Posted by: digitalnomaddan | August 26, 2008

Digital Nomad


Digital Nomad home & office running a business from a tent

A Digital Nomad, like traditional/conventional Nomads, relies upon an infrastructure of interconnected resource points, communication tools & transport solutions for survival & maintenance of lifestyle.

Traditional indigenous nomads travel between resource points like Oasis’, hunting grounds or seasonal pastures. They used communication tools like smoke signals & transport solutions like camels & horses (although many now also use modern solutions like mobile phones & motor vehicles).

Digital Nomads resource points are Internet access points (like WiFi hot spots), communication tools like mobile computing devices (Laptops/Notebooks/Personal Digital Assistants/Mobile Phones etc) & the full range of contemporary transport solutions.

Some are employing traditional transport too & I’m sure its just a question of time before traditional nomadic transport solutions are used by many more digital nomads wanting their set up to be as self sufficient as possible (look out for ‘Camel hump compatible’ satellite dishes & solar panels).

Due to the ever shrinking size & increasing convergence of business telecommunications equipment, mobile technology & connectivity products/services Digital Nomads can now travel with all their equipment on their person &/or embedded in their environment. This renders them free to use whichever combination of transport & communication solutions best serves their travelling, working & living requirements.

This new flexibility of transport & connectivity options increases general efficiency enabling one to work on the move (turning what would previously have been ‘dead time’ into ‘productive time’) as well as at their destination/s presenting a much greater & flexible choice of where & when to both live & work.

Many pioneers are exploiting the new digital infrastructures to pursue a traditional nomadic lifestyle by not just working but also living on the move combining the best of both worlds. Most traditional ‘traveller spots’ around the world are now saturated with people exploiting communications and mobile working technology to live the nomadic dream travelling from one WiFi enabled ‘Shangri La’ to another.

The vast majority however are still working/living in a traditional non nomadic situation using digital nomadic technologies to maintain connectivity & productivity whilst travelling in between the traditional ‘nodes’ of office, home, client etc &/or changing the balance of time spent at either. For example – not staying late at the office to finish a document/proposal due to an impending deadline & instead going home on time and finishing the document en-route or later at home so they don’t miss the family meal.

Only in the last couple of years I believe its become possible to practice being a true digital nomad. This is due to the accelerating propagation of easily accessible high speed Internet access points worldwide like WiFi hot spots. This has enabled all flavours of mobile I.P. communications like V.O.I.P. (Voice Over Internet Protocol) & not just email & limited web browsing only previously possible due to slower &/or less accessible internet such as ‘dial up’ & ‘wired’ broadband.

I have started this blog to document my own experiences of Digital Nomadism running my business Shop21 based purely upon mobile digital infrastructure & to share this as a resource for others wishing to do the same and to link in with others already doing it.  All preferably from wonderful locations.  Why wait until retirement? I’m currently writing this & working from a tent on a beach on Ibiza.

Comments from other Digital Nomads are most definitely welcome since there are many out there really pushing the limits with what’s possible or not who’s contributions to this blog would be of great benefit to me & hopefully others. I will be interested in comments relating to all aspects of Digital Nomadism from functional (how & where you are doing it) to ideological (why you are doing it) & philosophical (what it means to be doing it i.e. for you personally or society at large etc)

I intend to build on the blog adding interviews with (or comments from) other nomads as well as reviews of products/services etc that help function Digital Nomadism & a shop (or links to shops) that sell these products/services.

I have found that many people motivated by the digital lifestyle are naturally obsessed with efficiency due to trying to cram maximum functionality into minimum space/weight. This quest for efficiency is shared by other ‘Nomads’ (Environmentalist’s, Sailors, Campers, Trekkers, Climbers, Bikers, Travellers etc) so coverage of these related areas are likely with special attention given to technologies that help function independence such as Solar Powered devices & other self sufficient mobile solutions.

