“I was diagnosed with cancer in 2017,” says Julia Danmeri, the 40-something founder of language agency TranslateAble. “Luckily, it was very early stages. But I realised that, had it not been found when it was, I could be dead now. Would I be happy with how I was living if I knew I only had a year left? No.”
It was a wake-up moment for Julia, setting the tone for what would later become a “total life overhaul” during Covid – she and her nutrition coach boyfriend upped sticks to travel the world, moving from Porto to Cyprus, Singapore and Tokyo. “I had been operating on autopilot and I was exhausted,” she explains. “For as long as I could remember, my priority had been work. In contrast, moving location every three months or so feels like a more glossy, vibrant life; one that isn’t bound by the rules of the typical 9 to 5.”
Radha relaunched Flash Pack as as a fully remote brand
Julia is one of a growing cohort of 30- and 40-something entrepreneurs who are changing the parameters of what working abroad means. Where once upon a time, the “digital nomad” lifestyle was thought of as a passing fad, a kind of alternative gap year for young, flighty types juggling casual work with time on the beach (#lifegoals), it’s now matured among a new, older, more assured, generation of leaders and attained mainstream gravitas.
Radha Vyas, CEO and cofounder of Flash Pack, is one high-flyer spearheading the trend. Coming back from Covid, she decided to relaunch her adventure travel brand as a fully remote company, rather than binding her team to a rigid office space or routine – also allowing them to “work from anywhere” for up to a month.
She even took advantage of the policy herself, upping sticks to a chef-catered, beachside villa in Sri Lanka for a month, with her fellow cofounder and real-life partner Lee Thompson and their young daughter. “I hated going into the office every day. So, when we relaunched after Covid, I decided to rip up the rulebook and restart with a reimagined, more liberating work ‘routine’ – not just for myself, but our whole team.”
These new-wave nomads have years of experience in creative and tech
Indeed, in a post-Covid era, “work from anywhere” is now the domain of heavyweight professionals operating in a global world where remote engagement – for certain sectors, at least – is normalised; expected, even.
These new-wave nomads aren’t killing time before university or just starting out in their careers: instead, they’re filling their backpacks with years of experience working across the creative and tech industries.
Indeed, around 43% are aged between 35 and 44 years old – falling firmly within the mid-life millennial demographic – according to the latest State of Digital Nomads report, while 34% have a Master’s degree and a massive 70% earn between $50K and $250K a year.
Being ambitious and travelling are not mutually exclusive
Many are also founders and CEOs, taking advantage of the newfound freedoms that the startup lifestyle allows – a lifestyle that has little to do with clichés. As Lucy Northmore, founder of corporate communications platform Brand Equity Group, explains: “For me, being a fully remote consultant takes a lot of hard work and self discipline. I love to put in eight or 10 hours on my laptop and still have time after for an evening of sunshine and an amazing sunset.”
Just like Julia, Londoner Lucy began a new chapter in life during Covid, having previously travelled with Flash Pack to the Philippines. “That adventure reaffirmed how I want to live my life,” Lucy explains, who later ran her business from destinations including Ibiza and Thailand’s islands. “Success doesn’t mean throwing yourself into the rat race any more. It shouldn’t be an either-or situation.”
Zen Media founder and CEO, Shama Hyder, agrees. Shama has homes in Miami and Texas, but also regularly hops base for keynote speeches in places as far-flung as Bali. “Do I think being ambitious and travelling are mutually exclusive? Not at all,” she says. “When I travel, I rarely lounge on the beach. In fact, I get an amazing amount of work done on long-distance flights.” She finished, “If you work with global clients, they really don’t care where you are.”
To decide where to go, use the ‘5Cs framework’
For this new, super-charged version of next-gen nomads, substance takes priority over style. “It’s in the entrepreneurial DNA to focus on creating true meaning for your customers and clients,” says Shama. “If you can do it from a place you love, more power to you.”
But is it really practical to run a full-scale company on the road? Danish Soomro, founder of global mobility platform Visadb.io, says yes: “A lot of companies now run multi-million dollar businesses remotely.” He even has a well-oiled plan for logistics. “To decide where to go, you need to use what we call the ‘5Cs framework’. Think about connection, climate, coast, cost and community. Of these, only internet speed (connection) is an absolute must.”
“Anyone can save up to 60% of their income while keeping a high quality of life by just moving to a lower cost country,” he continues. “It’s about balancing your resources. When I was based in a Chiang Mai hotel recently, I didn’t have to cook, clean or do laundry for two months, which gave me extra time to put back into my business.”
Today’s millennial nomads seek better balance
For Julia and her partner, “living as a digital nomad means we can go to countries where our income stretches further. For the same price as the rent we were paying on a two-bedroom flat in London, we could rent a villa with a live in chef in Bali.”
Today, after years of toeing the line of “traditional” work life, the millennial nomad is now seeking to better balance their lifestyles between business and personal goals. Or as Jared Burke, founder of business consultancy Pyrashyut, puts it, “know your roots, but don’t allow them to root you”.
This flexibility allows for hammock-bound sunshine, yes, but the benefits also resonate more deeply. “Creativity, inspiration and solace can come in many different forms,” says Jared. “I’m more partial to out-of-the-box working conditions, whether that’s a workspace in Egypt with views of the Pyramids of Giza, sitting cross-legged drinking tea in Japan or writing emails overlooking the cave region of Cappadocia in Turkey. That’s what makes me tick.”
It’s never too late for inspiration to strike
For Shama, the magic lies in new perspectives. “My favourite part is all the wonderful people I get to meet. When you live in one spot, it’s very easy to have a regional worldview. When you travel, I feel like it really forces you to question your assumptions.”
Best of all for the next-gen nomads, it’s never too late for inspiration to strike. Nolina Bergman, a Portland-based events operator, was recently motivated to change tack after a life-changing Flash Pack trip to Morocco. “When I returned home, I looked into renting an Airbnb for a month and working remotely in Marrakech or perhaps setting up a winery there.”
“As a woman in my 40s, I don’t want to slave away in the confines of the average American work routine,” she says. “In my 30s, I was very much focused on finding stability through my job and getting a mortgage. But life isn’t all about the day-to-day grind. It was so validating to discover other travellers like me, who live for experiences and adventure.”
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Images: Flash Pack & courtesy of Lucy Northmore, Shama Hyder, Danish Soomro, Jared Burke.