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December 27, 2012

Pros and Cons of being a New Nomadic Rich

picture credit: Flickr/theregeneration

As my last Vagabonding contribution for year 2012 – and I am glad to say that it has been a great pleasure and a serious commitment, guys – I decided to comment on an interesting article I found here.  The author, classifying himself as one of the “New Rich” theorized by Timothy Ferriss’ famous bestseller, gives the life perspective’s lowdown on his profitable work experience as he travels the world. His final view, however, is far from casting an idyllic image of this lifestyle, as he says “it occurs to me that the New Rich, for all of our impressive values, are just as guilty of materialism as the old rich. It just takes a different form. Instead of an addiction to status and possessions, we’re addicted to experience and novelty. The end result is the same. Our relationships, our connections to what’s important, suffer. For the first time in three years of non-stop travel, I wish for a home.”

After reading, the natural question I have is: has the whole “digital nomad” concept of life finally exposed its own limits and faults? Isn’t it, ultimately, just another more solitary way to do business? I can only see that, in the end, a digital worker is STILL bound to his own work schedule and internet connection necessities, after all… with the aggravated understanding of his own group’s isolation. Apparently, the New Rich have reached a level where relationships, life, and possibly the same essence of travel and adventure, radiate from a computer screen. The work location really does not matter anymore: lives keep being conducted behind the comfort and isolation of internet connections and LCD screens, exploiting a code of honor in which relationships may be just taken as an umpteenth source of data – and therefore , become easily negotiable online.  In my opinion, the uneasiness expressed by the author is understandable for a long-term traveler; regardless, it casts big, dark shadows on the psychological well-being of online traveling businessmen, at least under a relational point of view, as outlined in the article.

In my own long-term traveler sense, being a New Rich looks exactly like 走马看花 (zou ma kan hua), or “to watch flowers while riding on horseback”: what can be the depth of perception of someone who only experiences places in between computer stints? I am glad that  someone from the group finally outlined that “digital nomads” have lost their connection… with reality. Maybe, and pardon the biased pun,  if they lost their internet connections, instead, the horrible consequences may help them regain a sense of the exceptional life stories they are living… but can we/they stop thinking of profit and money as we/they travel, at least for a short while? I would like to read your opinions/experiences.

Posted by | Comments (7) 
Category: Lifestyle Design, On The Road, Vagabonding Life


7 Responses to “Pros and Cons of being a New Nomadic Rich”

  1. Dan Friedman Says:

    We each have the responsibility to make our travel meaningful to us. This includes both creating new connections and preserving old ones. Failing to do so isn’t travel’s fault and it isn’t the computer’s fault either, it is the person’s.

    Vagabonding as I understand it is supposed to be about being more conscientious of where we are and what we are doing. We’re not just passing through and we’re not just swimming in the shallow end. If you live the same life you lived before you left and allow the screens of your phones and computers to consume your time without being willing to change the plan and find the time to look someone in the eye during a conversation, the problem is one of self-awareness and being locked into the routine we wanted to escape in the first place.

    Being able to work while traveling is valuable and technology is a tool that can be used for good or bad, and which one is up to us. The desire for experience and even novelty can’t be equated to the quest for material wealth. If relationships in one’s life do suffer as a result of these things perhaps it is a question of state of mind, use of time, or reevaluating which things matter most.

    I agree completely Marco with your comparison of the so-called New Rich to “watching the flowers while riding on horseback” and think this is an excellent metaphor for what to me doesn’t sound very much like Vagabonding. Of course the author’s article mentions visiting two things 2000 miles apart within 7 days, so clearly he prefers to be on horseback anyway.

    One more related idea worth mentioning is that so many people go travel and take pictures of things they’d never notice at home. If you begin to notice what’s going on around you all the time regardless of your geographic location, then you’ve begun to change your mindset which is really what this is about. If you don’t take the time to really evaluate why you’re living, of course you will end up with questions and probably disappointment.

    That said, we all hopefully come to what works for each of us in time.

  2. Luca Says:

    Working online can be both isolating and extremely rewarding.
    And so can be pure traveling.

    You can be isolated in front a computer screen, in the middle of a tourist site or even in an off the beaten track place trying to find ways to meet the locals.
    Having done both for 10 years now I can say it’s all about balance.
    It was very interesting to notice than ANY kind of traveling after a while falls in the routine and you need to find new ways to keep you excited and profit from it.
    Simply moving around is not enough.
    When you can’t find it anymore, you stop and live in one place.

    The advantage digital workers have is the luxury of the choice.

  3. concerned Says:

    The most unsettling elements of the relationship between the travel blogger and his readers to me are:

    1. It’s really easy to present an idealized version of oneself in an online website package. The blogger is at work honing over months and years his online image and it can never be true because it’s one dimensional, what he alone presents to the world.

    2. Should we trust people to speak into our lives who lead lives so different from our own? Do they have our baseline values of family, commitment, marriage, raising children well, putting the others in our lives first?

    3. Why do we glamorize living outside the box so much? Doesn’t it take character to live well inside the bounds of the traditional?

