Digital Nomad Definition

Digital Nomads

The word nomad is used in many different ways these days.

Grey nomad, digital nomad, nomadic people etc. so its no wonder some form of nomad definition is worthy of debate.

The following is our opinion on the contemporary understanding of the term "nomad".


"Nomad" is commonly traced to the French language word 'nomade' to describe "people without fixed habitation". (Wikipedia)

With advent of fast, cheap mass transportation since international airliners were created the world has become acustomed to a lot more of the population traveling.

The techtonic changes since the end of the 20th century, the Global Finance Crisis and the mass adoption of smartphones has allowed several new classes of 'people without fixed habitation' to develop.

  • Digital nomads
  • Grey nomads
  • Location Independents

And closely related are people that prefer to be seens as

  • Remote workers
  • Freelancers

While not all Freelancers or Remote Workers are fully nomadic a number of them take shorter 'nomadic' ventures and utilise the same resources and opportunities that digital nomads use; coworking spaces, extended stay accommodation, good internet and mobile SIMs etc.

The rise of Grey Nomads as a tourism class

Some countries, like Australia, have seen ever increasing numbers of retired people over the last 30 years jump into their RVs, motorhomes or cars with a caravan or camper trailer hitched behind. On any night of the year in Australia there may be 100,000 'grey nomads' stopped on the side of road, in a national park, a free camp, or in a caravan park soomewhere in the country many miles from their homes. These people are using their retirement years to explore, at leisure, a huge continent.

While some travel permanently others prefer a few months at a time. Returning home between travels.

Because these nomads tend to stay longer in each location they bring great spending power to regional parts of the world as they buy food, drink, fuel, entertainment etc.

Because they tend to converse often between themselves they tend to follow known routes and travel in groups. Many jokes exist about the 'pack' nature of older grey nomads.

The internet and digital

Since the 80s and emergence of personal computers and digitally connected people the flourishing of location agnostic groups has been observed.

Whilst the internet has been around since the 60s, laptop computers since the '80s, it was only the mid-90s when the world wide web became widely available that the impacts of this (previously niche) technology had a significant impact on society and work practices.

Internet cafes of the late 90s

Following the widespread emergence of IP based internet use around the mid 1990s a series of specialised 'cafes' emerged globally where people could rent a small desk with computer by the hour and connect to the world to send messages, browse websites and conduct business online.

Popular in tourist areas where visitors didn't have ready access to home based internet these cafes morphed from ethernet connected desks into wifi connected 'lounges' as more and more travelers brought their laptops on their travels.

2007 and touch screen smartphones

In 2007 the world first touch-screen smartphones started rolling out and our computers shrunk dramatically in size. (Apple in July 2007 and Samsung in December 2007)

Massive uptake of touch-screen Smartphones accelerated the production of masses of smaller, more powerful lithium batteries, Solid State Drives (SSDs) as well as spurred a new generation of smaller more powerful comptuer chips. Prices of components dropped for all tech. Laptop computers came down in price while increasing in power.

Today for US$1,000 you can get a very powerful computer that handles web serving, video rendering, massive photograph manifulation as well as all sorts of high speed video communications.

GFC and Millenial Influence

The Global Financial Crisis has arguably had a bigger impact on the rise of location independent workers than anything else.

Whilst the WWW, smartphones and laptops had been around for 10 years plus it was the lack of jobs following the GFC that created an effect where people had to move location or travel more to get a job or do business.

Business and work were being found in other parts of the country or world and people had to move there to earn some money.

With the decline in regional shops and services coupled with the rise of online shops, cheap Asian goods, digital services Amazon delivery services, drop shipping and mass, fast shipping services etc. meant that suddenly there was a significant portion of the world that could buy items online for the first time in their life without having to rely on the local shops to stock it, or order via a catalog.

Suddenly there was a way for entrepreneurs to make money without having to be physically near their clients often, if at all.

And adventurous entrepreneurs took off to explore the world en masse.