Nomadism

Tucked away in a quiet side street, behind an unassuming café, dozens—and on busy days, more than a hundred—fellow nomads crunch away on their laptops. Some are software developers. Some are marketers. Some are cryptocurrency bros. Many are starting a new business.

For most it’s a lifestyle choice. Life on the road is cheaper, with more freedom and a culture developed to the point that many communities surround newcomers to make the transition easy.

It’s also a sign of something else. It’s empowerment—for a specific kind of individual. It’s an extension of the “do what you love” movement, enabled by the privilege of mobility, education and digital economies.

The upsides are great. Having a group of fellow travelers who are open, interested to learn, ready for connection and already in a place of growth makes for a potent milieu. There’s something here, an energy and a possibility that’s just at the front edges of being explored. But, like many things being primarily explored by people like myself who come from Western privilege and education, I’m cautious and a little skeptical.

There’s a dark-grey underbelly. Local culture is largely ignored. Perhaps it’s a little more healthy than pure consumerist tourism, but still: when hundreds of by-local-standards wealthy remote workers descend on a place, it shifts the cultural dynamics. There’s also a very strong bro culture amongst many men that I find challenging (though there are many awake and aware men as well). And the largest mostly-undiscussed downside: living life as a nomad leaves traditional community structures in tatters. Human mobility requires a completely different approach to lasting relationships, something I’m curious to explore and learn more about as I continue my trip.

What’s here is real and interesting as a cultural phenomenon. Can it be extrapolated beyond the privileged, largely Western and white group who are taking advantage of it now? Philosophically it relates to many things—migration, travel, cultural interaction, privilege, exchange, the value of work and workers, how we calculate wealth. It’s definitely something new, definitely different, and definitely just the beginning.

Not a bad spot to spend the day working

Bali Vibes

It’s a bit of a cliche, I know… but despite the hordes of partiers who end up in nearby towns, Bali—specifically Canggu—is a great place to start a long trip. It’s cheap, accessible and there’s a great digital nomad community centred around Dojo Coworking. It’s been a great spot to get into the rhythms of nomadic travel and meet some fellow work-while-wandering friends.

The people are the best part. My first night in Canggu a fellow nomad took a few of us new arrivals around to his favourite hotspots. It was a great kickstart to meet some friends and find some regular haunts. As I’ve seen before in my travels, if on your first night in a new place someone local invites you out, it’s a good sign. Canggu is no exception. A small group of us from that first night ended up forming a core that would travel to nearby adventures on the weekends, grab meals together and generally commiserate.

Surprisingly for me, many of the people trying out the nomad lifestyle are in a similar life stage—30’s, had some success, trying something new. A beautifully large proportion of them are women. So far I’m the only full-time filmmaker but hopefully that’s just a matter of time.

The downside to Canggu is that it’s very, very touristy, and the prices & culture reflect the mostly-foreign population. So while it’s a great place to get my feet wet as a traveler it’s not a leap as far as I’d like. It’s more a tropical party-town Portland than a cultural excursion. So we’ll see where I’ll end up next…

One upside: Canggu is a convenient place to practice my scootering, in particularly my Darth Helmet impressions.

I’m sensing a fashion trend.