Have you often wished to escape the winter in Europe and • travel around Southeast Asia? Or perhaps to eat your way around Italy, learn yoga in an ashram in India and to surf in Bali, for as long as you want? Many of us long for that flexibility in budget and workload to travel on our schedule but the reality is, we have to be present in the office and have limited time for our holidays.

Images of working on a laptop with a pina colada on the side at a palm tree-lined beach seem like a lifestyle that we want to attain. Although internet connectivity rarely extends all the way to the beach and sand gets into the keyboard, that lifestyle is not impossible to achieve. You just need to be a Digital Nomad.

What is a Digital Nomad?

The term “digital” suggests online and “nomad” is an individual who changes destinations without having a permanent home base. Living a digital nomad lifestyle implies relying on the internet to work remotely to financially sustain a location-independent life. Digital nomads may stay up to six months, a year or more abroad, after which they change locations and earn a living while working online.

The number of digital nomads is flourishing these past few years, and the reasons why this location-independent lifestyle is becoming a trend are due to:

  • An increasing demand for the internet and the improvement of internet speed around the world.
  • A growing acceptance of remote work contracts among individuals, freelancers and businesses. Business owners are realising that it is cost-effective to hire a remote worker or freelancer than to hire on-location staff.
  • Many entrepreneurs want the freedom to travel where they want and for as long as they want, without having to go to the office to work. As such, they leverage on the internet to create a business that can be run from anywhere in the world.
  • A burgeoning presence of co-working spaces provide digital nomads the office amenities such as desks, fast internet speed, meeting rooms and other facilities to work effectively without incurring high rental costs.

How to Become a Digital Nomad?

First things first, you need to be computer-savvy, that is, you need to know how to use the computer and know how to browse the internet.

The other skills that are in demand, and by no means an exhaustive list are:
• Content writing
• Blogging with platforms such as WordPress
• Photo-editing with Adobe Photoshop or similar tools
• SEO techniques
• Online marketing
• Research

There are various types of digital nomads but the common ones are freelancers. Freelancers provide services remotely for multiple clients which frequently change and their sources of income vary as well. There is a diverse range of freelancers ranging from virtual assistants, content writers, web developers, and graphic designers to social media marketing and management.

Clients are fully aware that freelancers are not present in the same location as them, hence they communicate primarily via email and Skype.

Are There Digital Nomad Hubs in South- East Asia?

Working freelance can be a lonely experience, thus working in a public space such as a café or co-working space can help digital nomads to be productive and to meet their fellow peers at the same time.

South-East Asia has always been a favourite destination among travellers for its low cost of living and affordable lifestyle, hence digital nomad hubs are mushrooming in the region:

  • Chiang Mai, Thailand: Chiang Mai has repeatedly appeared as No. 1 digital nomad hub in South-East Asia. The city is presently popular with freelancers due to numerous cafes with fast Wi-Fi and over ten co-working spaces available in the city, each of which has their own unique vibe.
  • Penang, Malaysia: The biggest attraction in Penang is its culinary diversity, as a result, it is a hub for foodie digital nomads. Cafes and street art are scattered all around Georgetown, the UNESCO World Heritage Area, offering varieties of food and coffee to boost work productivity for digital nomads.
  • Siem Reap, Cambodia: Renowned for the infamous Angkor Wat temples, Siem Reap is now a new trendy destination for digital nomads. The first co-working space in Siem Reap called AngkorHub was recently opened in 2015.
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: The largest city in Vietnam
    draws digital nomads for its low cost of living and good infrastructure. Moreover, Ho Chi Minh City is the central hub for commerce, technology and research in the country.

  • Bali, Indonesia: Bali has long been a traveller’s paradise, and the very reasons for the island’s thriving tourism industry have also made it an attractive place to do business from. Where else can you have access to yoga, healthy food and fresh air than in Bali, a paradise in which digital nomads can live and work at the same time?
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