With the current advances in technology and more and more companies becoming comfortable with the idea of a remote workforce — being a DN is a growing trend. But, just how many digital nomads are out there, what are they doing and how are they doing it?
If you’re curious to learn more and get into the nitty-gritty statistics of becoming and being a digital nomad — keep reading. In this article, we’ll tell you all there is to know about DNs, their world, and what you can expect if you join it.
Digital Nomads Statistics Around the World
While it’s difficult to tally the total number of digital nomads in the world, most estimates place it at around 11 million people. Perhaps most notably, according to a 2019 study on Upwork, as many as 57 million Americans identify as freelancers. Additionally, around 4.8 million Brits identify as self-employed as well.
According to research on DigitalNomadHelp, Americans make up around 6% of DNs, while as many as 45% come from Asia. 14% come from Central and South America, 16% are from Europe, and Kiwis make up as little as 1% of the population.
According to FlexJobs, of all of these people, 42% have been DNs for under a year, as the movement has seen a lot of traction recently. Additionally, 33% have spent the last 1-5 years as digital nomads, while 24% have done so for 5+ years.
What Does a Typical Digital Nomad Look Like?
Gen-Zers seem to be taking the world of digital nomads by storm, but the lifestyle is also popular with baby boomers, who make up one-third of the group. Men are somewhat dominant in the DN field, and it’s estimated that they hold a 70% share in the market.
Moreover, around 61% of DNs are married, and they’re nearly evenly split between full-time, part-time, and no-time travelers. So, one-third of DNs will always stay on the road with their partner in toe, a third will do it some of the time. However, roughly the same number of people will always stay at their current base, and not travel at all.
According to the aforementioned study, around 26% of nomads take their underage children and travel with them all of the time. Three-fifths of children aren’t along for any of the rides, while the remainder travels with both parents some of the time.
Luckily, there are also plenty of schooling options for these kids, but the vast majority go to public schools. However, some also partake in online classes or are homeschooled by one parent.
Most Popular Countries and Cities for Digital Nomads
There are typically four main criteria that a digital nomad will consider before going to a country:
- Visa programs
- The internet speed
- Cost of living
- Work-life balance
Firstly, they’ll look for countries that offer comprehensive work permits, or a DN visa (and we’ll talk more about that soon). Additionally, as the internet is an essential tool for work, they’ll research the average speeds in the countries and cities they’re interested in.
Next, they’ll consider the average cost of living, and whether their job will allow them to have a good quality of life overall. Finally, because DNs tend to love travel and adventures, they’ll research what kind of amenities and activities the area has to offer.
The Digital Nomad Visa
Nowadays, many countries are trying to make the most of the increasing number of digital nomads, by providing them with special working conditions. Namely, through a DN visa (or remote-working visa as they’re often referred to), you can stay and work in a different country for up to one year.
Most of these visas allow you to be exempt from the country’s tax laws, and you won’t even have to apply for temporary residency or permanent citizenship. A digital nomad visa can make your life much easier when you’re planning on moving to a country. Moreover, you won’t have to worry about any hidden taxes or unknown rules for working there.
The following countries offer digital nomad visas:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Cayman Islands
- Dubai (UAE)
Soon or Partial DN Visas:
Top Three Countries to Live in as a Digital Nomad
Visa: 1-year DN visa.
Cost of living: High.
Average fixed internet speeds: 21.52 Mbps.
Work-life balance: Great.
Thanks to their great 1-year DN visa program, Caribbean islands have become hotspots for digital nomads over the world. Namely, the region boasts great, year-round warm weather, amazing beaches, and a relaxed lifestyle. The internet also tends to be quite stable, with high internet speeds, peaking at 89.81 Mbps in Aruba.
However, Caribbean countries tend to have a high cost of living, and some digital nomads can find them to be very isolating. So, take that into account before deciding whether you could live here as a digital nomad or not.
That being said, Caribbean countries can offer you, as a DN, a gorgeous place to call your home away from home — and you can stay there for up to one year. If you’re considering making the move, these are the two most popular Caribbean countries for DNs.
Barbados is one of the cheapest countries to live in the Caribbean, making life for DN nomads much easier and not as stressful. Some estimates say that a single person’s monthly living costs average around $1,611, with the biggest contributors being apartment rentals and transportation.
In addition to beautiful scenery and beaches, Barbados also comes with some of the highest internet speeds in the Caribbean. Namely, the download average is around 56.9 Mbps.
Additionally, the country’s DN visa program, also known as the Barbados Welcome Stamp, is relatively easy to apply to and meet the conditions of.
Anguilla sits slightly off the beaten path, making it a great destination for DNs looking for a quiet, relaxed place to live in. With only 15,000 residents, the nation is also the smallest one to have a DM program.