In my first post (the above is ‘About’/’Intro’) I’m going to kick off with what I’m doing, where I’m doing it from & why I’m trying to be a digital nomad. In subsequent posts ill explain how I’m doing it, with which tools, services & resources etc & then in future posts ill cover all tools irrelevant of whether I’m using them or not & of course misc. digital nomad related info.

Posted by: digitalnomaddan | December 16, 2008

Christmas presents & stocking fillers for digital nomads

Heres a great last minute Christmas Present for any digital nomads or futurologists in your life, more Christmas present ideas coming soon:

Digital Nomad

Digital Nomad The Book
Digital Nomad The Book
Posted by: digitalnomaddan | October 26, 2008

My Experiment in Digital Nomadism: Why & Where

I’ve just spent all this summer experimenting running my business & living in as digitally nomadic a way as possible whilst maintaining connectivity & productivity using equipment and tools that can be carried by one person. I hoped that if I carried a tent in one hand, portable computer & overnight kit in a small carry bag in the other & backpack with everything else (clothes etc) this would function maximum flexibility & possibility of where & when I could travel to, live and work from. With this set up I was free to catch trains, planes, auto-mobiles, ferries & boats etc. My main aim is to see if one can do away with an existence based on physical centralised ‘nodes’ (traditional office, home etc) & reduce them down to the individual, a mobile ‘node’.

If after a summer of doing this I had succeeded in keeping my on-line shop running at least relatively smoothly from various locations without having to travel back to my original physical location (London) in an emergency when things went wrong then in future it would be possible to run a business and live out of a backpack from literally anywhere you could get a decent Internet connection. Since this was an experiment/trial run I needed to get back quickly if things went wrong so I stayed in Europe so was always a relatively short distance from the UK.

If it all worked out (& it did) I would travel further afield in the future since, if you can travel to & work from somewhere with very cheap cost of living (i.e. Asia) but stay ‘plugged in’ to western level earnings its a no brainer that you are going to progress quicker financially since your operation is more efficient due to less costs. Also if your, or the worlds, circumstances change like the world economic situation (as it currently seems to be by virtue of the credit crunch and global financial crisis) then practitioners of true digital nomadism will be best placed to adapt & change accordingly due to their highly flexible & dynamic infrastructure.

Since I was due in Ibiza for a friends birthday party celebrations at the end of July & then another friends birthday party in South of France the following weekend I could experiment working while travelling to & between these locations where I would be ‘holidaying’ & hence work from lovely locations.  I was overdue a holiday and couldn’t take time off completely so needed to take my laptop with me anyway. If it all worked out I would stay abroad afterwards and try and keep the experiment running for the entire summer.

I found what looked like the perfect WiFi enabled campsite on Ibiza and flew out 5 days before I was supposed to be in Ibiza Town for the birthday so had time to get set up established & then enjoy living & working on a beach. The camp-site turned out to be perfect since the WiFi connection was free, had quite a  long range signal & was on 24 hours a day so I could access it & hence work from pretty much anywhere I decided to pitch my tent or wanted to work from in the camp-site grounds & whenever I wanted. I spent most of my time working from their lovely beach side cafe.

A Digital Nomads Desk Space

A Digital Nomads Desk Space

I had no problems receiving & making Skype calls, emails & working on the web processing orders from my website.  Integrating Skype with my mobile phone via Fring worked ok’ish but was poor call quality when further away from the Cafe/router i.e. when in the tent (more on Fring coming soon in later posts).

When I left the campsite & moved into a hotel to join the birthday party in Ibiza Town I was surprised that not only was there no free Internet connections there was no WiFi at all in the hotel or close enough to get a signal enabling me to work in the hotel room.  Instead I had to either use the GPRS connection on my mobile phone as a modem (unacceptably expensive even with a discounted GPRS data roaming bundle I had purchased from Orange) or venture out of the hotel to find the nearest free WiFi hotspot.  Since It was the weekend in Ibiza I was intending to do as little work as possible so this wasn’t the end of the world & I was only checking emails quickly for any priority stuff needing attention then was straight back to the beach or bar.