    I’ve traveled to over 40 countries and spent over 3 years on the road. I’ve also lived a conventional married and family life as well. I’m tired of the arrogance of young single people trumpeting their ‘breaking out of the cube.’ There is some very noble, fulfilling, worthwhile and lasting ‘work’ taking place inside the bonds of commitment to others that the uninitiated have no right to pass uniformed judgement upon.

  4. Jeanne @soultravelers3 Says:

    We’ve been traveling the world non-stop as a family for 7 plus years and are not addicted to status and possessions or experience and novelty and have NEVER been lonely while traveling. Not ALL digital nomads are lonely or have lost connection to reality.

    On the contrary, it has helped us have deeper relations with ourselves, each other and dear friends around the world. We’re case studies in the 4HWW, loved it when we began and our child was 5 and love it now when she is 12 ( a fluent trilingual/triliterate and true global citizen).

    Slow travel, living like a local, learning languages and mostly being unplugged are big keys! It really is all about HOW you do it. One absolutely can travel and have long term friends at the same time ( and sometimes travel with extended family or friends).

    http://www.soultravelers3.com/2011/02/kids-friends-travel-on-the-ultimate-family-adventure.html

    There is no one way to travel or one way to be a “digital nomad” and it’s not just for young men. At 60, I’ve lived life MANY ways and find this style the best yet.

  5. JA Says:

    The digital nomad lifestlye hit its limit two or three years ago. The best proof is that Tim Ferriss, nose keen for a buck, jumped off the nomad bandwagon and onto the diet one.

    Digital nomadism hit its limits because:

    1) The Recession. It was fun to be a travelling entrepreneur when you were certain there was a job waiting for you back home in a decent economy. Now, it’s much harder to re-enter the workforce, so people are leery of leaving or jump at the first real job that comes their way.

    2) Visa Issues. You can only string together tourist visas for so long.

    3) Repetition. There’s only so many times you can jump to a new country before it gets old. After a while, you become tired of going through the same routines.

    4) Clients. In some businesses, clients want you to be physically present in their city. It may not actually be necessary for you to be there, but the clients think so, and that’s all that matters.

    5) Growth. There’s a point where you can’t operate a business from a laptop at a bar. You need specific equipment, set hours, a quiet and controllable environment, etc. — all of which means you need to lease a real office.

    6) Life. After a while, you start to think that life is passing you by. You see Facebook updates of your friends’ kids starting school or your old office rival being promoted, and you start to wonder whether it makes sense to be living and working in Margaritaville — regardless of the health of your bank account.

    7) Money. Many nomads don’t make a profit and run out of money.

    8) Most Nomads Suck. The attrition rate for expats is off the chart. Almost all leave the road. They all start off talking loudly about how committed they are to this dream lifestyle, and then they vanish in three, six or nine months. Very few stick it out for more than a year. Look at all the 4HWW videos on YouTube, and notice how many of those people have not posted anything new in a year.

    9) Most Nomads Suck, Part 2. How long do you want to be surrounded by a bunch of blowhards constantly promoting their start-ups and consultancies? I don’t want to hear the words “solutions” or “optimization” again.

  6. Jennifer Miller Says:

    Interesting commentary… I really like what “concerned” had to say: “There is some very noble, fulfilling, worthwhile and lasting ‘work’ taking place inside the bonds of commitment to others that the uninitiated have no right to pass uniformed judgement upon.” That is very, very true.

    I find it interesting that the assumption is that the digital nomad is the young, disconnected person who has not hit his professional stride yet and, thus, washes out. I also find the question of whether a person can experience any depth in a place between stints in front of a computer screen. There is much food for thought in that, especially for those of us who attempt to find that balance.

    I would never begin to speak for “digital nomads” as a group, because I’ve never been in a community that represents more diversity than this one, but for us, for our family, I can speak. We “took a year off to travel” five years ago, and just kept going. We are at least two years away from being “done” and establishing a home base, from which we will travel half the year or more until we are too old or our dream changes. We travel specifically for the experiences that the world brings to our children and their educations. The idea that there is less community for those who travel is almost comical to me, but perhaps it feels that way because we travel with our own tribe, and families are more naturally welcomed because of the cross-cultural bridge that children are. We have not ever felt that life was passing us by or that we were somehow sacrificing relationships for “things” be they physical or experiential. Quite the contrary, in fact.

    As to digital nomadism and careers, it is, in fact possible to create a career as a digital nomad that deals with real clients, in Fortune 500 companies and pulls in well in excess of six figures NOT FROM A BLOG, but from a real, grown up business. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors out there, and there are a lot of snake oil salesmen trying to convince us that the Four Hour Work Week is “easy”… and as JA so accurately pointed out, most “digital nomads” wash out, wash up and go home and get “real jobs.” They are seeking the quick and easy solution, which is almost always a flash in the pan. We meet a lot of young people in that place, patching it together, and it’s a good place to start, so long as you’ve taken off the rose coloured glasses. Happily, there is a growing community of “grown ups” who are not trumpeting arrogantly, but who, instead, have found ways to quietly and continuously live “outside the box” in a way that neither sacrifices relationships or negates the very noble, fulfilling, worthwhile and lasting work taking place inside the bonds of commitment.

    It’s really a matter of finding your work-life balance, and I think that’s equally true whether you live in the ‘burbs of Seattle or on an endless string of tourist visas.

    My two cents. :)

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