Another great benefit to living here is that Anguilla works very hard to keep Covid infections at bay. The region does so by setting in place strict regulations for those who wish to come here. Moreover, even though it costs around $2000 to apply for the DN visa, this includes PCR testing.
The only downside is that Anguilla isn’t well-connected by air, and the flights in and out of the country are few and far between.
- Visa: Tourist or visa-free
- Cost of living:
- Average fixed internet speed: 04 Mbps
- Quality of life: Good.
Even though South Africa doesn’t offer a designated DN visa, there are several easy ways for you to enter and live in the country as a digital nomad. For example, you can if your country is on the visa-free list, you’ll be able to enter and stay there for up to 90 days. On the other hand, if your country isn’t on the visa-exempt list, you could apply for a tourist or working visa in advance.
South Africa also has a great climate going for it, with warm summers and mild, slightly rainy winters. There’s also a rich culture, amazing food, and a friendly community of people. Not to mention, with estimated monthly spending of around $1,200 for a single person, the living costs are quite moderate.
Cape Town is a beloved DN hotspot, and many remote workers and travelers alike love spending their time here. There are plenty of reasons behind this, but perhaps most notably, visitors enjoy the city’s culture, nightlife, as well as an amazing restaurant scene.
The comfortable climate and gorgeous beaches are great attributes as well, and allow residents to have a better work-life balance. Additionally, many Cape Town residents can speak English, allowing DNs to have an easy transition to the area. Speaking of digital nomad requirements, Cape Town boasts an average internet speed of 22.72 Mbps, which will likely meet the needs of most.
The biggest downside to Cape Town is that petty theft is commonplace, so residents need to stay alert. Also, there are perpetual droughts throughout the year, so you’ll have to be mindful of how and when you use the water.
- Visa: Digital Nomad & Startup Visa.
- Cost of living:
- Average fixed internet speeds: 29 Mbps
- Quality of life: Good.
Estonia is one of the first countries to see the potential in, and cater to digital nomads, and has been doing so for the past 7 years. Not to mention, in 2020, it became the first (and only) EU country to offer a DN visa.
You can even apply for the 1-year DN visa online, but keep in mind that you will be considered a resident after 6 months. Thus, you’ll have to start paying taxes or make a visa run every 6 months.
However, one of the greatest benefits of living in Estonia as a DN is that the country comes with a huge community of remote workers. This allows you to make connections easily, and find a great community to help you get settled and explore the country and its culture.
Additionally, the cost of living in Estonia is low, and the county offers a great work-life balance. Even though the cool winters make many DNs iffy about living here, the summers are warm and the climate is pleasant overall.
Tallinn is a picturesque capital of Estonia, that draws people in with its rich history and culture, and keeps them there with its cheap living costs. Firstly, the city is home to many well-kept buildings, dating back to as far as the early 1200s, making it the most preserved medieval town in the world. Not to mention, the city offers amazing nightlife, as well as apartment rentals from 400-650USD a month.
All that being said, the greatest appeal of Tallinn is that it’s considered Europe’s own Silicon Valley. It has the highest number of startups per capita, and even a Startup Visa program that allows entrepreneurs to start the next great thing. Not to mention, internet speeds are some of the highest in the world. Namely, the download speeds come in at an average of 85.50 Mbps for fixed broadband and 51.67 Mbps for mobile respectively.
Are Digital Nomads Constantly on the Road?
And.co estimates that 70% of DNs travel 5+ countries a year. So, it’s safe to assume that most digital nomads spend a lot of time on the road. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a home base to return to.
According to MBO Partners, as much as 54% of digital nomads are full-time travels. Thus, roughly 46% call themselves part-time travelers. Not to mention, many people apply for DN visas and end up staying in a country for a full year before going elsewhere or returning home.
So, again it comes down to a person’s needs and desired lifestyle. But overall, it’s nearly an even split between those who spend all of their time on the road and those who don’t.
How Much Time Do Digital Nomads Spend in a Country?
Factoring in how much time a digital nomad spends on the road, and the laws of the countries they go to, the answer to this question is quite nuanced. For example, some DNs apply for work or DN visas and spend up to five years in a country. On the other hand, others love traveling above all else and can visit a good number of countries during a year.
Those who like forming some sort of a routine, while still being able to travel tend to visit three to four countries a year. They do so by taking advantage of countries that allow them to enter without a visa, and stay there for up to three months.
Ultimately, the amount of time a digital nomad spends in a country mostly depends on the preferences of the digital nomad at hand. This is where the beauty of this lifestyle lays.
What Do Digital Nomads Typically Do for Work?
Digital nomads tend to be well-educated, with the vast majority attending and completing university. Moreover, according to FlexJobs, as many as 72% of DNs carry a bachelor’s degree, with around 33% earning a master’s in their respective fields.
Profession-wise, creatives seem to dominate the digital nomad ranks by far, with marketing and IT sectors following closely in tow. According to DigitalNomadHelp’s survey, DNs primary occupations are writing, consulting, software engineering, design, etc.
