term up. It is one I had overlooked.

      Also keep in mind, the matrix is specifically from our world view – as currently domestic digital technomadic lifestyle independent lifestyle designing NuRVers. From that world view, there isn’t much distinction to us in an expatriate working as they travel and a location independent professional exploring global nomadism via renting condos long term in countries around the world.

  8. It was great meeting you at Lakes of Fire . . .

    I hate to be a trouble-maker (actually I love it) but I want to suggest another category: expatriate. That is the one my wife and I are specifically working on.

    An expatriate can be a nomad in the sense of not having a fixed location, but they may live in a single country other than their nation of birth for 6 months to three or more years before moving on. They may live in an apartment or bungalow, but with a short-term lease. I would still consider this a nomadic lifestyle in that it can require learning languages, cultural improvisation and a nomadic mentality. I do not consider permanent change of residence to a single (other) country to be nomadic; that would simply be emigration and exchanging one sedentary lifestyle for another in a different place.

    Expats have many of the same problems other nomads do: where to receive mail, how to get broadband, what kind of health insurance is needed, where to bank.

    • We had actually considered expatriate as a category.. but it doesn’t clearly fit any of the columns currently used, and would almost need some extra columns added (such as something to designate ‘abroad vs domestic’ and ‘length of stay’) of its own. As an expatriate is in its more simpler terms ‘someone who leaves their home country’ – it does not necessarily – but can – include travel, nomadism, technology, LIP, lifestyle design, etc. I’ve known a number of folks who consider themselves expatriates who did not move around during their time abroad (such as my very own Chris in his youth), so nomadism really doesn’t apply across the board to the category.

      I think for these purposes, an expatriate who is pursuing a slower nomadic path as well could be covered by a combination of ‘World Traveler’ and other columns.

      In all reality, very few of us clearly fit in any one category. While we use technomad as our primary identifier – we’re also LIP, NuRVers, Lifestyle Designing, etc.

  9. The delightful note from Don and Karla reminds me of a business idea (actually a setup for the kind of gratuitous pun that I find irresistible, but still with a grain of reality): a nomadic platform large enough to accommodate short-term paying guests. This is common in the cruising community, but less so on land with the spatial constraints of an RV… but I’m seeing some existence proofs for the level of miniaturization that could support it.

    Oh, what would we call this class of business? Bedouin Breakfasts

    Cheers from the nomadhouse,
    Steve

  10. Hellooooo, Technomads!

    Thanks so much for your blog. My husband and I have abandoned the “deferred life plan,” found a portable business and last year embarked on an open-ended “trip” to… wherever.

    In the last year, we’ve lived and worked our business from Hawaii, Acapulco, Spain, Portugal and the Bahamas. We’ve been in San Francisco for the last couple of months, are renting a house by the beach in LA for the summer and off to the French Riviera for the Fall. We’re pinching ourselves everyday… and all it took was a choice to just do it!

    After reviewing your definitions of all the great labels… we’d like to suggest another… “Luxury Vagabonds,” or “Techno-Beduins.”

    We’re priviledged to be among so many others that have chosen this lifestyle.

    Again, thanks for your blog.

    Don and Karla
    http://www.DonAndKarla.com

  11. It might be good on the next revision to add the term “Road Warrior,” which has been co-opted by a more corporate crowd but uses a lot of the same tools (and, to some extent, attitudes) manifested by us geeky independent types. There’s also a fair bit of overlap with the LIP definition, but RW seems to have a more hotel/airport/business-trip/suit feeling.

    Cheers,
    Steve

      • Mmmm, yes, probably… but I think there is still a missing “column” (which is something I have never really considered to be part of what I do, so maybe we don’t care). Maybe “business-focus” or something like that? It really is hard to meaningfully categorize; the only real overlap is the choice of tools. Yet, the LIP variant has that business focus as well, and also seems to carry some promotional cachet… so it’s a little ambiguous to try to nail clearly defined genotypes beyond a fairly gross granularity. The more we attempt to define edges, the more we’ll leave people out or trigger suggestion of further refinements. I guess my own mental image of “Road Warriors” is kind of sleek monied professionals on expense accounts, using the same tools I use to wander around freelancing and dropping in on friends. This overlap has often confused interviewers, and I saw an article in some Silly Valley rag recently where the writer called all the corporate laptop users at Starbuck’s “technomads” without ever having a sense of the history behind it. (He ignored my email.)

        For this reason, I’ve always had kind of a hard time defining “techomad,” since my own peculiar mix of elements is by no means universal (though the urges certainly are). Tricky, making labels for us quirky humans!

      • Yeah.. we saw that technomads article.. and just shuck our heads at it.

        This post all started out as an attempt to see how all of the current buzz words fit specifically *us*… so we do have a lot of other ones that I’m sure we’re missing if it’s to be a general resource. And trying to define labels for free spirited folks is always a challenge. But there is some good reason for it to at least attempt to not dilute the terms used. This landscape can be overwhelming to someone new trying to figure it all out, and what are just terms and what has some sort of commercial momentum behind it.

  12. Oh, this is a website by friends of ours from the UK that we met on FOTR before we took off. They have been homeschooling, working and RVing around Europe with 2 kids since 2000-

    http://daisydraper.co.uk/

    This family from France also proved that RVing around the world as a family is a very cheap and fantastic way to go!

    http://ccarautourdumonde.free.fr/

    They actually inspired us to try shipping our RV and we have really enjoyed the experience and find it is quite easy to do.

    Great post by the way!

  13. I think we fit in all of the above and have been on an open ended world tour as a family since 2006!

    Most people do not realize that this is also a great lifestyle for families! We travel the world ( 4 continents/29 countries so far & will ship our RV around the world….RV’s & cargo ships are great combo! ).

    Don’t forget FOTR which stands for Families On The Road.

    http://www.familiesontheroad.com/

    It is a great community that has been around for a long time. Kim from Activated Storytellers has been on the road since their child was in diapers and now he is grown into a very cool young man on his own!

    Seems like there are as many ways to do this as there are people doing it! ;) I think this economy is helping this trend as I have seen it grow so much in the last year. Amazing! It is a fantastic way to live large on little, be free, see the world, bond as a family and get the best possible education for future citizens of the 21st century!

    • I do think there needs to be a category for the make-up of the people going on travel. There are indeed lots of families like yourselves doing travel on different scales. And there is also a distinction between solo and coupled travel too. As well as organized groups.

      Is there a singular term that could describe this (such as Colin and I using ‘World Traveler’ to include backpackers, couchsurfing, etc.) that could be inclusive of all styles, or should they all be handled independently as separate categories on the chart? I’m not currently aware of a buzzy word to describe this concept…

      – Cherie
      PS. We actually did include an entire article in our growing ‘answers to excuses’ series on family travel.. and included you guys as an example:
      http://www.technomadia.com/category/practical-concerns/excuses/

      • I don’t really care about labels personally, I’ve never fit into any. Maybe none of us do. I have to agree with Steve below- “Tricky, making labels for us quirky humans!”. Or your ending statement about carving one’s own path. Grin.

        My brother ( who died at 40) had one of the most free lives I have ever witnessed. He crossed the US from East to West and back again, the same with north and south, many times on his bike, traveled and lived world wide as well. He jumped railroad cars and even was a stow away on a Russian ship once. LOL. My husband first saw him on the notoriously dangerous HWY 17 between SC and SJ, where he was happily riding his loaded up bike, coming to our wedding. ;) He lived more, gave more, trusted God more and saw more in his lifetime than most people ever do, so has been an inspiration for me.

        I’m not techy ( though have been forced to learn some),but I am an out-of-the-box, big picture kind of thinker, so I have a real appreciation for this diverse community and the future possibilities that we are all pioneering.

        I DID see that post and LOVED it and that no excuses approach. I really appreciate you mentioning us. You are right too, that doing this as a single, couple or family are all quite different with some unique pros and cons for each. We’re packing up right now to be on the road for 7 months in our little RV, and I see that we would have soooo much less stuff ( not that we have that much) if we did not have & homeschool a child! ;)

        By the way, your link to Nunomads is not working. They are good people and she is off with her family (3 kids) to Brazil soon for an extended stay ( while working by web in US).

        So glad we have gotten to “know” you and love what you add!

        Carpe Diem!

  14. Great information, and well organized. Thanks for the descriptions of all the various terms and also for including us among them. This is certainly a booming area at the moment, and as was mentioned important that we don’t splinter into too many competing microcosms. Luckily, I think we’re a bunch of progressive and cooperative types in spite of our independent natures. I am hopeful that we can really incubate this concept into a major cultural force.

  15. Brilliant post, Cherie (and thanks for the kind words!). The recent profusion of related terms and concepts could certainly lead to confusion among newcomers, especially with some having a sort of semi-proprietary flavor. It’s good to get this out there, hopefully to ease any tendency toward fragmentation into competing micro-communities… while providing lexical differentiation between the essential variants. Well done.

    I am thinking about publishing the archive of the technomads listserve, which I started in 1989 while I had the bikelab at Sun Microsystems. There were some real wizards and pioneers in that group, and early discussion about technomadic concepts embodies some valuable history. The mailing list still exists (under Mailman on my server) but has been very quiet for a few years… I should send a ping, filter the bouncies, and see who’s still lurking.

    Anyway, thanks for the valuable service of bringing these related terms under one roof, so to speak. I hope this page continues to track the rapidly evolving technomadic ecosystem.

    Cheers from Nomadic Research Labs,
    Steve

    • You were (and still are) an amazing pioneer in so many ways. I still remember when I first stumbled across your website (in 1994 I think) and stayed up all night reading it.

      I am proud to consider you both an inspiration and a friend.

  16. Thanks for the mention and link to my Field Guide to World Travelers article! I’m definitely linking back to this article, as well, as you’ve touched on many supplementary distinctions and links, not to mention your fancy chart!

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