Warming: A bunch of generalizations and strong opinions
When I graduated college, I had the same question like any other senior: What the hell do I do after? I delayed it for a good while, but it’s inevitable like death. None of the traditional options particularly appealed to me when trying to optimize for several dimensions like fulfilling work, social life (friends, family and strangers), time/opportunity for hobbies, travel and financial gain. Thus, I took the nuts and bolts I liked and glued them together into what I call Semi-Nomadism which I have been practicing for the last 9 months. It might very well be a thing lots of people do, but I definitely haven’t seen it being talked about as a viable alternative for potentially many others.
What is Semi-nomadism?
Semi-nomadism suggests to have a permanent home (conversely to full nomadism) while going on 4HWW-style mini-retirements to various destinations, ranging from 2 weeks to 3 months. While semi-nomadism encourages the reduction of unnecessary possessions by virtue of its relative frequent travel, it allows you to store more stuff in your home than your average nomad.
Vs. Full Nomadism:
One of my major gripes with full nomadism is what I perceived to be a potentially constant feeling of transition and lack of belonging. I liked the tight community and social life at college and I wasn’t ready to give it up completely. While semi-nomadism still has substantial remnants of those problems, having a home base to return to is greatly alleviating. Also, having a home base allows you to come into an office more frequently (or be more reliable with timezone overlap with your team mates for most of the time.) While you obviously need to be setup to do work remotely, being fully remote in my opinion is still a hindrance to company culture unless you are very vigilant about it. Semi-nomadism allows you to have more constancy in regards to your work environment and make you more of a “team-player”. Obviously, the downside is the need for a permanent home that is vacant for substantial amounts of time but Airbnb/Craigslist can alleviate that to an extent.
Vs. Traditional on-site full-time work:
In-office, full-time work especially at many companies invariably leads to a situation in which time spent in the office is valued. Presence is often taken as an indicator of commitment to a company. Some people say that office environments especially with open floor plans where distraction and small talk might reach counter productive levels. Since creative work is different from let’s say “manual” labor, you simply cannot schedule and sustain high productivity for longer time periods, thus it is completely natural to spend your time at work “not doing work”. This is a tough one for me, because I absolutely love love going to the office. As I work remotely for a good amount, it gets lonely very fast. You also get a level of crossover collaboration that is hard to come by when you are remote.
Semi-nomadism by virtue of being remote for a significant part brings back the focus to the actual work you produce which is great if your productivity per time unit is high. This is a topic of much research, but I’m a strong opponent of working whenever you can get into the zone, whether that is 9AM or 9PM. When I’m not feeling productive, forcing myself to work does no one any good. Being flexible with work hours increases overall productivity which is great for the company and leaves me with a significant amount of free time I can spend on other things such as hobbies or travel.
Why Semi-nomadism now?
I’d say historically, pulling semi-nomadism off might have been hard to pull off logistically and financially, but airfare prices are plummeting, language/cultural barriers are coming down, finding a place to stay for more than a week becomes easier and remote work more acceptable. In fact, I now spend the most money while at home in New York. I love being able to see many places and culture with a continuous sense of novelty, but not feel like a tourist that just checks off the sights in 3 days. I get to experience more closely what it would be like to live in a particular place. I still get to see family and friends on a frequent basis (although building new longer-term relationships is difficult).
Overall, I strongly recommend this way of life for anyone interested in marrying more substantial travel experiences with meaningful, impactful work as a digital creative worker. Not only for it’s benefits, but also to learn what is important to you as you a mix of both, thus preventing you from romanticizing about the possibility of the other side.
P.S.: A really great post on the topic how it's actually like as a nomad: http://www.computerworld.com/article/2492064/mobile-wireless/what-it-s-really-like-to-be-a-digital-nomad.html