The vast majority of DNs identify as freelancers and tend to hold on to steady employment as they go. Additionally, a great number of people can maintain a regular 9-5 remote job while on the road.
Others, the fly by the seat of your pants type of people are drawn to countries that allow nomads to work, and they only apply for jobs once they get there. Alternatively, some seek out specific countries based on the existing job markets and start applying for jobs before making a final decision on visiting a country.
Types of Housing for Digital Nomads
FlexJobs estimated that around 51% of DNs stay in hotels during their travels. So, it’s safe to say that hotels are the most popular homes away from home for digital nomads all over the world.
Perhaps the greatest reason behind this is that they offer the most amenities, including high and stable internet connections. They’re also the safest, easiest to book, and find vacancies in, so they’re a pretty logical choice for most DNs.
Around 16% of DNs choose to live in hostels. They’re affordable for most and offer a sense of community, which lone travelers often seek. Additionally, they typically boast high internet speeds, but the caveat is that the connection may be unstable, depending on the number of occupants.
That being said, hostels are perfect for both novice and expert digital nomads, and won’t cause you to break the bank on rent.
Airbnb is one of the most popular sites for travelers, whether they’re weekend tourists or DN residents. Moreover, around 36% of digital nomads prefer to stay in an Airbnb during their travels. They’re easy to book and check out of, and much less expensive than hotels.
Additionally, they can give you that homey feel, which hotels and hostels alike just can’t compete with.
Vans and Campers
According to some sources, the van life movement, as it’s now known, offers a home away from home for as many as 1.9 million Americans. Globally, it’s estimated that as much as 21% of DNs live in RVs, vans, or cars and use them to travel to their next destination.
The downside here is that you can’t go as far as quickly as you could with an airplane per se, but there is an upside as well. For example, you can explore various places on your own terms, while having the most comforts you’d have at home and taking your memories with you as you go.
Friends and Family
Around 41% of travelers stay with friends or family members on their journeys. However, although we don’t have a good estimate of the numbers for DNs, their number is probably much lower. Just like anybody else, DNs need a calm environment to work in, which isn’t always possible when you’re living with friends or family members.
Where Do DNs Work From?
Even though co-working spaces aren’t a new concept, their numbers have been growing exponentially with the increase of digital nomads. They allow you to book a comfortable, quiet place with stable internet speeds to work from.
Also, some spaces offer amenities such as a kitchen and a stocked fridge or mini-bar. So, they allow you to focus on your work and have everything you could possibly need to do it well.
Cafes, Restaurants & Hotel Lobbies
Digital nomads that want a nice cozy place to work from, without paying a fee to rent the space, prefer working in these types of spaces. Here, you can have a cup of coffee (or a cocktail if the mood strikes) while working in a relatively quiet and comfortable space.
However, you can’t always expect a stable internet connection in these spaces, which could be a huge turn-off for some. That being said, there are designated DN cafes/restaurants that offer better and more stable internet connections.
What Are the Biggest Challenges That Digital Nomads Face?
Earning a Living
DNs are almost evenly split with part and full-time workers at 46 to 54% respectively. Even though most earn less than $75,000 a year, one in six DNs is able to reach this figure. As we mentioned, most tend to be well-educated so it’s safe to say that the vast majority makes a decent living.
On the other hand, the DN lifestyle is typically a minimalistic one, as most money goes towards travel expenses and accommodations. Also, keep in mind that as a DN, you won’t have to pay any of the regular household bills and utilities. Not to mention, you will likely be spending less to no money on gas, home decor, and shopping for clothes and accessories.
Are Employers Willing to Work With DNS?
In the past, there was a trend of digital nomads being business owners and freelancers. However, the number of those employed by a company has seen an increase and is now estimated at around 35%. After all, hiring a DN is in the interest of the employer as well. They’ll spend less money hiring and maintaining them, and a Stanford study even suggests that remote workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts.
Digital Nomad’s Essentials
First thing’s first, DNs have to research the power and outlet requirements of the countries they’re going to. They also often have to purchase power outlet adapters or different chargers and devices altogether. Additionally, they need communication tools such as Skype, Slack, Zoom, etc to keep in touch with the office and other employees.
The vast majority (91%) of DNs use Laptops, 88% take their phones, and around 50% carry a portable hotspot. All in all, these are the devices most DNs need to stay work-ready wherever you go.
During the last 5 years, we’ve seen quite an increase in digital nomads. Moreover, as much as 56% of workers surveyed by Global Workplace Analytics say that they want a job that is at least part-time remote. Additionally, according to MBO partners, at least 17 million people have aspirations of becoming digital nomads.
All there’s left is for the companies to catch up with the times, and expand their horizons to digital nomads. Many are doing just that, and we expect even more to start hiring DNs as the number of workers in this category increases.