After the weekend we made our way to the port to catch the ferry to Barcelona where we were going to stay a few days before catching the train over the Pyranee’s mountains and into the South of France for my mates party the following weekend.

There are a few ferry services running between Ibiza & Barcelona & take an average of 10 hours, allowing plenty of sunbathing or working time.  We took the cheaper Iscomar ferry service which luckily had free wireless broadband on board. I booked the tickets in advance via A Ferry To who sell discounted tickets for all major European ferry routes & cost around £40 each one way if you book well in advance, otherwise expect to pay around £70/£80 if you book direct or leave it to the last minute. The on-board wireless broadband turned out to be in beta test but worked fine generally, it just timed out every 45 minutes or so requiring re-connection.

In Barcelona we stayed at the Confortel Hotel which was quite a way from the city centre (30 minute walk or 10 minute metro) but only a 5 minute walk from a good beach which, given the blistering mid-summer heat was preferable to staying in a sweaty hotel in the city centre.  The Confortel had always on free WiFi.

From Barcelona I travelled over the Pyranees to Toulouse in France using the Spanish train service Renfe & the French SNCF. This journey is a spectacular one with magnificent views so the fact that neither trains had WiFi wasn’t a problem. The station on the Spanish/French border at Le Tour De Carol where you have to change trains (& there can be a long wait) didn’t have WiFi either nor could I pick up a signal wondering around the nearby buildings

It was now late Friday afternoon and had left Barcelona in the morning so had only missed 1 day of connectivity & could have connected via the mobile phones GPRS modem in an emergency. There are mobile WiFi Broadband dongles and other wireless connectivity devices available which will help keep digital nomads connected when in areas without internet access such as rural areas or locations which charge extortionate fees for a connection (some railway stations & other public places for example).  I did consider buying one before travelling however roaming fees for these can be similarly expensive as data roaming fees on mobile phone networks so its best to buy when in the destination country which doesnt really help if your planning on visiting a few.   Given the proliferation of WiFi hot spots I thought it would never be too long a wait in between possible connections & in those rare instances could use the mobile phone.

After another weekend partying (in a very rural/remote location but at a private residence with WiFi) I travelled back to Toulouse & saw my Girlfriend off at the Airport (chargeable WiFi available).  I then stayed for a few days in the cheapest hotel in Toulouse with WiFi (that I could find) so I could catch up with work, plan next stage of my trip & explore Toulouse a bit.

I knew I wanted to get back to Ibiza eventually but thought I could travel back over a few days using this list of European campsites with Internet access to plan where I would stay en-route however all the likely candidates on my route had quite expensive charges for internet access. All were also more expensive than the campsite in Ibiza for pitching a small tent.  Many also seemed very ‘structured’ wheras the Ibiza campsite was very relaxed with good quality live music night with Argentinian BBQ (see pic) twice a week.

A Digital Nomads Office Canteen

Digital Nomads Office Canteen

The facilities here for both working & holidaying I had tried & tested.  Being able to pitch the tent on a pine wood covered peninsula surrounded by sea, beach on one side, rocky cove on the other (see my banner pic at top of page) whilst staying connected for free was ideal.  Camping La Playa was the perfect place for my requirements so I bolted back there via train over Pyranees & overnight ferry from Barcelona to Ibiza.

This time due to availability I took the more expensive Transmediteranea ferry which surprisingly didn’t have a WiFi connection (since the cheaper Iscomar ferry did have).  Due to travelling overnight I didn’t need to work anyway & there was a party on the top deck with a full on sound system & very skilful DJ holding it together in very rough weather (the ferry was rocking considerably in both senses of the word).

I spent the next 7 boiling hot weeks living & working from a perfect spot, all things considered.

In my next few posts I’m going to cover ‘How I functioned Digital Nomadism’ via the tools, products, services & resources I used: