One year ago, startup CEO Jay Meistrich sold all his belongings, stuffed a 40-liter backpack with bare essentials, and headed out of San Francisco.
Over the next 12 months he traveled to 45 cities, 20 countries, and three Disneylands, all while successfully building and launching his organizational to-do list startup.
In a blog post on Medium, Meistrich writes that his total cost for the entire year was less than what he would have paid just for rent had he remained in San Francisco.
Meistrich is part of a growing community of “digital nomads,” mostly young professionals who take advantage of high speed internet access and around-the-clock work mentality to work from anywhere in the globe.
This community is made up of developers, designers, writers, journalists, engineers, entrepreneurs and others who choose to live a “location independent lifestyle.”
Meistrich and his colleagues argue travelling constantly is not only cheaper since rent and food costs are usually much less expensive in other nations, but it allows them to be more productive than if they were tied to a single office in an expensive American city like New York or San Francisco.
In Meistrich’s case, he says travelling was the only responsible choice for the sake of his company, finances, and personal growth. He claims that travelling constantly actually allows him to better focus on work by reducing the boredom and fatigue that sets in after weeks in a regular routine.
“If I’m only in Rome for a week, why would I waste my time on Facebook? Being constantly surrounded by novelty… makes me feel healthier and more creative,” he says.
“I wasted a lot of time when I worked in an office because of commuting and the massive distraction that is the internet. Now I spread my work throughout the day and take big breaks for exploring… if I hit a problem I can’t figure out, I walk it off until I’ve solved it. Cycling between fun and work makes my days less exhausting and makes me less prone to burnout.”
Faris Yakob, founder of creative agency Genius Steals and his wife, Rosie, agree with Meistrich’s point of view. They both quit their agency jobs in New York two years ago to travel the world and never looked back.
After realising the two could work from pretty much anywhere without sacrificing their income, Yakob said “working didn’t really feel that much like working.”
“Our desks were wherever we chose. When we didn’t have to sit in meetings in offices. When we could take a break for a few hours, a few days or a few weeks to go exploring, without feeling guilty.”
As the digital nomad community grows, all-inclusive co-working facilities have been popping up in exotic locations to meet their needs. These shared work spaces act as hubs for travelling workers and provide traditional office amenities such as high-speed Internet, office supplies, access to printers, and networking opportunities with like-minded professionals.
Raphaël Harmel, a co-founder of speech startup Speecheo, left his home in France 10 months ago to travel — and he’s found coworking spaces in far flung places like Uruguay invaluable.
“Normally when you arrive to a new location, you have to find a place to live and a place to work,” he told the New York Times, “For digital nomads and entrepreneurs like me, [coworking] is definitely the best existing option.”
Life on the road isn’t for everyone, however. For entrepreneurs or workers with children, travelling constantly can be impossible to reconcile with school terms. And despite email and remote video conferencing services such as Skype, organising a quick chat with coworkers or clients can prove difficult to organise. Time zones can also be challenging.
Cara Parks, a freelance journalist, who spent a year travelling the world all while continuing to work on Eastern Standard Time, eventually found her sleep schedule unmanageable. Though she still enjoys a nomadic life, “I have gained a more robust respect for my individual circadian rhythm,” she writes.
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