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Digital Nomads Are Taking 'Working Remotely' To A Whole New Level

The pandemic has changed how the world travels as millions of people are now able to move from place to place while still doing their work online.
Posted at 8:00 AM, Jan 29, 2021

Joanna Yung: "Being a digital nomad right now is really, really good. … Especially because of this pandemic."

Joanna Yung is one of millions of people taking the phrase "working remotely" to a whole new level.

She is what's known as a digital nomad. It’s a lifestyle more people are turning to since the pandemic hit. 

David Cassar, COO of MBO Partners: "These are people who actually pick up their office and move it to a location of their choosing and work from there. And that office tends to change over time."

Tech firm MBO Partners found 10.9 million Americans described themselves as digital nomads in 2020 — an almost 50% increase from the previous year. 

Yung: "As someone who loves traveling, who is really, really passionate about learning other culture[s] and going to different places in the world, having just two weeks of vacation is just so not enough for me."

Since starting this lifestyle in late 2019, Yung has traversed the globe — visiting Uzbekistan, South Africa, Vietnam and Singapore — just to name a few. 

She left her 9-to-5 job in Toronto to work anywhere she wants to. She now works part time as a social media manager for a digital marketing agency and also has freelance social media clients. The jobs allow her to easily travel without having to work with her clients face to face.

Yung: "The first thing of becoming a digital nomad is to find a way to earn money online. And because of this pandemic there are so many opportunities where you can earn money online." 

Yung and other digital nomads say figuring out logistics before you travel will also save you some headaches later on. Consider buying travel insurance and signing up for a special travel credit card that won't charge you foreign transaction fees. Buy local SIM cards so you always have a stable internet connection. And know the local coronavirus and visa requirements. 

With some countries heavily restricting international travel, Yung spent nine months of 2020 living in the Gili Islands. She was only recently able to hop on a plane and fly to Bali for her next adventure.

Yung: "Before the pandemic, everything was so expensive. And now that I'm back in Bali during the lockdown period, things have become so affordable — I'm able to book a really nice villa, which was so expensive before the pandemic."

In an attempt to revive the declining tourism industry, destinations like Aruba, Barbados, Dubai and Mauritius are all providing so-called "workation visas" to allow foreign travelers to work while vacationing or living within their borders.

Cassar: "The idea is that when you come there, if you really want to do an adventure, you're going to be spending money, you're going to be going on tours, you're going to be eating out, you're going to be using taxis, you're going to be paying for your rent."

And with more and more companies continuing to allow employees to work remotely, the digital nomad trend could be here to stay. Nineteen million Americans told MBO Partners they're planning to become a digital nomad in the next two to three years. And 45 million more said they'd consider it. 

As for Yung, she plans to keep up the lifestyle for as long as she can. She hopes to next travel to South America and explore parts of Peru, Argentina and Ecuador.